Friday, May 29, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Biden Surprise Veep Choice?

For the next several weeks, there will be interminable
speculation about whom presumptive Democratic
presidential nominee Joe Biden will choose as his running
mate for vice  president.

Normally, that choice, when made, generates headlines and
news stories, but if the truth be told, the vice presidential
nominee rarely makes much difference. Voters make their
decisions primarily on the presidential nominee.

A notable exception was John Kennedy selecting Lyndon
Johnson in 1960.  Michael Dukakis appeared to pick the
stronger running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, in 1988, but lost
decisively anyway.

Biden’s choice in 2020 might not make a difference, but
interest in his decision (presumably because of Biden’s
age) will be especially keen.

Most speculation so far has suggested that Senators
Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are the frontrunners.
Also prominently mentioned are Michigan Governor
Gretchen Whitmer, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, and 
Stacey Abrams from Georgia (the only person actively
campaigning for the job). Applying the rule that the running
mate “should do no harm” with base constituencies, it would
seem that Senator Harris is the most advantageous choice.

There are other possibilities --- all women because Mr.
Biden has pledged to pick a female running mate. Of these,
one strategic potential choice seems to me to stand out
--- Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico.
She is 61, a lawyer, a former congresswoman and a member
of a prominent New Mexico Hispanic political family. She is
a widow with grown children, and has in her elected offices
a very liberal record on abortion, gun control and the
environment. If it is presumed that Joe Biden already has
the black vote, then the two groups he must solidify by
election day are Hispanic voters and Bernie Sanders
supporters. Governor Lujan Grisham appeals to the former,
and her progressive record “does no harm” with the latter.

Mr. Biden and his staff will likely be very careful in making
the choice. Even more than usual, voters will be evaluating
his running mate as a potential president. Exhaustive
vetting, interviewing and polling is now taking place.

A final and unspoken consideration, but a vital one, is the
personal compatibility of a vice presidential candidate
with the presidential nominee. It was clearly a key factor
in Jimmy Carter’s choice of Walter Mondale in 1976 ---
and in Barack Obama’s pick of his senate mentor, Joe
Biden, in 2008.

I repeat the caution that few voters make their election
day decision based on who is running for vice president.
The 2020 presidential election occurs during an
extraordinary national and international health crisis.
The electorate appears to be sharply ideologically divided.
Joe Biden will be 78 years old on inauguration day, 2021,
and he faces a formidable incumbent.

His choice of running mate, whomever it is, might not be
the biggest issue facing voters on November 3rd next, but
it will nonetheless be interesting to see whom it will be.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Heart And Soul Of U.S. Commerce

In my previous post I made a case for reopening America’s
restaurants in most locales. Most of those restaurants are
small businesses which do not have the resources to survive
a long shutdown even with temporary takeout and delivery
services. Of course, such reopening needs to be carefully
managed by restaurateurs and their staffs to ensure the
health and safety of their customers and themselves.

But what of the countless other small retail and service
businesses which make up such an important part of
American commerce?

The answer is urgently the same.

But beyond the immediate reasons to make sure small
businesses of all kinds make it through this pandemic
crisis is a consideration that existed before the health

There has been an increasing awareness that artificial
intelligence (A.I.) and robotics technology will replace a
huge part of the global workforce, especially in the U.S.,
and that most of the jobs lost will be irreplaceable.
This will not happen overnight, but is likely to happen
gradually over the next 15-25 years. That means tens of
millions of Americans will be permanently unemployed.
What to do with this dire situation is one of the greatest
challenges facing political leaders today (not surprisingly,
however, few of them are even talking about it).

There are solutions to this dilemma, and one promising
path is the fact that the U.S. is the quintessential
entrepreneurial nation and society. With education and
encouragement, most of the younger workers who now
work for someone else, particularly employers who will
adopt AI and robotics, can become self-employed ---
entrepreneurs especially providing services not provided
by the new technologies.

This transformation can happen and work, but it is not
likely to take place if younger workers see a wipe out of
small entrepreneurial businesses from the current
crisis. If massive endemic unemployment is to be
avoided in the future, entrepreneurship needs to be
seen as a viable and attractive work path.

That is the “big picture” long-term reason to preserve
U.S. small businesses. There are also numerous more       
immediate reasons, including the welfare of small
business owners and their families, their employees and
the “supply chains” of vital goods and services they

Most big corporations and big businesses can and will
survive the current emergency. (It is important to note
that almost all of them started out as small businesses!)

The small business community is the heart and soul of
our free enterprise system. Each part of it, of course,
has its own conditions and circumstances, as does the
restaurant industry --- so while its reopening and
survival is urgent, it must be done in the context of the
health and safety of the community as a whole.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Save The Restaurants!

The modern American restaurant and its variants --- cafes,
bistros, diners, brasseries, coffee shops, cafeterias, and
eateries --- have become central institutions in our national
life and indispensable to our social culture.

