Wednesday, August 31, 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: "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,

Mark Barrett, Ditchwalk, (look for Harreld Hire Updates)

Iowans Defending Our Universities,

John Logsdon,, and on Twitter,

Josiah Pickard,

. . . and well-crafted search terms in Google. -- N.J., February 29, 2016

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"

# # #

Our Revolution: Yes; But First Some Questions

Following Bernie Sanders Almost Anywhere
[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

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


Candidate Selection


The Money



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: I would have preferred it was an "org" (as I am: rather than a "com." But a superficial search suggests "" may already be held by someone else. Hopefully, that's someone affiliated with, 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?", 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.)

# # #

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.
Nicholas Johnson, a former sports law professor, lives in Iowa City. Contact:


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.
# # #

Monday, August 15, 2016

Maybe This Explains Trump

Understanding Donald Trump

Listen, you know these politicians, they don’t know me. They don’t understand me.

-- Donald Trump, "Second Amendment Speech," "Read the Full Transcript of Donald Trump’s ‘Second Amendment’ Speech," TIME, August 9, 2016

Donald Trump says we don't understand him. He's right. Politicians, reporters, and voters have had little to go on beyond their own speculations.

Some professional, and many armchair, psychiatrists think he displays classic, textbook narcissism and varieties of mental illness. Others believe he's just naturally mean-spirited, unthinking, crude, and lacking in empathy when he attacks military personnel who are captured, women, people with disabilities, Muslims, Gold Star families, and whoever else happens to be in his sights when his mouth opens.

There's speculation that he never has been serious about running, was surprised to have won the Republican nomination, and is preparing himself and us for his general election loss -- already blaming such an outcome on a hostile media ("the lowest form of life") and the "rigged" voting that will require his army of poll watchers.

And we can't overlook his brag reported by Fortune magazine: “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it." Jerry Useem, "What Does Donald Trump Really Want?" Fortune, April 3, 2000. For a 2016 update, see Joseph P. Williams, "Is Trump’s Campaign Breaking the Law by Paying Money to Trump’s Businesses? Campaign Finance Experts Say It's Hard to Tell," U.S.News, June 22, 2016. Roughly 20% of his campaign expenditures involve payments to his own companies. Drew Griffin, Paul Murphy and Theodore Schleifer, "Trump Directs Nearly One-Fifth of His Money to His Own Businesses," CNN Politics, June 22, 2016.

So he can make money while running for president. Moreover, since much of his "property" is his brand, his name, he will be able to continue to make money as someone who ran for president -- not to mention larger royalties for ghost-written books, speaking fees for lectures, and a possible future TV show.

But wait; there's more.

There are at least three ways to get the goods and services one needs for a political campaign: (1) pay for them yourself (including the Trump option of paying your own companies), (2) get campaign contributions from donors used to pay for what you need, or (3) obtain what you need without having anyone pay for it.

Given the proportion of campaign funds for advertising that go (mostly) to the purchase of radio and television time (80%), option (3), above -- getting it for free -- is clearly the best approach. "In 2012, fundraising for various campaigns reached $6.5 billion. Of that, an estimated $5.2 billion [or 80%] was spent on advertising." This year one estimate puts total contributions at $7.5 billion with, again, 80% going to advertising. Meg James, "Political Ad Spending Estimated At $6 Billion in 2016," Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2015.

So how has Donald Trump made out with free media? Like a bandit! Two billion dollars worth of free media by March -- a record. Nicholas Confessore and Karen Yourish, "$2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Donald Trump," The New York Times, March 17, 2016, p. A3

All of which now brings me to my hypothesis regarding a possible understanding of Trump.

One of his more recent wild assertions is that ISIS' founder, the person who created the organization, was none other than our President, Barack Obama. Tal Kopan, "Donald Trump Tries to Walk Back Claim Obama Founded ISIS: 'Sarcasm,'" CNN Politics, August 12, 2016.

I, along with others who, unlike me are actually informed on the issues, have noted that our entry into Iraq -- as well as our exit, and re-entry -- have contributed to the recruitment of terrorists and more attacks on Americans, as the organizations have evolved and changed names over time. When Trump appeared on the program of conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, Hewitt tried to use this analysis to help Trump out of his absurd assertion regarding Obama as "founder of ISIS." Trump was having none of it:
Hugh Hewitt (HH): I’ve got two more questions. Last night, 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. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.

