Friday, August 29, 2014


A new geopolitical word has crept into the eastern European
crisis now centered in Ukraine and Crimea.

That word is “Novorossiya” or the Russian language word for
“New Russia.” Actually, the term is an old one, and comes
from the czarist imperial description of southern Ukraine
when it was part of the old Russian empire.

Russian President Putin is now using the term to describe
the Ukrainian rebels, tentatively giving credence to a
possible rationalization of the annexation of eastern
Ukraine in addition to the annexation he has already done

President Obama has denounced recent Russian
aggression, and has been joined by his major NATO allies,
but so far their action has been limited to economic
penalties. Putin has responded with counter-penalties.
To be fair, it is unclear what more action Western nations,
including the U.S. could reasonably take, given historic
European passivity and a war-weary U.S. public.

The problem is, of course, that Ukraine is a sovereign
nation, albeit declared so by the Soviet Union when it
controlled most of eastern Europe either as puppet
satellites or “socialist republics” in the Soviet Union itself.

The dismemberment of Ukraine today is an extra-legal
disruption of post-Soviet Europe, both west and east.
Whether by Napoleon, the Central Powers led by the
German kaiser,  the Axis Powers led by Hitler and
Mussolini, or the Soviet Union led by Stalin, modern
Europe has endured these disruptions for more than two
centuries. Mr. Putin is only the latest aggressor.

History tells us that only force repels force. Otherwise,
aggression in Europe has only led to more aggression.

That, alas, is what is in store for the post-war European
Union that was created to deter and eliminate European
wars “permanently.” Force meeting force, however
necessary, has once more become very unfashionable.

In an adjoining region of the world, an Islamic new
caliphate has been self-proclaimed, and is aggressively
on the move against its neighbors.

Here we go again.

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Is A Voter Wave Coming?

Some pundits and pollsters are now asking out loud if a
voter wave is coming for the national mid-term 2014
elections in November.

The reasons for these questions is the lack of polling data
with which dispositively to predict there will be one.

So far, there is little question that the traditional boost
for the party not holding the White House is taking place.
Republicans seem on target to win back control of the U.S.
senate (albeit by a narrow margin), increase their margin
in the U.S. house, and to hold their own in state governors
(although almost twice as many GOP incumbent governors’
positions are being contested this cycle}.

If this trend continues to election day, it would be, of
course, a very good day for the conservative party, but
being an off-presidential-year cycle, not in itself a true
wave or landslide election. The Democrats, if this happens,
would still be in a position for a recovery in 2016 with a
new presidential candidate.

A wave election in 2014, it seems to me, would require the
GOP to pick up at least 9 senate seats, 8-10 or more house
seats, and draw even or better in the gubernatorial races.
That’s an imperfect definition, and some might quibble
with my exact numbers, but a political “tsunami” this year
would have no ambiguity. The voters would be sending
“the government” a message.

First of all, with about two months to go, it is not surprising
that poll numbers do not show a wave. Republican
challengers are leading or tied in many races that would be
pick-ups, but the margins are not large. This is because
many likely voters, especially independents, as I see it, are not
yet willing to commit their vote to a pollster. However, since
most of the contested races are seats now held by Democrats,
it is problematic for the liberal party, led by President Obama;
the fact remains that, as an election draws near, undecideds
are less and less likely to go with incumbents. This traditional
rule is compounded by current conditions of economic
uncertainty, unemployment and an uneven modest recovery.
World events are particularly tense this summer, and the
hesitating White House response to international threats does
not help the party in power with voters.

Polls are showing perhaps a larger number of undecided
voters at this point, but I would argue those numbers reflect
problems with polling more than the state of voters’ minds.
Furthermore, if there is to be a wave election, it will be fueled
on election day with a wave of truly undecided voters in the
last two weeks before election day.

I am not yet predicting a wave election, however. World
events can always have an impact. The Democrats,
furthermore, have had the superior ground game
(get-out-the-vote) effort for a decade, and their advantage
in this was powerfully demonstrated in 2012. If the liberal
party can get their voters effectively to the polls, the
results in 2014 would likely not be a wave election, no matter
the final tally.

Republicans have had fair warning about their opponents’
ground game. Supposedly, there are now GOP campaigns
employing the new technologies to identify their voters,
and the means to assure they vote in 2014.

