Sunday, September 25, 2016

Welcome to FromDC2Iowa: Contents & Guide

Welcome to FromDC2Iowa, a collection of well over 1,000 blog posts and pages on a wide variety of topics, created and maintained by Nicholas Johnson since 2006.

Quick Links
* Most recent blog essays: "Donald Trump's Barrel of Squirrels," September 25, 2016

"First Thoughts on 911 -- 15 Years Later," September 11, 2016

"At Last, the Agnostic, Insomniac, Dyslexic Answer," September 10, 2016

"Trump Might Not Be Blundering in Race," September 9, 2016

"Labor Day for All 2016," September 4, 2016

"Our Revolution: Yes; But First Some Questions," August 31, 2016

"The Doping Dilemma," August 17, 2016

"Maybe This Explains Trump," August 15, 2016

When Words Can Kill," August 10, 2016

"The DNC Still Just Doesn't Get It," July 29, 2016

"Why Trump May Win; Discouraged By The Democratic Party's Self-Inflicted Wounds," July 25, 2016

"Doing It Ourselves," July 24, 2016

"An Answer to Athletes' Doping?" July 23, 2016

"Cancer: 'Of Course; But Maybe,'" July 13, 2016

"Clinton-Lynch Tarmac Talk; 'What Were They Thinking?'" July 4, 2016

"Focus on Muslims Misplaced After Shooting," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 17, 2016, p. A5

"Keeping Up With ISIS; There Is Another Explanation for Orlando," June 14, 2016

"On Being, Doing and 'Compromise;' What's Next for Senator Sanders' Revolution? Here's My Suggestion," June 9, 2016

"When 'The Morning After' Looks Even Worse," June 8, 2016

"Searching for the Media's Soul," June 7, 2016

"My Take on Supervisor Race," June 4, 2016

"Breaking Through Power: The Media," May 29, 2016

* Most recent UI & President Harreld-related items & comments:

"What Putin Can Teach Rastetter," May 9, 2016, as published in The Daily Iowan, May 6, 2016, p. 4

"What Russia's President Putin Can Teach Regents' President Rastetter," April 16, 2016 (an expanded version of The Daily Iowan's excerpt, above)

UI President Harreld - Feb. 2016," February 1, 2016

Cessation of Ongoing Harreld Repository [Feb. 29]. For the past six months, since the Iowa Board of Regents' selection of Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, September 1, 2015, this blog has endeavored to compile a relatively complete repository of links to, and comments about, the news stories and opinion pieces dealing with the Board of Regents, President Harreld, and related items of relevance to higher education in general and the University of Iowa in particular. They are contained in the blogs for September-October, November, December, 2015, and January and February, 2016 (all linked from this page). I thought it would be a useful resource for those looking for a single source to follow the saga, as well as for those in future years wishing to do serious research, or merely inform themselves, about this important slice of UI's history. Response from readers indicates it has at least provided the former function. Now as they say, "as a concession to the shortness of life," and a desire to get back to other writing, I am going to reclaim those daily hours of research for other tasks. As major UI stories worthy of individual blog essays come along they will, of course be blogged about from time to time.

For research beyond February 29, 2016, you might start with this list (any omissions were inadvertent; email me suggestions for more):

University of Iowa AAUP, https://twitter.com/UIowaAAUP

Mark Barrett, Ditchwalk, http://ditchwalk.com (look for Harreld Hire Updates)

Iowans Defending Our Universities, https://twitter.com/IowansDefending

John Logsdon, https://www.facebook.com/johnlogsdon.jr, and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/JohnLogsdon

Josiah Pickard, https://twitter.com/uimemory

. . . and well-crafted search terms in Google. -- N.J., February 29, 2016
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More Detailed Contents, Links & Guide

The most recent blog essay (as distinguished from the entries listing UI-related material) is:"Breaking Through Power: The Media," May 29, 2016

See more, below.

University of Iowa, most recent: The most recent month's collection in the ongoing repository of news, opinion pieces, and documents regarding the University of Iowa, its current president, Bruce Harreld, the Iowa Board of Regents, and related matters is: UI President Harreld - Feb. 2016," February 1, 2016

University of Iowa, earlier: Earlier collections of, and individual blog essays about, the repository of news, opinion pieces, and documents regarding the University of Iowa, its current president, Bruce Harreld, the Iowa Board of Regents, and related matters are:
UI President Harreld - Jan. 2016," January 1, 2016

"UI President Harreld - Dec. 2015," December 1, 2015

"UI President Harreld - Nov. 2015," November 1, 2015

"Business Background: Enough for University President?" September 2-October 31, 2015

Recent terrorism-related blog essays

Recent TIF-related blog essays

Recent other than (1) University of Iowa, (2) terrorism, or (3) TIF-related topics:
"Breaking Through Power: The Media," May 29, 2016

"What Putin Can Teach Rastetter," May 9, 2016, as published in The Daily Iowan, May 6, 2016, p. 4

"What Russia's President Putin Can Teach Regents' President Rastetter," April 16, 2016
"The Constitution, Supreme Court and People's Voice: Senate Ignoring the People's Voice," March 21, 2016
"Why Won't Media Give Bernie a Break?" March 23, 2016
"The Constitution, Supreme Court and People's Voice," March 21, 2016
"Random Thoughts on Tuition-Free Iowa Universities," March 11, 2016
"Water," February 29, 2016
"The State of the Media," February 28, 2016
"Our Communities' Second Priority," February 7, 2016
"Bernie's Extraordinary, Unacknowledged Accomplishment," February 3, 2016
Why Nobody 'Wins' the Iowa Caucus," February 1, 2016
"Caucus With Your Heart And Head -- For Bernie," January 28, 2016
"Why I'm Caucusing for Sanders and You Should Too," January 22, 2016
"Reasons for Hope in 2016," December 25, 2015
"Feeling the Bern at The Mill," December 9, 2015
"Anyone for Democracy," November 22, 2015
General instructions on searching by heading, date, or topic

(1) If you've come to FromDC2Iowa and landed on this page, rather than what you are looking for, it is because this is the default page, the opening page, for this blog.

(2) Many visitors are looking for recent blog posts. At the bottom of this page you will find suggestions. At this time they include: (1) material related to the Iowa Board of Regents process for selecting President Bruce Harreld, and his ongoing performance in office, (2) terrorism, ISIS and Syrian refugees, and (3) TIFs, and other transfers of taxpayers' money to the wealthy.

