Friday, January 31, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Jeb Emerges From The Shadows

Be wary of political commonplaces, especially in volatile

You know the one about Jeb Bush, i.e. he would be a serious
candidate for president if it weren’t for his last name.

Guess who is now leading in some polls for the Republican
nomination? That’s right, Jeb Bush. At this very early point,
three years out, his last name does not hurt. It does not
hurt at all.

Of course, the GOP frontrunner has been Governor Chris
Christie of New Jersey, but he’s had some very bad public
relations weeks following a minor scandal over a bridge
closing in his home state. So far, Mr Christie has handed
the situation adroitly, but with the liberal media ganging up
on him for weeks, some damage was done. Chris Christie
has no peer today in his party, or any party, for political
communication. skills.  He’s so “hot” that even, despite
Marshall McLuhan’s warning about high temperature
personalities in the “cool” media of television, the governor
has been a sensation on TV (especially “YouTube” where
he has been an fixture since he won his race for New Jersey
governor in 2009).

With the full force of the Old (and pandering-to-Democrats)
Media on him for the next few years, however, Governor
Christie will need all the grit and skill he can muster to make
it to 2016 as a still serious contender. But that lies ahead.

For now, we need to think about: “If not Christie, who?”

The obvious answers, i.e., Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio,
Mike Huckabee, et al, are each interesting fellows, and not
without notable (yet narrow) followings of their own, but
realistically none of them are truly competitive presidential
nominees yet. Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and
Rick Perry might be, but each has a long way to go.

Jeb Bush was a great governor of Florida. Along with Tom
Ridge (Pennsylvania) and Mitch Daniels (Indiana), he was
a forerunner of the plenitude of outstanding Republican
governors in office today, including John Kasich (Ohio),
Nikki Haley (South Carolina), Susana Martinez (New
Mexico), Mike Pence (Indiana), Rick Scott (Florida),
Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Terry Branstad (Iowa) Rick Perry
(Texas), Rick Snyder (Michigan) and Bobby Jindal (Louisiana).

With his attractive Hispanic-American family, including son
George P. Bush (now running for statewide office in Texas),
he presents a new profile to the three-generation Bush family
image of hitherto patrician Americans.

Furthermore, the image of his brother George W., tarnished
with unpopularity at the end of his second term (2008), has
been largely restored with all but the most partisan
Democrats who resented his war policies and the fact that
he won his first election without winning the popular vote.
His father, George H.W., is now remembered mostly
positively for his single term between Ronald Reagan and
Bill Clinton. Less glamorous than the other modern U.S.
political dynasty, the Kennedys, the Bushes are, on the other
hand, decidedly less dysfunctional.

Jeb Bush is no great communicator, but his record of
accomplishment and his conservative credentials serve him

As long as fellow Floridian, Senator Marco Rubio, was a “hot”
presidential contender, and Governor Christie the leader in
the presidential polls, Mr. Bush had to be content to be in the
background of 2016 presidential politics, but with Mr. Rubio’s
recent precipitous decline in the polls, and Mr. Christie’s
current problems, Mr. Bush’s presidential “stature” has now
thrust him back into serious contention.

Americans, of course, have not had a royal family since the
1770s, but the nation has entertained, from time to time,
family dynasties in its high offices. First it was the Adamses,
then the Harrisons, the Roosevelts, the Tafts, the Kennedys,
and now its the Bushes (with the Clintons trying to join them).
None of these dynasties have been preeminent very long, but
the Bushes seem to have endured very long (with a first generation
U.S. senator, second generation vice president-then-president, third
generation governor-then-president and governor-then ???, and now
fourth generation statewide Texas candidate-then ???).

It’s quite a saga, and now history and events might just conspire
to add another chapter to this remarkable political family story.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Antidisestablishmentarianism Rising Or Falling?

Remember the word we heard when some of us were young (on
the TV show, The $64,000 Question, for example) , the
supposedly longest word in the dictionary? Yes, I am speaking
of “antidisestablishmentarianism.” But do you ever remember
anyone using this word in a real sentence? Not very likely.

But now we can. We have an elected figure at the top of the
political food chain who is practicing it big time. I am speaking
of none other than President Barack Obama. He is practicing
a high stakes “antidiseastablishmentarianism” by resisting
overwhelming public opinion against Obamacare, now the
newly established reform of medical care insurance in the U.S.