Democrats will not have the advantage of “problem” GOP
candidates this cycle, as occurred in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
In fact, most of the candidates making blunders this year
are Democrats (Bruce Braley in Iowa, now-withdrawn John
Walsh in Montana, et al). Nontheless, Democrats have
outraised the Republicans in campaign funding, and are
laboring mightily to make as many races be determined by
local issues and candidate personalities as possible.

The key, when all is said and done, to a wave election will
be in fact whether or not voters feel their choices will be
made as a reflection of their attitude and mood about
the national situation.

Watch for the signs of this to begin to appear (or fail to
appear) in polls about two weeks before election day. Until
then, the numbers will gyrate within a narrow range, and
several individual race outcomes will be uncertain.

Halloween falls on the Friday before election day this year.
We will by then have a better idea whether 2014 is going to be
trick or treat.

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The 2014 Campaign That No One Is Talking About

In 2014, there are three national campaigns taking place.

The first is the mid-term campaign of the Democrats to
re-take control of the U.S. house and to keep control of
the U.S. senate. Prospects are virtually non-existent for the
former and increasingly unlikely for the latter. The
Democrats will be trying to upset these expectations, but
they are problematically limited by their need to defend
unpopular President Obama, unpopular Obamacare
legislation, an ambivalent economy and the deteriorating
administration foreign policy.

The second campaign are the efforts by the Republicans
to add to their current control of the U.S. house and to retake
control of the U.S. senate. Both those outcomes now look
quite positive, although the latter is not a certainty since the
GOP must make a net gain of six seats.

Making matters more difficult for Democratic Party
aspirations are two factors. First the “rump” wing of the
GOP, usually described as the “tea party” wing, failed
throughout the primary season to dislodge any GOP
senators or to defeat any notable (more establishment)
challengers to vulnerable seats now held by Democrats.
Although some establishment conservatives failed to win
nomination, and some GOP incumbents will lose, the
Republicans seem likely to gain a net of 5-10 seats in the
U.S. house. Even in governorships up this cycle, in which
twice as many incumbent Republicans were facing the voters
than incumbent Democrats, early liberal hopes for significant
gains have been dashed, and the net change in state capitals
will probably be minimal.

The strategies of these two campaigns, easily predictable and
now evident, are (for the Democrats) keeping all races local,
and (for the Republicans) trying to make as many races part
of a national referendum on the president and his
administration as possible.

There is, however, a third strategic campaign underway by
each party in the midst of all this. These are the campaigns
and plans of each party’s leadership in the aftermath of
November’s results to position themselves and their candidate
for president in 2016.

Since the most likely outcome of 2016 (although by no means
yet a certainty) is the Republican control of the Congress and
a “lame duck” Democratic president, it must be assumed that
each party’s leadership and their likely 2016 candidates are
making plans for the post-November period when the 2016
presidential campaign will begin.

Although there is now a growing likelihood that Republicans
and conservatives will have some measure of success this year,
the relative positions of the two parties under that circumstance
might (paradoxically) favor the Democrats for 2016.

Already some are suggesting that Hillary Clinton, the early
favorite for the Democratic nomination to succeed Mr. Obama,
could “triangulate” Republican control of Congress and the
inevitable stalemate that would likely result, and (Harry
Truman-style) run against a do-nothing GOP house and senate.
That presupposes, of course, that she could separate herself
from the president she served for four years as secretary of
state, and that she could come up with a liberal program that
is in contrast to the Obama/Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid record.

After November, 2014, the Republicans have a very difficult
task in spite of likely “Obama fatigue” and Democratic policy
failures. They have to come up with an appealing and
understandable alternative to the past eight years, and they
will need a candidate to carry the message of that alternative.
The ingredients of the former already exist thanks to Paul
Ryan in the U.S. house, several successful GOP governors in
the states, and policy thinkers such as Newt Gingrich who
have been discussing “outside-the-box” new approaches to
governing. While these ingredients do exist, they are not yet
a whole and integrated program, and probably won’t be until
the party has a nominee (or a likely nominee).