(3) It is also possible to go directly to specific blog posts within this blog. Here's how:

First, go to the top of this page where you will see the headline, "Welcome to FromDC2Iowa: Contents & Guide" and click on it there (not as reproduced in this sentence). That will clean this page by removing blog posts from earlier this month.

In that right hand column you will find two ways of accessing individual blog posts:
(1) Blog Archive. The first is under the bold heading "Blog Archive.". You will see the years from 2006 to the present. Click on a year, and the months of that year will appear. Click on a month and the individual headlines for the blog posts during that month appear. Click on a headline and you will be transferred to that blog post. (Once there, you will see the unique URL address for that blog post that you can use in the future, or share with a friend, as a way to reach it directly.)

(2) Google Search Nick's Blog or Website. Immediately beneath the Blog Archive is the bold heading "Google Search Nick's Blog or Website," followed by an empty box, and the instructions, "Insert terms above; then click here." (Although it offers the option to search the "Nicholas Johnson Web Site" as well, it is set to the default: "FromDC2Iowa Blog.") Use whatever search terms you think most appropriate, such as "University of Iowa," "terrorism," "TIFs," or "Harreld." Your click will open up a Google search Web page listing the relevant blog posts (if any) with the links you can click on to see them.

University of Iowa's new President Bruce Harreld.
Looking for the blog post containing extensive repository of documents, news, opinion pieces (updated daily) from September 2 through October 31, 2015, regarding the Iowa Board of Regents' process, and early selection of UI President-elect Bruce Harreld? -->Click here<--

For November 2015 coverage -- with documents, news stories, and opinion pieces -- from his first day on the job, November 2, through November 30, 2015 -->Click here<--

For the December 2015 coverage -->Click Here<--

For the January 2016 coverage -->Click Here<--

In addition to these blog posts, which primarily contain chronological lists of documents, news articles and opinion pieces -- along with some relatively brief commentary about some of the items -- there are also the following more traditional blog essays and newspaper columns by Nicholas Johnson on these subjects:

"Hiring Candid, Courageous University Presidents," August 29, 2015

"Should Bruce Harreld Be Given Serious Consideration in UI Search?" embedded in "Business Background: Enough for University President?" September 2, 2015

"Better Ways to Pick a New UI President," The Gazette, September 27, 2015, embedded in "Seven Steps for Transitioning Universities," September 27, 2015

"UI's President Could Have Been Chris Christie," October 3, 2015

"Parallels Between School Systems Staggering," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 10, 2015, embedded in "UI and Higher Education in Context," November 9, 2015

"Trouble in River City: Corruption Creep," December 13, 2015

"Quick Draw Harreld and Why Language Matters," December 17, 2015

Terrorism, ISIS, Syrian Refugees.
Understanding Terrorist Thugs," The Daily Iowan, December 3, 2015

Nicholas Johnson, "Sober Risk Assessment Needed to Respond to Terror," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 28, 2015

Nicholas Johnson, "Syria's Refugees: Job One and Job Two," The Gazette, November 1, 2015

"Is U.S. Response Strengthening ISIS?" September 19, 2014

For additional speech texts, columns and blog posts on these subjects, see "Samples of Nicholas Johnson's Prior Writing on Terrorism and War"

TIFs and Other Crony Capitalism Schemes For links to 44 blog essays on these topics since 2006 see, "TIFS: Links to Blog Essays"

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Donald Trump's Barrel of Squirrels

How Does The Donald Do It?
Why do you watch sports on television? It's the only thing that happens on television. It actually occurs; that's why you can't stop watching it. Trump occurs. That's why we can't take our eyes off him.

-- Ron Suskind, on Chris Lydon's "Radio Open Source," September 8, 2016
In 1939, Robert Hutchins, boy wonder president of the University of Chicago, abolished its football program. I once asked another president of a major American university if he believed a semi-pro athletic program was a good fit inside "the academy," and how it could be justified. He replied, "I've always just considered it an anomaly."

Is that how we should think about a Donald Trump inside the American political system? As an anomaly?

Of course, part of the answer lies with his squirrels. But it's so much more.

For starters, there are solid, conventional explanations for what we have been doing to our politics ever since the Democratic Party joined the Republicans in ignoring the plight of the poor, working poor, beating back the unions that once enabled the working class to create a middle class, and then relying on the 1% to pay the party's bills.
Both parties failed to listen, and thus did not hear, the mounting public despair, disgust, and distrust that the parties created, and had by this year risen well above flood stage to rage. The Democratic Party's leadership refused to budge, even as primary and poll results revealed the state of the union was a demand for change, for representation, and a rejection of the establishment.

The Democrats offered a disaffected public their party's most quintessential establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, with her 1950's-style campaign, and the second highest negatives of any presidential candidate ever. They had to have seen her struggle trying to best two of the nation's most unlikely presidential candidates -- Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders showed the Democrats what they had to do to win, how to generate not just numbers of voters but enthusiastic voters, how to attract new members from independents and first-time voters, and how to crowd-fund a presidential campaign with $27 contributions rather than billionaires. Not only did they not support him, or learn from him, or even thank him, they affirmatively fought him at every turn.

Then, of course, there's Hillary's familiar 30 years of baggage.
But there is much more to Trump's success and style than can be understood with conventional analyses of the Democratic Party's failures. [Photo credit: Wikipedia]

Who is this guy? What is he doing? Why is he doing it? How come so many Americans are supporting him? Are there any explanations?

In fact, there are an increasing number of theories as to how Donald Trump seems to have single-handedly bent what was once the American democratic process to his own ends.

One of my earlier theories emerged during conservative Hugh Hewitt's interview with Trump:
Hugh Hewitt (HH): You said the President was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.

Donald Trump (DT): No, I meant he's the founder of ISIS.

. . .

HH: I think I would say . . . they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn't create ISIS. That's what I would say. . . . I'd just use different language to communicate it.

DT: But they wouldn't talk about your language, and they do talk about my language, right?

HH: Well, good point.
See, e.g., "Trump Might Not Be Blundering in Race," September 9, 2016; and "Understanding Trump," OpEdNews, August 29, 2016.

In other words, Trump's serious, presidential campaign strategy -- or perhaps just his personal, narcissistic goal -- may simply be to ensure he remains a visible ingredient in the media's ever-bubbling pot. There are very few ways for even America's most highly paid, skilled publicists to accomplish that. Trump has found, and seems to be comfortable with one of them: an outpouring of shocking assertions in colorful language, even if it often requires that he roam well outside the ample tent of truth.

