Friday, July 31, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Strangest General Of Them All

The 20th century was inhabited with a number of notable
figures who had incredible, unpredictable, and often heroic,
accomplishments, but who were such odd ducks that they have
been all but forgotten by current history. I have written about
some of them, including a major league baseball player who
spoke seven languages and became a top U.S. spy during World
War II; a Catalan businessman who spoke eight languages and
became a double agent for the Allies also during World War II,
and almost singlehandedly saved the Normandy invasion in
1944 by fooling Hitler and his Wehrmacht generals into thinking
the invasion would be at Calais; a Russian poet and scholar who
became a leading Zionist prophet and general, and helped create
the institutions of the modern state of Israel; a Swedish
psychologist who became one of the greatest poets of his century,
but could not write nor speak for much of his adult life; and the
greatest violinist of his time who spent the last years of his life
selflessly and miraculously saving the most of the classical
musicians of Europe from the Holocaust.

Some of the century’s most remarkable figures are well-known.
British writer, actor, filmmaker and musician Noel Coward was
famous as a show business celebrity, but only after World  War II
was it revealed he was a valuable Allied spy. Bill Gates was a
young nerd who changed global technology, amassed the greatest
fortune in history, and later became the major philanthropist of
his time, saving countless lives. His name is a household word.

To the list of forgotten heroes, we can add Morris Abraham
Cohen, a former youthful pickpocket and con artist from Poland
who became modern China’s revolutionary founder Sun Yat Sen’s
personal bodyguard, later the only non-Chinese general in the
history of the Chinese revolutionary army, and then personally
changed one of the most significant votes in United Nations history
before retiring to Manchester, England where he sold raincoats.

Cohen was taken from Poland to England by his parents in 1889
when he was two. As a youth he was constantly in trouble with
the law, and after getting out of reform school at 18, was sent to
western Canada to straighten out his life.

Hw initially worked s a farmer in Saskatchewan, but soon began
wandering through the western Canadian provinces gambling and
again getting into trouble. By chance, Cohen became friendly with
some Chinese exiles working in that area after defending a
Chinese restaurant owner who was being robbed. Defense of the
Chinese was unheard of in that time, and the immigrants
welcomed Cohen into their midst and into the growing Sun Yat
Sen movement that opposed the Manchu dynasty which then
ruled China. Moving to Edmonton, Alberta, Cohen became a
public official, sold real estate. and on the side, recruited Chinese
immigrants and trained them in drill and musketry on behalf of
the Sun Yat Sen organization in Canada.

Serving in the Canadian Army during World War I, Cohen saw
combat in Europe before resettling in Canada. But the pre-war
land boom there was now over, and Cohen went to China in 1922
where he soon became part of Sun Yat Sen’s private entourage,
serving as a bodyguard. After being wounded in an attack during
this period, he took to carrying a second gun, and became widely
known as “Two-Gun Cohen.”  After Sun died of cancer in 1925,
Cohen went to work for various warlords, and became acquainted
with Chang Kai-shek. He was given the rank of major general in
Chinese army. When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, “Two-Gun”
Cohen joined in the fight against them, rounding up weapons,
rescuing Sun’s relatives and friends, and even assisting British
intelligence. Cohen remained behind in Hong Kong, and when that
city fell in 1941, he was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese.
In 1943, he was freed in a prisoner exchange.

He sailed back to Canada, settled in Montreal and got married. It
was at this time he committed his most historic act. The newly-
created United Nations was meeting in San Francisco in 1947, and
debating the creation of the state of Israel. China at that time was
one of the five members of the U.N. security council, and thus had
veto power over any UN action. When he learned that China was
intending to veto the creation of the State of Israel, “Two-Gun”
Cohen flew to California and persuaded the head of the Chinese
delegation to change his vote, thus making Israel possible.