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.
Duane Patterson, "Donald Trump Makes A Return Visit,", August 11, 2016

The discussion continued along these lines:
HH: You don’t get any argument from me. But by using the term "founder," they’re hitting with you on this again. Mistake?

DT: No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it. I give him the most valuable player award. And I give it to him, and I give it to, I gave the co-founder to Hillary. I don’t know if you heard that.

HH: I did. I did. I played it.

DT: I gave her the co-founder.

HH: I know what you’re arguing…

DT: You’re not, and let me ask you, do you not like that?

HH: I don’t. I think I would say they created, they lost the peace. They created the Libyan vacuum, they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say.

DT: Well, I disagree.

HH: All right, that’s okay. . . . 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. Good point.
"They do talk about my language." Those six words of Trump's really tell the tale. Trump's playbook is a variant of the old line, "Say anything you want about me as long as you spell my name right;" the belief that there is no such thing as bad publicity -- especially when the price tag would have been $2 billion for that much publicity.

The media is talking about Trump. You and I are talking about Trump. I'm sitting here writing about Trump. It all helps to fire up his supporters -- even, perhaps especially, the perceived criticism of Trump. Whether or not those loyal followers are of sufficient numbers to deliver him 270 electoral votes, I wonder how much he even cares. He can't "lose" -- regardless of what happens November 8. 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?"

# # #

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

When Words Can Kill

"Will no one rid me of the turbulent priest?"

-- King Henry II's casual reference to Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, following which four devoted knights were inspired to go to Canterbury, where they found and murdered Beckett, December 29, 1170

"Like the extreme right in Israel, many Republicans conveniently ignore the fact that words can kill. . . . [T]hey could use a short session with Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, who was inspired by the rabid rhetoric hurled at the Isrraeli prime minister . . .."

-- Chemi Shalev, Israel's Haaretz newspaper columnist, quoted in Thomas Friedman, "Trump's Wink Wink to 'Second Amendment People,'" New York Times, August 10, 2016, p. A19

"If she [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people -- maybe there is, I don't know."

-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Wilmington, North Carolina, August 9, 2016

This morning [August 10] the Times editorialized: "Three months from the presidential election . . . Americans find themselves asking whether Donald Trump has called for the assassination of Hillary Clinton. . . . His supporters have shouted 'kill her' . . . A New Hampshire delegate [said she should] 'be put in the firing line and shot for treason.'" Editorial, "Further Into the Muck With Mr. Trump," New York Times, August 10, 2016, p. A18. And see, Nick Corasaniti and Maggie Haberman, "Donald Trump Suggests 'Second Amendment People' Could Act Against Hillary Clinton," New York Times, August 10, 2016, p. A1.

Trump's opponents argue that Trump's remark -- "nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people -- maybe there is, I don't know" -- was his intentional call for the assassination of Hillary Clinton.

His defenders say that's ridiculous; he was just saying that the Second Amendment supporters have proven to be well organized and politically effective, and that they might be able to bring enough political pressure to prevent a President Hillary Clinton from successfully nominating liberal judges.

In my view, both sides miss the point.

No one can know if, or what, Trump (or anyone else) is thinking when they speak. With Trump's often rambling and disjointed exposition it's often difficult to figure out what he has said after he has said it. And it is even more perilous to speculate about another's motive.

So the argument between those who believe Trump was advocating assassination of his opponent and those who think he was just urging citizen participation in the judicial selection process is one that cannot be, and will not be, resolved.

The point is that, based on what he said, that argument can (and did) take place.

That is to say, what he said was open to the interpretation, an interpretation by many, that he was calling for her to be shot -- an interpretation supported by the context.

Trump's now oft-quoted potential threat was preceded by the line, "Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment." Paul Barrett, "What Trump Gets Wrong About Clinton and the Second Amendment; Hint: everything," Bloomberg, August 10, 2016.

Put aside for the moment the facts that (a) none of the fact checkers who have researched this charge have been able to find a scintilla of evidence that Hillary Clinton has ever hinted of a desire to do away with the Second Amendment -- indeed, quite the opposite. She has said that she supports the Second Amendment. And (b), as the Constitution makes clear, constitutional amendments are not, like executive orders, something the president can simply "abolish" whenever she or he wants to.