The term originated in Great Britain in the 19th century in efforts
to disestablish the Church of England (Anglican) as the official
religion in what are now the United Kingdom and Republic of
Ireland. The Irish did do this in 1871, and later became an
independent nation. Wales disestablished the Anglican Church
in 1920, but remained part of the U.K. Since the English monarch
is also the head of the Anglican Church, the movement continues
to this day.

Since there is no official church in the U.S., the term can perhaps
be applied to the secular head of the American state, the president,
and any policies he establishes through legislation. (Mr. Obama
is also attempting to “establish” a new role for the chief
executive by expanding the president’s powers of “executive
orders” as a way of bypassing the constitutionally enumerated
powers of Congress. Few observers, however, believe he can
succeed in this latter attempt since it would require a
constitutional amendment to establish it.)

Obamacare, on the other hand, is now the “established” law of
the land. It is also a political disaster, immensely unpopular,
and risks bringing the president and his party a massive
political defeat in this year’s national mid-term elections.

The president’s supporters, especially former house speaker
Nancy Pelosi and current senate majority leader Harry Reid,
argue that Obamacare cannot be repealed, but this appears to
be wishful thinking on their part. With huge numbers of
Americans suddenly without insurance, unable to sign up
for mandatory Obamacare, or forced to pay for medical
insurance that is more expensive with less coverage than
their previous insurance, there can be little doubt that
Obamacare could be disestablished.

On the other hand, there are many Americans, albeit a minority
of them, who benefit from Obamacare, especially those
with pre-existing conditions, those who need “portability”
of their medical insurance, and the very poor. Mr. Obama and
his supporters have counted on these Americans to make
“disestablishment” politically impossible. At the same time,
the designers of Obamacare made it necessary for young
Americans, most of whom did not previously buy any medical
insurance, and healthy Americans, most of whom rarely use
their insurance, to pick up the tab for those who will cost the
program the most.

The problem is that young Americans are not signing up for
Obamacare (using a waiver) and many, many healthy Americans
are upset because they cannot either sign up at all, or when they
do, they are paying much more for less coverage.

President Obama is betting that by “doubling down” and
refusing to compromise or retreat on Obamacare he will truly
“establish” it as part of U.S. domestic policy --- his political
legacy, if you will. He might succeed. But first he will have
to keep control of the U.S. senate and keep his opposition from
increasing their control of the US. house. Furthermore, although
he will not face the voters again, his party will nominate someone
to succeed him in 2016. If further revelations about Obamacare
demonstrate its unsustainability, as many have predicted, it is
difficult to imagine the 2016 Democratic nominee, whoever she
or he is, as someone supporting Obamacare

Duke Ellington once wrote a popular song called “You’re just
an old antidisestablishmentarianismist.” Will they be playing
that song again in the next few years?

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Is The World Turning Right?

There was a time not long ago when the world’s most
democratic nations seemed to be trending to the left,
including the United States with the election of Barack
Obama as president in 2008.

The ideological phenomena of left and right are generally
cyclical, as elections bring in liberals and social democrats
to replace conservatives and right centrists, and vice versa,
every few years or so.

But the recent trend was decidedly to the left, with the
election of Mr. Obama; Francois Hollande in France;
leftists winning in Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua,
Argentina, nations of Africa and Asia; a Labour politician
led Austrialia, not to mention the usual left-leaning
politicians who have so long dominated the countries of

A few centrists and conservatives remained, but UK Tory
leader David Cameron had to share power with the more
liberal Nick Clegg and his party. Conservative Prime
Minister and later President Vaclav Klaus of Czechoslovakia
retired from politics, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy
had to resign (for non-economic reasons), Chancellor Angela
Merkel won a personal electoral victory, but still had to form
a coalition.

So the latest political news from Norway, Sweden, The
Netherlands, Australia and other nations across the globe,
signals good tidings for global conservatives and democratic
capitalists. Once again, socialist, neo-Marxist, and social
welfare ideologies have failed cross the world. The shock of
the collapse of the Soviet Marxist empire is still reverberating
almost 25 years later as high tax, highly regulatory,
redistributionist governments routinely fail to turn their
economies around and produce prosperity.