Cohen then moved back to Manchester, England with his
widowed sister, and went into the raincoat business. he also
served as a consultant for British companies wanting to do
business with the Chinese governments in Beijing and Taiwan.
Because of his historic service to Sun Yat Sen, Cohen was one of
the few persons who had influence with, and could move easily
between, the two Chinas. On his last visit to China, he was
honored by Premier Chou En Lai, and both Chinas sent
representatives to his funeral in 1970.

Perhaps it was only the extraordinary and extremely violent
events of the 20th century that could produce such figures. as
“Two-Gun” Cohen. There do not yet seem to be equivalent
figures in the new century, although they are perhaps some
among us without our yet knowing about them. Perhaps the
transparency of our new age, goaded by the internet and all
of our dazzling new technology will prevent such figures to
rise in our midst.

Or perhaps dramatic events we do not yet know will happen
will bring them out into the open --- and to our amazement.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Government By Three Legislatures?

For more than 200 years, every schoolboy and schoolgirl in
America has learned that our government has three branches
in Washington, DC --- the legislative, executive and judicial ---
each designed to complement and balance the other with
specified functions to make laws, execute laws and interpret

This clear and vital tradition of the American representative
form of government, however, seems to have been, at least
temporarily, altered by now all three branches of government
seeking to “legislate” policies, as well as see them carried out.

The U.S. form of government  is always in a dynamic state
historically as it adjusts to the new conditions of new times,
as well as repair its flaws. In the course of this dynamism,
various branches have taken the lead over two centuries in
the major reforms of ending slavery, enabling voting suffrage
to women and minorities, trustbusting, ensuring civil rights,
ending segregation, creating a tax system, and many other

This dynamism often creates imbalances between the federal
branches of government, as happened with an initially weak
supreme court in the nation’s first years, a weak presidency
in much of the 19th century (Civil War years excepted), and a
frequently stalemated Congress after World War II. These
imbalances inevitably produced excesses by competing

When the Democrats regained control of the U.S. senate in
2006, that body under its majority leader Harry Reid,
worked with then Democratic majority in the U.S. house
to pass medical insurance reform (also known as Obamacare)
highhandedly and with virtually no real debate. In 2010,
U.S. voters strongly reacted against this by giving
Republicans a strong majority in the U.S. house. Still
controlling the U.S. senate, Mr. Reid then essentially shut
down that body, allowing few votes, debates or even
amendments to legislation. This backfired in 2014 when
Republicans regained control of the senate. But President
Obama, a Democrat, reacted to the ensuing stalemate by issuing
a number of executive orders which “reinterpreted” existing
legislation. He was by no means the first president to do this,
but it has been clear that in his final years at the White House
he does not intend to be blocked from his legislative agenda by
the stalemate with Congress.

Recently, Mr. Obama concluded an agreement with Iran,
and has claimed it is not a treaty (which would require two-thirds
approval by the senate). After negotiations, he got an agreement
from the Congress that it could reject the Iran “deal,” but unless
both houses can muster huge majorities against it, he can veto
their veto, and the Iran agreement would prevail. Mr. Obama
even went further by having the United Nations approve the
agreement, this presumably trying to prevent a future president
from abandoning it. (The problem with this latter strategy is that
it would elevate the Iran agreement to a prima facie “treaty” ---
and to enforce it would then require a two thirds approval by the

No one, of course, denies the executive branch the right and duty
to negotiate with foreign countries, but the sovereignty of the
United States and the constitutional right and duty of the senate
to approve such negotiations at the treaty level is also unarguable.

It is not only the executive branch which is over-reaching its
constitutional powers. The U.S. supreme court, led by John
Roberts, a conservative, has recently taken to “rewording”
legislation to arrive at some of its most controversial decisions.
The decision on Obamacare particularly required the chief
justice and the majority to rewrite the wording of the legislation
so as to arrive at their desired conclusion. This amounts to
supreme court legislation.

The self-justifications for these activities are being made by the
parties involved, but they are increasingly being made in an
environment of significant public opposition. Voters have twice
gone to the polls to register their strong antipathy to
“Obamacare.” Similarly, polls indicate that American public
opinion is strongly against the administration’s Iran “deal.”