Recently, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind provided a thoughtful expansion on my mere modest hunch, in an interview with one of America's brightest and most thoughtful talk show hosts: Chris Lydon, on WBUR's "Open Source." “Election 2016: Unreality T.V.,” September 8, 2016.

As Suskind explained,
"He [Trump] understands that the reality-based community is now being replaced by reality show values. And he knows how those work.

Here are some of the principles. Try to make sure it happens on the screen. Try to evolve, or devolve; just keep moving. Make sure their eyes are always on you. Make sure, even if what you say is nonsensical, and you flip back later and say 'I lied,' or 'I was wrong,' that they can't take their eyes off of you. . . .

Why do you watch sports on television? It's the only thing that happens on television. It actually occurs; that's why you can't stop watching it. Trump occurs. That's why we can't take our eyes off him.

And he understands that that's power. He flip flops four times in a day. Did he say it? Did he not say it? Is he taking it back? There's four different news stories between the morning and the night.

Hillary Clinton, what did she do that day? Was she even working?

He's got another day when you're only thinking about what Trump thinks, feels, or is going to say next. And because he occurs, actually happens in front of your eyes, you can't stop watching."
And a part of what you're watching are his almost constantly changing facial expressions -- a practiced skill of those who spend much time before a camera.

It's also possible, of course, that Trump was introduced at Wharton, and has long been, a student of Niccolò Machiavelli's 16th Century guidebook for tyrants, The Prince (1513) (Wikipedia: "Machiavelli described immoral behavior, such as dishonesty and killing innocents, as being normal and effective in politics."), or other literature by and about more recent dictators.

Suskind's point could be made, or expanded, to include the concept of "narrative," or "story;" or perhaps the distinction between appeals to emotion and appeals to intellect, which President Reagan so well understood. But Trump doesn't just "tell stories" -- Trump is the story, an ongoing story, like a soap opera, or episodic television series.

We love stories -- from Greek and Norse mythology, to Bible stories, to modern day comic book, film and television heroes. Whether consciously or unconsciously, Donald Trump may be playing, and Americans may be seeing him as, the World War II patriotic super-soldier and national savior, Captain America.

The childhood lessons from Aesop's Fables to The Little Engine That Could stick with us, and may be played out by us even as unaware adults. (The National Education Association once named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children.")

Yes, give Americans a choice between a feature film or TV show of their liking and a serious and significant lecture (or political speech) and most will prefer the movie or TV show. Even on the rare occasions when serious subjects make it into the newspapers or onto our TV screens, many journalists (and politicians) will lead with the personal details of a single individual's experiences, their story.

Hillary's political speeches, and serious policy proposals, are now trying to compete with Trump's entertainment, and story.

It's not easy to get the kind of crowd for a political speech that is attracted to a rock concert, or whomever happens to be the most popular stand-up comic of the year. Frank Mankiewicz, campaign director for Senator George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign, frustrated with the lack of media coverage, once made the point by saying he wanted to hire a campaign arsonist. The arsonist's job would be to set a fire in the early afternoon, wait for the TV trucks to arrive, cue McGovern to begin his speech, and hope that at least 30 seconds of it might make the evening news programs along with pictures of the fire.

As Suskind points out, Trump is doing the equivalent of setting four fires a day without ever striking a match.

Mark Hannah headlines that Trump is, in fact, a novelist, and that the presidential election is less about political choices than choices between fantasy and reality. He says of Trump's resistance to "inconvenient facts":
"We saw this resistance . . . when Trump denied that his campaign manager manhandled a reporter when video footage indicated otherwise. . . . [W]hen he claimed that the 'Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq,' that Ted Cruz's father 'was with Lee Harvey Oswald' before President Kennedy was assassinated and that 'crime is rising' in America. It's gotten to the point where those checking the facts are simply throwing their hands up in exasperation . . .. The contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton isn't so much a contest of conservatism versus liberalism, isolationism versus internationalism, outsider versus insider, or incivility versus tact. it's a contest of the fantasy of one man versus the reality of the rest of us."
Mark Hannah, "Donald Trump, Our Great American Novelist," TIME, June 30, 2016.

Of course, while Trump's offensive and degrading remarks about women, African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Gold Star mothers, prisoners of war, and people with disabilities, among others, can make news, they can also make enemies. If a candidate is serious about getting elected, how can that be handled? Charles Krauthammer has a theory that fits with Suskind's. As Krauthammer notes about the extraordinarily competent Kellyanne Conway:
"[Trump campaign manager] Kellyanne Conway has worked . . . on the theory that if [Trump] can just cross the threshold of acceptability, he wins. . . . Can you really repackage the boasting, bullying, bombastic, insulting, insensitive Trump into a mellow and caring version? . . . Turns out, yes. How? Deflect and deny -- and pretend it never happened. Where are they now -- the birtherism, the deportation force, the scorn for teleprompters, the mocking of candidates who take outside money? Down the memory hole. . . . In this surreal election season, there is no past. . . . [Trump] merely creates new Trumps."
Charles Krauthammer, "Clinton Sharpens, Trump Softens. He's Rising, She's Falling," The Washington Post, September 15, 2016.

Garrison Keillor, in what amounts to an open letter to Donald Trump, has a different take on what he's about. Keillor says to Trump: "The New York Times treats you like the village idiot. This is painful for a Queens boy trying to win respect . . .. Running for president is your last bid for the respect of Manhattan. . . . [Y]ou wish you could level with [your fans] for once and say one true thing: I love you to death and when this is over I will have nothing that I want." Garrison Keillor, "When This is Over, You Will Have Nothing That You Want," The Washington Post, August 9, 2016.

Trump probably doesn't see the possibility of a loss from his efforts. As he tells his African-American audiences, "What have you got to lose?" As he has bragged, “I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” After all, 20 percent of his campaign expenditures are going to his own companies.

Donald Trump's name, his brand, which others pay handsomely to use, is perhaps his largest asset. This suggests another theory. What has he got to lose from a presidential race? Either he wins the presidency and puts his name on the White House, or he wins the lottery as he watches the value of his brand increase by millions if not billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, whenever he needs to change the subject, there's always that barrel of squirrels. [Photo credit: Edwin Kats/Rex Features, Daily Mail.]

Oh, look, there's one now.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

First Thoughts on 911 -- 15 Years Later

From 1998 through 2001 I added to my law school teaching and research obligations the tasks of a local school board member -- plus an every-two-week column on K-12 issues in the local paper. As it happened, the final column was written following September 11, 2001, and published September 25. Rereading it recently, I was struck with how little the truths have changed during the course of our multi-trillion-dollar 15 year "war on terror."