The paragons of the welfare state used to be Scandinavia,
Germany and The Netherlands, but those nations have been
adopting, and continue to embrace, more free market solutions
to their unemployment, welfare, and otherwise paternalistic

Only President Obama and his advisors (and socialist
French President Hollande) seem today to believe in the
assumptions and methods of the social welfare model, even
as their economies linger in the doldrums and fail to recover.

Latest news from Venezuela and Argentina, which once
again adopted long-discredited populist rhetoric and practices,
is that they have runaway inflation and rapid currency
devaluation, ominous signs of imminent economic collapse.

Of course, not all problems in the world are purely economic.
Religious strife and aggression, nationalism, ethnic conflict,
natural disasters and totalitarianism complicate the global
political environment.

But where genuine democratic processes exist, electorates
are turning more and more to the center right, at least for now.

The world does not just need more “free elections” as proof
of growing democratic societies, nor does it just need more
conservative figures to lead them.  What the world needs most
today are economic and political conditions that promote
entrepreneurship, personal savings, access to education and
technological training, and a much greater level of
bureaucratic transparency. Until conservatives make these
goals their front-and-center working program, the chronic
back-and-forth of left-right ideologies alternating in power
will go on and on, unfulfilling to those who need prosperity
and freedom most.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 20, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "Interesting If True" Or The State of U.S. Politics, 2014

In early 2014, the state of American politics is approaching
psychological and technological thresholds which will soon
become visible in new forms of day-to-day electoral combat.
That combat might test the patience of the many U.S. voters.

The psychological threshhold is not a new phenomenon.
Although most Americans are proud of the quality of free
elections in their country, especially when contrasted with
many other election systems in the rest of the world, there
is a long standing tradition in U.S. politics, going back to the
first national elections in 1796, and displayed subsequently,
of outrageous and varying levels of aggressive slanders,
unfair tactics, biased media coverage and cheating at the
ballot box.

The nineteenth century was an apotheosis of this kind of
electoral behavior, and although public opinion and the
maturing democratic republic diminished more obvious
wrongdoing in elections --- local, state and national --- the
rise of communications technology has submerged the
obvious pathologies into more subtle and less easily
detectable improprieties.

In the aftermath of the outbreak of World War II, and its
postwar period, the nation enjoyed a certain “lowering of
political temperatures” as a “bipartisan” foreign policy arose
to meet the challenges of the Cold War against the Soviet
Union, and a certain level of civility emerged in domestic
policy, not only in elections, but in relationships between the
political parties and their elected officials. Much of this
resulted from a growing complexity of the two major political
parties, and a relatively small component of the electorate
considering itself independent.

In the past decade or so, however, the ideological make-up of
the Democratic and Republican Parties has become
increasingly homogenous, and a very large number of voters,
especially in the younger generations, have become disaffected
from the “official” party ideologies, and follow, under the rubric
of being “independents,” specialized ideological views of their
own on the left, the right and in the center.

Much has already been made, and rightly so, of the emergent
seemingly one-party states of the Union, and of the single
dominant ideologies in the various demographic areas in the
country. No longer is it simply north, south, northeast, midwest
and  far west. It is complicated by inner urban, suburban,
exurban and rural.

The national media, which developed a certain standard of
studied “neutrality” and “objectivity” in the half century after
Hiroshima and Nagasaki closed World War II hostilities, has
regressed, albeit in the vastly expanded electronic media
environment, to 19th century levels of partisanship. I know it
will be provocative and upsetting to some Americans to learn
that there is virtually no longer any major media entity, i.e.,
newspaper, magazine, TV network, major online blog, or news
service, that maintains any more than a pretense of “neutrality,”
“objectivity,” or even most disturbingly, genuine “fairness” in
their political coverage. (That does not mean that individual
journalists fail to do so, but even for them, it is becoming
increasingly difficult.)

I always cite as my favorite example of 19th century journalism
the occasional notation under the headline of even some of the
most well-known U.S. newspapers during the Civil War, a
headline that might proclaim a totally false statement with the
sub-headline  “INTERESTING IF TRUE!”

Sadly, that is becoming the state of current U.S. media and
politics, to wit, INTERESTING IF TRUE.

I bring up this sorry state of affairs now because we are already
embarked on a ruthless lead-up to the 2016 presidential election
with incipient campaigns ON ALL SIDES to defame candidates
and causes.