In the past, it was public opinion which ultimately led to and
enabled the various branches of government to make changes
and reforms. In the absence of current support of the overreach
by the executive branch and the supreme court, it would seem
it is tenuous at best to think that this trend will and can continue.

The national elections of 2016, in fact, might just be the critical
point when voters decide to rebalance the relationships between the
branches of the federal government.

It might be possible to go around Congress in the short term,
but there is no long-term way to end run the American voter.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: How Politicians Talk

As we finally head to the more serious phase of the 2016
presidential election, it might be useful to say a few words
about how politicians usually talk.

Some are surprised that figures such as Bernie Sanders and
Donald Trump can gain so much attention in the media, and
do well in polls, against more presumably “serious” candidates
who might actually win their party’s presidential nomination.

It should be no surprise at all, however. There are two main
reasons for this. First, the media, especially in the preliminary
stages of the quadrennial contest, dominate the process. Since
there have been no debates yet, the public is going to form its
opinions mostly from media coverage. The media, and
particularly media “news” coverage, is all about attracting
audience. Thus, almost like a law of gravity, the most colorful,
outspoken, controversial and telegenic candidates draw the
media coverage. Prior to Mr. Trump’s recent prominence, it
was Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul who got most media
attention, and prior to that, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie,
one of the most naturally-gifted political communicators since
Bill Clinton, was the media favorite.

On the Democratic side, prior to Mr. Sanders recent rise, it was
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, an outspoken advocate
of leftist views, who obtained the most coverage.

In fact, it was when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker surprised
the media with a “vigorous” speech in Iowa earlier this year
that he emerged as a first-tier candidate.

Meanwhile Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton continues to
avoid the press and any controversial comments --- and her poll
numbers decline. Similarly, early GOP frontrunner Jeb Bush is
not known for his oratory, nor for controversy, and his poll
numbers have declined.

There is a second, and perhaps more important major
reason why “direct” talk is working in the 2016 campaign. I
suggest that voters are fed up with “conventional politician
talk” --- that is, bland, unrevealing, non-transparent
politically correct and ultimately misleading expression.
Trump, Sanders, Warren and Christie instinctively avoid the
conventional way politicians speak publicly. It should be no
surprise then that they receive so much attention from the
public and the media.

In the next phase of the campaign, it’s going to be more
complicated. The debates will place the various candidates
side by side, and allow the public and the media to assess the
relative quality of their knowledge and judgment. It will no
longer be just a popularity contest, serious issues will be at

But a candidate who has communications skills as well as
standing and political weight will have important advantages.
The media role will decline, and the voter role will rise.

The “celebrity” figures of the preliminaries are likely to be
quickly forgotten, but the voters in 2016 will want clarity.

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Who Will Make It To The First GOP Presidential Debate?

As I have been saying for some weeks, there is not much real
and useful news yet about the Republican presidential
nomination contest (in spite of the media hoop-la about
Donald Trump).

But there will be some genuine news, and now exists some
genuine suspense, about which 10 (out of 16 major candidates
formally announced) contenders will qualify for the first
official (and nationally televised) debate in Cleveland, Ohio
on August 6.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) sensibly
scheduled fewer debates than occurred in the 2012 cycle, and
when so many well-known figures formally entered the race,
also sensibly limited the number of participants.

There is, of course, no purely fair way to determine who should
be in and who should be out, but the RNC chose the fairest way,
an amalgam of numerous polls taken just before the debate.

Certain candidates seem almost certain to make the cut, including
Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Ben
Carson and Donald Trump. Three more slots remain to be filled,
and they could go to Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Carly
Fiorina, Rick Perry or just-announced John Kasich. Less likely to
make the cut are Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Lindsay Graham,
and George Pataki. Of the maybes listed above, Chris Christie,
Carly Fiorina and John Kasich have the most at stake. They are
potentially first-tier candidates, but need the debate exposure to
become more serious candidates than they are now.

