Saturday, December 30, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Little Dusting Of Snow On My Hometown

[This article first appeared on the Intellectual Takeout
website. See link at right.] 

When it comes to public relations, small towns and
cities usually come up short in national and global
news stories.

This has always been true of my hometown of Erie, PA
whose most common claim to fame is its regular
appearance in the New York Times Sunday crossword
puzzle as an urban four-letter word beginning with “E.”

Nevertheless, Erie does have one perennial world-class
distinction --- it usually leads the nation in snowfall. This
is due to a relatively rare weather condition know as
“lake-effect snow.” Simply explained, a cold air mass
crosses a body of water which is warmer, picks up its
water vapor, freezes it, and deposits the resulting snow
when it reaches the shore.

The southern shore of Lake Erie is one of the world’s
major sites for lake-effect snow because it is often in the
direct path of Arctic cold waves. Cleveland, Erie and
Buffalo usually contend for the national championship for
annual urban snowfall, and Erie often leads the pack.

As I write this, however, news stories and photos across
the nation and around the world are featuring Erie’s
latest snow “dusting” because, even by my hometown’s
standards, this is a big one.

In less than two days, more than 65 inches of snow fell
on the city.  (UPDATE: An additional 14-inch lake-effect
snowstorm is expected imminently)
The previous one-day
record in Erie was 27 inches on November 22, 1956. (I
remember that day distinctly because it was
Thanksgiving Day, and the family dinner was at our
house. I was a young boy, and I was thrilled that it not
only meant I could hang out with my aunts, uncles and
cousins longer than usual, it also  meant school was
closed for more a week.)

I still have friends and family in Erie, so I have been calling
there to make sure everyone is o.k. Some old friends live in
North East, PA, about 20 miles from downtown in Erie at the
east end of the county. They only received 12 inches of snow
because lake effect snow is often very limited, controlled as
it is by southerly winds. Life for them is normal for winter,
and they are as much curious onlookers to the nearby historic
blizzard as are those living in far-away Madrid, Tokyo,
Buenos Aires and Capetown.

In the past, Erie has had some interesting distinctions. A
typical manufacturing rust belt city, it once led the world in
the production of nuts and bolts, meters, fine paper and,
until recently, diesel locomotives. Those days are now over.
Many of the big industrial names in Erie, including
Hammermill Paper, Kaiser Aluminum, Bucyrus-Erie, Zurn,
American Sterilizer, Marx Toys, and Erie Forge and Steel,
are long gone. General Electric, once one of the nation’s
largest plants, seems on the verge of leaving. Erie Insurance,
the city’s only Fortune 500 company, is now the leading local
industry, as are other white collar employers in the city’s
hospital/medical, college/university and tourist industries.

These commercial trends are the way of the modern world.
Everything does change. Only Erie’s world-class beaches on
its Presque Isle peninsula (which forms a protective arm
for the city’s port and waterfront) are a constant. But even
they (since the peninsula is really a giant sandbar) are
shifting and reforming along the lake.

The snow however, as it has for thousand of years, keeps
falling in great and noteworthy amounts. Where I live now,
in Minnesota, there is not so much snow, but there are
numbing below-zero temperatures that are not felt in Erie.
The Great Lake, in addition to it legendary snow effect, also
protects the city from extreme cold.

Robert Frost in his great poem “Fire and Ice” spoke of
eternal outcomes of heat and cold. Nature, of course,
makes the choices, and in the end, it is the greatest force
for truly newsworthy public relations.

Thousands of Erieites are now sitting in their homes, waiting
for the storm to abate, Their cars are snowed in, their streets
are choked and undriveable. In the hustle-bustle of our modern
world, there aren’t many indelible opportunities for families
to have no choice but just be together for a while. I remember
fondly such a moment during that Thanksgiving in Erie in 1956.

