Thursday, December 31, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: New Year's Greetings

 The Prairie Editor

Sunday, December 27, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Curious Interregnum

The time between a presidential election and a new
administration, especially when there is a change of
political parties, has a special flavor, but the interregnum
of 2020-21 seems to be in a category of its own.

Of course, the extraordinary months of pandemic, lockdown,
quarantine and universal anxiety which immediately
preceded the election were bound to have a great impact,
and they did, but the result has also been complicated by the
unusual character of both the outgoing and incoming
president, and by special circumstances.

Historically, bitter interregna are not unknown in the past
century.  Herbert Hoover was not gracious on March 4, 1933
(thereafter, inauguration day was January 20) while he drove
with Franklin Roosevelt to the swearing-in. Since election
day, 1932, President Hoover had been desperately trying to
avert a total collapse of the U.S.economy and banking system
without FDR’s cooperation.

On January 20, 1961, Richard Nixon, then vice president,
watched the swearing-in of John  Kennedy whom he believed
had stolen their close election a few months before --- and
this was reversed 8 year later on January 20, 1969 when then
Vice President Hubert Humphrey had to watch Nixon’s
swearing-in after their close and tumultuous contest.

On January 20, 2001, Vice President Al Gore looked on as
George W. Bush took the oath after their contested and close
election that was not decided for a month.

Outgoing President Donald Trump now believes his
re-election was stolen, and is minimally cooperating with
his incoming successor Joe Biden who will be the oldest
inaugurated president. The pandemic continues, and its
economic consequences are not fully known. Mr. Trump
has stalled stimulus legislation, asserting it is too little,
and appears at odds with his own U.S. senate majority,
while Mr. Biden faces a deep divide in his own party, and
an unhappiness with some of his cabinet and staff
choices. Before inauguration day, two Georgia senate
run-off elections will determine control of that body.
Democratic control of the U.S. house was significantly
reduced in 2020, as was its influence in many state
elections. Congressional redistricting will soon take place.

All of the above does not take place in an international
vacuum.  Mr. Biden is known to have some very different
views on foreign policy, but Mr. Trump’s recent success
in the Middle East (which has received bipartisan praise)
presents problems for the incoming president’s stated
desire to reinstate the Iran accord cancelled by Mr.
Trump. Issues that vexed his predecessor in Asia (China
and North Korea) and Europe (Russia and Brexit) will
now vex Mr. Biden.

Although the election is over, prior to Mr. Biden’s
inauguration less than a month from now, much remains
unresolved. The holiday season that coincides with most
of the political interregnum period was unlike any other.

By January 20, 2021, more will be clearer, but uncertainties
are in the political forecast well beyond then.

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


Sunday, December 20, 2020


The phenomenon of unintended and undesirable consequences
is not only well-known in politics, it is frequently ignored by
political  leaders and strategists seeking short-term advantage.

Decision-makers in both parties and in the media do this,
especially in a political period like we are in now.

Some conspicuous current examples of this are worth noting.

Beginning on election night, 2016, many Democrats attempted
to undo or deligitimitize Donald Trump’s presidential win.
The effort lasted until election day, 2020.  Most of these same
persons are now calling on Republicans to accept and “unify’
behind the presidency of Joe Biden. It in’t going to happen.

I want to make it clear that I am not here judging that the
Democrats were wrong in 2016-20, but I am pointing out that
their behavior was inevitably going to provoke the reaction
now occurring among many Republicans. Nor am I judging
here that those Republicans are right in 2020 that the
presidential election was stolen. Joe Biden, almost certainly
will be sworn in as president on January 20, 2021.

But Mr. Biden, as did Mr. Trump for four years, will almost
certainly face implacable legitimacy questions as he takes
over the executive branch of government.

Reacting to Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid’s
heavy-handed dominance of the U.S. senate, and his changing
senate rules to enhance his party’s control, when Republicans
regained control, they used Reid’s precedent to enable the
confirmation of conservative federal judges under new rules
that frustrated the traditional prerogatives of liberal senators.
When Democrats regain clear control sometime in the future,
they might use the GOP precedent to eliminate filibustering,
and thus frustrate a future Republican senate minority. At
the least, they will use the GOP rules to confirm liberal

In Iowa’s 2nd congressional district election in 2020, the GOP
candidate won by 6 votes (out of more than 300,000 cast.
After some initial recounts failed to reverse the result, but
well before she exhausted her legal remedies, the losing
Democratic candidate announced she would take her case
to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The state of Iowa has now
certified the Republican as the winner. The U.S. constitution
states, however, that each body of Congress has the final
say over its members, and the Democratic-controlled
house could overrule the Iowa certification, and seat the
Democrat. This is very rarely done --- the last time was in
1984 when the Democrats held a much bigger majority than
they do now. (Then, 10 Democrats refused to go along with
their own majority.) But even if Speaker Pelosi does have
the votes to overturn the certified Iowa result, she risks an
almost certain backlash in the next election, as well as
giving Republicans a reasonable precedent for overturning
future close elections.

In 2020, many Democrats went along with the radical call to
defund the police, as well as supported Medicare for All  and
Green New Deal policies advocated by one wing of the party.
But election results show that outside of the large urban
areas, these ideas were unpopular with voters, and cost them
several U.S. house and senate senate seats they might have

Many Democrats and some Republicans wanted so badly to
defeat Donald  Trump in 2020, and they have apparently
succeeded. But the unintended consequences of their success
might not be so pleasant. They are now in charge of a
pandemic-ravaged economy, a quarantine-weary populace, in
a world of hostile global rivals --- with a sizable portion of
U.S. voters doubting their legitimacy as much as they doubted
their predecessor’s.

Are they also rid of Donald Trump? Perhaps. But there might
now be eight more years of his presence instead of only four.

In any event, the nation continues, and for the sake of all, the
hope is that the new president can lead the U.S. successfully
through the many storms ahead.

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

Saturday, December 12, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Special Message To Subscribers




to all my subscribers from

The Prairie Editor

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Mandate Of 2020

Most of the commentary about the 2020 national elections has
concluded that the voters did not give elected officials a clear
mandate for the next two and four years.

But such conclusions are based on partisan or ideological
premises on both the left and the right.

In fact, based on the actual voting results across the nation, the
majority of state voters expressed the pragmatic and centrist
desire for government to play a sensible and cooperative role
for the remainder of the pandemic crisis. Divided government
is careful moving government, and voters overall sent a signal
that they want no radical lurch to the left or right.

Urban violence, programs to defund the police and plans to
raise taxes contributed to the general down-ballot winning
performance of Republican candidates in 2020, but lack of a
genuine GOP healthcare alternative to Obamacare, seeming
indifference to some environmental issues, and the pandemic
denied conservatives a mandate as they once again lost the
national popular vote.

So-called identity politics, a strategy favored by Democrats,
presumes monolithic voting patterns of ethnic, religious and
labor groups. Its past success was notably not realized in
2020, as meaningful percentages of blacks, Hispanics, Jews
and union members continued leaving the Democratic Party.
If this trend continues, Democrats will lose control of the
U.S. house in 2022.

The mid-term elections of 2022  already loom. They will be
held after reapportionment of congressional districts and the
local elections of 2021. The pandemic, following widespread
vaccination, likely will be over, but its economic and social
aftermath likely will linger. Voters will not reward any party
or any administration which fails to advocate and implement
broad-based policy solutions.

Whoever is in charge faces a daunting, volatile, and
problematic two years ahead.

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2020



 Our world is a very busy place. There are more than 7.5
billion persons now living in it. There are more than 200
sovereign nations with borders, and perhaps at least as
many areas within those borders which desire to break
away and form their own new nations. The surface
of the earth is a vast area covered by land and seas and
ice. Underneath the earth’s surface are many layers of
substances, some of which are very hot, and routinely
erupt. At all times, the climate of the earth and its
weather are changing, distributing clouds, winds, rain,
snow, heat and cold. From time to time, small objects
from space enter our atmosphere, and occasionally land
as meteors. All living things, as well, create in their
daily existence changes on the land and in the atmosphere.
Uncountable electrochemical transactions are taking place
presumably everywhere at every moment, night and day,
year in and year out. Our world is a very busy place.

Human beings superimpose a rational explanation and
description of as much of this as they can. In spite of the
age of our planet, and the age of human life on it, which
is measured in millions of years, so-called recorded
history is only about five to ten thousand years old, and
so-called modern history is less than a thousand years

Before human recorded history, our ancestors lived in a
daily consciousness that noted natural patterns seen and
heard from the earth and the sky, in the seasons and the
nature of the geography where they lived. We now label
these ancestors as primitives. Their incipient cultures were
created not only from perceived natural patterns, but also
from their perceptions of irregularities, upheavals, and
unexplained phenomena.