Mr. Kasich is the host governor of the debate in Ohio, and it would
be ironic if he were left out of the debate. Governor Christie, once
an early frontrunner, badly needs debate exposure to help him
recover his national standing.

There will be, earlier in the day, another debate at which the six
candidates who fail to make the cut, will be invited to appear, but
the public attention will be on the ten who make the debate in the

This debate will mark the true serious beginning of the 2016 GOP
presidential contest.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


The title is a bit of hyperbole. We don’t know exactly who the
“last” physician was, or will be, and we don’t know precisely
when the profession as such will pass away from us. It might
also seem especially strange to say “a last physician” when
all around us there is an explosion of new medicine, with new
treatments, new drugs, amazing medical devices, as well
as exponentially growing knowledge about the human body,
its genetics, overcoming diseases and a dramatic
prolonging of human lifetimes.

The physician has been with us since almost the beginning of
human time. Initially, there were “medicine men” in the earliest
human eras --- in the caves, in the tribes, in every form of human
society. Physicians always had a special place wherever they
were because they did something as important as anything else,
curing or alleviating illness or pain --- they “cared for” others,
often when no one else would or could.

In retrospect, it is amazing what early physicians could do
with herbs and potions, crude surgeries, the ancient acupuncture
and remedies of the Orient. But nothing could approach the
accelerating advances of medicine in the 18th, 19th and 20th
centuries. Diseases and pathologies, only yesterday inevitably
fatal, can now be cured or controlled. Pain can be relieved. Life
expectancy is consistently extended. The “map’ of human
genes is known. Artificial body parts now can replace many
hitherto physical failures. Transplants are commonplace.
Anything seems possible.

In this extraordinary abundance of medical advance and
capability, it might seem counterintuitive to speak of some
“last” physician, but I think that is exactly what is happening.

I will illustrate this with a very personal example. No, I have
little knowledge of medicine, but I did have a rather special
physician as a father. He was not at all a widely-known man
of medicine. He was a general practitioner in a small city
with a modest practice of patients, most of whom were
ordinary citizens from many ethnic, religious ad economic

I said he was my father, and he was, but this is not about him
as a parent. It is about his practice of medicine.

He was an immigrant from Russia before the 1917 revolution.
He fled persecution when he was only ten years old, and
settled in Canada. He and his family were penniless, but he
was smart enough to win a scholarship to the local medical
school in Montreal. That school happened to be McGill
University which had been headed by the foremost physician
of the day, William Osler. It had become a legendary medical
school faculty and campus. My father graduated to a modest
medical practice in Erie, Pennsylvania. He remained as a
physician for 65 years, 62 of them on the same hospital staff.
(He spent 3 years as a U.S. Army post surgeon during World
War II.) Until the war, he performed general surgery (as most
physicians of that era did), delivered thousands of babies,
and throughout his medical career, he treated several
generations of the same families.

He stood out because of his uncanny ability to diagnose,
his boundless compassion and the role he served as someone
to turn to if you were ill or otherwise had personal troubles.
While growing up, I did not see him as a remarkable physician,
especially compared with other physicians. Today, most
physicians retire in their late 60s or their 70s, or even earlier.
He practiced full-time until he was 92, making house calls to
the very end. He had no nurse or secretary. He did all his own

Later in my life, when I would go home to visit him, I noted
that virtually wherever we went in public, many would greet
or recognize him. I knew of a young woman who he had helped
deliver (long after he routinely delivered babies) who was the
granddaughter of a woman he himself had delivered when he
first came to Erie. I once met an older nurse who told me he
had delivered her. The stories about his practice of medicine
and the lives he affected were endless.

I do remember often waking up as a child to the phone ringing
in the middle of the night, and of seeing him go out, his clothes
over his pajamas. to care for one of his patients. I also
remember the many cards, baked goods, and other gifts from
his patients at Christmas. I remember the look on the face of
his patients when they saw him on the street.