This latter requirement is also a problem for the conservative
party which has a large “bench” of suitable candidates, but
no single frontrunner. Governor Chris Christie was emerging
as that candidate, but local New Jersey controversies have at
least temporarily waylaid his early momentum. Former
Governor Jeb Bush has the stature, but not yet the declared
intention to run. Mitt Romney, whose statements in his 2012
campaign now are looking better and better, has numerous
obstacles to a renomination. Senator Rand Paul has a
nationwide base, and several of the aforementioned
successful GOP governors could yet emerge. A volatile and
spirited contest for the GOP nomination lies ahead,

There are also a number of issues, such as immigration reform,
which face the Republican Party in the next two years.

If indeed the GOP is successful in controlling the Congress in
January, 2015, its leadership must then figure out how to deal
with President Obama who, so far, has shown no interest in
compromise, and will have at that point even less motive to
do so. As previously suggested, the GOP will have the delicate
task of proposing legislation that will not seem unconstructive
to the voters over the next two years, and will appear so
plausible that voters, especially independent voters, will look
favorably to the Republican alternative. This is much more
difficult than it might seem today when Democratic policies
are unpopular, but GOP policies are unclear.

While party strategists are now eager to discuss the 2014
campaign, and to show their “stuff” in its remaining two
months, a much bigger political chess game will succeed it.

That is the campaign no one is talking about just now, but it
is also invisibly taking place because of what awaits the 2014
winners and losers, and the much bigger stakes which will

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Real Global Warming

The true global warming in 2014 is not in the climate.
Instead, it is geopolitical, as the heat has been turned up
several notches at national borders all over the planet.

In some of the obvious places, the temperature is sizzling,
including Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Turkey, China, Sudan,
eastern Africa, Argentina and Central America. But the
political thermometer is also going up in other places
as well, including the European Union, urban U.S., Brazil,
Viet Nam, Burma, Cuba and Pakistan.

Historians will argue whether or not the foreign policy
ineptness and retreat of the Obama administration in 2014
is a major or minor cause of this global political heat.

Mr. Obama entered his presidency with the U.S. weary of its
military actions, and its casualties, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It would be unfair to accuse his disengagement policies of
being contrary to American public opinion. ANY new president
in 2009, either Democrat or Republican, would have had to
fashion a reduction of active U.S. military engagements in the

The real test of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy is HOW he
constructed his lowering the military temperature of the
U.S. armed forces. His critics are contending that his
inexperience and lack of skill in foreign policy have not only
weakened the nation’s defenses, but encouraged rogue and
hostile forces in the world to increase their aggression and
violence in the world’s hotspots.

Unfortunately (for ALL Americans), a good case for this can
be made by citing the precipitous reduction of the U.S. military
personnel and presence, the dysfunction of relations with
traditional American allies, the public ambiguity in reaction
to localized military aggression. and the consistent message of
U.S. withdrawal from the problems in the world.

The challenge, also to be fair to Mr. Obama, was not entirely of
his own making. Whether or not the American public is weary of
foreign involvements and affairs, the international community is
a volatile phenomenon, and constantly in conflict as malign and
totalitarian forces rise and fall while attempting to exploit some
dispute or another into increased advantage and power.

In a phrase, the world is always in play with aggression and
violence. And this man-made conflict is seemingly always
compounded with unpredictable forces of nature which human
beings cannot control, but which periodically inflict hardship
and disaster, including violent weather, earthquakes and floods,
volcanic eruptions, epidemics and the impact on the earth of the

President Eisenhower was for many years denigrated as a U.S.
chief executive, but history is now making clear how useful was
his great knowledge of world affairs (gained from his years as
as a military commander during World War II) in dealing with
a similar political heatwave that occurred during his presidency.
The Cold War, ending hostilities in Korea, the Soviet invasion of
Hungary, the closing of the Suez Canal and the incipient
revolutionary activity in southeast Asia all confronted him, and
for the most part, he made good decisions, showed restraint and
tactical lowering of political temperatures while at the same
time preserving American power and self-defense. Mr. Eisenhower
came into the presidency better prepared for foreign policy
perhaps than any other commander-in-chief in his time.

Much is made by political scholars and pundits about how
unimportant foreign policy is to American voters. Certainly
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not elected in 1932 for his prowess
and experience in world affairs (something the man he defeated,
Herbert Hoover, had much of even before his own election in 1928),
but as the clouds of war gathered in the late 1930’s in Europe and
Asia, President Roosevelt had acquired the experience to lead the
nation at a critical time.