The most obvious recent example is still underway. That is,
the political and media effort to destroy the political career
and presidential prospects of the frontrunning Republican
candidate for president New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
But lest I be thought too partisan, let me say a less obvious
but equally serious effort is being made against the
frontrunning Democratic presidential candidate Hillary
Clinton. Nor is it simply the left going after Mr. Christie; he is
also under attack from his right. Nor is it simply the right going
after Mrs. Clinton; she is also under attack from her left.

Of course, both Mr. Christie and Mrs. Clinton can be, and ought
to be, scrutinized for their views on domestic and foreign policy,
and for their performance in office. But that is apparently not
the political standard of the day. In 2012, the Democrats
(successfully) sold the nation the notion that Mitt Romney was
too rich and too out-of-touch to be president. (Remember where
he put the family dog on a family automobile trip?) In 2016, it is
no secret that Mr. Christie is going to be sold to the public as a
“bully.” At the same time, some Republicans are trying to sell
Mrs. Clinton as someone who maintains an “enemies” list,
and plays ruthlessly with anyone who stands in her way.

Among the primary reasons why both Mr. Christie and Mrs.
Clinton have risen to their present positions is the fact that they
are ambitious, aggressive and play political hardball. Even
granting for a moment that the worst case is true in the New
Jersey bridge closing controversy, it does not rise to the level of
disqualification for high office. While president of the United
States, Bill Clinton committed apparent perjury not only in court,
but before the entire nation on TV when he denied his true
relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Was his action praiseworthy?
Obviously no, but it did not rise to the level of conviction of
impeachment. (And who, twenty years later, is among the most
popular political figures in America.....?)

It might be healthy to do away with all the pretensions of “good
and evil” being foisted on the American voter by political party
strategists and operatives, and being reinforced by a hypocritical
media, but, of course, only the voters can insist on this, and the
truth is that they will not likely do so any time soon.

The 2014 campaign will be the preliminary for a brutal contest
in 2016. If the frontrunners can survive the mere slings and arrows
of these preliminaries, and the verbal sleights of hand contrived
against them, an even more vicious and daunting campaign for
president will ensue between both of them, or between one of
them and another, or (save the republic!) two other persons as yet

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "The End Of Simple Nor Basically Privacy"

In 1968, I wrote a poem entitled “The Cause Of All This
Precariousness”-- and the next year it was published in my
first book The Rippling Water Sleeve and other poems as
my M.F.A. thesis at the Writers Workshop at the University
of Iowa. The last line of this poem is the title of this
essay. A reader might be struck by the apparent grammatical
awkwardness of the line, and it would seem so if it were
prose, but this was not only poetry, it was written in my
literary style of the time when such departures from
conventional grammar made (and I think still do) some sense
of their own.

In the period when I wrote this poem, and that line, neither I
nor anyone else knew about the internet, the NSA, or any of
the other methods of surveillance which are now seemingly
commonplace, and which seem to make the line an obvious
statement of fact.

I make no claim to being any kind of prophet, but I do suggest
that as a young poet I could sense the then subliminal
gathering of technical forces, and the intensification of political
forces, even in that overheated time, that would make the
conclusion of the poem inevitable.

Remember that it was then the time of the opposition to the
war in Vietnam, and the psyche of the nation, especially of
many in its younger generations, was going through a spasm
of rapid alteration, of protest, of insubordination to the
political and even intellectual establishment. Just before
that moment in time, President Kennedy and Martin Luther
King had been assassinated, the war in Southeast Asia had
become increasingly unpopular, and a liberal Democratic
president was forced to retire instead of seeking a second full
term. Protestors and conscientious objectors filled American

Like so many momentous inventions in history, the internet
was created in a military setting. It became very quickly a
domestic phenomenon that grew astonishingly and globally
in an epically decentralized manner, and has been used
primarily for personal and business use. But its DNA was
from government. So we should not be surprised to see it
become an instrument for government control and intrusion
in the modern democratic state and its society.

Now much older, and less given to the kind of language I wrote
more than four decades ago, I see that it was probably an
inevitable route of human history that what we call “privacy”
should be so altered by our own hand, our own innovation,
our own human ambitions.

Nor was the premonition of the alteration of privacy, especially
through the agency of government, only a phenomenon of fifty
years ago. Twenty years before, George Orwell wrote the novel
Nineteen Eighty-Four about a foreboding, in his case, of
totalitarian mind control, and in the 1920’s, the Czech novelist
Karel Capek wrote R.U.R. in which he invented the word “robot”
and suggested coming robotics, something which also appears to
be a fact of our time.