He was a wonderful father, but no more than any other good
father. He was not a perfect person; he had many little faults
and shortcomings.

I do not want to suggest that he was unique as a physician
either. I have read about several others, many of them of his
generation, beloved by their patients and who practiced
medicine much longer than is done today. Perhaps the reader,
if he or she is old enough, knows of one of these other
extraordinary doctors.

Today, in seeking medical care as I grow older, I occasionally
come across a young physician with remarkable qualities, but
the practice of medicine is forever changed, and there is little
room now for the care and compassion that my father’s
generation could provide. In fact, as the practice of medicine
is becoming so specialized, so technological, so crowded
with patients, medicine is becoming much more mechanical
and much more remote. This, of course, is not necessarily a
“bad” outcome. In fact, in many ways, medicine is much more
effective, even as it has  lost the old relationship between
physician and patient. Sic transit gloria mundi.

At the end of his life, my father lived in an assisted living
facility. My brother and I lived far away. Although he was ten
years older than my mother, he had outlived her. I visited him 
before he died just prior to his 98th birthday, and when I arrived,
one of the facility nurses took me aside to tell me the following

To treat a cold, he had been moved from private assisted living
to a more intensive care unit for a few days. These were
semi-private rooms, and after a few hours on his first day there,
the staff moved in a second patient, another elderly man who
immediately went to sleep. My father was soon alone in the room
with this man who turned out to be a well-known local swimming
coach who had been chief lifeguard for many decades at the city’s
famed Presque Isle State Park beaches, and was a legend for the
lives he and his lifeguards had saved on the swimming beaches.

It was almost midnight when the other man’s breathing became
labored. As the minutes went by, the breathing became more and
more irregular.  My father quickly recognized that the other man
was in a pneumonia crisis. He rang for the nurse. No one came.
He rang again. No response. Apparently the buzzer wasn’t working.
There were no telephones in the room. Cell phones were not yet in
popular use. The special care unit at that hour had a long corridor,
and a night nurse on duty. After decades of front line medicine, my
father knew from the sound of the man’s breathing that he needed
immediate attention or he would die.

At that point, my father, who was 97 years old and unable to walk,
precariously slipped off his bed on to the floor. He then crawled about
fifteen feet to the other man’s bed, and reached up to grab the man’s
wrist to take his pulse. His fears were confirmed. My father then
crawled into the hall, and yelled for the nurse. Finally, she came,
and he told her that his neighbor needed urgent emergency care.
It was his last medical hurrah. He was no longer a practicing
physician, but he knew what he knew, and he was not going to let
a man die while he was in the same room.

The next morning, the resident physician stopped by my father’s
bed to tell him that he had been exactly right. A few hours more,
probably in the middle of the night, the swimming coach would
have died without emergency treatment. All day long, physicians
and nurses came by to pay him homage for what he had done.

There are, of course, countless stories of physicians doing this
kind of thing over the millennia. It wasn’t heroism; it was simply
human service in an age when that made a difference between life
and death.

The new medicine replaces that with better treatments and drugs,
with amazing devices, with unprecedented understanding of the
human body, and with better outcomes. There are still young
compassionate men and woman physicians, but it is only a matter
of time before they, too, will be removed from their first hand
interaction with patients.

Can a government bureaucracy be compassionate? This is a
question that will be debated in the years ahead.

“Star Wars” medicine, however, in one form or another is coming.
A small robotic machine passed over a diseased body or injured
limb will not only diagnose a medical problem, it will repair it
without surgery as if it were a magic wand. Many persons will
live well past the age of 100; perhaps human beings will even be
able to live indefinitely.

But to get there, it has been necessary for generations of physicians
to perform more than mere medicine. Their battles were no less
formidable than the battles faced by generations of soldiers,
although they were less visible and dramatic. The physician has
been a basic component of human life. The sacrifice and devotion
of the best of them, like the best performed by our soldiers,
should not be forgotten.