I hope the neighbors of my hometown are enjoying their
historic occasion.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 25, 2017


You are welcome to make this first-time visit
as my guest. If you like what you read, and would 
like to read  my commentary on a regular basis,
please consider subscribing. This is a subscription
website, (If you scroll down on the right to the
SUBSCRIBE button, click on it to pay for the 
annual fee with your credit card on Paypal, Thank
you for reading.         THE PRAIRIE EDITOR   ]

 There was a time not so long ago when the forecast of an
imminent political “red wave” would have alarmed most
Republicans and conservatives --- and pleased some
Democrats and many on the left. But in today’s popular
political lingo, it is the prospect of a “blue wave” that
delights liberals, and a “red wave” that would terrify them
in the upcoming national mid-term cycle ending in
November. 2018.

Most in the national media, and its commentators, however,
have been detailing and prophesying recently a likely “wave”
(or tide) in shades of blue for next year, especially after the
upset win by a liberal Democrat in the special election  just
held in Alabama --- a distinctly red state.

As I, and some others, have already pointed out, to the
contrary, the defeat of far-out rightwinger Roy Moore was a
victory in disguise for the Republicans who, had Moore won,
would have been forced wear him around their political
necks like the proverbial albatross. Key to Doug Jones’
unexpected victory in Alabama was the large bloc of usually
conservative voters who rejected an inappropriate GOP
nominee --- and sent an important message to their party’s
strategists, i.e., we demand better candidates for high office.

Democrats, caught in a spiral of shocked self-denial about the
2016 election, seemed certain that Moore would be elected,
and so forced one of their own, Minnesota’s Al Franken, to
resign because he also faced allegations of impropriety ---
apparently thinking they could thus embarrass the party of
Donald Trump over the 2018 campaign season.

Mr. Jones, now the senator-elect, promptly rebuked his future
senate leaders by denouncing their  recent calls to impeach
the  president, and even suggested he might vote with the
Republicans on some occasions. He thus showed a certain
good sense for political survival for the time when he must go
to the voters of Alabama for re-election to the seat. Alabama
is a very, very “red” state.

Mr. Franken was not scheduled to run for re-election until
2020, but now his appointed successor must run in less than
a year --- which puts two senate races on the 2018 Minnesota
ballot, one of which might be a hitherto unexpected pick-up.

Steve Bannon, the self-styled leader of the GOP putsch
against the party’s congressional leadership, placed his bets on
Mr. Moore. Had he succeeded, it might well have precipitated
a “blue wave” in the following months as GOP incumbents
and favorites might have faced ruinous primary challengers
promoted by Mr. Bannon.  The former Trump aide, now
rejected by the president, will no doubt keep on trying, but
the conservative party has received a useful early warning
about the mischief looming in such a divisive effort.

Almost immediately after the Alabama special election, the
GOP-controlled senate finally passed a tax reform bill
that already had passed the U.S. house, and after some
adjustments, the legislation was sent to President Trump,
fulfilling a major 2016 GOP campaign promise. This also
ended years of congressional stalemate, and gave the GOP
a vitally needed year-end victory.

At the same time, competitive U.S. senate and U.S. house races
took more and more focus as new retirements were revealed,
and more challengers announced. The Democrats have a clear
advantage in the house races --- with more GOP seats seeming
vulnerable next November. On the other hand, the conservative
party has a distinct advantage in the senate races, with 10-12
more Democratic seats up for grabs.

Had Moore won, and Mr. Bannon been given momentum for
his intra-party putsch --- and the GOP-controlled Congress
failed to pass tax reform legislation by year-end (the bill also
ended the Obamacare mandate, another campaign promise),
--- that advantage might have been erased. Of course, there are
no guarantees about how many senate pick-ups the GOP will
now make, but their  prospects  have been greatly improved.

Republicans still have a demographic advantage in the U.S.
house, and even have opportunities to pick up a few seats.
Historically, however, the party out of power makes gains in
the first mid-term election after they lose the White House.
This precedent has fueled recent media and Democratic Party
strategists’ anticipations of a 2018 “blue wave.”