The cartoon character Dick Tracy in the 1930’s had a watch that
was a two-way TV, a computer and a cell phone. It was considered
then mostly a fantasy for children, as were the interplanetary
travels of Flash Gordon. More than a hundred years ago, Jules
Verne and other science fiction writers created fantastic visions
of the future which are today’s realities. Leonardo Da Vinci, half
a millennium ago, conceived and drew inventions only recently
achieved. There are now ray guns, submarines and airplanes can
be made to be “invisible,” and men have landed on the moon.

We now know that it is physically possible, though technically not
yet feasible, to go forward in time. Only space aliens, and going
backward in time, remain as mere fantasies. (But who knows?....)

I think the key word in the line of my poem is the word “simple.”
The end of “basically privacy” was almost certainly inevitable.
It might therefore not seem to be as ominous as it first seems if
we try to realize that “simple” privacy is no longer possible in
the world we have created for ourselves. Like every other
technological advance in human history, we have had to give
something up to gain the rewards of our inventions.

Privacy, however, is likely to rise to another level, and be just
as valuable and precious as we considered “simple privacy.”
And just as before, in order to reach it and keep it, we will have
to defend it, protect it, and nurture it, whatever it is.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.


For those who might be interested, here is the final stanza
of “The Cause of All This Precariousness” (1968):

Depending on our personal method of routing time,
our lapses, our ejaculations,
in spite of our palindromes,
something is happening to us.
Who is so foolish, so wise,
to think they know what it is?
A motif of histories contrives away
enigmas which annoy us strategically;
impenetrable resources of famous champions,
lists, modes, celebrated measurements, winnings.
What jail for all of us, do we know?
I do not know,
but I dread and welcome,
the end of simple nor basically privacy.

Copyright (c) 1969, 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Christie "Flap"

The “flap” over the closing of a bridge in Ft. Lee, New Jersey,
is just that. If indeed the bridge was closed, as e-mail
documents suggest it was, as a form of political retribution,
the action itself was wrong and indefensible.

Since its alleged perpetrators were members of the
administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, or
his appointees, he bears an indirect responsibility for it,
as all chief executives do. Persons participating in this action
ought to be, and some so far have been, fired.

On the other hand, let’s be blunt about why this has become
such a national media controversy. Governor Christie is the
frontrunner for the 2016 Republican nomination, and easily
the most feared GOP figure by the Democratic leadership.

Visiting Washington, DC last September, I spoke with several
Democrats, including one elected official who told me his
party’s strategy was to portray Mr. Christie as a “bully” early
and often. All the Democrats, officials and strategists, echoed
the same theme of trying to create an image of the New Jersey
governor as a “bully.” The bridge “flap’ only gave them an
opening salvo in this public relations campaign.

Chris Christie is easily the most gifted new politician in the
nation. His communications skills are remarkable, and
another demonstration of this was his response to bridge
“flap.” Democrats have every reason to fear him, and the
establishment media which panders to them, and have done
so for years, predictably are trying to make this into a big deal.

Although I would not defend Mr. Christie if it were shown
beyond doubt that he ordered, or even suggested, the bridge
“flap” as a petty retribution, that is apparently not the case.

Mr. Christie is a very aggressive politician. He has acted
fearlessly before special interest groups where other
politicians (of both parties) fear to tread. He wins
virtually all these confrontations with guts, charm and a
brilliant in-your-face psychology. It has made him a very
successful governor of New Jersey. In a liberal Democratic
state, he recently won a landslide victory with the support
of many Democratic politicians and liberal groups. He is,
in a word, a phenomenon.

As we approach 2016, and considering the current timid
and feckless foreign policy of the United States in a
violent and dangerous international political landscape,
it might well be that Mr. Christie would be the ideal person
to restore the nation’s strength and role in the world after
Mr. Obama retires. No tyrant, dictator, or threatening
enemy seems likely to intimidate Chris Christie.

Speaking of the current president, where was the media
outrage when Mr. Obama, hosting Prime Minister
Netanyahu of Israel in the White House, deliberately
ignored him by going to dinner and then having him
ushered out by the back door. A case of political retribution?

So the lesson we have is that when anything controversial is
done by Mr. Obama or Democrats, it is heroic or amusing, and
not worth mentioning, but when it is done by Republicans, it
is abominable and a national scandal.