Shutting them all down at the outset of the current pandemic
emergency might have been an inevitable step to take for a
sensibly brief period, but any extended period of imposed
closure will profoundly damage the industry and force a
large percentage of individual establishments to close

In Minnesota, and particularly the Twin Cities and its suburbs,
some restaurants (which are able to do so) are open for takeout
and delivery. But these services are only temporary --- they do
not generate enough revenue to sustain the enterprise.

Restaurateurs are entrepreneurs, and they can and want to
adapt to safety requirements for their staffs and customers.
Most of them have the facilities to do so.

The restaurant business is a tough business in good times.
Even successful and popular ones often have a run of only a
decade or two. A few, most of them with large seating capacity,
survive a long time. They are more likely to make it through a
longer shutdown, but their number is small.

With proper sanitary, spacing, preparatory and table delivery
measures, it would appear there is no reasonable cause to keep
restaurants in most locales closed for public seating.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Polarysis And Pandolemics

As Prairie Editor readers know, he on occasion invents a word
or phrase when existing language fails to provide. (Two of his
most notable examples were during election years --- in 2004 
it was the megastate
“Minnewisowa” (now in the dictionary),
and in 2016 it was “
media coup d’etat” (made famous through
the efforts of his friend Newt Gingrich). Circumstances are so
extraordinary in 2020, The Prairie Editor had to invent TWO
new words, “
polarysis” (voter opinion stuck in unresolvable
division), and “
pandolemics” (political rhetoric in the health


As the shutdown and lockdown phase of the pandemic
emergency appears to be gradually ending (although in
some U.S states it was not imposed), voter interest in
the 2020 national election campaign seems to be
returning. Certain media and political figures, of
course, tried all along to keep it on the political front
burner. It would also appear that the deep ideological
division that existed before the pandemic is as strong,
or stronger, than ever.

This polarysis is being fanned, as usual, by the media
with ever increasing pandolemics and other devices of
incendiary sensationalism.

Buckle up your political seat belts! An extended blame
game will now likely ensue over the next five months
until election day. It has already begun. It isn’t going to
stop. It’s going to very likely become quite ugly.

To be sure, there is a lot at stake --- the presidency,
control of both bodies of Congress, governorships,
and control of state legislatures. Each of these
elected institutions will have a part in dealing with
the problematic post-pandemic world.

Because there is so much at stake, and the traumatic
effects of the pandemic crisis will still be raw and
fresh, we should not be surprised at the continuing
polarysis and the pandolemics it will spawn. U.S.
elections are traditionally hard-fought, rarely polite,
and usually break established rules.

This cycle should provide more political fireworks
than ever.

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


A rogue wave is an unexpected maritime danger for ships
and boats at sea. Rogue waves are not fully understood
yet, but they have long damaged or sunk vessels of all sizes.
(The tallest known rogue wave was estimated a 115 feet
high; the tallest precisely measured was 80 feet high.)
Big waves that occur in storms, from earthquakes or
volcanoes (tsunamis), or from other explainable causes,
are not rogue waves.


It is not too soon, I think, to speculate about and discuss 
U.S global strategic and security relationships during and
after the pandemic “rogue wave” which is now occurring

The American debate is as old as “the halls of Montezuma”
and  “the shores of Tripoli’ --- that is, when and where to
extend American power, and should we be the guardian or
a policeman to the globe.  Two world wars, several
regional wars, and numerous humanitarian rescues, have
left contemporary American generations wary and weary
of putting our soldiers in harm’s way without “victory” or
at least visible positive outcomes. Yet a savage 20th century
instructed the Western democracies over and over that
strategic passivity or avoidance courts disaster.

That debate continues.

Many historians have pointed out that what really
enabled  the catastrophe of World War II was the global
economic trauma of the Great Depression --- and not
only very weak or misguided statesmen, dictators, or
feckless international organizations. In fact, the value of
European trade fell two-third between 1929 and 1932, and
unemployment skyrocketed. Unlike the post-World War I
and Depression U.S.,  Central and Eastern European
nations, most of which were only recent democracies,
saw the rise of radical political groups on the left and the
right. Critically, the German democratic Weimar Republic
survived its notorious reparations burden and
hyper-inflation crises of the 1920s (while most of it
Western neighbors were rebuilding from World War I),
but it could not survive the Great Depression. Profound
economic weakness caused by the “rogue wave” of the
financial collapse of the early 1930‘s severely hobbled the
strongest European nations, Great Britain and France, in
protecting other European democracies from fascism and

That is why an overlong shutdown response to the current
pandemic is so risky because it might profoundly weaken
free market North American, European and Asian
democracies in their long struggle against new malign
and global totalitarian and barbaric forces.

As I write this, those nations  --- and in the U.S., those
states --- which adopted the shutdown strategy to combat
the pandemic are in varying processes of reopening their
commerce and economies. It is now uncertain how  much
damage has been done. Just as some medical experts
overstated the medical impact of the pandemic (so far),
those economic experts who are predicting a global
depression, runaway inflation and fiscal chaos might be
indulging in worst case melodrama. Nevertheless,we are
in uncharted territory --- no one knows what the
aftermath will bring.

This further complicates the decision-making about when
and where to reopen economies that have been shut down.
Not only does risking individual lives and individual (as
well as local business) fiscal well-being have to be weighed
and considered, the economic health of nations needs to be
taken into account.