For this September 11th, the fifteenth anniversary of that awful day, it seems worthwhile to share the thoughts that came to mind so soon after those events. Here they are. -- N.J.

Teach Our Children Tolerant Ways

Nicholas Johnson

Iowa City Press-Citizen, "Opinion," September 25, 2001, p. 9A

Oct. 4 [2001] will mark the 44th anniversary of a shock to our nation. Not a deafening explosion. A faint beep from a 183-pound, basketball-sized orbiting satellite. Sputnik meant the Soviet Union was ahead of us in the space race.

Our response? Something called “The National Defense Education Act” – emphasis on “defense.” More money for math, science and foreign language instruction. This time let’s include social studies.

This is the 79th and last column in a series begun Oct. 12, 1998. It was originally planned to be thanks for those who elected me to the School Board, my fellow board members, administrators and staff. A review of the board’s accomplishments. Its remaining agenda. My continuing Web page. And an announcement of the John Haefner Social Studies Award I’ve created through our district’s foundation.

Two weeks of shock, grief and anger from terrorists’ barbaric attacks on our nation changed that.

President Bush urged us to get back to what we were doing before Sept. 11. What was he doing that morning? Campaigning for his education bill.

It’s time for the president and Congress to get back to it.

Some call for a U.S. revenge of violence. Others plead for greater understanding. Either way, education is a major part of the answer.

We have the world’s finest intelligence gathering technology. What we don’t have are enough folks who can translate those millions of conversations and e-mails into English.

How can you spy, let alone infiltrate if you don’t know the language? If you can’t find the country on an outline map? If you know nothing of its people – their history, culture, economic conditions and religion?

We have more military power than many nations combined. And yet we’re still vulnerable. Not to the wars of the last century. Those we could still fight and win. Vulnerable to the wars of this century. Wars without nations, front lines and tanks. Wars fought with cardboard box openers and commercial airliners.

A terrorist used to be “someone who has a bomb but doesn’t have a plane.” Now terrorists use planes as bombs.

It’s good to tighten airline security. But terrorists have many alternatives to bombing buildings with hijacked planes.

Terrorism is not about “winning wars.” It’s not even about death and desgtruction, as such. Terrorism is about fomenting terror.

Terror comes from the innovative and unexpected attack. A bridge, nuclear power plant or natural gas pipeline here. An electric power grid or Internet there. Atom bombs in backpacks. Poisoned air in a subway one day. A water supply another.

Such attacks are easy for perpetrators willing to die. Especially in countries where individual liberties are highly desired and valued.

We don’t want to turn America into an armed camp. But even if we imposed martial law we could not eliminate our vulnerability.

Retaliation may make us feel better. But it will likely increase terrorism.

So what can we do?

Something our school district’s already doing. Encourage children to celebrate – rather than hate – the community’s and world’s diversity.

Prejudice against all Muslims is abhorrent. Attacking Sikhs, thinking them Muslims, reflects basic ignorance as well. We must provide more understanding than do our corporate media about others’ living conditions. Whom do they blame for their misery? Their oppressive regimes? What attracts them to a bin Laden?

America is a generous nation. But it’s also capable of overt and covert government and corporate practices that oppress and exploit others for convenience and profit.

Practices often seen as arrogant. Policies reflecting ignorance of others’ cultures.

Such ignorance contributed to our misjudgments in Vietnam, the hostage taking in Iran and this terrorist attack. Not to mention failecd global marketing efforts.

Our students will be better able than we to deal with the globalism and terrorism we leave them. Is education the only answer? Of course not. But it’s an imperative beginning. And it’s something we can do.

Goodbye, and thanks for the opportunity to serve.

_______________
Nicholas Johnson is an Iowa City School Board member. More information is available on his Web site: www.nicholasjohnson.org.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

At Last, the Agnostic, Insomniac, Dyslexic Answer

Is There Really a Dog?

For years, agnostic, insomniac, dyslexics have been losing sleep at night, awake and wondering whether or not there really is a dog.

This morning, one of our nation's very finest cartoonists, Dan Piraro, the creator of the daily cartoon "Bizarro," has provided the answer. (Of course, if for any reason he would like me to remove my praise of him, link to his page, and today's Bizarro cartoon from my blog -- even though I believe a "fair use" argument could be made for its appearance here -- I will promptly do so. I first saw the cartoon in The Gazette, September 10, 2016, p. A13.)



# # #

Friday, September 09, 2016

Trump Might Not Be Blundering in Race

Trump Might Not Be Blundering in Race

Nicholas Johnson

Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 9, 2016, p. A7

Donald Trump says we don't understand him. “These politicians, they don’t know me. They don’t understand me." He's right. Politicians, reporters and voters have had little to go on beyond speculation about his motives.

Some armchair psychiatrists think he displays evidence of classic narcissism. Others believe he's just naturally mean-spirited and crude when he disparages captured military personnel, women, people with disabilities, Muslims, Gold Star families — whoever’s in view when his mouth opens.

There's speculation he’s never been serious about running, surprised he won the nomination, and is already preparing for a loss — blaming a hostile media ("the lowest form of life") and "rigged" voting.

But wait; there's more.

There are at least three ways to get the goods and services for a political campaign: pay for them yourself, solicit and spend others’ campaign contributions or get what you need without paying.

Given the proportion of campaign advertising dollars spent on radio and TV (80 percent) getting it free is the preferred option.

So how has Donald Trump made out with free media? Like a bandit! Two billion dollars’ worth by March this year.

Which brings us to a possible understanding of Trump.

One of his wildest and most recent assertions is that ISIS was created by President Barack Obama, its “founder.”

Many, including myself, have noted that our entry into Iraq, exit, and then re-entry have increased recruitment of terrorists and attacks on American military. When Trump appeared on conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt’s program, Hewitt tried to use this analysis to help Trump. Trump was having none of it:

Hugh Hewitt: You said the President was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.

Donald Trump: No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS.

HH: But he’s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.

DT: I don’t care. He was the founder.

HH: But by using the term "founder," they’re hitting you on this again. Mistake?

DT: No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. Do you not like that?

HH: I don’t. I think I would say they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say...I’d just use different language to communicate it.

DT: But they wouldn’t talk about your language, and they do talk about my language, right?