One response  to the unexplained by many of these early
peoples and their first societies was, each in its own way,
to transform the unexplained into omens and divine signals.
Out of these came much of ritual, tradition, religions, and
finally “science.”

There is a curious reality about what we call modern science.
On the one hand, it works most of the time in a very practical
way. It was employed to create the industrial age. It enabled
human beings to fly (even to the moon and beyond), to extend
their lifetimes dramatically (including curing illnesses and
other pathologies), to create machines and devices which seem
to work amazingly (especially judged from the standards of
the past). On the other hand, science so far seems not to be an
absolute matter. Our most complex sciences, including
physics, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, chemistry, etc.,
always seem “unresolved” as our understanding of these
becomes more and more refined, and each frontier of our
perception of them presents inevitably still another frontier
and then another, sometimes even contradicting what was
perceived previously.

We still do not “know” the full structure of the atom, of the
universe, or even of the simple planet on which we live.

It is today considered superstitious to try to connect natural
omens to human events, although human beings have apparently
done this since the beginning of their time. We are now, of
course, very “sophisticated” because we have contrived
computers and “miraculous” forms of transportation, not
to mention weapons and other devices of demonstrably
immense power and force.

And yet it is curious that, at preliminary moments of great
historical transformation, there always seems to be a notable
confluence of omens and unexplained phenomena which
precede these transformative moments.

Of course, our worldwide “instant” communications have
heightened our awareness of unusual events. In the past,
all omens were local. Now they are global. As the ancient
philosophies of the East remind us, very few things are what
they seem to be.
So are the unusual weather patterns (both warm and cold),
the recent chains of earthquakes along many of the world’s
faults; spate of droughts, floods and storms; appearances of
new diseases and plagues; the extinctions of various species
(and the survival of others) omens or not?

No one yet knows the answer to this question. But you don’t
have to be paying very close attention to news and events
to sense something curious and momentous is going on.

Copyright (c) 2014, 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Brushes With History

I feel a certain sympathy for the younger generations these
days --- restrained to staying so much at home, limited
mostly to virtual studies, not being able to travel, and
generally forced to sublimate so much natural exuberance
that arises only in the years of one’s youth.

I was fortunate in my youthful years. I had a loving and
middle class family, a good education, and was able to travel
quite a bit. I had many interests at an early age, including
reading literature and history, watching baseball and playing
tennis, investing in the stock and commodity markets,
following national politics, classical music, and working in
a paying job in the summer --- all this before going to college.
I also had an active social life and, after junior high school,
lots of friends and activities. All of it combined to bring me
out of the shyness and uncertainty I had felt in childhood.

Everyone has a life story. Mine has been filled from the
beginning with fascinating characters, and not a few brushes
with history in which I have only been a sightseer, albeit one
who could take notes and later tell some interesting stories.

I am going to tell one now. It happened 53 years ago in Paris.

First, some background.  I had graduated from college two
years before, and had completed one year of graduate school.
I then took a year off for study and travel abroad, first at the
University of Madrid, then Barcelona, and finally an intensive
French learning course associated with the Sorbonne in Paris.
My story occurred during the latter.

I mentioned earlier my early involvement with the stock
market. I started to invest when I was in junior high school.
I had no money to speak of, but  I bought a few shares here and
there, and eventually my father, a physician with no time or
interest in the stock market, let me invest for his account. (By
the time I finished college, I had paid its cost many times over.)
Through summer jobs, I had eventually some money of my
own, and I tried my hand at some of the more technical
investments of put and call options and commodity contracts
which had the advantage of smaller dollar investing.
In college, I continued my modest stock speculations until,
following a tip from my broker, I bought a call on a mining
stock which months later hit pay dirt, and my $200 call became
worth thousands. When I graduated, I had enough saved for a
summer trip to Europe during which I learned to manage my
travel finances through the foreign offices of my stock broker
firm in the large European cities I visited.

Like most U.S. tourists abroad I initially used traveler’s checks
to exchange for foreign currencies, butI found out that I could
get a much better rate by going to my broker’s office in Madrid,
London, Paris, Berlin or Rome, get a check in dollars from them
and cash it for pesetas, pounds, francs, marks or lira at a terrific
rate of exchange at their local bank. In those days,, there was
no euro, and exchange rates varied wildly, especially if you
made a small purchase in dollars. It’s not that much savings if
your trip is short, but when, two years later, I lived for a time
in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and London, it made a bigger

But money was no the only reason for going to a broker’s office.
It was obviously also a way to keep an eye on my stocks back
in the U.S. via their teletype which also provided in-depth news
accounts in English in case there was a big international story.
This was before cable TV and the internet. A phone call to the
U.S. then cost an arm and a leg. All one had was the limited
daily coverage provided by the Internationsl Herald Tribune
which was not always available or was sold out.

As it turned out, I was living and studying in Paris that summer
of 1967 when the Six Day War broke out in the Middle
East, and for the first few days, no one in Paris seemed to know
how it was going. I immediately went to my stock broker’s
office to read about what was going on in a language I could

My broker in Paris was an American who lived in Versailles
with his wife. He was the grandson of the founder of a
well-known pre-World War I motor car company, and was
very gracious to me. I  think he thought I was the heir to
some fabulous fortune in the U.S. due to my Ivy League
background and  my knowledge of the stock and commodity
markets because he let me hang out all day, and even
invited me to his home in Versailles for a lovely dinner party
followed by a 9:00 p.m art auction nearby --- an auction that
included some very famous painters (Brueghel, DeChirico,
Leger, Miro, et al)

At the small dinner party were other brokers and their wives.
As was the custom in those days, the European offices of
U.S. brokerages often hired persons with royal or noble
titles to impress their clients. This office had its share, and
at the dinner party I met my broker’s colleague who was a
member of the French former royal Bourbon family (not
recognized in the current non-monarchial Republic of
France) over canapes and very good wine. My host then
sat me next to the office managing broker, an elegant older
gentleman named Czernin. I had once written a term paper
in college on the dual monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian
empire, so (to make conversation) I asked Mr. Czernin if he
was related to the Austro-Hungarian WW I foreign minister
who helped negotiate the notorious Treaty of Brest-Litivsk
with Leon Trotsky in 1918.

That a tourist kid from America would ask this question
aurprised him.

“That was my father,” he said. “Come to my office
tomorrow, and I’ll tell you some stories.”

It turned out that Mr. Czernin was, in fact, the current Count
Czernin. His father, Count Ottokar Czernin von und zu
Chudenitz, was  scion of one of Europe’s most noble families
that went back in Czech history more than 500 years (a great
grandfather had once commissioned Mozart to write some
music while he lived at the ancestral Czernin palace and
estate near Prague). After Emperor Franz Joseph died in
1916, his successor Emperor Charles I named Czernin as his
foreign minister, a post held for the remainder of WW I.

His son had stories to tell. As a boy before the Great War, he
spent his summers on the family estate in Czechoslovakia
where a steady stream of  Europe’s royalty, politicians and
industrialists came to see his father and hunt.

He remembered particularly meeting one of his father’s
closest friends, and a frequent guest, whose name was
Franz Ferdinand. He was an archduke, and also incidentally
the heir to his great uncle Franz Joseph’ throne in Vienna.

Yes, he was the same Archduke Franz Ferdinand who was
assassinated a few years later when his chauffeur made a
wrong turn in a crowded Sarajevo street, and changed
modern history so much that we are still living with its
consequences more than 100 years later. That Archduke
Franz Ferdinand.

There were lots of stories about Europe before and between
the world wars. (I wish now I had a tape recorder.) Needless
to say, Count Czernin had my rapt attention. Two days later,
while the Israeli air force was destroying the combined Arab
forces against them in the air and on land, he greeted me
when I came to his office with “I have something to show you.”

When we sat down, he brought out a big leather portfolio
which contained a single item --- a very large photograph of
the attendees at the conference which produced the Treaty of
Brest-Litovsk at which  Russia, one of the main Allied Powers
(France, Great Britain, United States, Italy, etc.) opposing the
Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary,Turkey, etc.),
ended its military effort in the war, and agreed reluctantly to
the humiliating terms imposed primarily by Germany. It
was a brilliant maneuver, freeing up a million Central Power
troops from the Eastern Front and enabled them to be
transferred to the Western Front where their arrival might
enable them to win the war.  But it was too late. Lenin and
Trotsky had taken power in Russia following the ousting of
the tsar in 1917, but were fighting a counter-revolution, and
desperately needed to end the now very unpopular and costly
effort against the Central Powers.  Lenin had delayed signing
the treaty, hoping that Germany, facing widespread food
shortages, would collapse. Finally, he sent War Minister
Trotsky himself to Brest-Litovsk to sign in early 1918.
Months later, Germany did collapse, and the treaty was
annulled by the Armistice in November. The only beneficiary
of Brest-Litovsk ironically was the regime of Lenin and
Trotsky which had gained vital time and resources      
without having to pay the humiliating terms after all.