The next president of the United States needs not only foreign
policy experience or knowledge, but more importantly, good
judgment in foreign affairs. President Roosevelt was the right
person for the job in 1939-41, but by 1944-45, his lack of
knowledge about Asia and his ill health made him the wrong
person for the job. Harry Truman had no visible foreign affairs
background, but his generally good sense enabled him to act
in U.S. interests during most of his presidency. Richard Nixon,
for all his many shortcomings, understood foreign policy.

The economy and domestic matters will understandably fill
most of the space of the 2016 presidential campaign, as they
have done so throughout most of our history. But the world is
truly and rapidly changing under all of our feet, and it will be
necessary for voters to take the rising global political
temperatures into account when they select the next president.

If the do not, they risk a disastrous global political cold
shoulder to America in the years ahead.

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

Friday, August 15, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Defeat By A Million Failures

The old cliche about demise from a thousand cuts comes
from an ancient Chinese torture. What is happening to the
Democratic Party today, defeat by a million failures,
is caused by their own torture of public policies.

Initially it was thought that the 2014 midterm elections might
go badly for the current ruling party because a major policy
failure such as Obamacare alone would turn voters against it,
as happened in 2010. If that were so, the Democrats might have
repaired their position by compromising on healthcare reform
and accepting some Republican changes to the law so
preemptively passed by the Democratic Congress in 2010, and
signed by the president. With the U.S. house of representatives
controlled by the Republicans (since 2011), this could have
indeed happened, but I’m not so sure it would have substantially
changed the growing voter mood against the president and his
party. In any event, this president does not seem to have
"compromise" in his political vocabulary.

It is now very clear that Barack Obama and those around him
had in mind some very radical changes in public policy when
they took office in January, 2009, and began to implement them.
With a Republican U.S. house and public opinion resisting them,
however, they have been blocked from many of their changes.
At the same time, using executive orders, they put into effect
many others, particularly a steady stream of regulations, some
of which are choking small businesses across the nation.
The U.S. supreme court has already ruled that one of Mr.
Obama’s executive presumptions was unconstitutional, and
it’s quite possible it will do the same for others, including an
unprecedented suit against him by Speaker of the House John

The point is that voters voted against Obamacare in 2010 as
an abstraction, that is, as something they intuitively felt could
not work. In 2014, Obamacare is a reality, and touches millions
of Americans. It is true that the reform benefits some Americans
without any previous health insurance, but at the same time
many more Americans are observing the cost of their health
insurance going up, their benefits reduced, their healthcare
access limited, the inability of the program to pay for itself
without a massive taxpayer subsidy, and the whole
medical/hospital industry in worrisome turmoil.

Raising the minimum wage does benefit some workers. But the
impact on American business is already becoming evident, as
prices rise where possible, workers lose their jobs when raising
prices is not feasible, and in cases where neither can be done,
enterprises are simply going out of business. More serious than
this one policy is the myriad of new regulations cascading out of
Washington. Not all of these regulations are bad ones, but many
of them are punitive, unnecessary, and unmanageable. Many
more Americans feel the negative aspects of these policies
than realize their so-called benefits.

Raising taxes does, in the short term, raise revenue, especially
revenue for increased government intrusion in the market place.
In the long term, however, raising taxes inhibits growth and
healthy infusion of revenue into the economic system. Moreover,
those in the middle class (where most independent voters are) feel
the brunt of higher taxes, and are forced to reduce their spending
(which in turn, deflates the economy).

Centralized and bureaucratic government is a mainstay of
liberal politics. The rationale is that government is a better
steward of the public good. In reality, this has rarely proven to
be true, particularly as democratic societies mature. Built into
the U.S. constitution is a balance between the rights and duties
of states and those of the federal government. At the turn of the
20th century, particularly just after World War I, a series of major
problems and public projects were resolved by substantially
increasing the federal role (e.g. Hoover Dam in the far west,
the Great Flood of 1927 in the midwest), and this only increased
significantly during the Great Depression. American society has
changed much since then, however, and the rationale for so
much centralized government, it can be persuasively argued,
has diminished.