In other words, his disjointed appeal -- "Although the Second Amendment people -- maybe there is, I don't know." -- came in the context of an attack on Hillary Clinton (however false its premise) regarding the constitutional amendment most near and dear to the hearts of America's gun owners.

In the past, I have often gone out of my way to defend those who were fired, or otherwise severely punished, for what sometimes seemed to be a single, relatively innocuous remark. See, e.g., Nicholas Johnson, "Was It Something I Said? General Semantics, the Outspoken Seven, and the Unacceptable Remark," Institute for General Semantics presentation, New York City, October 30, 2010.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's remarks in Wilmington, North Carolina, yesterday were seriously dangerous. I would not, and do not, defend them. They forcefully bring into question not only his lack of fitness for office, but that of those other Republicans who continue to urge us to join with them in voting for him -- including Iowa's principal statewide-elected officials: Governor Branstad, and U.S. Senators Grassley and Ernst. Think about it.

# # #

Friday, July 29, 2016

The DNC Still Just Doesn't Get It

The Real Significance of DNC Emails
[A] man is not independent, and cannot afford views which might interfere with his bread and butter.

-- Mark Twain, "Corn-pone Opinions," (1901)

Update on polls: They vary, both over time and between pollsters. The only one that really matters, because it is definitive, is the one that counts voters' ballots on November 8, 2016. Meanwhile, here is what The New York Times "National Polling Average" reported on July 30, 2016: Hillary Clinton 42.6%, Donald Trump 42.1% -- in other words, a toss-up. Of the 5 polls averaged, among the 3 putting Clinton ahead they range from 43-42% to 40-35%; the two favoring Trump are 48-45% and 44-40%. Results for 11 swing states show Clinton leading in 9, by 0.2% (Ohio) and 1.3% (Florida) to 4.5% (Virginia) and 7.0% (Wisconsin). Trump leads in Georgia by 3.3% and Missouri by 8.2%. "2016 Election Polls; National Polling Average," New York Times, July 30, 2016.


The Convention

The Morning After

How the Democratic Party of 2016 Has Become the Republican Party of the 1940s and '50s

Why The DNC Still Just Doesn't Get It

The Growing Cancer of Campaign Finance

Why Sanders is Not Just a Candidate, and His Followers Are Not Just Campaign Supporters

Things Worth Losing an Election For


On Monday of this week [July 25] I wrote:
Today [Monday, July 25, 2016] before watching any of the Democratic National Convention, or reading any of the news reports coming from Philadelphia, I'm going to write about some of the reasons for my discouragement. Later this week, once the Convention is concluded, I plan to write on the same subject once again to see what impact the Convention has had on my thinking.
"Why Trump May Win," July 25, 2016. Now that the Convention is over, here are my thoughts.

The Convention

The Convention got off to a bit of a bumpy start. Senator Sanders' "Revolution" had been mollified earlier, somewhat, with a party platform incorporating most of Sanders' proposals. But the DNC's and party establishment's disdain remained, and was confirmed with the revelation of DNC emails confirming what Sanders had complained of from the beginning (e.g., the number and scheduling of debates to favor Secretary Clinton, joint fundraising by the DNC and Clinton campaign, and emailed discussions of how best to set back the efforts of Sanders' followers). See, Aaron Blake, "Here Are the Latest, Most Damaging Things in the DNC's Leaked Emails," Washington Post, July 25, 2016.

Monday morning DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was booed so loudly by her own Florida delegation that, in an effort to minimize the booing in the full Convention hall, it was decided to relieve her of the normal DNC Chair role of opening and closing the Convention. Nonetheless, the Sanders' backers continued with booing every time Clinton's name was mentioned by a speaker.

Tuesday through Thursday, with Sanders' appeals to his followers, and full-throated support for the election of Secretary Clinton, the booing subsided somewhat and a rumored walk out Thursday evening did not occur -- although Sanders' flip left many of his followers with a sense of betrayal, and some in tears.