Count Czernin was unhappy with the final treaty because
the heavy-handed Germans insisted on some terms
unfavorable to their Austro-Hungarian allies. But when he
warned Emperor Charles about it, he was rebuffed and
finally he was replaced. Just another human mistake in a
war of so many tragic and unspeakable errors!

In any event, I was looking at a photograph of the various
Central Powers dignitaries gathered at Brest-Litovsk,
including princes, counts, prime ministers, foreign
ministers, diplomats and generals --- most of them
forgotten today, but then the elites of a world about to
crash to its end. It was obviously an original  --- I had seen
photos like it in history books --- because every person
in the photo had signed their name in ink below their face.
A priceless memento!

This early brush with history was a foretaste of my life
as a  journalist writing about and getting to know the
political figures of today.. They hold no royal or noble
inherited titles (although political family dynasties are not
unknown). Some are outstanding, but on the whole they
seem no less prone to the delusions, presumptions and
misunderstandings of their predecessors.

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

Saturday, November 21, 2020


In the midst of the aftermath of the presidential election and
the ongoing pandemic, I was offered some culinary relief by
two generous friends who invited me to join them at the annual
Hunters Dinner at a prominent local restaurant. The meats,
fowl, fish, vegetable and fruit dishes were all unusual, and it
promised to be an adventure.

There used to be restaurants in several large cities which offered
exotic game dishes on their menus. I remember Cafe Bohemia
in Chicago near Union Station which routinely had lion, tiger,
water buffalo, giraffe and other wild “delicacies” on their menu.

But you only got one or two dishes a a time at these restaurants.
At the local dinner, everyone received all the dishes, including
ostrich, pheasant, python, caviar, boar, camel, partridge, wolffish
and venison, each course accompanied by a different special
beer provided by a local brewery.

Carefully socially distanced, with all staff wearing masks at all
times, the crowd was smaller, I was told, than usual, but  the
precautions did not diminish conviviality and hearty appetites.

Instead of an appetizer buffet, the eight selections were served
to each diner on a large plate.  Five courses followed, generously
portioned, climaxing with a large and delicious venison osso
. The chef very ably sauced each dish. The grits that
accompanied the python, for example, were outstanding. It was
an evening of unusual flavors and textures. Even the fruits and
vegetables served at the dinner are very rarely found on menus.
The specialty beers were well-paired with each course.

There was a lot of very good food and good drink, and by the
meal’s conclusion one didn’t much care who had been elected

Alas, this and all the other excellent restaurants have been
closed for indoor dining for at least a month by the state
governor --- so the memory of this special meal will need
to last a while.

Check out the menu below.




Coffee-crusted ostrich with chimichurri
Rosemary pheasant pate
Burmese python and grits
Smoked trout mousse with osetra caviar
Bourbon boar BLT bite
Camel slider with cumin
Lobster and wild shrimp seafood sausage
Lemon garlic monkfish canape

Partridge confit with wild huckleberry coulis
Winter Ale


Chayote bisque with creme fraiche and goldenberries
Keller Pils


Seaweed salad with ginger teriyaki wolffish
Slugfest Juicy IPA


Chipotle venison osso buco


Cherinoya sorbet with puree of passion fruit and prickly pear
Macademia tuile
Triumphant Session IPA


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


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A December Surprise?

The year 2020 has certainly been a year of many surprises.
Every year has some, but this one has had more than most.

Election years usually supply a few, but a pandemic arises only

With the pandemic persisting, and in some places resurging,
votes still being counted and recounted, international
realignments taking place globally, and certain medical
breakthroughs being announced almost daily. relief from the
unexpected might seem to be too much to ask for.

Since surprises are by their nature unpredictable, what they
might be cannot be described, nor could we know in advance
whether we will welcome them or not, but 2020 has been a
maverick all year long --- and it is not that difficult to imagine
it has a coda yet to play as it concludes its astonishing and
idiosyncratic performance.

Perhaps not. But the year is not quite over.


Thursday, November 12, 2020


The votes are still being counted, and some races have not
been decided, but a clear picture of the 2020 election is
already visible.

The polls were mostly wrong, especially the establishment
media polls. The establishment media itself was egregiously
biased, including Fox News which abandoned “fair and
balanced” coverage to become predictably anti-Trump..
Voters in minority groups which were traditionally part of
the Democratic base shifted noticeably to support
Republican candidates, as the GOP made notable gains in
U.S. house seats while holding on to most of their vulnerable
U.S. senate seats (with two facing run-offs in January).  This
occurred despite predictions from most establishment
pollsters and pundits that Democrats were likely to make
“sweeping” gains in both houses of Congress.The GOP also
made a net gain of one state governorship and picked up
control of several state legislative bodies. Joe Biden, the
most moderate Democratic candidate in the primaries,
was nominated, and if his lead in the electoral college holds
after post-election scrutiny, he would be elected president.
Both major political parities were put on notice that their
extreme factions were unacceptable to most voters.

It was overall a victory for the political center, Each party
had successes and failures. Each party has “squeaky wheels”
advocating policies the voters will reject in 2022 and 2024.
Party leaders and candidates should beware of mistaking
noise for substance.

As for The Prairie Editor, his constant themes throughout
the long campaign were that the polls were wrong, the
establishment media were biased, traditional minority
voters were beginning to shift away from one party to
another, Republicans would do better than the polls and
many pundits said they would in U.S. house and senate
races, and the presidential race was likely a toss-up and
too close to call.

I hope my readers will permit me a victory lap.

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

Sunday, November 8, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: No Decision Quite Yet In Presidental Race

Although Joe Biden currently leads in enough states to
win the presidency in the electoral college, there are
slated or pending recounts and investigations of alleged
voter fraud in enough of those states to assess the
presidential race as not yet decided. 

Some major print and broadcast media have now “called”
the race, but almost all of them were biased in their
coverage of the long campaign, published significantly
incorrect polls about it, and none of them have any
authority whatsoever to “decide” who has won or lost.
Major non-partisan media, it should be noted, such as
Real Clear Politics have not “called” the race.

Any election has up to five processes: voting, counting the
votes, possible recounting the votes, possible adjudication
of voting disputes, and certification of a winner. A
presidential election has an additional process: election by
certified electors.

At this point, there are still votes being counted, and enough
races are sufficiently close for recounts and adjudication
to render the contest undecided.

After the election processes are concluded, Mr. Biden might
indeed be properly declared the president-elect. And if he
is, he would deserve good wishes for success in office in the
difficult time ahead.

If allegations (so far that is all they are) prove sufficiently
true, however, to declare Mr. Trump the winner, then he will
deserve the good wishes of the nation.

This is an extraordinary time. It was an extraordinary
election for president. Why should we be surprised that
the results would be challenged and require all of the
legitimate processes be properly exhausted?

There was no clear and final result on election night, and
there is no clear and final result now.

But it will come.

Patience and vigilance. Patience and vigilance.

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

Thursday, November 5, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "The Health Of Democracies....."

“The health of democracies, of whatever
type or range, depends on a wretched
technical detail --- electoral procedure.
All the rest is secondary. If the regime
of the elections is successful, if it is in
accordance with reality, all goes well;
if not, though the rest progresses
beautifully, all goes wrong.”

                JOSE ORTEGA Y GASSET
                The Revolt Of The Masses (1928)

Sunday, November 1, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Momentum And Pseudo-Pollling

At the end of the 2020 presidential election, it would appear
that President Donald Trump has some momentum if
reports of early voting turnouts, final published polls, size
and enthusiasm of candidate rally crowds are true.

It’s good to have momentum, but it does not  necessarily
mean victory. In 1948, incumbent President Harry Truman,
doing poorly in the polls, and reviled in the media, surged
at the very end of the campaign, and won an historic
come-from-behind upset win --- but in 1968, Vice President
Hubert Humphrey, clearly surging in the campaign’s final
days, came up short on election day.

Pundits and strategists have, in modern times, depended on
polling for assessment and strategy. Private, in-house polls
continue to be useful to political parties and candidates
because their data is used to instruct  --- while public polling
today is too often employed by groups and media as
propaganda. Both liberals and conservatives have done this
in the recent past, and candidates of both parties still do it
(just read the fundraising appeals of many Democrats and
Republicans this year). This cycle, as in 2016, most of the
major pollsters, often in partnership with major print and
broadcast media, have been publishing polls for months
which reflect their personal or editorial bias --- and not
necessarily accurate public opinion. These polls have usually
shown Joe Biden with very large leads in the national race
and in most competitive state races.