As we enter a new age, we forget compassion at our peril.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Fell And Then Rose In A Forest

The French and Indian War in North America (1754-60) was
begun as a consequence of a blunder by a young British
officer who led his men to defeat a French colonial force in 
western Pennsylvania. The young British major had a year
before been sent to spy on the the French forts in that region,
including Fort Le Boeuf (“Beef”) near now what is Erie,
Pennsylvania, where he dined with French commander and
relayed a message from the British colonial commander
asking the French to withdraw from Pennsylvania. The
French leader refused, and the next year, the major was
sent back to western Pennsylvania to join the mission to
expel the French.

In  a forest near Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh), the British
unit, led by the now 22 year-old major, came on a French unit
that was on a diplomatic mission, and mistakenly perceived
them as a hostile force. The short battle that followed
was brutal, and the French commander was savagely killed.
The consequences of this event was to begin the so-called
French and Indian War that spread quickly from Pennsylvania
to the northeast where the British faced French forces
established in Canada. Eventually, triumphing over the French
in North America, the British became the largest colonial
empire in the world. The North American conflict by 1756
spread to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, and is
usually called the Seven Years War, arguably the first true
“world” war.

And who was the inexperienced British major from Virginia
who, following that  disappointing dinner in the French fort in
Erie, Pennsylvania (which led to his military encounter a year
later several miles south in a forest near Pittsburgh), set into
motion a cataclysmic world war?

It was none other than George Washington, an ambitious and
naive young colonial aristocrat from Mount Vernon, Virginia,
whose early military career was a series of disasters.

Washington, in spite of his ineptness, was both very brave and
very lucky, and before the French and Indian War was over, he
retired to Mount Vernon to become a farmer, politician and
land speculator.

Although the war pitted the two most avaricious colonial powers
in the world at that time, and one of them finally emerged
dominant, the outcome of the war was determined by a third
party, the native American tribes who had originally populated
this region of North America. Most of these tribes were allied
with the French, and this enabled France, with only 85,000
settlers and an army supplied primarily by these settlers, to
control Canada as well as much land which is now in the U.S.
The British, on the other hand, had one and half million English
settlers on the eastern seaboard, and a professional army
made up primarily of soldiers from the mother country.

Until the French and Indian War, however, British authorities
held most Native Americans in contempt, and had far fewer
tribal allies. The largest confederation of native American
tribes, the Iroquois nation, had remained neutral until this
time. Missteps by French commanders during the war led
many tribes to switch sides, and in the case of the Iroquois, to
choose sides with British. Most historians agree that native
American involvement in the war was decisive in the British

In Europe, as the war widened to the continent and beyond, the
French and English monarchs increasingly turned their attention
away from their North American colonies, and to their rivalry
nearer their home turf, and to the south and east. The growing
troublesome relationship between the English monarchy (as well
as its parliament) had been exacerbated by attitudes that
regarded English colonial settlers as not full English citizens.
American colonial settlers initially refused to contribute to the
financing of the French and Indian War, but when the new
British prime minister, William Pitt, came to power, he showed
new respect to its North American colony, and the colonies
became enthusiastic about the war. This further assisted the
final British victory.

A series of taxes in the 1760s imposed arbitrarily on North
America, however, undid the new colonial enthusiasm, and
led to the eventual alienation of the British settlers that
culminated in the 1770s with the American revolution.

Leading that revolution, of course, was its first and only
military commander, the former brash and naive major who
had inadvertently set into motion the world’s first global
war in a Pennsylvania forest more than twenty years before.
George Washington, the unanimous choice of the Continental
Congress to be the revolutionary army commander in chief,
was now older and wiser. Like so many of his countrymen, his
original ambition to be an acceptable Englishman had been
replaced with a desire to found not only a new and independent
nation, but establish a new form of government that would
change the world for centuries.

All that from a failed spy mission and unfulfilling dinner at a
frontier fort.. George Washington was no James Bond, but he
became the indispensable founding father.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


The current news/polling bubble for businessman Donald
Trump is just that, a bubble that will burst.