I won't review them all here, but I thought many of the speeches throughout the week were excellent and even moving (see, e.g., Philip Bump, "The Father of Muslim Soldier Killed in Action Just Delivered a Brutal Repudiation of Donald Trump," Washington Post, July 28, 2016). However, the media seem to have given Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech mixed reviews. The PBS panel, including David Brooks, seemed to think her speech text and delivery to be no better than just "acceptable." But even a couple New York Times' folks whose evaluation of the speech was a little snarky, had to acknowledge that their fact check of her assertions found them mostly 100% accurate. Michael D. Shear and Thomas Kaplan, "Fact-Checking Hillary Clinton's Acceptance Speech," New York Times (online), July 29, 2016.

If you haven't read her speech text I urge you to do so. "Hillary Clinton's DNC speech: Full Text," CNN Politics, updated July 29, 2016, 1:14 a.m. ET (with 59:22 video). Frankly, I liked it -- from the perspective of what she needed to say, and wanted to say, and did say.

No speech can erase her ties to Wall Street billionaires and refusal to share with us the texts of what she told them in $650,000 speeches, or her support of costly, unnecessary wars of choice that have diminished, rather than enhanced, our national security, or whatever else has produced negative opinions of her that are the second highest of all those who have ever been presidential candidates. (Trump's are the highest negatives.) But in the speech she embraced the Sanders' Revolution. ("Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion. That's the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America. We wrote it together -- now let's go out there and make it happen together.") She provided a State-of-the-Union-style list of what she wanted to do as president, along with how she intended to pay for it. She made an effort to accommodate her advisers' urging that she try to make herself more human (with references to Chelsea and Bill Clinton, her mother and grandmother). I could go on with all the other bases she touched on her way to bringing it home. But you can come to your own judgment about that.

Only time, and continuous polling, will tell what impact it had.

As for general impressions of the Convention, I thought it was professionally well produced and for the most part smoothly executed -- a real contrast with the Republican Convention and Trump performances the prior week.

The Morning After

Because this morning [Friday, July 29, 2016], as I stretched, wiped the sleep seeds out of my eyes, and ground the coffee beans, I realized that we are now, at best, back where we were on Monday morning, July 18 -- before the Republican Convention.

She came into the Democratic Party Convention well behind Trump in the polls, nationally and in the states she must carry: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, among others. Trump's performances in Iowa Thursday [July 28] afternoon and evening stole some of the media attention and poll bounce she otherwise would have received. He was back to calling her "Crooked Hillary." And Secretary Clinton had done herself, and the Democratic Party, no favors by going out of her way to honor the disgraced, and overtly anti-Sanders, former DNC Chair with the title of Honorary Chair of her campaign! At a minimum, this does nothing to refute the suspicion that she was complicit with Schultz's efforts to turn the DNC's resources to helping Clinton and defeating Sanders.

Her selection of Senator Tim Kaine as her vice president -- for all his virtues in that role for her -- only added to the disappointment among members of what the late Senator Paul Wellstone used to call "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" that the Party establishment was offering them just the same-old, same-old.

How the Democratic Party of 2016 Has Become the Republican Party of the 1940s and '50s

Yet Senator Kaine, perhaps inadvertently but clearly ill-advisedly, provided one of the most revealing assessments of his party during his acceptance speech when he said:
"Any party that would nominate Donald Trump for president has moved too far away from [the Republican] party of Lincoln. And I’ll tell you [disaffected Republicans], if any of you are looking for that party of Lincoln, we have got a home for you right here in the Democratic Party."
Will Drabold, "Read Tim Kaine’s Speech at the Democratic Convention," TIME, July 27, 2016

As I and others have earlier observed, the Democratic Party today (as distinguished from, say, the Democratic Party of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, or Lyndon Johnson) most closely resembles the Republican Party of Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and presidential candidate Nelson Rockefeller.

Alabama Governor George Wallace used to say, "There's not a dime's worth of difference" between the Democratic and Republican parties. That's not true. One has to evaluate the differences issue by issue. Then there is a dime's worth of difference, especially with regard to some social issues (e.g., abortion and gay marriage). But when it comes to capitulation to the demands of Wall Street, Big Pharma, Big Oil, large corporations, major donors generally, the NRA and other special interests, it is very difficult to make the case that those earning less that the median income (say, $50,000 a year) are better off with Democrats than Republicans.