There are a few exceptions. The Trafalgar Group, Rasmussen,
Susquehanna, and Democracy Institute each have consistently
published polls which have shown the presidential race to be
very close. Three of them are now suggesting that President
Trump will win re-election. In 2016, Trafalgar  and Democracy
Institute were virtually alone in predicting the Trump upset
win. They might  not be correct in 2020, but they do have

Republican and other critics have alleged that distorted polls
are a form of “vote suppression” by Democrats --- meant to
discourage Trump voters. If that was  the intention. it has
apparently failed --- although nothing will be certain until
after the votes are counted.

Polling itself has become more controversial in recent years.
No one I know expects President Trump to win the popular
vote in 2020. He did not do so in 2016. He is almost certain to
lose California, New York, Illinois and the northeastern
states by huge margins. The test of the polls will be how
accurately they measured voters in the competitive states in
the southeast, midwest and southwest where the race will be won,

The voters are now, as they always are, in charge. If more
surprises are coming, they will come from those voters.

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2020


This has been an anything-can-happen year in general, so
is not surprising that, at the end of the 2020 election cycle
campaign, almost anything could happen.

The least likely outcome would be a Republican takeover of
the U.S. house. The GOP would need a net gain of 18 seats
to accomplish this, and although conservatives seem poised
to pick up seats in Minnesota, Iowa, Pennsylvania, NewYork,
and California and a few other states,  a net gain of 18 is a
problematic goal unless there is a Republican landslide.

About 30-40 U.S. house seats are in play. Establishment
pundits and pollsters, in many cases, are asserting that
Democrats will actually expand their lead, but that, like
GOP control, might be more partisan wishful thinking
than political realism. In any event, many close races are
tightening, and might well depend on turnout generated by
the presidential campaign.

Control of the U.S. senate, on the other hand, remains very
uncertain. On paper, Democrats have the advantage of
having much fewer incumbent seats up for election, and
have more pick-up opportunities in competitive races.

The two-best GOP pick-up races are in Alabama and
Michigan. A third, and late-breaking, senate race in
Minnesota has been complicated by the emergency (but
successful) surgery for the Republican challenger a week
before the election.

Democrats are eyeing 6-8 GOP incumbents, but will likely
have to settle for less as Republicans appear to be
rebounding in several close contests. As in some house
races, the presidential race might well determine senate
winner and losers. The very best liberal opportunities
are in Arizona, Colorado and Maine, and  Democrats
must probably win all three of these, plus 2-4 others to
offset GOP pick-ups --- and take control.

At the very end, each side has advantages. Democrats have
had much more money from donors to spend, including
money from big business and big labor unions, as well as
smaller contributions from its ActBlue organization. But
Republican door-to-door contacts and voter ID efforts have
far exceeded what their opponents have done. The two
parties have also had contrasting voting strategies. The
Democrats have strongly pushed mail-in voting, while the
Republicans, led by the president, have encouraged
in-person voting.

Both parties are counting on their political bases. But one
characteristic of the 2020 cycle might be significant
desertions from thee bases, In the case of the Democrats,
they could lose a critical percentage of their black,
Hispanic, Jewish, Catholic and union member majorities.
For Republicans, they might lose (as they did in 2018)
suburban women voters.

At the very end, there is considerable suspense about the
outcome of the 2020 national elections. Voters’ attitudes
are always affected by the economy, but this cycle was
distorted by the pandemic. Every election has a few
surprises, but this one has gone from one surprise to

Perhaps the final surprise of the 2020 election will come
when the votes are counted.

Copyright (S) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights recerved.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Only a dramatic and clearly understandable surprise event
or revelation could now change even a few minds about the
imminent presidential election. What could make a difference
would be something that could affect turnout. In other words,
the souffle is baked, but it is still in the oven. A shock can cause
a souffle to collapse when it is still hot.

Democrats, the establishment media, and assorted “never
Trumpers” have piled on so much invective on the president
that any new accusation about the president is likely to fall
flat. Republicans who hope that the improper business
allegations about Joe Biden and his family will have impact
are likely to be disappointed because the matter so far is too
complicated for widespread public understanding --- and the
establishment media is largely ignoring the issue.

Time has simply run out.

Donald Trump is back on the campaign rally mode, trying to
motivate his supporters to vote. Joe Biden is back in his
Delaware basement --- sitting on his presumed lead. Both
strategies are revivals of most of their respective approaches  
to this presidential campaign.

The question remains about which of these strategies is the
right one for 2020.

The answer is contained controversially in the public polls.
These polls have shown Mr. Trump trailing Mr. Biden all
summer and autumn --- some of them by double digits.
Recent polls have narrowed the difference, a few of them
have the Biden lead small enough to suggest Mr.Trump has
a chance to win the election  in the electoral college.

It is a relatively safe assumption that the Democratic
nominee will win the popular vote in 2020. But to win the
election, Joe Biden must win some of the large southern
and midwestern states Donald Trump won in 2016,
including Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Michigan and Wisconsin. The president, on the other hand,
seeks to win a few states won by the Democrats in 2016,
including Minnesota, Nevada and Virginia. A few other
states might be in play, but the two campaigns are
concentrating on the ones named.

The accuracy of the polls, of course, won’t be known until
after the votes are counted. Those who doubt them contend
primarily that they are significantly undermeasuring the
Trump voters by failing to get them to respond, and/or
wrongly “weighting” the raw data they do get. Citing as
evidence, these poll critics point to “on the ground”
circumstances, e.g., rally attendance, lawn signs, boat
parades, etc. --- circumstances which in many cases also
appeared in 2016, but were ignored by most pundits.

On the other hand, the polls could be correct. Misleading
as they were in state voting in 2016, most of them got the
non-binding national popular vote more or less right.
If they are right, it would likely be a very good night
for the Democrats.

Although spokespersons and partisans for each side are
predicting victory, conventional thinking now is that Joe
Biden is going to win. That same kind of thinking had
John Kerry winning in 2004, Mitt Romney winning in 2012,
and Hillary Clinton winning in 2016. But in 2008, the
conventional expectation was that Barack Obama would
win, and he did.

It has been an idiosyncratic year, with an idiosyncratic
campaign, and, needless to say, an idiosyncratic

Anything can still happen.

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

Thursday, October 15, 2020


As a response to President Trump nominating  Judge Amy
Barrett to a vacancy on the U.S. supreme court and the
Republican-controlled U.S. senate determined to quickly
confirm her --- all so close to the presidential election ---
some Democratic activists and candidates are advocating
adding more members to the nation’s highest court to
overcome what would be a clear conservative  majority on
the 9-member court.

But first, Democrats must win s majority in the U.S. senate
in November. As of now, they only have 47 seats out of 100.
The would also have to win the presidential election and
keep control of the U.S. house. Many current polls suggest
this is possible --- but I suggest that promising to “pack”
the supreme court gives the Democrats’ Republican
opponents a new and helpful issue at the end of the
election campaign.

The size of the supreme court, in principle, is not a
partisan issue. It  is not specified in the U.S. Constitution,
but with a few small variations in the 19th century, it has
remained at 9 members. Notoriously, at the height of his
power, when his party had large majorities in both houses
in Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt failed to pack
the court with additional liberal justices to counter the
conservative court majority he inherited.  The fact is that
most Americans, Democrats and Republicans, oppose
“packing” the court.

It could be done, but it could just as easily be undone by  a
future president and Congress. Such volatility would clearly
undermine and destabilize the court into politicized chaos.
No wonder most Americans are against it.

Joe Biden refuses to say if he supports packing the court or
not if he were elected president, complaining it is a
“media-created” issue. (Republicans might point out the
irony of his complaint, arguing that “media-created” issues
in 2020 have inevitably helped Democrats!) In political reality,
however, it is  a real issue.

Republican candidates for the U.S. senate, incumbents and
challengers, will ask their opponents whether they would
support packing the supreme court or not. The Democrats’
answers could make a difference in some key elections.

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

Sunday, October 11, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Senate Races Near The Finish Line

Several competitive U.S. senate contests will be decided  in
less than a month, and control of this key national
legislative body hangs in the balance.

As will happen again in 2022, approximately, twice as many
Republican incumbent seats are up for election, and the
current 53-47 GOP lead and control is at stake.

The conservative party in doing well  in two contests for seats
now held by liberal party incumbents. In Alabama, GOP
challenger Tommy Tuberville is expected to defeat
Democratic Senator Doug Jones; and in Michigan, the race is
a toss-up. between Republican challenger John James and
Democratic incumbent Gary Peters. In Minnesota, GOP
challenger Jason Lewis is a long shot against Democrat (DFL)
Tina Smith who now holds the seat. Mr. Lewis needs this
battleground state to be won by President Trump in order to
have a realistic chance for an upset win.

Many more GOP incumbents face serious challenges in 2020.