Today, millions of Americans living in rural areas, small towns,
exurbs and suburbs feel the intrusion of Washington, DC
first hand. It does not matter which political party they have
felt part of in the past. In fact, I think it is fair to say that a great
many who make up the great recent rise in the number of
independent voters are those who live in these places.

Most of these independents voted for Barack Obama in 2008,
and many (but less) of them voted for him again in 2012.
The polls indicate that they would not vote for him again, nor
for his party. These voters are not happy. They are not happy
at all. They don’t have to admit publicly, however, that they
made a mistake in 2008 and 2012. All they have to do is vote
against Democrats in 2014.

And that is what they seem increasingly likely to do.

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What IS Happening in Minnesota?

The just-concluded Minnesota primary results signal
further that something curious is happening in Minnesota.

Last September I wrote an article in a national magazine
suggesting that, while the nation was leaning to the
Republicans in 2014, Minnesota was likely to remain safely
Democratic (in this state, the party is called Democratic-
Farmer-Labor or DFL). I did hint that the 8th congressional
district might have a contest, but even there the DFL
incumbent was heavily favored.

Now eleven months later, the political picture has changed.
Incumbent U.S. Senator Al Franken, who had won by only a
few votes in 2008 in a still controversial recount, had been
low-key and non-controversial in his first five years in
Washington, had been on every pundit’s “safely Democratic”
list last year. Today, he is still ahead, but the race is now
rated only “lean Democratic.” His Republican opponent,
businessman Mike McFadden won his primary contest easily
after a surprise win of the GOP endorsement at the state
party convention in June. McFadden, a political newcomer,
had initially come across as uninspiring, caught some
momentum and poise at his convention, and now his attacks
on Franken are attracting national attention. (His comment
during his nationally-broadcast reply to President Obama’s
recent TV address that, while Minnesota is the state of 10,000
lakes, Franken and his colleagues are the “party of 10,000
excuses,” was circulated in the media nationwide. Franken not
only leads in the polls, but in total campaign funds on hand.
McFadden, however, has proved to be a first-rate fundraiser on
his own, not to mention his personal wealth enabling him to
self-fund if necessary. This is now a race in play.

Political newcomer Stewart Mills was an intriguing possibility
a year ago, but today he is giving DFL incumbent Congressman
Rick Nolan a serious race for his money. The Cook Reports has
now changed its rating of the race to “Toss-Up.” Again, Nolan
probably still has the lead, but Mills has turned out to be a
colorful campaigner, and relentless in his pursuit of the seat.

Only the state house of representative is up for re-election this
year, but the DFL was initially thought to maintain the control
it had wrested from the GOP in 2012. Now, with effective
candidate recruitment and DFL unpopularity, it is expected that
the Republicans will win the most seats in 2014.

The one race thought to be absolutely safe for the Minnesota
liberal party was the governorship. Mark Dayton won this office
in 2010 narrowly because the GOP candidate made a huge
blunder, but Dayton has maintained high positive poll numbers
throughout his tenure, and has seemed to be well-liked by
Minnesotans. At the end of 2013, however, the Obamacare
national fiasco hit Minnesota, and Dayton tax-the-rich policies,
along with his overt favoritism to the state’s labor unions,
has pushed his numbers under 50%.

His opponent in November will be Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin
County (the largest in the state) commissioner, and former
state legislator and GOP national committeeman. Johnson
was opposed in his primary by three major opponents who
ran against him despite his winning the GOP endorsement.
They significantly outspent him. As Johnson partisans point
out, he is one of the most underestimated political figures in
recent state history, having initially been given little chance
to win his legislative seat, the commissioner’s seat and the
national committeemanship. He was also widely considered
unlikely to win the DFL endorsement for governor, and not
favored by many to win the primary. He did lose a race for
state attorney general several years ago, but his low-key
political personality has camouflaged the fact that voters
feel comfortable with him. A solid conservative, like Mike
McFadden he has been inclusive enough in his campaigning
to gain support from all wings of the state Republican Party.
Like McFadden, Johnson has the potential to appeal to the
state’s all-important independent voters (about 30% of the
electorate) in November.