HH: Well, good point.
"They do talk about my language." Trump’s six words tell the tale. Maybe Trump’s strategy is that there’s no bad publicity — especially when it’s a $2 billion value for free.

And recall his brag Fortune reported, “I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” Already roughly 20 percent of his campaign expenditures involve payments to his own companies.

Plus, since much of his "property" is his brand, his name, he will continue to make money post-election — not to mention larger royalties for ghost-written books, lecture fees and a higher rated TV show.

His is a win-win strategy. If his loyal followers deliver 270 electoral votes, he’s president. If not, the value of his brand, his name on his properties, will have increased by hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.

And all because, as he says, "they do talk about my language, right?"
_______________
Nicholas Johnson, a former FCC commissioner and media law professor, lives in Iowa City. Contact: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

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Sunday, September 04, 2016

Labor Day for All 2016

United We Bargain Divided We Beg

NOTE: This blog essay was first posted September 2, 2014 -- the day after Labor Day that year. It seems even more applicable today, prior to the September 5, 2016, Labor Day Picnic of the Iowa City Federation of Labor.
I am glad to know that there is a system of labor where the laborer can strike if he wants to! I would to God that such a system prevailed all over the world.
-- President Abraham Lincoln, "Notes for Speech at Hartford, Connecticut," March 5, 1860, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 4, p. 7

Labor unions have meant new dignity and pride to millions of our countrymen—human companionship on the job, and music in the home -- to be able to see what larger pay checks mean, not to a man as an employee, but as a husband and as a father -- to know these things is to understand what American labor means.
-- Adlai Stevenson, Democratic Party Presidential Nominee, 1952, 1956

Today in America, unions have a secure place in our industrial life. Only a handful of reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions and depriving working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice. I have no use for those -- regardless of their political party . . ..
-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

Every advance in this half-century--Social Security, civil rights, Medicare, aid to education, one after another--came with the support and leadership of American Labor.
-- President Jimmy Carter [Previous three quotes from "Presidential Quotes."]

It was working men and women who made the 20th century the American century. It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the union label.
-- President Barack Obama, "President Obama on Labor Day: The Fight for America's Workers Continues," Milwaukee, Sept. 6, 2010
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Yesterday, Labor Day, September 1, 2014, I attended the Iowa City Labor Day Picnic in the Iowa City Park -- as I usually do on Labor Day. There are pictures, below, that capture a wee bit of the spirit of that gathering. It is an opportunity once a year for members and friends of labor to gather, share food everyone has provided (what we used to call a "pot luck" meal), listen to political candidates and quality live music, and generally share what was a lovely summer day in the park.

Most union members have at least some notion of the history of labor in this country, and the sacrifices that were made by our predecessors to gain the right to bargain with management collectively rather than individually. There are brief references to that history in Labor Day speeches, but that's about all. The folks present yesterday know that history, and didn't need anyone to run through all the details.

But the day before Labor Day I put a brief comment on Facebook for the benefit of those who don't attend Labor Day picnics, and are apt to know much less about the history of America's working people. It has since gained a couple dozen shares, and many more comments and "likes." But on the assumption you haven't seen it, I'm going to reprint it here, along with the picture of a poster I used with it.

When I wrote it I had done no research, and just spoke from the heart and memory. As you'll see from the quotes above, which I've just found on the Internet, apparently a great many others -- of all political stripes -- have shared these sentiments over the years, from President Lincoln to President Obama.

Here is that Facebook entry:
Regardless of your politics or what you've been told about unions, take a moment tomorrow to thank "Those wonderful folks who brought you the weekend, the minimum wage, the end to child labor, the 40-hour week, a safer workplace than you otherwise would have had, the decades-long fight for healthcare (remember, health INSURANCE is not health CARE), Social Security in your old age -- among a great many other things."

Remember, they also were beaten and died and imprisoned when they stood up for their rights (and ours) in the face of police and National Guard called out by public officials as much in the pocket of the corporate interests of their day as ours are today. Unions were the muscle that built the post-WWII middle class, and booming economy, and elected officials who talked to each other and did stuff. This poster tells it all: "United We Bargain. Divided We Beg." It's the only way that's ever worked. Since the 1980s we've been begging.
Here's my point. On July 4th every American celebrates the Revolutionary War, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the beginning of our nation. It is not a day limited to the descendants of those who fought in that War -- such as the Daughters of the American Revolution. We all celebrate, we all remember.

No, I'm not saying everyone needs to go to a labor union's Labor Day picnic, anymore than everyone should go to a DAR meeting on July 4th. But on both days, I believe, it contributes to our nation's civic health for all of us to reflect upon the debt we owe to those who have gone before us -- along with the ways in which the economic and other problems we have as a nation today are a product of our failure to remember, and apply, the lessons we should have learned when labor unions were a partner with business in building one of the greatest periods in our history.

From 1945 until the 1980s unions were strong. The rich paid substantial taxes, and income inequality was nowhere nearly as stark as it is today. The economy was booming; union workers were paid well, and spent freely, which increased the profits of business, created a demand for more jobs, enabled parents to afford college for their kids, and kept things humming. As a result, both the rich and their workers did better than they otherwise would have.

We need to realize, for example, that what is called a "raise" in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.50 is not a raise at all -- it is merely bringing the minimum wage back up to the level of buying power it had in 1968.

When Wall Street and big business treat the human mothers and fathers who are their workers as a "cost center," and expense item -- even putting aside the human consequences for a moment -- the resulting decline in the economy, as those workers lose buying power, ends up harming the rich as well as the poor.

Unions, the ability of workers to bargain collectively rather than individually, and to be paid at least a living wage, has always been the only way to maintain any economy -- especially one like ours that is 70% dependent upon consumer spending.

OK, enough of all that. Here are some pictures from a great Iowa City Labor Day.

Here is what the shelter and the grounds looked like when I arrived on my bicycle. Tom Jacobs took this picture; the others are ones I took. Congressman Dave Loebsack had a lot of Labor Day events to hit yesterday, and so was allowed to speak and run before all the food had even been set out.



But the food was soon laid out on a table as long as the shelter house for these folks who like to talk almost more than they like to eat. Some stayed out in the sun, but most gathered at the shelter house tables, as I did.



One of the continuing highlights of the event most years, as it was this year, was the very generous provision of live music throughout the afternoon provided by Pigs and Clover, otherwise known as Matt and Jamie Kearney. They have one of the greatest collections of union songs I've ever heard, great voices, a driving guitar and drum rhythm, and a good sense of fun.