Usually rated the most vulnerable is  Republican Senator
Martha McSally of Arizona. Only a few weeks ago, she seemed
headed to certain defeat by former astronaut Mark Kelly, but
the sudden supreme court vacancy and a business controversy
involving Kelly  has now made this race closer, although Kelly
still leads.

Also considered in trouble, is GOP Senator Cory Gardner of
Colorado. But his challenger, former Governor  John
Hickenlooper, has surprisingly turned out to be a poor
campaigner, and now needs a very big Joe Biden win in the
state to defeat the likeable Gardner.

Also considered very vulnerable this year, GOP Senator
Susan Collins is being challenged by Democrat Sara
Gideon and a great deal deal of out-of-state money. The
most moderate Republican in the senate, she quickly
announced she would not vote to confirm President
Trump’s conservative supreme court nominee.. A popular
political icon in Maine, she will be difficult to beat, but the
race is now a toss-up.

North Carolina GOP Senator Thom Tillis appeared only
weeks ago to be in real trouble for hid re-election, but
revelations of a personal scandal involving his challenger
Cal Cunningham seems to have seriously compromised
his prospects for an upset win against the incumbent.

Although Mr. Trump carried Iowa by 9 points in 2016, many
polls are saying it’s closer to a tie this cycle, and that GOP
incumbent Senator Joni Ernst has a serious contest with
her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.

Democrats had hopes to unseat Republican incumbents in
Kentucky (Mitch McConnell), Alaska (Dan Sullivan), Texas
(John Cornyn), Montana (Stephen Daines), South Carolina
(Lindsay Graham), Georgia (David Perdue) and Kansas
(Roger Marshall), but so far the GOP senators appear to be
leading --- although their leads, in some cases, could fade in
their campaigns’ closing days.

Likewise, Republicans thought they  might pick up seats in
New Hampshire  (Jeanne Shaheen), New Mexico (Carlos
Lujan) and the already mentioned Minnesota (Tina Smith),
but these Democratic incumbents seem to now have clear

One race that could well end up in a  critical post election
2021 run-off --- and not be decided on election day --- is the
special election for U.S. senate in Georgia, a seat now held
by GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler who was appointed. The
2020 ballot has five candidates of both parties, and if none
of them receives 50% in November, a later run-off between
the top two vote-getters would take place. Conceivably, such
a run-off could decide control of the senate.

Finally, I point out a frequent occurrence in U.S. senate
election cycles, that is, the development of a close race  in
the closing days of a contest thought to be “safe” for a
Democratic or Republican incumbent. In a year of so many
other surprises, it might happen in 2020.

Several weeks ago, polling indicated a general trend to the
Democratic senate candidates. More recently, polling has
generally indicated improving conditions for Republicans.
But with an extraordinarily volatile presidential  race,
and genuinely undecided voters now making their choices,
anything could still happen in the battle for senate control.

[Just before election day, there will be a final survey  of these
races on this website.]

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


Monday, October 5, 2020


With less than a month to go, the 2020 national elections remain
wracked by surprising turns of events, contradictory polls,
residues of the pandemic, and an uncertain economy.

A new economic stimulus program is being held up because
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants it to include cities and
states that had chronic deficits prior to the pandemic, and the
Trump administration wants it only to include
pandemic-related economic issues.

A new U.S.supreme court nominee is facing confirmation
following the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the
resulting vacancy only weeks before the election.

President Trump achieved major advances in his efforts in the
Middle East, but volatile issues remain with China, Russia and
North Korea.

The global pandemic continues with second waves in parts of
Europe. The president himself is recovering from an infection
diagnosed only a month before election day.

Confidence in polls seem to be at an all-time low.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has now begun to
campaign more actively in-person.

Numerous competitive U.S. house and senate races are too
close to call.

Anything could yet happen.

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: An Old Order Dissolving?



The earlier individual civilizations of this planet constantly went
through cycles of various kinds including a general "order" of the
forces at play in them.

We have for some recent time now had a planet-wide world order
as communications and transportation innovations eliminated
the earlier physical boundaries between hitherto distant and
separated civilizations.

Although one can describe the world in terms of various cycles,
including those of technology, climate, sociological relationships,
health, demography/migration, religious belief and so on, the
nation-states which arose from innumerable nomadic tribes, and
the notions of power and aggression, have, in recent centuries,
created the modern versions of a so-called world order.

There seems to be, in terms of this particular notion of a “grand”
world order, alternating cycles of integration and dissolution
which evolve over several decades each, and which serve as
clarifying markers for their times.

Those who are now fifty years old or older grew up in a period of
post-World War II integration of a new order resulting from the
aftermath of World Wars I and II, just as the previous world order
was a dissolution following the upheaval  of the Napoleonic wars
in Europe and the colonial “possessions” of European states
around the world.

There has been an a mega-political process going on now for
many years --- a dissolving of the attempt to create a lasting order
in Europe, the western hemisphere and Asia. The United States
has played a certain and growing role in the ordering of the world
for the past one hundred and fifty years or so. Now, the population
giants of China and India are asserting their place more
aggressively as this old order dissolves. Other nations, including
Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, and Russia, are asserting themselves
by virtue of their large populations and growing market share
of world trade. But this transformation is no longer limited to
nation states, just as the earliest transformations were not
limited to regional tribes. In the latest dissolution, we observe
transnational economic entities such as the European Union and
OPEC; international ideological entities such as Islamic jihadism
and international regions such as the trans-Pacific area,
attempting to take a more significant part in the creation of a
new planetary order.

International organizations such as the United Nations, the World
Court, and regional military alliances increasingly appear unable
to bring any true cooperation to an emerging new world order
(whatever it is to be).

In the period after 1945, and again in 1990, there was a provisional
belief in the West that first, fascism, and second, communism ---
both cruel and totalitarian phenomena --- had been temporary. and
“overcome.”  It now appears, as their malign offspring reappear
in the world, this was an over-optimistic conclusion.

The “level” of the world, as philosopher Ortega y Gasset once said,
does continue to rise because of technology and invention (human
beings live longer; more persons are fed; daily life is more varied),
but the dynamic state of the world (its “order,” if you will) has
seemed to become more uncertain and perilous.

It has taken some time, especially for the post-war generations
in the West, to understand this fully. For many of these
generations, in fact, they cling to a belief in the old order and its
“comprehensible” optimism, security, rationality and predictable

Daily global events, however, signal it's time for some new thinking.

Copyright (c) 2015 and 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Who Is Really Ahead?

As the title of this article implies, the presidential race might
not be what it seems to be.

With six weeks to go, conventional media thinking has Joe
Biden well ahead, and leading already in enough states to
win the all-important electoral college tally. Many well-known
pundits and strategists are even suggesting the election is
virtually (pun intended?) over.

While Joe Biden might indeed win when the votes are counted,
even by a decisive margin, I think the true status of this race
now remains unsettled and unknown.

The primary evidence for conventional thinking has been a
series of establishment media polls which have shown Mr.
Biden ahead of Mr. Trump by high single digit or low double
digit numbers in nationwide polls, and with mid-single digit
leads in many of the battleground states. In recent weeks,
most of these polls have tightened while in a few competitive
states, Mr. Trump has pulled slightly ahead.  In at least two
nationwide polls, the president is actually very slightly ahead 
of his opponent --- but these seem to be, for now, outliers.
(National polls reflect the national popular vote; but the actual
election is done by state-by-state electoral college voting.) As
happened in 2016, Mr. Trump is not expected to win the popular
vote in 2020 --- given the huge majorities Mr. Biden is expected
to win in California, New York and Illinois.

Conventional media thinking assumes the polls are accurate,
but many observers and some poll experts dispute this, arguing
that most establishment polling is undermeasuring Republican
and Trump voters, especially in battleground states.

In 2016, the final national polls were relatively accurate, but the
competitive state polls often were not, something I repeatedly
noted BEFORE election day. National polls are still being
published, but this cycle, the emphasis is on state polls (as it
should be).

So are the state polls accurate?

They might be, but the non-polling evidence-on-the-ground
seems to dispute this in many of the competitive states in
the midwest and south. The pandemic, violent urban
unrest, the economy, and now, a U.S. supreme court vacancy,
each appear to complicate any election predictions.

The only surprise left, it seems, would be if there were no
more surprises.

The biggest known possible vote-changing events ahead are
the presidential debates, especially the first one. These
debates could provide Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden with some
critical closing momentum.

On the other hand, one or more political surprises could 
also happen, and change the outcome.

Stranger than fiction or fantasy, you could not have made
2020 up before it happened.

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


Thursday, September 24, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: An Entertainer Like No Other

My good friend of more than half a century, Dudley Riggs,
has passed away at 88 in Minneapolis. He was an entertainer,
and later impresario, like no other --- and whose life story is
a true wonder to read about.