The one big surprise in the primary was the outcome in
the Minnesota 1st district GOP primary where endorsed
candidate Aaron Miller was defeated by Jim Hagedorn, the
son of a former congressman. Hagedorn had initially
withdrawn from the race, but at the last minute re-entered
it and won. Incumbent DFLer Tim Walz is not likely to
lose this contest in November, but Hagedorn is considered
a more aggressive candidate than Miller, and might make
the race closer than expected.

Tom Emmer, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2010 whose
flub cost him the election, is back in 2014 as the GOP
nominee for congress in the 6th district (to succeed Michelle
Bachmann). He is expected to win this seat easily against a
weak DFL opponent. Incumbent GOP Congressmen
John Kline and Eric Paulsen are expected also to coast to
victories in their districts. GOP nominee Torrey Westrom
is not expected to defeat conservative DFL 7th district
Congressman Collin Peterson. Two very liberal DFL
incumbents are considered very safe in their inner city
districts in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The Republican Party seemed to be on the ropes in
Minnesota a year ago, having been soundly defeated in 2012,
and heavily in debt, not to mention the divisions of its factions.
Somehow, the conservative party seems to be getting past
this in 2014, although its candidates in major races are
still trailing, and the party is still in debt (although
significantly less than before).

In 2014, it is the DFL which is showing more signs of factional
division, and seems on the defense for many of its programs
and laws put through the legislature it controls and signed
by its governor.

On the other hand, the DFL has one of the most effective
get-out-the-vote operations in the nation, still leads in the
polls, and has outraised the GOP in campaign funding.

Whether Mike McFadden, Jeff Johnson and Stewart Mills
will win upset victories in about two months from now
remains to be seen, but the big difference between a year
ago and now is that unexpectedly the Republicans are very
competitive in Minnesota in 2014.

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

Friday, August 8, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Ever-Changing Middle East Political Terrain

The Middle East is notable for its prolonged conflicts, its
enduring rivalries, and the constant change of its political
terrain. This arises not only because of the enmity of most
Arabs and other Muslims there against the state of Israel,
a conflict which has existed for only six decades, but also
because of internal Muslim strife and rivalries which have
existed for centuries and more than a millenium.

No American president can navigate this maze of ruthless
and perpetual violence without some very good knowledge
of the history of the region, considerable patience, good and
well-informed advice, the skill to act decisively with
overwhelming force if and when necessary, and the restraint
to remain out of the region’s perpetual tumult if and when
called for.

The latest Middle East threat is the emergence of I.S.I.S.
or as it calls itself, the “new caliphate.” This group has shown
itself able to perform acts barbaric, even by Middle Eastern
standards, directed at some fellow Muslims, what remains
of the new Iraqi republic and its army, and all Christians
in its path. The immediate threat posed by this group is to the
semi-autonomous Kurdish state (Moslems who are friendly
to the U.S. and Europe) and to those Christians who live in
northern Iraq.

Belatedly, but correctly, President Obama has begun to
intervene with some air strikes directed at I.S.I.S. forces
which pose the most dire threat to the local Iraqi
population, including Kurds and Christians. His problem
is, that having intervened a a late date, he will find it very
difficult to withdraw the United States from the conflict

To be sure, President George W. Bush, following the
defeat of Saddam Hussain and his government, greatly
miscalculated circumstances on the ground. Only when,
after considerable stalemate, he employed “overwhelming
military force” in the "Surge," did most of the overt conflict

When President Obama entered office, it was clear that he
wanted to withdraw an American presence as soon as
possible, even though the new “democratic” Iraqi
government was weak, and the old (and violent) conflicts
remained under the surface.

As always seems to happen, the Middle East terrain changed
dramatically once again with the coming of the so-called
“Arab Spring” that saw the overthrow of old Arab regimes in
Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. The Western hope for stable,
truly democratic replacements to the old regimes, however,
has not been realized. New uprisings in Syria further
complicated the changing terrain, even as Iran played
heavy-handed troublemaker in the region, and hardline
groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood took power and
then lost it in Egypt.

Without an American presence in Iraq, this nation once
again divided into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions, and
a gestating terrorist group, the I.S.I.S. emerged with
ambitions to take over the entire Middle East.

It is perhaps premature to blame President Obama for the
current situation, although (like President George W. Bush)
he clearly has not understood the complexities of this
region and its peoples, nor has he apparently had much if
any good advice. His attempts to force long-time ally Israel
into untenable agreements and concessions has weakened
the powerful ties between the two democratic nations, and
has forced Israel to make some common cause with the
new government in Egypt and the old government in Saudi
Arabia. In between the warring powers, Jordan and Lebanon
are holding on for dear political life.