This tide in blue might still happen, but the genuine signs for
it are not yet present. In fact, the signs for now point the other
way. Donald Trump not only defied conventional wisdom in
2016, he has continued to do so (admittedly with not a few
political hiccups) in the eleven months since taking office.

With about half a dozen senate pick-ups, and holding
Democratic gains in the house to under 10, the GOP would
break the commonplace precedent, although it has happened
before. For more than that, it would take a now-unexpected
“red wave” in 2018. A “blue wave” would bring back control
of the Congress to the Democrats.

It is too early to tell the color of the approaching wave. All we
can see now is the white of the distant breaking surf. 

But a wave is coming --- in one color or another.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


The passage of a tax reform bill, and its signing into law by
President Trump marks a “promises kept” first stage of the
new Republican administration.

Mr. Trump, mostly on his own, had fulfilled a great many of
his campaign promises --- including naming true conservatives
to the federal courts, including one to the U.S. supreme court;
repealing most of President Obama’s executive orders and
regulations; disrupting the entitlement drift of earlier
administrations; dramatically slowing illegal immigration
into the U.S;. reversing a weak and apologetic foreign policy in
Europe, the Middle East and Asia; recognizing Israel's capital
in Jerusalem, and creating a climate for business expansion,
reduced unemployment and a booming stock market (thus
increasing most Americans’ pension fund plans and net worth).

Not bad for less than one year.

But much needs to be done before we can properly judge his
first term a success. A politician actually keeping promises
is a rare matter, and Donald Trump was perhaps the last
person many political observers would have guessed would
keep them. Promises kept, however, do not always mean

Liberal and Democratic critics have argued that the tax reform
bill will not work as promised --- employing an anti-trickle
down argument they traditionally bring to the debate. After
decades of ignoring federal deficits, they now cite this as proof
this legislation will fail. This political opportunism aside, we will
now have, in coming months, an opportunity to observe whether
the tax cut argument works or does not.

“Trumpamentum” is a combination of a particular president’s
worldview, temperament and policy rate of change. Mr. Trump’s
Democratic and media critics (as well as “never-Trumpers” in
his own party) have so obsessed with his temperament style
(most notably his often impetuous and petty “tweets”) that they
became oblivious to the significant changes he has been making
in Washington, DC.

Complicating Mr. Trump’s program has been a Congress his
party controls, but which was so splintered that it could not
pass promised significant legislation. After almost a year of
frustrating inaction, it was clear to all, friend and foe alike, that
the 2018 mid-term congressional elections would be a likely
disaster for the GOP and its conservative victory in 2016. Finally,
at the edge of this political cliff, a sense of survival prevailed
among the conservatives legislators.

The repeal and replacement of Obamacare, a high profile
campaign promise in 2016 has now been partly accomplished
as well. The tax bill removed the penalty for taxpayers who did
not sign up for Obamacare, thus making the program, in effect,
OINO (Obamacare in name only). This partial accomplishment,
however, is not sufficient, In the sessions ahead, Congress must
fashion a credible and workable “free market” replacement
Although inherently flawed, Obamacare was passed to respond
to a genuine public policy need. Now the conservatives must
demonstrate they have a better way to respond to this need.

Americans have endured a prolonged period of political
stalemate. Now, in December, 2017, a president and a Congress
have taken an initial step to put that institutional stalemate
behind. But it’s only a first step.

The opposition party, the Democrats, have an important role to
play, but they will only do that if they offer alternatives and
changes to “Trumpamentum.” They and their media allies
need to focus on the future, and not be consumed by trying to
undo what can’t be undone, that is, the 2016 election. What
liberals and Democrats can do is try to make 2018 and 2020 go
their way.

If they do not, 2018 and 2020 will make Trumpamentum not
merely temporary, but irreversible.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 15, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Andorra Is Not The Smallest Country In The World

Today we often read, see or hear in political, financial
and cultural news stories about other populous countries.
India, China, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan each have
large populations; Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy,
Spain, and other major European nations are often in the
headlines. Even a few countries with smaller populations,
but large land areas --- such as Canada and Australia --- are
well-known to us.