On the other hand, some of what he is saying is serious,
notwithstanding the liberal media allegations that he is
politically “incorrect.”

Mr. Trump is a smart man, and a successful figure in
business. He also, as is plain to see, a man of unquenchable
ego with a desire for capacious media attention.

Until the Republican presidential debates begin, his bubble
will continue to float in the hot summer air. No GOP rival,
except for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, can match
Mr. Trump for media-grabbing skills.

Mr. Trump is likely to make the cut-off for the first GOP
debate in Cleveland. With fifteen announced or imminently
to announce competitors, the conservative field is overlarge
and currently confusing to most grass roots voters. Some
more serious candidates, such as Governor John Kasich of
Ohio, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, or Governor Christie
might not make the cut-off (although they will be invited to
a “second tier” debate in Cleveland that will precede the main

Being a very rich man, Donald Trump can self-fund his
campaign, and is evidently doing so. Most of his rivals are
currently spending a great deal of their time fundraising.

Like his left wing Democratic equivalent, Senator Bernie
Sanders of Vermont, Mr. Trump has the temporary
advantage of being much more interesting to the media
than his opponents. Lacking truly serious rivals in the
Democratic contest, Hillary Clinton continues to maintain a
substantial, albeit shrinking, lead for her party’s nomination.
Senator Sanders also is enjoying a bubble, but he will not be
the Democratic nominee. It would take the entry of Vice
President Joe Biden, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar,
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo or Massachusetts Senator
Elizabeth Warren to actually change the chemistry of the
Democratic contest, and so far, only Mr. Biden seems a likely

But Senator Sanders’ current success is a genuine signal to
Democratic strategists about how liberal grass roots voters feel,
and so is the current bubble of Donald Trump a useful signal
about how conservative grass roots voters feel.

In Mr. Trump’s case, I think the energy he provokes comes
less from his conservatism (he does not fit a conservative mold
and has often supported Democratic candidates with cash),
and more from his outspokenness. Some GOP party officials
apparently think he is upsetting the proverbial apple cart, and
want him to tone down his public comments. He has no intention
of doing so.

Through his name I.D. and self-spending, Mr. Trump might even
have some early successes when the voting begins and polling
actually means something, but he is not going to be president,
much less his party’s nominee.

As Governor Christie, now down in the polls but likely to rise
dramatically when the campaign begins in earnest, knows,
the voters in 2016 , be they left, right or center, thirst for
a presidential candidate who speaks out honestly, plainly and
lucidly about the vital and troubling issues facing the nation.

The man or woman who can do that, and also persuade voters
they can perform well as president, will be the one who will
succeed next November. No bubble will be enough.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Early results Indicate Greek "NO" vote landslide [UPDATED]

With about 25% of the vote counted in Greece, opponents of the European Union
(EU) creditors offer of a "bailout" of Greek debt appear to have won with about
60% of the vote. This outcome was urged by the current Greek government. The
consequences of this vote are not clear. It could lead to the exit of Greece from
the EU and the Eurozone, and would be the first national withdrawal of a member
country. It could also result in an about-face of the creditors of Greek debt, and a
quick temporary resolution of the crisis, but that would also require the approval
of several major EU governments, most notably Germany, which have apppeared
resolved not to alter the creditors' offer to Greece, and to see Greece exit from
the Eurozone. EU stock markets are expected to fall sharply on Monday because
of the Greek vote results.