Indeed, one of the most shameful and revealing bits of information in the DNC emails were the workings of the DNC in their relationships with major donors -- the provision of special perks and benefits, up to and including government jobs. Nicholas Confessore and Steve Eder, "In Hacked D.N.C. Emails, a Glimpse of How Big Money Works," New York Times, July 25, 2016, and Aaron Blake, "Here Are the Latest, Most Damaging Things in the DNC's Leaked Emails," Washington Post, July 25, 2016 (see "10) Flippant Chatter About Donors"). For an independent, professional, detailed and coherent report of a single event to explain this horrifying process, see Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick, "After Lying Low, Deep-Pocketed Clinton Donors Return to the Fore," New York Times, July 29, 2016, p. A1 (e.g., "While protesters marched in the streets and blocked traffic, Democratic donors congregated in a few reserved hotels and shuttled between private receptions with A-list elected officials. If the talk onstage at the Wells Fargo Center was about reducing inequality and breaking down barriers, Center City Philadelphia evoked the world as it still often is: a stratified society with privilege and access determined by wealth. . . . 'It’s business as usual,' said Libby Watson, who monitored lobbying events in Philadelphia on behalf of the Sunlight Foundation, a group devoted to government transparency.")

If one needs more illustration of the inequality created, and then ignored, by both major parties, one need look no further than the contrast between the Convention delegates' $600-a-night rooms (arranged by the DNC) with the 650-a-night homeless sleeping on the streets of Philadelphia while delegates ate, slept, partied, and met in comfort. ("[T]here are more than 500,000 homeless people in the United States. Out of all of them, 31 percent are living on the streets . . .. Philadelphia alone has more than 13,000 homeless people, both living on the streets and involved in programs and shelters. Approximately 650 homeless individuals sleep on the streets of Philadelphia on any given night." "South Philadelphia: Homeless People Are Struggling To Survive In The City," Philadelphia Neighborhoods, July 15, 2015.) Who spoke for them, let alone did anything?

Bluntly put, the Democratic Party has lost its soul, where access to power is gladly exchanged for access to money, and elected officials (not to mention DNC staff) spend up to half of every working day "dialing for dollars" rather than legislating.

Why The DNC Still Just Doesn't Get It

The afternoon of September 7, 2015, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley stopped by the Iowa City Federation of Labor's Annual Labor Day Picnic, held in the usual City Park Shelter #3. There were then five Democratic candidates in the race in addition to O'Malley: Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Larry Lessig, Bernie Sanders, and Jim Webb. During my visit with Governor O'Malley he asked me who I was supporting. I explained that I was solidly behind Bernie Sanders, but that he, O'Malley, was my second choice. Given the field of competitors, rather than expressing disappointment he indicated that he was quite delighted to be my second choice.

And why was he my second choice? Because from among the conventional candidates he scored highest on my checklist: range of experience, accomplishments, values, and political/social skills; that is, both elect-ability and capacity to function as president. As it turned out, few primary and caucus-going Democrats seemed to share my assessment.

So why am I writing about Martin O'Malley in a race that narrowed to Clinton and Sanders and stayed on track at the Democratic National Convention to select Hillary Clinton?

Because I need an example of what I mean by a "conventional candidate" to explain the three examples of why it is I think "the DNC still just doesn't get it."

The DNC (and Party establishment) has failed to recognize and embrace what Sanders was offering them. And I don't mean his candidacy. They could be thankful for his gifts to them and still decide that, for whatever reasons, they believed someone else would make a better candidate. (Although given that most of the polls indicated he would run stronger against Trump than Clinton, elect-ability could not have been among the reasons.)

Why was what Sanders was offering of value to the Party?

Americans are increasingly unwilling to give their unwavering, lifetime loyalty and trust to major institutions, whether government, corporations (as employers or suppliers), or traditional organized religions.

Not surprisingly, they are also falling away from political party identification, which Gallup reports is now at all-time lows. Nearly a half of all voters (42%) now identify as "independents;" only 29% are still Democrats, and 26% say they are Republicans.

There are many ways to increase party identification and membership, but the long-term most efficient may be to focus on (1) the young (Robert Kennedy used to "campaign" among high school students too young to vote) and (2) that 42% who are independent. Senator Sanders was dramatically successful with both groups.