To give you a sense of the music (and the crowd noise) here is a one-minute excerpt from their rendition of "Mean Winds" (taken by me with an iPhone):



As a special event, our Johnson County Attorney, Janet Lyness, took and passed the ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) Ice Bucket Challenge executed by her daughter.

All in all it was a really great day.



September 5, 2016, promises to be as great a day as September 1, 2014 (although no ice bucket challenges are on the program this year so far as I know).

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Our Revolution: Yes; But First Some Questions

Following Bernie Sanders Almost Anywhere

[NOTE: Since writing this, the Web site Support Progressives has been brought to my attention. It creatively addresses many of the questions and concerns about Our Revolution discussed, below, in the sections on "Candidate Selection" and "Coalitions." -- N.J., Sept. 1, 2016]

[Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign] was a campaign about doing, not about being [president]. Indeed, he would reject his crowds' chants of "Bernie! Bernie!" from the beginning of the campaign through his Santa Monica rally two nights ago [June 7, 2016], by telling them that it is they, not just he, who are "part of the political revolution."

-- Nicholas Johnson, "On Being, Doing and 'Compromise;' What's Next for Senator Sanders' Revolution? Here's My Suggestion," June 9, 2016

Contents
So what's the current status of "Our Revolution"?

What Can Be Learned From the Web Site?

"Who's on first; What's on second"

God or Mammon, that is the Question

Governance

Candidate Selection

Coalitions

The Money

Transparency

Conclusion

Yes, Senator Bernie Sanders made it clear from the beginning of his campaign for the the Democratic Party's nomination for president. He was in this race for many reasons but, win or lose the Party's presidential nomination, the overriding reason was the creation of an ongoing organization, a political revolution to bring about the populist programs he had been advocating for at least 30 years. That organization now bears the name, "Our Revolution."

I had been involved in some way with every presidential election since 1948, but never before with the emotional and financial support I gave to the Bernie campaign. As some evidence, here's a list of some 14 blog essays I wrote, starting in June of 2015.
"On Being, Doing and 'Compromise;' What's Next for Senator Sanders' Revolution? Here's My Suggestion," June 9, 2016
"When 'The Morning After' Looks Even Worse," June 8, 2016
"Searching for the Media's Soul," June 7, 2016
"Why Won't Media Give Bernie a Break?" March 23, 2016
"The State of the Media," February 28, 2016
"Bernie's Extraordinary, Unacknowledged Accomplishment," February 3, 2016
Why Nobody 'Wins' the Iowa Caucus," February 1, 2016
"Caucus With Your Heart And Head -- For Bernie," January 28, 2016
"Why I'm Caucusing for Sanders and You Should Too," January 22, 2016
"Feeling the Bern at The Mill," December 9, 2015
"Anyone for Democracy," November 22, 2015
"Senator Bernie Sanders and America's 'Mainstream,'" July 25, 2015
"Bernie's Media Challenge," June 19, 2015
"Bernie! Why the 99% Should Support Bernie's Campaign," June 1, 2015
Now the primaries and caucuses -- and the Bernie Sanders for President campaign -- are over. On July 26, 2016, the Democratic National Convention delegates selected Hillary Clinton as their nominee for president of the United States. Notwithstanding his having run against Hillary -- with speeches noting the disparity between what each of them has chosen to fight for, and against, during the past 30 years -- Senator Sanders made the motion for her nomination at the Convention, endorsed her, and indicated he would campaign for her.

So what's the current status of "Our Revolution"?

The organization was officially "launched" with an hour-plus video stream into 2600 home gatherings across America the evening of August 24. David Weigel and John Wagner, "Bernie Sanders Launches 'Our Revolution With Electoral Targets -- and a Few Critics Left Behind," Washington Post (online), August 24, 2016.

Our Revolution is by now, among other things, a Web page: http://OurRevolution.com. I would have preferred it was an "org" (as I am: nicholasjohnson.org) rather than a "com." But a superficial search suggests "OurRevolution.org" may already be held by someone else. Hopefully, that's someone affiliated with OurRevolution.com, and confusion between the two can be controlled.

At the moment -- from July 26 through November 8 -- Our Revolution is in a kind of limbo. Bernie's enthusiastic throngs have nothing further they can do to get him elected. Many may end up voting for Hillary, but may feel that they never signed up to campaign for her. Moreover, 20 months into a 22-month presidential campaign season (Jan. 2015-Oct. 2016) most Americans inclined to political action have long since committed their time and other resources to presidential and other candidates for public office they probably want to stick with through election day.

After the votes have been counted in the national election on November 8th, and a presumptive president selected, Our Revolution's participants and programs can be more specifically self-selected.

Make no mistake, Our Revolution already has my support; it doesn't have to earn it, it just has to keep from losing it. I certainly want to give it a chance. But I do have some questions for which I will be seeking answers.

What Can Be Learned From the Web Site? The Web site opens with an invitation to "join," "Watch the Launch Event" (which occurred August 24) and to "Help five of our candidates win" with an option to click on "Take Action." Scrolling down further is an "In the News" section with three stories, including the August 29th announcement of an 11-person "board" chaired by Larry Cohen, former CWA President, 2005-15. Although at the "Launch Event" Senator Sanders named the organization's president (Jeff Weaver, formerly Sanders' campaign chair) and an executive director (whose name I can't find or recall), I was unable to find their names, descriptions -- or how and by whom they were chosen -- anywhere on the Web site. (That information may very well be there; it's just that I didn't see it.)

There are four locations on the Web site: About, Take Action, Issues, and Candidates -- along with a number of suggestions that we donate money.

"About" provides three general aspirations: "Revitalize American Democracy," "Empower Progressive Leaders," and "Elevate Political Consciousness."

"Take Action" promotes an anti-TPP project urging us to call and register our opposition with members of Congress. If you think to scroll down there are 7 state ballot initiatives for which a click will take you to the sponsoring organization's Web page or other information.

"Issues" reads like a party platform, itemizing and describing 18 policy areas familiar to Bernie supporters.

"Candidates" lists, with pictures, 62 presumably progressive individuals running for office (primarily state legislatures). A click on a candidate takes you to more information about each.

"Who's on first; What's on second." I'm sure things will become clearer with time, but at this point I'm reminded of the story of the city cousin who visited his country cousin's farm. Leaning against the fence, but wanting to be helpful, the city cousin inquires, "What can I do to help?" He's told, "Just grab a plow and start plowing."