Now with virtually all votes counted, 61% of Greek voters have rejected the
proposed conditions of the bailout of the Greek government debt. Although a
majority of the same voters who rejcted the proposed deal also want to remain
in the Eurozone using its euro as its currency, this might not be possible.
Greek Prime Minister Tsipiras urged his nation's voters to vote "no" with the
expectation he could get a better deal from the nation's creditors, but Germany,
the dominant economy in the EU supported the original deal, and its leaders
have suggested that the only way out now is for Greece to exit the Eurozone.
July 20 is the next deadline for debt payment, and the coming several days might
determine the future of the EU.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


There is a new U.S. statesman visible in Washington, DC,
and it isn’t Secretary of State John Kerry (who wanders from
blunder to blunder), nor is it Hillary Clinton, his predecessor
(who, like Kerry, traveled a lot but accomplished little), nor is
it President Obama (whose foreign policy is a shambles).
To be fair, so far it is also not any of the Republican
presidential candidates who are visiting Europe and the
Middle East trying to establish their foreign policy credentials.
None of them so far has been impressive in foreign policy.
The surprise new statesman is someone with very little foreign
policy background, and whose record to date is on domestic
policy. Speaker of the House John Boehner is currently
touring Europe, visiting many of our long-time time allies
and friends. The U.S. media is mostly ignoring this visit,
especially because they can’t find any missteps by the
Speaker, but he is making a very positive impression
wherever he goes, particularly reassuring the smaller and
more vulnerable nations of Eastern Europe of U.S. resolve
and friendship. In Finland, Lithuania, Poland and elsewhere,
Mr. Boehner is showing the sure-footedness, tact and dignity
we have not seen from a U.S. leader for some time. The most
powerful Republican elected U.S. official, third in line for the
presidency, and someone whose leadership has helped his
party and conservatism to a remarkable comeback since 2010,
Mr. Boehner is the surprise of this diplomatic season. He has
no ambitions for higher office, but some of his fellow
Republicans who do might want to observe how to be a
statesman from his example.

As if there are not enough presidential candidates for 2016,
especially in the Republican nomination contest, two more
have officially announced. One is a Republican. He is currently
the governor of New Jersey. Chris Christie is one of the most
obviously talented politicians in the nation, and once the
presidential debates begin, could rank in the top tier of the
GOP field. He has had some political setbacks in the past year,
and his poll numbers have sunk as a result, but this man should
not be underestimated. The other new entry is a Democrat, the
former senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. Like Bernie Sanders,
Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chaffee (all of whom have already
announced their candidacy), Webb is given little chance to defeat
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. On the other hand,
Senator Sanders' surprisingly high poll numbers recently indicate,
as I have been pointing out for many months, that there remains
a vacuum in the Democratic contest, and needs only one major
new entry into the race to make it competitive.

That “major” new entry could be Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden’s recent tragic loss of his son has given new gravity to his
public image. If President Obama had a private preference for
his successor, it very likely would be Mr. Biden, his mentor in
the U.S. senate and the man he chose as his running mate. Mr.
Biden’s resume easily matches Mrs. Clinton’s, and a “Draft
Biden” movement has been gathering steam, but it is unclear
what the vice president’s intentions for 2016 are.

The recent sad tragedy in Charleston has unfortunately loosed
new waves of political correctness, particularly in and about
the South. While it is perhaps appropriate in some cases to
remove the Confederate flag from flying over state capitols,
the attempt to erase the flag and other memorabilia from
the marketplace, and to denigrate a figure such as Robert E.
Lee, is clearly going much too far. An attempt to rename
Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis (named after Southern
statesman John Calhoun) because he was a slaveholder is an
example of how ludicrous the phenomenon has become.
Calhoun, like Stephen Douglas (the man Lincoln defeated
for the presidency in 1860), had much to do with the early  
history of Minnesota, and was an honored figure in pre-Civil
War American politics (he was a congressman, senator, vice
president of the U.S. for two terms, as well as secretary of
war and secretary or state). By today’s standards, of course,
defending slavery is a terrible wrong, but if Mr. Calhoun is
to be banished from the American history book, so would
so many of the founding fathers of the nation, including
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison,
Thomas Paine, John Hancock and yes, even Benjamin Franklin,
The caving in by so many American retail businesses as they
fall over themselves to remove legitimate memorabilia from
their shelves is an embarrassment. We rightly condemn the
prejudices and wrongs of the past, but a tyranny of “political
correctness” as a form of petty retribution is a dishonor to
common sense.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.