He walked away with the youth vote. "In the Democratic primaries and caucuses overall, Mr Sanders won 70% of the under-30 vote . . .." "Young v Old Votes for Bernie and Hillary in the 2016 Primaries," The Economist, April 27, 2016. And Nate Silver 538 has explained Sanders' attraction to independents:
Sanders does much better among independents than among Democrats. In New Hampshire, for instance, Sanders won Democrats by 4 percentage points while winning independents by nearly 50 percentage points, a split we’ve seen repeatedly since then. Some of Sanders’s strongest performances in primaries have come in places such as New Hampshire, Michigan and Wisconsin, states whose rules allow independents to vote in either primary. In fact, to date Sanders has compiled an unexpected record, performing very well in caucuses but having won just a single closed primary (Oklahoma’s). So why is Sanders doing so well among independents? It appears to be driven not by their ideology so much as their dislike of partisan politics.
Dan Hopkins, "Why Sanders Does Better With Independents; It's Not Because They're More Moderate Than Democrats,", April 18, 2016.

The Growing Cancer of Campaign Finance

The number one political concern for overwhelming majorities of Americans is the corrupting influence of money. Even 80% of Republicans oppose the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court opinion. A New York Times/CBS poll revealed that 85% of Americans believe we need fundamental changes to our campaign finance system. Another found 72% preferred small-donor financing of campaigns as a solution. A Des Moines Register poll of Iowa's caucus-goers revealed that 91% of Republicans and 94% of Democrats were somewhere between "unsatisfied" and "mad as hell" about money in politics. Jeff Robinson, "There's Nothing Naive About Wanting To Change Our Broken System," Every Voice, January 20, 2016.

Needless to say, campaign finance is the elephant in the political living room when it comes to building party membership and winning elections -- even for those benefiting from the system who see no ethical or moral problems with a democracy choosing legislation based on the size of campaign contributions.

Indeed, as mentioned above, one of the most embarrassing revelations to come from the 20,000 DNC emails revealed by Wikileaks has to do with what they explain about how the DNC trades benefits, and even government jobs, for the biggest political contributions.

When challenged, most professional politicians come back with resigned explanations regarding the costs of electioneering, and how PACs and large donations from corporations and the top 1/10 of 1% are really just the only way they can pay for the process.

Well, Bernie Sanders has just shown them how he could run a very successful and well-funded campaign with roughly 8 million donors contributing an average of $27 to what became a $200 million campaign.

Trump may be despicable, but he has figured it out. So had Bernie Sanders. The DNC has not.

Americans are angry; only 24% believe the country is headed in the right direction. "Right Direction or Wrong Track; 24% Say U.S. Heading in Right Direction," Rasmussen Reports, July 25, 2016. Over 90% want a change in campaign finance. Young people are less interested in committing themselves to traditional, 20th Century political parties. The fastest growing American "political party" are independents.

Senator Sanders offered the DNC an example of how to cure their woes -- how to generate enthusiasm instead of disdain, how to appeal to the new, young voters and independents, and how to eliminate the crippling burden of multi-million-dollar fundraising from the wealthy. Like Swiss watchmakers ignoring the growing market for digital watches, or Kodak rejecting the opportunity to develop videotape and the Xerox process, the DNC turned its back on what Sanders was not only advocating, but demonstrating by example was possible.

Not only did the DNC ignore him, worse still it actively opposed his efforts. It bulled ahead with its 20th Century notion that the Democratic Party could win a national election all by itself, using nothing but what we called in Texas "yellow dog Democrats" (those who would vote a straight ticket for Democrats even if a candidate was a yellow dog). It assumed it could once more ignore the overwhelming public opposition to the way it finances its operations. It got behind a quintessentially establishment presidential candidate (and then vice president) who would enhance, rather than suppress, its ability to raise money. And it did everything in its power to prevent Sanders' success.

Why Sanders is Not Just a Candidate, and His Followers Are Not Just Campaign Supporters

All of which brings me back to Governor Martin O'Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders.

If you've noticed, as far as I know there has not been a peep out of Governor O'Malley, or any of his supporters, objecting to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. By contrast, although most of the Sanders supporters say that if they are in a toss-up state they will hold their nose and vote for Clinton (though they are unlikely to contribute money or work in the campaign), they also say that if they are in a state that is overwhelmingly either pro-Trump or Clinton they will stay home, or vote Green or Libertarian.

Why are the Sanders supporters so upset? What's the difference between them and the O'Malley supporters?