In fact, you can read about some of it in his autobiographical
Flying Funny: My Life Without A Net, a 2017 book that tells
a good part of his fascinating story, especially of his earliest
yeas as a member of a four-generation traveling circus family.

After countless conversations  at lunches, dinners and other
occasions with Dudley, I can say that his whole story is even
more extraordinary.

I actually “met” Dudley years before we became friends when
as a little boy, my older brother took me to the circus in my
hometown of Erie, PA. One of the trapeze aerialists was young
Dudley Riggs. Years later, in one of our earliest conversations,
Dudley mentioned that he was in that circus that year.  When I
looked at the circus program I had saved  there was a photo of
Dudley on a trapeze.

Dudley’s experiences in the circus and vaudeville before he was
21 were enough for a lifetime, but for him it was only Act 1.
After a teen-age trapeze accident, and a hospital stay, Dudley
returned to the circus, including a 1952 appearance as a clown
with the first touring U.S. circus performing in occupied Japan.
Before an audience in Tokyo that included Crown Prince (later
Emperor) Akihito, Dudley was chosen for public relations
photos to meet the crown prince. Innocently, when introduced,
Dudley shook Akihito’s hand, breaking a thousand-year taboo
of not touching the emperor or his heir, and it caused a
national scandal until the emperor published a letter saying
the old tradition was abolished. (Reportedly, the last time
someone touched the emperor, he was beheaded on the spot!)

Act 2 for Dudley was coming to Minneapolis for his college
education, majoring in psychology (a scholarly interest he kept
the rest of his life). He soon opened the first coffeehouse in
Minnesota serving espresso. His grandmother had introduced
him to espresso years before, and later in a stint as a waiter in
the famed old Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City he got the idea
of serving fine foods in a place of his own. But always the
entertainer, Dudley began presenting comedy improvisations
with the pastries and cappuccinos. This became known as
Instant Theater --- which along with a simultaneous effort at
Second City in Chicago was the genesis of improvisational
comedy in the U.S.

Among Dudley’s talents acquired in his youth was juggling, and
with a small troupe, he began performing nightly, with what
became his trademark provocative satire, and then he moved
his enterprise, now called The Brave New Workshop, to a new
location where hundreds of shows followed, and where he
trained and presented several generations of young performers,
many of whom went on to be stars in New York and Hollywood.
Saturday Night Live, Daily Show, Cagney & Lacey, Reba and
numerous other TV shows, Broadway plays and hit movies
featured Workshop alumni Dudley had trained and encouraged.

Dudley Riggs became a household word in the Twin Cities.
He opened a second theater with a new Cafe Espresso. Along
the way, he co-introduced pizza to the state, and was an
acrobatic consultant to many local theaters and dance
companies. This was Dudley’s Act 3.

Although he retired, his theater continues in a new downtown
Minneapolis location where he had emeritus status. His first
wife had died very young, but after some years, he remarried,
and with his new wife Pauline Boss, an internationally-known
psychotherapist/educator, enjoyed many happy years writing
and traveling in an active Epilogue, albeit with increasing
physical difficulty --- likely the toll of decades of so much
athletic activity as a performer.

We had many adventures together, including the year he ran
(satirically) for president when we went to a national
convention in Chicago where I was credentialed press
covering the “serious” politicians while Dudley poked fun at

For five decades I spoke frequently with Dudley, and I heard
about something new he had done or seen on almost every
occasion. In spite of being in charge of many employees in
his restaurants and theaters, and being so well-known, he was
unpretentious, accessible, caring, encouraging and always funny.

There are all kinds of lives led in our world, and everyone  has
a uniqueness, but Dudley Riggs had an incomparable life that
journeyed through what for  most everyone else would have
been several lifetimes --- and from the beginning he kept himself
and the rest of us entertained and laughing all the way.

Thank you, Dudley.

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

Saturday, September 19, 2020


The departure of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg from the U.S.
supreme court just before the 2020 national elections will
initially be regarded as more significant politically than it
really is. Justice Ginsberg, whether one agreed with her
decisions or not, deserves the tributes she will now receive
for her formidable contributions and service to her
profession, and for her gritty endurance in her final years.

Her departure, however, was already known to be imminent,
and the choice to replace her already a major issue in this
election cycle.

The court now has eight members for its new term. The
political division now is five conservatives and three liberals
--- although Chief Justice John Roberts. a conservative, has
on rare, but high-profile, cases sided with the liberals. His
role as a swing vote on the court is now reduced to perhaps to
an occasional tie vote (although he is known to dislike such

Pro-life and pro-choice advocates might now suggest that
their base voters will now increasingly vote this year, but
behind that partisan rhetoric is the reality that the two
opposing bases were already close to maximum intensity,
and turnout based on this and other social issues which are
likely to come before the court was already certain to be
very high.

Although Republicans control the U.S. senate 53-47, they don’t
visibly have the votes now to confirm Ginsberg’s successor.
Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, and
two or three (or more) GOP incumbents in tight re-election
races might balk at a vote before the election.

As I have already pointed out, conservatives now have a
stronger majority on the court, and don’t really need an
additional vote for the current term.

President Trump has already made public the list from
which he would make his next nomination; Joe Biden has
strategically refused to do so, but now will face  much
pressure to disclose his own list.

Republicans also established a precedent in 2016 of
refusing to confirm then-President Obama’s supreme
court nominee because it was an election year. It might
be problematic to try to explain what was different now in
2020 with the Ginsberg replacement.

It would seem to be an unforced error, then, for
President Trump and the Republicans to try to push
through a supreme court nominee before the election.
They don’t need it, they probably don’t have the votes to
do it, and they would risk turning off undecided voters by
trying to do it before November.

President Trump will almost certainly nominate someone
for the vacancy soon. The confirmation process will begin.
The nominee would be an issue in the presidential
campaign and would distract voters from other issues.
This might provide a net benefit for Mr. Trump, or it might
be a net benefit for Mr. Biden.

In any event, the court vacancy is one more complication in
a year already overflowing with complications.

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Origins Of U.S. Intelligence Services




In  early June, 1942, a few days after I was born in Erie,
Pennsylvania, the U.S. Army requisitioned a private girl’s school
named Arlington Hall near its World War II military
headquarters in Virginia. The original facility was soon greatly
enlarged to accommodate about 5100 civilians and more than
2000 military personnel. Many of these men and women worked
for the Signal Intelligence Service (S.I.S.), the code-breaking
branch of the U.S. Army which specialized in “cracking” the
Japanese military codes, and intercepting Japanese secret
communications. (An equivalent site called Bletchley Park in
England similarly specialized in “cracking” the German codes.)  
Soon after the German “Enigma” code was deciphered by
British cryptologists at Bletchley Park, U.S. cryptologists, led by
legendary U.S. cryptologist William Friedman initially broke the
Japanese “Purple” diplomatic code. Later, in 1943, S.I.S.
cryptologists at Arlington Hall deciphered the Japanese military
code. These code-breaking achievements, it is generally agreed,
had much to do with the Allies winning World War II agains the
Axis Powers.

President Roosevelt asked General “Wild Bill” Donovan to create
the Office of Secret Services (O.S.S.) in 1942, and many of his
personnel were stationed at Arlington Hall. There was a great
deal of “top secret”Arlington Hall activity during World War II,
but there was also a small military hospital facility located there
which provided medical services to U.S. Army nurses, S.I.S. and
O.S.S. personnel, and to U.S. Chief of Staff General George
Marshall and his staff.

I hope the reader will excuse my mentioning this post hospital,
but it will explain my special interest in this location as the
center of World War II U.S. Signal Corps intelligence service
and partly the early days of the O.S.S. (which later became the
Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.). The commandant (post
surgeon) of this post hospital was my father, then Major
Hyman Lawrence Casselman, and I think I might say
accurately that I was among the youngest persons ever to visit
this secret site during wartime. By November, 1942, my
mother, my older brother Tom (he later grew up to be the
physicist who became one of the fathers of post-war top-secret
infrared detection technology), and I had moved to the
recently-constructed military officers family housing (today
converted to upscale condominiums) in nearby Fairlington,

S.I.S. chief Colonel William Friedman and his famed
cryptologist wife (also Colonel) Elizabeth (she helped the
British break the Enigma code) lived nearby, and became
good friends of my parents during their time in Fairlington).

Spending the first four years of my life there became a central
experience of my immediate family’s history, and although I
have only a few fleeting memories of that time, its narrative,
especially of my father’s fascinating experiences, has created
my lifelong interest in the origins of U.S. intelligence services.

The lore from World War II often construes the creation of the
O.S.S. as the beginning of the American spy system. It was true
that the U.S. had no organized or official spy network prior to
Pearl Harbor, (the FBI was supposed to do only domestic police
work), but we did have spies working for us in previous war
periods, including the Mexican War, Civil War,
Spanish- American War and World War I.