There are also much less well-known and very tiny nations
--- most of them in Europe --- which are fascinating
because of their extraordinary histories and remarkable
ability to survive into the modern world.

Thanks to an American movie star who married its ruling
prince, and its legendary casino, many Americans know
about or have even visited the small principality of Monaco,
located on the glamorous French Riviera on the north shore
of he Mediterranean Sea A prince of the House of Grimaldi
has ruled since 1297. Andorra is a very small land-locked
country located in the Pyrenees mountains between France
and Spain. Chartered in 988, and created a principality in 1278,
it is ruled by a diarchy of two princes, the Spanish Bishop of
Urgell and the president of France. (Yes, Emmanuel Macron
is now technically and temporarily a royal co-monarch.) It is
also the only sovereign nation on earth which has Catalan as
its official language. (The autonomous Spanish province of
Catalunya also speaks Catalan, as do many French who live
along the Spanish border.) San Marino is a land-locked tiny
republic founded in 301 A.D. in northern Italy. It is the world’s
oldest constitutional nation. Most of its citizens speak
Sanmarinese, a dialect of the Emilia Romagna region.

All three of these microscopic nations are many centuries
old, and are picturesque places.

There are several new independent nations which are small
islands or groups of islands in the southern Pacific Ocean,
including exotic Tuvalu. Its small capital is Funifuti.

But none of these places is even close to being the smallest
country in the world.

That distinction belongs to a truly sovereign nation located on
the second floor of a villa in downtown Rome.

Known usually by its acronym “SMOM” (and more formally as
Sovrane Militare Ordine di Malta), it is the only country in the
world that you enter by elevator.  Near the Spanish Steps
and the famed glove market neighborhood of Rome, the first
floor of its stately villa is Italian territory. But the second and
upper floors are strictly sovereign SMOM territory. It has a
population of two persons. It coins its own money, prints its own
stamps, and has special status at the United Nations. It issues its
own passports, and has diplomatic relations with more than a
hundred countries. When I went there in 1964, I had my passport
stamped. (Now in European Union days, I don’t think that

SMOM is more than a thousand years old. (It was first
established in 1099.) Its symbol and flag is the Maltese Cross.
Founded in Jerusalem as a Catholic order, it moved first to
Cyprus, then to the island of Rhodes, then to the island of Malta,
and finally to Rome.

Once, it was a powerful Mediterranean military power when it
was located on the island  of Malta. Since then its land mass has
been shrunk dramatically, finally settling into the upper floors
of the Roman villa known as Palazzo Malta.

But if its land and resident population size are very tiny, its
global impact remains notable. The Catholic order has 13,500
knights, dames and auxiliary members. Its medical staff
number 25,000, and its volunteers number 80,000. It is one of the
largest global philanthropic service organizations, serving the
medical needs of the poor worldwide. (Its original creation in
the 11th century had the purpose to provide medical services to
pilgrims visiting Jerusalem.)

Since almost everything about SMOM is unique or distinctive, its
government should be no surprise. It is an elective monarchy.
(The post is currently vacant.) It is perhaps one of the very few
continual and surviving remnants of medieval European
civilization, and whose history and philanthropic service has
no contemporary equal.

Rome has many spectacular places to see, but no visitor to this
city should miss SMOM. If the elevator doesn’t work, there is a

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Everyone Won And Lost?

The election of Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama special
U.S. senate election to replace Jeff Sessions (who retired to
become attorney general in the Trump administration) was
won and lost by both political parties.

First of all, it was a victory for the Democrats in one of the
most conservative states, and in a race, under normal
circumstances, they could not win. They pick up a senate
seat, and now Republicans control the senate by only 51-49.

But Democrats did not think they were going to win, and
made a political bet that they could use GOP nominee Roy
Moore, once elected, as a foil to embarrass the conservative
party --- having forced a senator of their own, Al Franken, to
resign following scandal allegations (Roy Moore also faced
allegations). Their ultimate target, of course, is President
Trump, but that is likely to fail, as have all their other
numerous attempts to undo the 2016 election.