That's about as much specific instruction as is provided those who "join" Our Revolution. Maybe that's enough. Look over the ballot initiatives; if there's one in your state, or elsewhere, that interests you check out its Web site and contribute money or other efforts to assist. Ditto for the candidates. Look 'em over. If you're willing to support one or more on the basis of the information provided, have at it.

But I would think there would be some reason to have a way of reporting back to someone what you did. With the links going directly to the Web sites of the ballot initiatives' organizations and candidates it would appear that's not going to happen. Even if one wished to report what was going on in one's hometown, or another location chosen for action, it's not clear to whom they would report or how.

God or Mammon, that is the Question. A more serious, fundamental question is the core heart and purpose of this organization. As California's Big Daddy Unruh was credited with observing, "Money is the mother's milk of politics." To run multiple local and statewide campaigns all across the country is going to require enormous sums of money. Will Bernie's followers be capable and inclined to provide it?

There's a big difference between an individual contributing money for a single candidate -- especially a presidential candidate, and more especially one like Bernie Sanders -- and contributing money to a fund diversified among 100 or more individuals running for everything from school board to U.S. Senate, candidates from distant cities whom one does not know and had no role in selecting.

The Web site shouts that Our Revolution is a Section 501(c)(4) organization (ineligible to provide donors a tax deduction). Is what is envisioned, in effect, just another PAC for millionaires and billionaires with progressive inclinations to give money subsequently distributed by Our Revolution staff members to candidates of their choosing? If so, I don't see that there is much role for the participation of at least most of what were once Bernie's enthusiastic followers.

I once asked Senator Hubert Humphrey what he told new U.S. Senators when they arrived. He said, "Nick, I tell 'em they have to give four years to the Lord, and then two years to get re-elected; four more years to the Lord, and then another two years to get re-elected."

Today's new senators are told, from their first day on the job, that it's six years of fund raising and campaigning to get re-elected, and then another six years to do it again. To make sure this happens, they are provided with targets for hours on the phone each day and week, and the sums they are expected to raise.

The question for Our Revolution is whether God and Mammon can co-exist; whether wealthy donors, and their large contributions, can co-exist with a progressive grassroots organization; and if not, whether either can bring about Our, or anyone else's, Revolution all by itself.

An insightful and fuller exploration of these and related issues can be found in Lambert Strether, "Is 'Our Revolution' the Way to Build Transformative Politics?" NakedCapitalism.com, August 30, 2016.

Governance. There is a literature regarding board governance. See, for reading suggestions, e.g., Nicholas Johnson, "Board Governance: Theory and Practice," April 28, 2000.

Governance involves all stakeholders thinking through, agreeing upon, and putting in writing, the assignment of responsibilities, delegations, and the relationships between Senator Sanders, the Board chair Larry Cohen, other Board members, President Jeff Weaver, other administrative persons, staff, and Our Revolution "members."

For example, will board members be limited to providing direction, determining mission and goals, and overseeing a management information reporting system regularly disclosing accomplishments along a timeline toward measurable goals, or may they also involve themselves in some administrative decisions? Must all board statements and actions come from the entire board, acting as the board (including accompanying concurring or dissenting opinions), or can the chair -- or any individual member of the board -- speak on their own, whether to the president, a staff member, or the public?

Will the Board members create their own meeting agenda, or will "board meetings" become in effect "president's meetings" to which Board members are invited to attend for purposes of listening to reports from the president and other members of the staff? Will the president sit in on all board meetings, or are they just for board members -- and whomever else the board may invite to discuss a specific item at a single meeting?

What will be the day-to-day role of Senator Sanders with Our Revolution, given his responsibilities to his Vermont constituents and his Senate colleagues?

There is no one "right" way to answer these, and dozens of other challenging questions regarding governance. The only truly "wrong" way to proceed is to fail to identify, address, and resolve them as the board's very first order of business.

Candidate Selection. If the, or at least a, major purpose and strategy of Our Revolution involves the election of populist, progressive candidates "from school boards to the White House," a central process question is the way, the process, and the standards for Our Revolution's selection of those candidates. There is then the process question of what resources (whether campaign worker hours or money) will be provided these candidates, how much will be accorded each (and the standards for making those decisions), and what kind of oversight and regular reporting will be used.

Will the final decisions be made by Senator Sanders, the Board, its chair, the president, a staff group, a referendum of the members? How heavily will the decisions be influenced by major donors (if any)? Or will there be no such decisions? Will Our Revolution simply accept nominations from any of the above, put together a little information about each, post them on the Web site (as now), and leave it to members and donors to do the due diligence, and then put their time and money wherever they choose?

Or will there be a consensus as to who will receive Our Revolution's support, and will the goal be to limit the number of candidates to a number that can be supported (with workers and money) sufficiently to make a real difference in the outcome of their election? Will there be a preference for first-time candidates -- or for progressive incumbents in close races?

Will there be a preference for candidates whose polling numbers and other evidence indicate a real chance of winning, or is the goal to provide at least some token support and encouragement to as many first-time progressives as possible? What are the standards for deciding who is a "true progressive" worthy of Our Revolution's support?

Coalitions. Is it the goal of Our Revolution to be recognized as the single, preeminent, progressive policy and political organization in America? Or is the goal to bring some order and focus (on, say, electing progressive candidates) to the sometime chaos of America's progressive individuals, organizations, and media?

As the old saying has it, "There's no limit to what you can accomplish if you're willing to let others take the credit." Will Our Revolution be willing to stand by while "others take the credit"?

We've seen what splintered, underfunded, off-again-on-again efforts produce. What might a true coalition, a United Nations-style effort, be able to produce? What goals might be shared across all progressive organizations -- as was sort of the case with the coming together that was the Senator Sanders' presidential campaign -- while still leaving each organization to pursue its own other issues and strategic choices? (See, e.g., Nicholas Johnson, "Bernie's Extraordinary, Unacknowledged Accomplishment," February 3, 2016.)

The Money. I would be stunned if there was anything even mildly inappropriate, let alone illegal, in the way the money was handled in the Bernie Sanders campaign. But I also think transparency is even more important for Our Revolution. So I ask the following questions:

One of the most valuable assets of the campaign, and could be for Our Revolution, is the campaign's mailing list of donors, volunteers, and supporters. Has it been made available to the DNC, Hillary Clinton's campaign, other candidates? Are there plans to do so in the future? Who now has access to copies of this list? Will it become the main list for Our Revolution?