Conventional political campaigns are kind of like a game. Indeed, the media is sometimes criticized for treating them like "a horse race" -- poll results, money raised, and crowd size. That doesn't mean they aren't hard fought, or that there aren't often bruised feelings that take a long time to heal. But the attitude among what we call "political people" is kind of like what I imagine the attitude among professional football players must be.

Pro football is rough and tumble. Games are hard fought. There are lots of injuries, and an occasional death, or lifetime consequences from too many concussions. At the end of a game there is a winner and a loser -- with financial rewards for the winner. But there are rules, and there will be another game next week, or next season. Players are traded from team to team. There is a kind of camaraderie among players, given their similar backgrounds, experiences and lives.

Politics is kind of like that. Going in, the candidates, staff and consultants know there will be winners and losers. There's a rough sense of the rules, and how the game will be played, and admiration for one's more skilled adversaries -- with whom one may work in the future. There is an understanding and acceptance of the role of big money in politics (as they say, "money is the mother's milk of politics"). No matter who wins they will probably have more in common with their opponent than differences -- like football players, due to their similar backgrounds, experiences and lives. Even if the election is stolen, there's a certain admiration for someone who can "steal it fair and square." It's a game played out within a closed system. You live to run another day.

Bernie Sanders "campaign" was not like that at all. He was, after all, not even a member of the Democratic Party (although he became one for purposes of the primaries). He was a Democratic Socialist. He had virtually no national name identification. He had virtually no money. He had no powerful, or wealthy, political friends, fans, or armies of followers. He did not agree with the golden rule of politics that "those who have the gold make the rules." He was, in every sense, an outsider, one of the least likely persons to be thought a serious presidential candidate. No, Bernie Sanders did not have a "campaign" to get himself nominated (though it had that appearance). He had a "revolution" in nearly every sense, and acknowledged it as much. (His continuing efforts now bear the name, "Our Revolution.")

He did not think campaigns should benefit, or be paid for by, the wealthy (later paid back on their "investment"). He thought they should include all demographic groups, including former non-voters, not just the older, regular voters. He believed that governments' primary responsibilities were to those without a voice, rather than those with the megaphones of modern media.

When Bernie Sanders did not win the nomination, when he was rebuffed and actively opposed by the DNC, it had almost no similarity to the significance of Governor O'Malley not getting the nomination. It was the defeat of a political revolution, the rebuff of an effort to democratize both the process and the public benefits that would flow from such changes. The closer analogy would be if those wishing to break from England in 1776 lost a vote, and those opposing the separation then asked them to please join in supporting their candidate for the Virginia House of Burgesses.

When Clinton seeks the support of Sanders' supporters (as distinguished from O'Malley supporters) she is not just asking them to switch from the candidate who lost to the candidate who won. It is as if Bill Maher was appealing to devout Catholics to abandon their faith and join in his campaign for president of an atheist organization. She is asking them to abandon their beliefs, their motives, what brought them into politics in the first place; she is asking them to suddenly switch from opposition to everything they hate about the present Democratic Party, and her, and work to perpetuate it.

Things Worth Losing an Election For

Then-Senator Joe Biden once told me, "Nick, there are some things worth losing an election for."

I don't know if he still believes that. I'd like to think he does. But if so, it would put him in a very small minority amongst today's professional politicians. Well over 90% of those in the U.S. House now have things so rigged that if they want to be reelected they will be. And they want to be reelected. There is, in the minds of many of them, no thing worth losing an election for. Like football coaches of old proclaimed, "winning is not the most important thing, winning is the only thing." Some are neither show horses nor work horses. They're not even sleeping in the barn. They spend their days raising money, and then paying back the donors at ratios of 1000-to-one to 2000-to-one. See, Nicholas Johnson, "Campaigns: You Pay $4 or $4000," Des Moines Register, July 21, 1996. For what? To keep their job. Because, they believe, "there's nothing worth losing an election for."

As I started this blog entry, it turns out that Mark Twain was right over 100 years ago when he observed, "[A] man is not independent, and cannot afford views which might interfere with his bread and butter."

# # #

Monday, July 25, 2016

Why Trump May Win

Discouraged By The Democratic Party's Self-Inflicted Wounds

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

Update July 25, 3:27 p.m. CT: Nate Silver 538 projects if election were held today [July 25] Trump would win by 54.5 to 45.5% for Hillary (percentages change over time).