If Governor Christie does intend to run for president, he
must now know, that his opponents will be relentless in
trying to discredit him, using the media to magnify every
thing he does. This was only the overture to a brutal
campaign to prove him a “bully” and unworthy of being
president. This means he must rise to the occasion again
and again, and it also means that he must keep his own
house in order, something he obviously has not always done.

If he is indeed to be the next president of the United States, he
will have to prove himself at each challenge. That he has the
communication skills and personality to do so is not be
doubted by any fair political observer. Those who are glibly
writing his political obituary might well regret their
premature conclusions.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Plot Against The World Atlas

Except in those places where the issue is burning with
new nationalistic emotions, much of the world is largely
unaware how widespread is the phenomenon to make
all contemporary geographical atlases obsolete.

National identities and national borders have been in
constant change since recorded history began, but by
the conclusions of the two world wars, the atlas of the
world’s nations seemed, for the first time, to be
more or less fixed. After World War I, the victorious
nations of the United States, Great Britain, France and
its allies attempted to redraw the national maps of the
world, They, and the defeated nations  of Germany,
Austro-Hungary  and the Turkish empire, had been
colonial powers throughout the world. The victorious
states attempted to enhance their control of territories
outside their own national borders at the expense of the
defeated states, but the colonial presumption, so carefully
cultivated for the past five centuries, an echo of the empire
conquests of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Carthagenians,
Persians, Mongols and the early Arabs, were already fading
as local national aspirations were rapidly gaining strength.

British, French, Dutch, Spanish, German, Portuguese,
Belgian and Russian explorers had created the earliest
modern maps with the territories they conquered and
exploited. By the onset of World War II, many of these
colonized lands had been ceded to local sovereignty,
especially those of the British, French, Spanish and
Portuguese in North and South America. The Germans
and Italians had lost most of their colonies in Africa;
the Austrians had lost most of its empire in Europe.
Colonies remained in Africa and Asia.  The Middle East,
not previously organized as true national states was
refigured arbitrarily with League of Nation mandates,
Big Power occupations and new kingdoms.

After the unprecedented violence and bloodshed of the first
half of the 20th century, most of the remaining colonial
territories, especially in Africa and Asia become sovereign
states, and adopted what seemed to be permanent national
borders. The world’s largest colonial power, the British
empire, became the British Commonwealth of Nations, a
voluntary organization of former colonies symbolically led by
the British monarch. Most of the French, Dutch, and Spanish
colonies were gone. As with the British Commonwealth,
lingering informal ties were maintained by the legacies of
language and custom.

Today, there are almost 200 independent nations, most of
which belong to the United Nations, the successor to the
League of Nations, which was created as World War II was
ending, and was hoped to be a worthwhile international
institution in the world. Unfortunately, like its predecessor,
the U.N. has devolved into a mostly feckless existence, even
unable to maintain in its own organizational support for
human rights.

Nevertheless, at the end of the 20th century, a schoolchild
perusing a world atlas could perceive that the borders of
most nations in the world seemed more or less permanent.

This has turned out to be an illusion, especially since so many
borders had been so carelessly contrived.  In a few cases,
a redrawing of borders and creation of new states was
peacefully agreed to --- for example, Slovakia separated from
the Czech Republic in an amicable fashion. Less amicably,
the region of Yugoslavia, so long a source of internal ethnic
conflicts (one of which led directly to World War I) was
divided into several nations. After the economic and political
failure of the Soviet Union, created in 1919, its “empire” was
also divided into numerous independent states. Germany,
divided after World War II, was reunited. Ethiopia became
two states, Ethiopia and Eritria.

At the onset of the 21st century, then, it again seemed as if
national borders were more or less settled.

In Europe, however, ethno-national movements have once
again arisen. Separatist forces are on the rise in Belgium
(Flemish vs. Belgian), Great Britain (Scottish vs. British),
Spain (Catalan, Basque and Galician vs. Castilian), Slovakia
(Rusyn vs. Slovak), as well as other movements in France,
Scandinavia, Rumania, Poland, Russia and the former

In a few weeks, the voters of the autonomous Spanish
province of Catalonia will decide if they want to separate
from Spain. It is not clear if, even if they do vote to separate,
that the Spanish government will recognize it. The British
prime minister has okayed a plebiscite in Scotland in which
Scots have the choice to remain part of Great Britain or
become a completely sovereign state.