How much campaign money was left on July 26 -- the formal end of the Bernie for President campaign? What has happened to it? Has any gone to the Clinton campaign? The DNC, or other groups funding Democratic candidates (chosen by someone other than Senator Sanders)? How much has gone to candidates Senator Sanders supports? Is any used for his expenses while campaigning for Clinton? How much (if any) will ultimately be transferred into Our Revolution's resources?

Transparency. Transparency is important for any organization that requires the trust and support of its stakeholders. This is especially true for non-profit, progressive organizations. Members (and the public) need to know where Our Revolution's money is coming from, and what it's going to. Our Revolution needs to comply with the standards used by those evaluating non-profits. (A Google search on "evaluations of non-profit organizations' fundraising and salary expenses" brings up over 3.5 million hits.)

How do the salaries of Our Revolution administrators and staff, and expenses for Board meetings, compare with organizations of similar size? How do its expenses for fundraising, as a percentage of money raised, compare?

For Our Revolution, salaries and benefit packages are relevant to stakeholders not only because some may consider them "too high," but more likely because they might be thought to be "too low" -- given our "Issues" that focus on "Income Inequality," "A Living Wage," and "Creating Decent Paying Jobs."

And of course, Our Revolution being what it is, there will be member and public interest in the organization's employment practices with regard to gender equality, LGBT rights, and diversity of all kinds within the workforce.

Conclusion. There could be more, but there need not be. I'll simply close as I began: "Make no mistake, Our Revolution already has my support; it doesn't have to earn it, it just has to keep from losing it. I certainly want to give it a chance. But I do have some questions for which I will be seeking answers." What is spelled out above are some, illustrative, examples of those questions. Whether I hear from any Our Revolution administrators or staff or not, I'll keep looking for answers as I weigh whether Our Revolution has retained, or has lost, my support. (And see Roots Action's email and petition, "If It's Our Revolution, Let's Make It Better," Roots Action, August 31, 2016.)

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Doping Dilemma

[See below, at bottom of this blog entry, for comment exchange.]

Should Sports Allow Drugs that Enhance Performance?

Nicholas Johnson

The Gazette, August 17, 2016, p. 5A

I'm not proud to say it.

It was the 1960s. Illegal drugs were everywhere. I was a young lawyer, living as a hippie-public official. That’s what kept me from drugs – not health concerns, personal discipline, or common sense. Illegal drugs simply couldn’t be part of my life.

That doesn't mean I'm a fan of our "War on Drugs."

Illegalization has promoted more crime, not less, probably contributing even more deaths from the use of guns than from drugs. Because there's no quality control of illegal drugs they’re even more deadly. It's occasionally involved our government in the cocaine trade.

Not only has it cost taxpayers billions of dollars, it has simultaneously kept the government from collecting taxes on sales (as it does with alcohol and tobacco).

When it rarely produces a dip in supply, that simply drives up street prices and profits for dealers. It’s made us the number one nation for percentage of incarcerated citizens -- including more blacks working as prison laborers today than once worked as slaves.

So what’s the alternative?

In 2001, Portugal repealed criminal penalties for possession of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Fears of increased costs and consumption proved unwarranted. Health services for addicts were cheaper than incarceration. Teens' drug use and HIV from dirty needles declined. Addicts seeking treatment more than doubled.

The elephant in the Rio Olympics’ venues – performance enhancing drugs (PED) – brought Portugal’s experience to mind.

Athletes’ PED use began with the first Olympics 2000 years ago, 776-393 BC. Today it’s present in most sports, and from high school, to college, to the Olympics, to professional athletes. Efforts to stop it have proven as futile as our 1920s prohibition of alcohol, and more recent War on Drugs.

If only ineffective it would just be a waste of money. As it is, it also infuses otherwise honorable, sportsmanlike contests with subterfuge, lying, and deceit – to the harm of sports’ fans, athletes, and our children. It risks athletes' health from the lack of physician monitoring and the use of unsafe, untested substances and dosages. It encourages a contest of escalating sophistication in the design and detection of ever more difficult-to-detect substances.

Need athletes be protected from themselves? Injuries and death occur in many sports; athletes "assume the risk," legally and morally – think brain injuries from football. Shouldn't adults be as free to do their own benefit-cost risk assessments of doping as of any athletic or other risk?

Want a level playing field? It doesn’t exist.

Many things can enhance performance. Athletic parents who start training their three-year-olds. Poor students who run five or ten miles each way to school. Wealthy parents who provide private coaching and clubs, and free their college athletes from the need to work. Coaches with the equipment and knowledge of sports science (including diets) to maximize training efficiency. Working out at higher altitudes to gain an oxygen boost upon return.

Doping also can and does affect performance. But because it is also illegal, surreptitious, and widespread, it creates a terrible conflict for coaches and athletes – dope and risk getting caught, or comply with the rules and risk adding the hundredths of a second that can separate winners from losers.

Perhaps organized athletics, including the Olympics, should consider abandoning their ineffective anti-doping efforts. Perhaps they should consider the sports equivalent of the Portugal approach. Let doping join the long list of other things by which athletes and coaches can enhance performance – with approved drugs, dosages, and supervision by medical doctors and pharmacists.

A perfect solution? Of course not. But with a 2000-year history of failed bans, it may be a least-worst option worth trying.

Given today’s widespread doping in all sports, the competitive results would be little different. But it would be safer, less deceitful, and create a more honorable and level playing field for athletes, coaches, and fans alike.
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Nicholas Johnson, a former sports law professor, lives in Iowa City. Contact: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org.

Comments

Gary Ellis provided the following response by email to this column:
Saw your piece in the Gazette. Got to ask, aren't you just saying that if it feels good do it? Is there any morality of what is right and wrong?

Perhaps we should just stop spending any public money on sports and let it survive on its own? Maybe we should do away with some of the celebrity status of activities like sports. Society would be better off if we focused on science and economics where our goals would be to improve the human existence.

To which I replied by email:
I can see how what you say in your first sentence could be a reader's take-away from the column.

There's law, morality, and there're also public health issues. But there's always that balance between personal freedom and self-imposed harms of such severity as to warrant what the opponents of regulation call "the nanny state."

For example, tobacco use is the single greatest cause of Americans' deaths. Alcohol is the nation's number one hard drug by every conceivable measure. We have anti-tobacco and alcohol encouragement, education, treatment centers and so forth -- but we do not ban the sale of either. That also could be said to be a form of "if it feels good do it."

Your second sentence is something I've advocated over the years (splitting the money collegiate sports off from universities) and that has some support from at least some athletes and agents.
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