In short, it was a mess to begin with, it became a greater mess,
and now it is a colossal mess.

The behavior of Hamas in Gaza has only strengthened U.S.
public opinion in favor of Israel and the U.S-Israeli alliance.
Legislators of both political parties in both houses of Congress
overwhelmingly reflect this view. The determination of
President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and those advising
the administration to force Israel to act against its own interests
is now clearly. and always was, self-defeating. Israel can only
act in its own interests. Period.

It’s time for the U.S. to act wisely in its interests. Not only Iran
is a threat to the world community, but I.S.I.S. has added itself
to the forces destabilizing the whole region. President Obama has
taken a good first step with his actions against I.S.I.S.

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

Monday, August 4, 2014


It is a relatively quiet domestic U.S. summer, but not so
quiet in the rest of the world. Beneath the surface of the
apparent domestic tranquility, however, the nation’s
voters are making up their minds about who they will
vote for only about three months from now. Labor Day is
only weeks away.


A few key party primaries lie ahead, but most of the
candidates for governor, U.S. senate, U.S. congress, and
state legislator are now known. Pundits, including this one,
have been citing a growing trend toward Republican and
conservative candidates, but yours truly is cautious about
making predictions or declaring any trends to be an inevitable
political tsunami. There are contradictory signs in the
economy, The stock market is making hesitating new highs,
official unemployment figures are lower, some sectors are
stronger. On the other hand, true unemployment figures
(all those without jobs, whether they are “seeking” work or
not) remain very high, warnings of stock market “bubbles”
abound, some important sectors are not booming. The
Obamacare debacle is entering a new and perhaps more
painful stage as new healthcare insurance rates are
announced, and the free market of hospitals, physicians
and private insurance companies companies react to and
absorb Obamacare realities.

Market-based innovation in technology, education, health
care and communications continues to explode.

There are counterproductive and interminable debates
about political correctness, redistribution of wealth and
opportunity, political name-calling from all sides, dubious
weather and environmental patterns.

There are sobering real-life impacts from continuing and
new natural disasters, including historic water shortages in
California, drought in the West, floods in the Midwest, etc.

Useful conversations are taking place about the future,
but they are mostly out of sight of the general public.
(One hopeful small sign: my friend Newt Gingrich’s
important new book BREAKOUT: Pioneers of the future,
guards of the past, and the epic battle that will decide
America’s fate
, originally published last November, has
suddenly appeared on a bestseller list. When I reviewed
it last year, I suggested this was a must-read book by
concerned citizens. This book is apparently one of those
rare publications whose importance needed a period of
gestation before taking off.)

A vital national conversation about the transparency and
reform of government at all levels is taking place, but much
too slowly. It has not yet entered its political stage (in which
advocates are rewarded by voters).

It is an exceptionally quiet baseball season. Many of the
sport’s stars have just or are now retiring. Some of the best
active players have been hurt or are out for the season. Baseball
statistics (part of the pastime’s enduring appeal) are notably
unremarkable midway into the season. Interest in the annual
All Star game seemed at a low point this year. The numerous
interleague games this season might be also diminishing the
appeal of the interleague World Series in October. Astronomical
player salaries, and some players‘ misconduct,  continue to
interfere with appreciation of the teams athletic and competitive

Seeming anarchy at the southwest border, including a flood
of very young undocumented immigrants, is doing much to
mute a previously growing consensus for immigration
reform. The role of the federal government in this situation
is so far particularly ambiguous and potentially

The movie business is having its worst summer in memory.

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

Friday, August 1, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The World Upside-Down, Again And Again

It is no secret to anyone who stays even minimally aware
of the news of the world that there are just now crisis
events heating up throughout the globe. The usual
“hotspots” are particularly active, including, Europe,
the Middle East, Central Africa and Asia.

Of course, there are always crisis events on the planet,
those which are human-induced and those which come
from nature.