Enough conservative voters, in addition to Democratic voters,
had the good sense to reject Mr. Moore, twice ousted from the
state supreme court, and leaving scandal allegations aside, was
so controversial and off-the-wall that it is amazing he went as
far as he did.

President Trump did gamely support Moore at the end,  but in
the primary he had rightfully supported Moore’s opponent.
Blaming him for Roy Moore just won't wash.

There were losers in the Alabama election. Mr. Moore was the
biggest loser, but so was his major political sponsor, Steve
Bannon. Mr,, Bannon had been on a kamikaze crusade to
“cleanse” the Republican party of part of it base, and he failed
--- not only hurting his own party, but in making himself a toxic
figure in the 2018 campaign ahead. He won’t likely go away
quietly, but his political plot has been exposed as the "bust" it is.

Republicans have done this before. They have nominated various
“extreme” candidates for U.S. senate races (Nevada, Missouri,
Indiana, Colorado, Delaware, etc.) they were likely to win
in recent cycles --- and they lost. Frankly, they deserved to lose
those races, and they deserved to lose Alabama. If they don’t
finally learn the political lesson, they will lose again.

But sensible, and many very conservative, voters in Alabama
decided they deserved better. In rejecting Mr. Moore, they also
took away a Democratic partisan argument against the
Republicans. Forcing Al Franken to resign might have been a
Democratic Party strategy too clever by half.

As others have pointed out, you have to work very hard to be
removed from a state supreme court twice, and then to lose
a virtually certain U.S. senate election. Roy Moore managed
to do all of that, and now it is time for him to ride that horse
of his off into an Alabama sunset.

Senator-elect Jones is presumably an instant lame-duck. A
majority of Alabama voters do not share most of his political
views. If he is to have even a remote chance to win re-election
in 2020, he will have to become the most conservative
Democrat in the senate. If he does not, he will become very
quickly one of the most unpopular guys in the state. He won
the election, but he might not enjoy the aftermath.

It was a most curious race in which both sides won, and both
sides lost. But if the Republicans don’t finally get the message
that voters deserve quality candidates, then one side will have
truly won, and the other will have truly lost.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


In the northern hemisphere, we are now in the colder
climate season. This year, it has also been a time of
increasingly “heated” political  passions, and even some
“boiling” media hysteria.

As we begin the multi-week holiday season going to the
new year, The Prairie Editor respectfully suggests that
we all (paradoxically?) “chill out” and reflect not on
incessantly sensational (and often misleading) headlines
and negative news. How about acknowledging, and
being grateful for, our many blessings --- our families and
friends, our faiths, our freedoms and liberty, our
opportunities ahead, and the positive side of the many new
technological resources which improve our well-being,
our health and our daily lives?

Perhaps we could also reflect on those in the world who
are suffering, the true challenges we face, and on real and
pragmatic solutions to make all human lives better.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 8, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Minnesota Musical Chairs

The imminent (“in coming weeks”) resignation of
Minnesota Senator Al Franken will greatly increase the
volume of a game of political musical chairs in the state’s
2018 election cycle..

The last time a similar circumstance happened in this
northern midwest state was 1978 when both U.S. senate
seats were on the ballot because long-time Democratic
(here called the Democratic-Farmer-Labor or DFL) Senator
Hubert Humphrey had recently died, and the state’s other
senator, Walter Mondale, had been elected vice president
of the United States. The governor’s race that year was
also unusual because the popular incumbent Wendell
Anderson had taken the risky step of having himself
appointed to take Mondale’s place by the former lt.
governor Rudy Perpich (the new governor). At that time,
the DFL dominated Minnesota politics overwhelmingly.
and most observers believed 1978 would be a good DFL
year. Long-time DFL (Minneapolis) Congressman Don
Fraser was expected to win the Humphrey seat (then
temporarily held by his widow Muriel). The first sign of
trouble occurred when Fraser was upset in the DFL
primary by Humphrey pal and moderate businessman
Bob Short who was pro-life and opposed Fraser’s
outspoken environmentalism. The Republicans
chose businessman Dave Durenberger to oppose Short.
Taking on self-appointed Anderson was the GOP national
committeeman and plywood chain owner Rudy Boschwitz.