But what about before that? Particularly, did we have an
intelligence system in the Revolutionary War? The British
colonial army certainly did under the dashing Major John
Andre, who among other feats, lured Continental Army General
Benedict Arnold to defect and become our nation’s most
notorious traitor. (Major Andre was caught behind Continental
lines, and subsequently hanged as a spy.)

What did our commanding general, George Washington, have
to keep him abreast of secret British military movements?

Until relatively recently, we only knew about isolated individuals
such as Nathan Hale (hung by the British as a spy at age 21 after
declaring “I regret I have but one life to give for my country.”)
Scholars and historians, however, have unearthed a large-scale
and very secret spy network that reported directly to General
Washington and his staff throughout most of the Revolutionary

Known as the “Culper Ring,” a relatively large number of
patriots and apparent “loyalists” were recruited by Major
Benjamin Talmadge beginning in 1776 in Setauket, New York.
The fascinating story of this important part of the
Revolutionary War has now been told in books, documentaries
and a partly fictionalized TV series called “Turn: America’s
First Spies” (available in its entirety on a DVD set). [The TV
series, based on a novel, is centered on the character of
Abraham Woodhull, one of Talmadge’s actual first recruits
in Setauket, who is portrayed as a married man having an
affair with another man’s wife. The real Abraham Woodhull
was actually unmarried through the period of the series, and
is not known to have carried on any affairs, but that’s show

Operating initially without organized military intelligence in
1776, Washington was at a distinct disadvantage. There were no
modern communications then --- no telegraph, no telephones,
no computers. no radio or television, nothing but handwritten
or verbal communication carried by foot or horseback. Major
Benjamin Talmadge organized, at Washington’s order, not only
a true spy network, but developed a secret code for its
communications. (Washington did not ever know the true
identity of most of his spies, and some of their identities are
still not known today.) It was nothing like the vast operation at,
and emanating from, Arlington Hall more than 160 years later.

This Revolutionary War spy network had failures and tragic
losses, but it also had notable successes hat enabled General
Washington and his Continental Army to turn the war around
and ultimately succeed against the formidable British army.  

Cryptologists in 1942 or today would have little trouble
“cracking” our earliest secret code (General Washington was
known, for example, by the numbers “711”) but it worked just
fine in 1777-1781.

We live in a time when codes, spies and intelligence operate
technologically “light years” ahead of those earliest days of
our history, or even of those days not so long ago during
World War II. We also live in a time of global and national
threats when good intelligence might well mean the difference
between survival and annihilation.

That is why I think the very brief history recounted above is
worth telling.

Copyright (c) 2015 and 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 11, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: New Poem "Ceremonies Of Delay"

by Barry Casselman

On occasion, delay is the best way to go faster.

Not everything is a contest, although contests are everywhere.

When the body digests, it is also an instruction.
The body is lifelong a teacher in a voiceless conversation
with our worldly distractions.

Hesitation travels by helicopter,
hovering for overview before trying to land.

Our unending battle is with so many details,
the details which are our own private atoms and molecules.

We sleep on a furious planet
which wakes us periodically.

Now let’s get serious, we proclaim before bedtime,
ignoring the fury.

We simply do not understand speed,
but it stirs us like an anthem.

Going faster slows us down
long enough to hear our exasperation
and our pretended confidence in confidences.

A daily dashboard gives us some more velocities,
but no explanations, and no postponements,
change the destination.

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

Sunday, September 6, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: How Does The House Divide?

While control of the U.S. senate in 2021 has been an ongoing
question since the current campaign cycle began, few if any
pundits have suggested that control of the U.S house is in
doubt. Indeed, at least one major political newsletter is
currently suggesting that Democrats might be headed to
increase their majority.

There is only one presidential race and only 35 senatorial
contests (only a third of them competitive), but there are 435
U.S house races --- and about 50 of them have serious
contests. Thus, control of that body gets less close popular
attention, although it is not less important in its impact on
national governance.

Democrats now lead the GOP 232-198  --- with 4 vacancies.

Democrats picked up enough seats in the 2018 mid-term
elections to take control, but more than 25 of those pick-ups
were in districts Mr. Trump had won in 2016. Now that he is
again at the top of his ticket, the question is whether these
first-term Democrat can be re-elected.

House races are often decided by local issues more than
national trends. Presidential and senate races are on
statewide ballots; house races appear only on district
ballots. The GOP needs to pick up 18 seats to win control.

Normally, incumbents win re-election, and there are usually
a limited number of retirements.  Also, usually almost all
incumbents in both parties are renominated. This cycle has
seen a larger number of retirements, and an unusual
number of successful and near successful primary
challengers to incumbents in both parties. All of this tends
to create more uncertainty, as does the pandemic's social
and economic impact. The uncertainty would have been
even greater had this election taken place in 2022, following
the census and redistricting that will take place in the next
national election cycle two years from now.

Most congressional predictions have so far been based on
political polling --- as usually does happen. But this kind of
polling has become less and less useful in recent cycles as
voters have become less and less willing to respond when
contacted by pollsters. Small samples, non-use of likely
voters only, and questionable “weighting” of raw data,
also compound a distortion of the results. In 2020, we are
seeing polls taken in the same race at the same time by
different pollsters with significantly different results.

As I always point out, polls tend to become more accurate
just before election day.  Pollsters do not want to look silly
when he results are known, and make more effort for
accuracy late in the cycle. We are not quite at that point
yet, so I will not discuss individual close races here, but
I will do so in my next U.S. house races post.

But what seems clear is that several competitive house
races are tightening as the 2020 election approaches its
final laps. In some cycles, such as in 2010, the voters
intentions are signaled early, but in 2020, with its
unprecedented circumstances, the signals have been
contradictory, provisional and ambiguous.

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Minnewisowa: 2020 Bellwhether?

When I invented the megastate term “Minnewisowa”
(Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa) in 2004, and identified it
as a bellwether for that year’s national elections, I could not
have known how would it play a similar role in the elections
that would follow.

Indeed, in 2008 and 2012, Minnewisowa went for Barack
Obama, and in 2016, two of the three component states
went for Donald Trump (and he almost won the third).

Not so long ago, I wrote that initially it appeared that the
2020 Minnewisowa would likely to go into the Democratic
Party nominee’s electoral college total --- partly because the
opposition party had  done so well there in the 2018 mid-term
elections, and partly because Mr. Trump’s popularity was at
least temporarily seeming to decline in the region.

Then the pandemic, urban unrest, and a sharp economic
downturn hit the nation and the region. At first glance, this
would seem to increase the movement towards the liberal/
progressive party, but latest events and polls indicate

As one of the main epicenters (another being Oregon and
Washington state) of urban unrest and violence, Minnesota
and Wisconsin with their Democratic governors and mayors
have seen outstate voter backlashes that have halted the
political momentum to the left, and possibly reversed it to
the center right.

In fact, down ballot in the U.S house and senate races, the
greater initiative for pick-ups in Minnewisowa seems to be
conservative (Iowa CD-1,CD-2 and CD-3; Minnesota U.S.
senate, CD-2 and CD 7) --- although Democrats have
serious challengers to GOP incumbents in the Iowa U.S.
senate race and in Minnesota’s CD-1.

Disturbing headlines and news stories from Minneapolis
and Kenosha not only are attracting national attention,
but the attention of rural, small town and suburban
Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. If polls and on-the-ground
reports are accurate, the current news for Democratic
candidates in competitive races on the 2020 ballot is not

This, however, does not mean Democrats are going to lose.
There are two months left --- time enough for possible
countermeasures and recovery.

Whatever happens on election day, nonetheless, the results
in Minnewisowa, with such similar demographics in its
adjoining component states, are likely to be a bellwether
for the national results. With its 26 combined electoral
college votes, both parties are taking it very seriously.

This is the beginning of the homestretch, and voters
are now paying much more attention.

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR:Tightening Senate Races

Control of the U.S. senate in the next term is still undecided,
nine weeks before election day, but a new trend favoring
most Republican candidates, appears to be currently
developing after several weeks of seeming GOP decline in
most polling.

Of course, polling isn’t the only indicator that’s useful, and
this cycle many observers, myself included, have raised
questions about those polls, even prestigious ones, which
employed questionable techniques such as low samples,
registered voters (RVs) instead of likely voters (LVs), and
arbitrarily weighting their raw results.

But, as I have long pointed out, as the election draws very
close, the pollsters (seeking to avoid embarrassment when
the results are known) usually make an extra effort to be
accurately predictive.

In addition, especially in a presidential election year, there
are waves of ups and downs for candidates and their parties,
and Mr.Trump and his colleagues had seemed to be in some
decline while Mr. Biden and his colleagues were enjoying a
bump up.