Of the latter, there has arisen a certain complacency,
particularly in the United States and Europe, that the
catastrophic effects of earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes
and floods, however costly, can be routinely repaired, and
that epidemic outbreaks can be contained and resolved.
Medical advances employing antibiotics and other drugs,
it has been assumed, could treat or cure any epidemiological
threat . Such was the case of the AIDS epidemic some years
ago, and its eventual treatment as a chronic disease and not a
fatal one.

But new diseases keep coming, and the experts are now
warning us that the antibiotics that we do have are becoming
less and less effective. In a growing number of cases, they are
not effective at all. The new Ebola epidemic in Central Africa
appears to be spreading at an alarming rate, with no cure in

More alarming, perhaps, are the catastrophes created by
human beings in persistent hotspots where ethnic and
religious hatreds, rivalries, persecutions, depraved, violence
and irrational behavior intrude on or dominate daily life for
many millions of victims.

Natural disasters exist in the three dimensions in which we
usually perceive them. The human-induced disasters,
however, are increasingly becoming four-dimensional, that is
to say, the element of time has become part of what disorients
our understanding of this pathological human behavior.

In nature, a disaster happens, and natural conditions arise to
repair or contain the damage. In the history of “modern”
global human behavior, however, the disasters of violence,
conflict, and persecution persist over centuries, even millennia.
This “tribal” behavior of humanity is carried from generation
to generation as if it were DNA.

In Africa, South America, and Polynesia, tribal holocausts have
been part of those continents' social history as long as there is
recorded memory.  In North America, it existed before
Europeans came to this “new world.” (A classic case was the
deliberate and brutal annihilation of the Eries tribe in the 16th
century by the Iroquois tribes. Only artifacts remain of this now
extinct tribe.) In Europe, where dominant tribes which became
“cultures,” ‘’religions,” and “nations,” this “civilized” continent
did ruthless work of its own, persecuting and mass murdering
Armenians, Kurds, Rusyns, gypsies (who originated in northern
India), Zoroastrians, and many other groups, including, of course,
those quintissential people of persecution, the Jews.

For more than a thousand years, the Jewish people were enslaved
terrorized, hunted down, ghettoized  and murdered in Europe,
mostly in the name of religious rivalry. After a brief “liberation”
in many (but not all) parts of Europe in the 19th century, so-called
anti-semitism revived in a depraved frenzy of murder-Holocaust
that became the profound and enduring shame of Western
civilization. After the revelation of the Nazi extermination camps,
 the post-war world vowed cliches of “never again!”

And here we are in 2014, only 70 years after Auschwitz and
Dachau, witnessing mass anti-Jewish demonstrations
(sometimes, but not always, disguised as protests against
the Jewish state of Israel) in the most “advanced” cities of
Europe, including London, Paris, and Amsterdam. (To their
credit, the top leaders in Germany and France are doing
something more than verbally denouncing these
demonstrations, but the manifestations of anti-Jewish
feeling persists.) So much for even the short-term memory
of Europeans. “Never again,” indeed.

The Europeans’ real slogan is “Again and again.”

Totalitarian North Korea is even more sinister than an
Orwellian novel. Totalitarian Cuba, Venezuela and other
Central and South American nations are now in a second
century of betrayal of Simon Bolivar’s anticolonial
revolutions. It does not stop. There are short bursts of
apparent relief from the prejudices, hatreds, and violence
between groups, but they always seem to come back in
new depravities.

The human world is once more upside-down. Unlike nature,
humanity does not seem to heal itself, to put its disasters
behind it in fossils, tree rings, the strata of the earth.
Human scars are re-opened  routinely over time, giving
hope and optimism little with which to build a truly new
and healthier civilization.

I have suggested many times that humanity’s true modern
innovations, representative democracy and free market
capitalism, are the only way forward, but there are signs
everywhere, including in democratic capitalism’s own
centers and by many of its own “intellectuals,” of
weariness and frustration with the “indirect action” of
the rule of law, legislation by debate and compromise,
majority rule, and the transparency of all government to
root out endemic waste and corruption.

This cynicism, weariness and frustration are the ingredients
of the next mega-disaster of the human species on this
aging planet hurtling through space.

It’s a planet captive of an aging star (which is called the
“sun’), and on its surface there are tribes of creatures
who somehow and seemingly miraculously have been
mastering the intricacies of “physics,” “mathematics”
and medicine,” but somehow cannot master themselves.

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