Angry at Short for defeating the liberal Fraser, many DFL
women now supported Durenberger. Upset with Anderson
for his self-appointment, and for his absenteeism in the
senate (to come back to Minnesota to campaign), many
independents (most of whom usually voted for DFL
candidates) now supported Boschwitz. Nevertheless,
newspaper polls on election eve showed all the DFL
candidates winning handily. But on election night, all of
them lost by a landslide. It became known as the
“Minnesota Massacre.”

The state governorship will be an open race in 2018.
Incumbent Mark Dayton, whose poll numbers have
dropped sharply recently, is retiring. Popular senior U.S.
Senator Amy Kobuchar will be on the ballot. Her poll
numbers remain high. and now presumably, the other
senate seat will be on the ballot.

The race for governor had already begun the game of
musical political chairs in both parties. DFL 1st District
Congressman Tim Walz, State Representative Erin
Murphey, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, State
Representative Paul Thissen, and St. Paul Mayor
Chris Coleman are now in the race, and state Attorney
General Lori Swanson is expected to enter it. These are
all DFLers.

On the GOP side, state legislators Matt Dean and David
Ozmek are candidates, as is recent state party chair
Keith Downey and 2014 nominee Hennepin (Minneapolis)
County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. But waiting in the
wings is former Governor and presidential candidate Tim
Pawlenty who is known to be considering the race, and
could wait until January or February if he decided to run.

The Franken resignation ups the ante for 2018. Governor
Dayton would appoint someone to fill the seat until next
year’s election. That is widely believed to be his loyal
lt. governor, Tina Smith. His presumably better "political"
choices are running for governor, although the appointment
of Mrs. Smith would be well-received, especially by DFL
women. But a new Senator Smith might choose not to run in
2018. That could set off a new round of musical chairs.
Even if she did run, she would likely face a formidable GOP
opponent --- perhaps most likely popular 6th District
Congressman Tom Emmer. (Other prominent Republicans
could also compete for the GOP nomination.)

As in 1978, the DFL had been looking forward to a good year
at the polls, including electing another Democratic governor,
re-electing Senator Klobuchar, and picking up one or two
U.S. house seats from GOP incumbents. DFL strategists also
have been optimistic that Minnesota voter attitudes about
President Trump would help them next year.

Republican best hopes were in picking up the Walz seat,
and successfully defending two of the three seats they now
hold (which are considered vulnerable). The GOP also had
the possibility of picking up the governorship.

Until three weeks ago, the Franken resignation was totally
unexpected.  A second senate race on the ballot in 2018
could turn all expectations upside down.

However upset some DFL voter might be now, most of them
will likely turn out for their nominees next November. The
giant unknown is the damage done to DFL support by
independent and unaffiliated voters in the state (who
comprise almost one-third of all likely voters).

Some pundits have suggested that Franken might rescind his
resignation if controversial Roy Moore is elected in the
special senate election next week in Alabama (and the GOP
senate then fails to expel him), but that would provoke a new
and unpredictable set of reactions among Minnesota voters.

How those voters react to the sudden high volume of political
dissonance, and how they feel (outside the major urban areas)
about President Trump (who remains very popular outstate)
is a big question mark only ten months before election day,
2018 --- forty years after the last big game of Minnesota
political musical chairs.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. Al rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


There is always a future, but it has the inevitable habit in
our lives of soon enough becoming the past. For several
centuries, this transfer of the future into the past has been
increasing its velocity. Technological revolutions used to
take several generations to take effect and be realized.
Then they took place in a lifetime. Then (amazingly) in a
single generation, or several in one lifetime. We now witness
and  feel the impact of technological change in only a few
years. Soon it will be months. And then, under “artificial
intelligence” machines (robots), probably only days or even

The institutions of government adapt slowly. Institutions of
business and commerce adapt more rapidly (by necessity)
in our democratic capitalist system.