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

Thursday, May 7, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: One Industry's Contrarian Furure?

The aftermath of the national pandemic shutdowns is likely
problematic for most U.S. industries, but one very large and
important sector might ultimately benefit from the crisis.

American public education, from pre-school to post graduate
levels has been in a qualitative decline for decades, even as its
costs have soared. Whether local or state government-run,
a concurrence of controversies, lack of discipline, political
correctness, degeneration of curricula, swollen class size.
excess of unnecessary management, teacher union demands,
and too much non-educational distractions have brought
secondary school systems to very low levels in many locales,
especially in large inner-city areas.

As a response, educational alternatives have risen, including
private, charter, home-schooling, religious --- and most
recently, online. As these alternatives have grown, financial
pressure on public education has increased.

Current shutdown of  in-person schooling will end probably
with the onset of the next school year, but for now all students
are receiving their education online or by home-schooling,
alternatives most parents and pupils did not consider for
themselves previously. Having experienced them, a
certain number are likely to continue with online and
home-schooling education. That number now is unknown,
but if that number is only 2-4%, it could have major impact on
government-run public education.

Home-schooling is one of those few institutions embraced by
both conservatives and progressives, albeit for different
reasons, including reduced curriculum offerings, overlarge
class size, arbitrary revisionism of U.S. and world history,
banning of school prayer, imposed political correctness, and
increased drug use and violence. When shutdowns end, most
parents will return to their work away from home, but some
employers will reduce their overheads by continuing that some
work at home --- thus reducing the day care function of having
children in schools. For those parents who don’t want to
home-school, there is online schooling as an option.

Perhaps even more devastating could be the consequences for
colleges and universities.  The cost  of a higher education have
soared in recent decades. An Ivy League bill was $2500 a year in
1960; today it is about $70,000 per year (and rising). Other
private colleges and universities are the same or not far behind.
State colleges and universities are lower, but often still very

In addition to demands for refunds for the shortened school
year caused by shutdowns, colleges and universities now
face resistance from parents to paying so much to send their
sons and daughters away to school. As with secondary schools,
most colleges were already facing a crisis before the shutdowns,
especially in the undergraduate liberal arts programs where
political correctness, historical revisionism and free speech
issues were increasingly overshadowing quality education.

Intercollegiate sports have spawned huge campus stadiums,
and produce key financial funding from attendance and
alumnae giving.   The immediate future of large stadium and
indoor arena crowds is now uncertain.  The sports themselves
will return, but the industry behind them could be much

Online higher education had already become a factor before
the shutdowns, but it could now have a major boost as
traditional colleges and universities struggle with new
enrollments, financing and other campus issues.

In the short term, the higher education industry faces major
post-shutdown consequences and challenges. But for those
American parents and students concerned about runaway
higher education costs, the failing quality of
undergraduate liberal arts programs, and the general
decline of campus environments, the current emergency
could prove to be  a catalyst for better higher learning
education  ahead.

Similarly, the public secondary school industry, facing
credible competition from private and technological
alternatives, could begin to halt its recent downward drift
by responding to post-shutdown challenges and the needs
of its true clients --- parents and pupils.

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

Saturday, May 2, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Insomnia

National politics these days apparently does not know how
to sleep. Like insomnia, this is not a healthy condition, and
I suspect the U.S. body politic suffers for it.

Keeping us up, I think, are too many cups of media caffeine.
The current medical crisis leads often too easily to contrived
anxiety, finger-pointing, scare-mongering, fake news, rumors
and premature conclusions. Each of these can be politicized,
especially in an election year, especially in THIS election year.

Former Pennsylvania Governor and first Secretary of
Homeland Security Tom Ridge, a Republican, recently
made an eloquent plea for older veterans. other vulnerable
elderly, and health care providers in an April 29 op ed in
USA Today. He argues for patience and compassion, not
politics, on the issue of when and how to end shutdowns.
Others have persuasively argued that those who politicize
this issue by demanding the shutdowns be extended
indefinitely (to their benefit in the coming elections) are
ignoring the economic and psychological well-being of those
in the small business community and those of all ages who
are made vulnerable by isolation. Former Democratic
Congressman Tim Penny thoughtfully suggested in March
that shutdowns be targeted at infection “hot spots” such as
nursing  and retirement homes, as well as crowded urban
areas,  and not necessarily universally. Like Tom Ridge, Tim
Penny opts for practical and commonsense solutions instead
of political ones.

Some medical experts have apparently seriously
overestimated the impact of the medical crisis on the
general population, but there is no doubt about the heavy
impact on the elderly and medically vulnerable.

The solution is to apply common sense, ingenuity, reliable
data, compassion, and the good will of the community.
Politics, temporary inconvenience, grandstanding, too much
haste or too much delay lead us away from the best courses
of public health security.

The president, federal health agency chiefs, and governors
each have sobering and difficult decisions to make in this
crisis. They each have political roles, but this is not a
political crisis --- it’s a medical crisis.

There is plenty of time for politics later.

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