North America is not free of this phenomenon. Well-known
has been the effort of Quebec separatists to break off from
Canada, but previous plebiscites have failed, although both
English and French are now recognized as national languages.

Most recently, in the United States, a serious effort is being
made to put on the state ballot the division of the state of
California into six new and entirely separate states, each of
which would remain in the Union. If the ballot were approved,
it is not clear just how such an action could be accomplished
without the approval of the U.S. Congress which would have to
admit ten more U.S. senators. While this proposal is not
“secession” (which set of the American Civil War in the 19th
century), it might lead to similar actions in other existing
states, and redraw the American map.

The status of Puerto Rico, once a Spanish colony, and now
a U.S. territory, could change. It could become a state,
remain a territory or achieve total independence.

Indigenous native groups in Mexico, Central and South
America, as they acquire more political power, also
have begun to clamor for separation from their existing
national governments.

China is now composed of several regions and provinces
which were once independent states, and where separatist
movements are currently suppressed.

Active and long-time efforts to make the provinces of
Kashmir and Punjab independent states are the most
prominent and serious in India where many regions seek
to break away from the world’s reportedly now most
populous nation.

The Pacific Rim region contains not only several new and
tiny independent nations, but the U.S., Britain and France
even now control many of its islands and island groups,
any of which could decide to seek independence.

The vast areas of both the Arctic and Antarctic are not yet
defined by permanent recognized borders, but neighboring
countries at both ends of the poles seem to maneuvering for
territorial control, especially as valuable mineral rights
become an issue.

In addition to the relatively serious separatist movements
mentioned above, there are numerous small or incipient
efforts to establish new sovereign states from existing
nations now active throughout the world.

Atlas publishers will likely be busy in coming decades.
Maps of the world are likely to be changed again many times,
with no end of it in sight.

Cartography might be one of the next “hot” professions.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


The president of the U.S. is at a low point in his popularity
with voters as he begins the second year of his final term
in office. This is not unusual in recent years. Jimmy Carter
and George H.W. Bush each served only one term, so their
experience does not apply, but Bill Clinton and George W.
Bush were elected twice, and suffered dips as they began
their second term. Clinton, after his impeachment failed to
lead to a conviction, rallied by moving to the political center
and compromising with the Republican leadership. George
Bush, as the Iraq War dragged down his popularity,
authorized a successful military “surge” in Iraq, but his
domestic policies failed to restore his favor with the public.

Going into the 2014 mid-term elections, President Obama
and his Democratic allies in the Congress are facing a
possible “wave” election against them, principally caused
by the disastrous implementation of the president’s signature
and only major accomplishment in his first five years in office,
Obamacare. The Democrats faced an analogous situation in
2010, but chose to ignore it, and suffered a massive defeat,
including loss of control of the U.S. house and a much
diminished control of the U.S. senate.

But Mr. Obama survived his 2012 re-election, much to the
surprise of many. By identifying and then motivating
their voters to go to the polls, the Democrats gained a few
seats in the house and senate, and kept the White House.
Their Republican opposition did not match the Democratic
strategic advantage.

Barack Obama is an amateur politician. A very successful
amateur so far, it must be said, but not a “hands-on”
politician. Ronald Reagan, the two Bushes were not
hands-on either, but they were ultimately professionals
with experience in elected office.  Mr. Obama depends on
others, on political professionals, to accomplish his goals.
He has not, in five years, developed the personal political
relationships with many members of Congress, even with
those of his own party.

As the 2014 national mid-term election campaign begins,
there are ominous signs not favorable to the president and
his party. Most of these come from the public reception to
the initial implementation of Obamacare. Short of drastic
changes in the law, which would require major compromises
with the Republicans in Congress, the initial sign-up “glitches”
will be replaced by the public awareness of how unsustainable
the healthcare reform legislation is in practice. From now
until election day, and beyond, Obamacare’s shortcomings
will be revealed to the majority of Americans.

Perhaps Mr. Obama, having been re-elected, and no longer
faced with going before the voters again, thinks it does not
matter that his party avoids another mid-term election
debacle. Perhaps he believes that the Republicans still do not
know how to mobilize their voters as well as his party can.
Perhaps believing that Obamacare is “settled law” and thus
irreversible, the president simply does not care to accommodate
any political expediency to lessen the political backlash against
his party. Perhaps he and his allies believe they can  make
Americans forget the Obamacare disasters with "red herrings"
such as the minimum wage issue.