Latest polls, however, are signaling a tightening in many
competitive races.  Of particular note, three consecutive
major polls in the usually “blue” state of Minnesota, indicate
a virtual tie in the presidential race, a circumstance confirmed
by local reports, especially in outstate where Mr. Trump seems
possibly stronger than he was in 2016 when he almost carried
the state. Minnesota has not voted for a Republican for
president since 1972.

One important caveat: Just because voter sentiment seems
trending their way, does not mean Republicans are going to
win. There is still enough time for a trend toward the
Democrats to  develop. The next several weeks will see the
relatively small, but nonetheless key, number of undecided
voters make up their minds. The pandemic, and the
exceptionally large numbers of absentee voters, also inject
more uncertainty in the outcome.

What about the specific competitive U.S. senate races?

There are 10-12 races which are battlegrounds. Democrats
will need to pick up a net of 3 or 4 (depending on who is
elected vice president) to take control in 2021.

Although about twice as many GOP incumbent seats are up
his cycle, the most endangered incumbent is a Democrat,
Doug Jones of Alabama. He is likely to lose to Republican
Tommy Tuberville.        

In addition, incumbent Michigan Democratic Senator Gary
Peters is facing a strong challenge this year from Republican
John James. Peters leads now, but this could be too close to
call in November.

I had not, until now, thought that Minnesota Democratic
Senator Tina Smith was very vulnerable this cycle. Like
Gary Peters, Smith is low profile and overshadowed by the
state’s other senator, Amy Klobuchar. GOP senate nominee
Jason Lewis is aggressive, but controversial, and always
needed a Republican tide in 2020 to win this race. If the
current GOP surge continues, and Mr. Trump carries
Minnesota, this could be a big upset on election night.

Aside from the New Hampshire senate race, which is not
now close, the opportunities for additional GOP pick-ups
currently seem very slim.

Democratic possibilities for pick-ups are more numerous.

Perhaps the most vulnerable GOP incumbent this cycle is
Arizona Senator Martha McSally. Republican McSally lost
in 2018, was then appointed to fill a vacancy, but faces a
former astronaut, Mark Kelly, in 2020. McSally has
consistently trailed Kelly in polls..

The other highly vulnerable GOP incumbent, Colorado
Senator Cory Gardner, seems to be faring better. He has
been rated the underdog against former Democatic
Governor John Hickenlooper, but the challenger’s
campaign has been marked by missteps and controversies,
and Gardner might survive.

North Carolina GOP Senator Thom Tillis has also trailed
his Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham in polls, and
this race might also depend on the presidential vote in the
state. North Carolina had been dependably “red,” but
recently has been trending “purple.”

As in Colorado, incumbent Montana GOP Senator Steve
Daines is facing a well-known Democratic challenger --- in
this case, current Governor Steve Bullock, who entered the
race at the last moment. Down-ballot, Montana is
somewhat “purple, but has been reliably GOP in the
presidential race.

Finally, among the most vulnerable GOP incumbents,
Maine Senator Susan Collins is facing a well-funded
challenge from Democrat Sara Gideon. One of the few
remaining GOP centrist conservatives in the senate,
Collins has been a popular iconic Maine figure with her
own base, and remains favored to retain her seat.

Less vulnerable, but nevertheless competitive GOP
incumbent senate races are taking place in Iowa (Senator
Joni Ernst vs. Democrat Theres Greenfield), Georgia (two
GOP incumbents facing liberal challenges), and Kansas
(open --- GOP nominee Roger Marshall vs. Democrat
Barbara Bollier).

Democrats assert they can also pick up senate seats in
Alaska, Kentucky, Texas and South Carolina, as
Republicans contend they can add a seat in New Mexico,
but so far, these are inclining clearly to the incumbent
party. With two months to go, these races could

In October, another evaluation of the above will be in
order. For now, however, control of the U.S. senate is in
contested doubt.

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

Friday, August 21, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Hope For Restaurants?

Even as lockdowns across the nation are gradually being
relaxed, and retail places of business cautiously reopening,
many conventional assessments of the long-term prospects
for restaurants remain grim.

Estimates vary that from 25-50% of existing establishments
will go out of business. Of course, that’s just a guess, but it
is going to be problematic for many smaller restaurants to
make a profit or break even under the probable conditions
in the foreseeable future.

Even in good times, operating a restaurant is a constant
challenge, and the industry was already undergoing
significant change before the pandemic shutdowns.

Increased regulations, higher labor costs, higher food
costs. more local taxes and rising rents and insurance had
forced restaurateurs to change their service models, and
menus. Many, in spite of critical success, decided to close
their doors.

This was before the pandemic and the shutdowns.

Is there any hope for this previously vibrant and growing

I think there is.

This prospect for hope comes from the nature and spirit
from those who create and run this business. Most of
those who operate the nation’s restaurants are pragmatic
entrepreneurs with a dream, drawn to the “magical”
enterprise of serving food to the public. Some are
talented chefs themselves, others simply enjoy the
interaction of providing hospitality in their own way.
Each restaurant tries to create its own dining identity.
This vision of enterprise is not unique in U.S. commerce,
but it is especially abundant in the restaurant business.

In short, restaurant owners and management will do all
they can to adapt, recreate, alter and enhance the way
they serve the public.

The result will probably be a changed dining out
environment and experience, but it will respond to a
resumed demand by the public to be able to gather for a
meal outside their own homes, or to have a source for
the preparation of food to take home.

Many restaurants that do close will reopen under new
owners and managers. New kinds of dining venues will
also likely be created.

As I see it, then, the restaurant industry will mostly save
itself. Its future now has many uncertainties and challenges,
but as long as here are customers who want to dine out,
there will be places to serve them.

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

Saturday, August 15, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Who Won In Minnesota's CD-5 Primary?

The most obvious answer to the question of who won
the Democratic (DFL) primary in the 5th congressional
district (CD-5) of Minnesota is that incumbent Ilhan
Omar won her nomination for a second term. To be fair,
she won by a clear margin although she faced a serious
and outstanding challenger, Antone Melton-Meaux, a
black attorney and minister, who raised a huge campaign
war chest, and was backed by several well-known DFL
figures and a well-funded independent PAC. The
challenger also had a serious campaign organization,
many devoted volunteers, plenty of paid and free media,
and the endorsement of the district’s largest daily

The final result was that, although Melton-Meaux made a
respectable showing, he lost by double digits.

In my two pre-primary posts on the race, I pointed out that
Melton-Meaux was always the underdog in the contest, and
that incumbents rarely lost their own party’s primary. I also
pointed out that two of Omar’s “Squad” allies also had
“serious”primary challengers this year, but had easily won

(Despite his loss, if Melton-Meaux is truly serious about
politics, he will immediately make plans to run again in
two years. The success rate for repeat challengers is much
higher than for first-timers.)

But like so much in the political chess game, the obvious
answer is often not the most significant answer.

Someone else was the biggest winner of the CD-5 primary.

That someone is Donald Trump (and the Minnesota
Republican Party).

Let me explain.

As even mainstream polls are indicating, the 2020
presidential race is tightening especially in key
midwestern states with their vital electoral college
votes. A very recent major mainstream poll had
Biden leading Trump by only 3 points in Minnesota
(within the margin of error --- so a virtual tie).
Minnesota has been considered a blue state, but in
reality, as 2016 proved, it’s purple-blue --- and in 2020,
perhaps, purple-red. For example, the GOP could
easily pick up one, and possibly, two congressional seats
in 2020. (The DFL is likely to retain its U.S. senate seat.)

While anti-Trump media correctly point out that much
of the incentive for Democrats to go to the polls is to
defeat the president, they usually ignore the incentive
provided to Republicans by politicians such as Ilhan
Omar who conservatives consider far too radical.
In Minnesota, outside the major urban areas, it would
appear, Ilhan Omar is the best advertisement to get
Republicans to the polls in 2020. If she  had lost her
primary, it likely would have made it very difficult for
Trump to carry the state. As hard evidence for this
contention, I cite the fact that the GOP candidates for
Congress outside the Twin Cities are making Ilhan
Omar’s behavior and statements issues against their
DFL opponents in their districts.

I am not now saying Trump will carry Minnesota, but
because of the controversies in the Twin Cities, and
figures like Ilhan Omar, the state is in play. Biden will
carry Minneapolis and St. Paul by very large margins,
but the cities themselves have only a fraction of the
state’s total vote. The real battleground in Minnesota is
in the Twin City suburbs. President Trump is not that
popular there, but Ilhan Omar and what suburban
voters consider her (and fellow ultra-progressive
DFLers’) economic schemes, might well be more

Meanwhile, just as Joe Biden enjoys a huge lead in
Minnesota’s inner cities, Donald Trump appears to be
way ahead in rural areas and small towns outstate.

It might change before election day, but right now,
thanks to Ilhan Omar and DFLers similar to  her, the
president (like him or not) has a chance to win this state.

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