Although many of our scientists, researchers, analysts and
other technicians deal with this phenomenon in their own
fields all the time, and a few even try to understand its
overall impact, most of us go on with our lives only dimly
aware of the speed of change and how it alters the ways in
which we live.

I am writing this as a suggestion to all of us (myself included)
to take the currents of technological change more consciously.
I write about political and public policy events, usually trying
to examine the immediate and easily foreseeable
consequences of them. We always do have provocative
political personalities, and our own time has not a few of
them --- in our own country and elsewhere. Specific issues of
healthcare, taxes, education, public spending, human rights,
the environment, and other subjects appear and reappear.

My point is that these issues are not accidental. They are in
some way  connected to, and arising from,the whole world,
and our whole country, changing. Is our survival at stake?

We need our diversions. Sports, detective novels, TV sitcoms,
fantasy movies, computer games, hobbies, pets, and other
interests, are (and should be) be part of our lives.

But something is rapidly taking place all around us, and it is
happening with a velocity that has not ever occurred in human

Just saying.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend News Items 2

The U.S. senate has passed major tax cut legislation by a
51-49 margin, All Republicans, except for one, voted for the
bill. Every Democrat voted against it. Tennessee GOP
Senator Bob Corker, who is not running for re-election next
year, voted “no,” but criticized the bill for not being
conservative enough. Earlier, the U.S. house passed a similar
bill, so the legislation will now go to a conference
committee to “iron out” the relatively small differences.
The two bodies will then vote on a final bill, which if it
passes, will go to President Trump for his signing into law.
The senate action ends  a long stalemate over major
legislation that goes back to the years of the Obama
administration. Passage of the tax cut bill represents the
fulfillment of a major GOP election promise made in 2016.
Proponents of the bill, which required much negotiation and
tinkering at the last hour, assert it will significantly boost the
economy almost immediately. Opponents claim it will
increase the deficit. It was ironically an iconic Democratic
president, John F. Kennedy, who advocated a similar tax cut
in 1962, saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” That tax cut,
and subsequent tax cuts by Presidents Reagan and George W.
Bush did succeed in improving the nation’s economy.

Former General Michael Flynn, also a former Donald Trump
campaign aide, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, as part
of the Mueller special prosecution inquiry. He has also
promised to cooperate with the current investigation. Much
“fake news” and speculation arose at Flynn's action, but its
impact on the Mueller inquiry is, in reality, unknown to the
public and the media this time. The stock market took a brief
dive on some of the initial “fake news” --- which a major
network (ABC News) had to retract later in the day.

The U.S. senate, at the direction of Republican Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell, has continued to speed up delayed
confirmations of President Trump’s nominations for the
federal judiciary and for major positions in his
administration which require senate approval. Mr.
McConnell has decided, after some delay, to ignore
individual senator’s “blue slip” vetoes and other stalling
tactics by the Democratic opposition.

After promising in the 2016 campaign to move the U.S.
embassy in Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital of Jerusalem,
if he were elected president, Donald Trump delayed the
action after taking office. It was believed he meant it to be a
“bargaining chip” in his also stated intention to bring about
a Middle East settlement. Recent reports, however, indicate
that the administration now intends to make the move soon,
including the possibility that he would keep the embassy in
Tel Aviv for the time being, but formally recognize the
capital is in Jerusalem.

Breaking the usual political rules of discussing imminent
innovation details in technology, former Minnesota Governor
and 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is making
the speaking tour rounds, especially in Minnesota, with
some eye-opening talks about dramatic and significant
changes taking place in science, medicine, and the general
economy --- all of which are already altering the American
workplace and way of life.  Although some of this impact is
shocking and controversial, Mr. Pawlenty’s speeches have
been well-received.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.