With his two aging primary partners in the Congress, Nancy
Pelosi and Harry Reid, two persons with whom he shares the
credit for this legacy, he has no one pushing him to change his
tactics, his belief in what he has done, or his direction in what
he could yet do.

There are signs, however, that the Republicans are figuring
out, in this cycle, how successfully to oppose Obamacare and
its perpetrators. But these are only signs, and not yet
conclusive evidence that they will succeed. That evidence will
come soon ahead in the primary season in which the GOP
selects its nominees to run for the U.S. house and senate,
particularly in those contests which seem likely to be close.

If the Republicans nominate a very strong slate of candidates,
2014 could give them clear control of the Congress. Already
possibly thinking about his post-presidential years, Mr. Obama
might then just dig in on Obamacare, and simply endure a benign
“lame duck” final two years. Of course, that would require the
cooperation of his own party’s surviving members of Congress.
Mr. Obama has so far avoided systematic overrides of his vetoes.
The Supreme Court has yet to rule on most of his controversial
executive orders.

Does Obama care?

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: New Years: Lists, Resolutions And Predictions

It might come as a disappointment to some readers that
The Prairie Editor, contrarian as he often is, will not be
making lists about the past year, special resolutions for
the present, or predictions for the coming year.

In fact, The Prairie Editor is not even calling it a “new”
year. He’s simply calling it the “next” year because any
year continues the year past without necessarily heeding
the markers of the calendar, and those events required by
the planet’s seasons and other annual cycles.

Nevertheless, the calendar is one of the constants in life,
and we inevitably take a pause in the Judeo-Christian
holiday season before taking our individual forays into
the future. To be sure, there are other religious traditions
in the U.S., and a sizable "secular" mindset among many
Americans about their daily lives. All this complicates
increasingly what we describe as “American,” and how,
in a year in which the nation’s voters make decisions about
the U.S. house and senate, many governorships and state
legislatures, we might anticipate the true mood of the

What might be said with some reasonable certainty is that
the U.S. and the other nations on earth are continuing to
go through a particularly intense, if opaque, period of
transformation, something which does not happen all the

I say “opaque” because, in spite of the advice and counsel
of many so-called “experts” and other authorities, no one
really “knows” with certainty what is truly happening in
the current transformation in the world.

We have just endured a period in which the majority of
“experts” (in this case, scientists) told us that “global
warming” threatened our planet. We were given many
statistics to support this notion, some of which were
false numbers, but even those which were true were of
such duration, they were soon reversed, negating the very
hypothesis of global “warming.” The ice caps are melting,
we were then told, and now we are told the ice caps are
freezing. Advocates of “global warming” then adjusted
their rhetoric to say that the threat was “global change.”
This, of course, is like saying the sun rises and sets every
day. “Global change” is one of the constants of our
planetary existence. The “scientific” agenda of “global
warming” turned out to be, all along, a political agenda
for artificial worldwide redistribution of resources.

The newest political agenda calls for an artificial
worldwide and national (in the U.S.) redistribution of
“wealth.” Its rhetoric is idealistic and humanitarian, but
to use one of the movement’s favorite terms, it is not
sustainable. One specific manifestation of this political
agenda has been the enactment, and now attempted
implementation, of healthcare reform (known popularly
as Obamacare) in the U.S. Just as global warming
advocates hoped that a mounting contrarian statistics
would prove wrong, Obamacare advocates believe that
the current computer “glitch” which has troubled the
roll-out of the program will be fixed, and Obamacare
will be revealed in all of its positive glory. Unfortunately,
the roll-out procedure, whether it was good or bad, has
very little to do with the inherent contradictions of the
program. All the delays and waivers will not put the
Obamacare humpty-dumpty together again.

But this and many other “realities,” not to mention
innumerable surprises, are ahead in the calendar year
now begun, and beyond. It is also the U.S. national mid-term
election cycle, with all the delicious details and vagaries
of our voting suffrage. The Prairie Editor, at this early
point, is making no predictions. As we all know, anything
can happen.

So turn the page of your calendar from another December
past. Welcome to January and the interesting destinations
to which it leads.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.