Update on polls; July 30, 2016: They vary, both over time and between pollsters. The only one that really matters, because it is definitive, is the one that counts voters' ballots on November 8, 2016. Meanwhile, here is what The New York Times "National Polling Average" reported on July 30, 2016: Hillary Clinton 42.6%, Donald Trump 42.1% -- in other words, a toss-up. Of the 5 polls averaged, among the 3 putting Clinton ahead they range from 43-42% to 40-35%; the two favoring Trump are 48-45% and 44-40%. Results for 11 swing states show Clinton leading in 9, by 0.2% (Ohio) and 1.3% (Florida) to 4.5% (Virginia) and 7.0% (Wisconsin). Trump leads in Georgia by 3.3% and Missouri by 8.2%. "2016 Election Polls; National Polling Average," New York Times, July 30, 2016.

As a lifelong Democrat, I have for some years now been discouraged by the actions of the Democratic National Committee, and others who are considered members of the Party's establishment (many of whom are superdelegates). So discouraged that I'm going to undertake a two-part blog experiment.

Today [Monday, July 25, 2016] before watching any of the Democratic National Convention, or reading any of the news reports coming from Philadelphia, I'm going to write about some of the reasons for my discouragement. Later this week, once the Convention is concluded, I plan to write on the same subject once again to see what impact the Convention has had on my thinking.

It is not my purpose in this blog essay to deal with the personalities or qualifications of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donald Trump, or others. It is, rather, to address the way in which the Party, as a Party, has positioned itself in today's America. [Photo credit: Maring Photography; Contour by Getty Images.]

The Democratic Party establishment has historically served, and been supported by, the poor, working poor, working class, union members, family farmers and a broad range of other demographic groups. Were it still both perceived and actually functioning as such, it could elect a majority of officials from school boards and city councils to the U.S. Senate, House and White House. While there are still occasional nods in the direction of the unrepresented, the Party's leadership has become -- and obviously wishes to remain -- funded by, and the legislative advocates for, Wall Street, large corporations, and the top 1% of America's socio-economic elite. It's mission, far more than the enactment of populist policies, is the perpetual re-election of office holders whose highest priority daily activity is raising money.

In the latter years of the 20th Century this evolution might not have been very honorable, but at least it could still work.

The question is whether it will still work in this or any other country when one considers the Tea Party, Occupy movement, Brexit, and the unprecedented numbers and enthusiasm of the supporters of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Whether justified or not, millions of angry Americans now look upon government, corporations, other powerful institutions, and those who run them, not just as uncaring for people like themselves, but as an enemy, deliberately adopting policies and budgets knowing the harms they will impose.

I am not arguing, in this essay at this time, that every Democratic Party official should have joined the Bernie Sanders campaign. But to so obviously trivialize, or oppose, his candidacy -- now documented in the DNC emails revealed by Wikileaks (not that it wasn't well known before) -- and carry on with 20th Century politics, was unnecessary and counter productive. For the angry Americans, independents, youth, Democrats, Republicans, and others, it was "a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."

However experienced and well qualified for the presidency Hillary Clinton may be thought to be, when millions of potential voters (and what may turn out to be non-voters) have taken to the streets with pitchforks in hand, for the Party leadership to offer them its preeminent establishment icon only confirms their worst fears about their Democratic Party, not to mention America's future and their own.

And that's, I believe, "Why Trump May Win."

Having written this, I now discover I'm not the only one with this assessment.

Michael Moore has written his analysis of why there is not just a chance that Trump could win, but "5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win."

Frankly, I think that all politics is too volatile to ever predict, with certainty, what will happen 100 days in the future. But I certainly share Moore's sense that Trump could win, and that he has a much greater chance of doing so than the Democratic Party establishment's actions indicate it understands.

Moore's analysis is too long to reproduce here in its entirety. But here are such clues as you may be able to pull from his five headings: (1) Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit, (2) The Last Stand of the Angry White Man, (3) The Hillary Problem, (4) The Depressed Sanders Vote, and (5) The Jesse Ventura Effect.

Read the full text and judge for yourself. Here's the link: Michael Moore, "5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win,", July 23, 2016.

Robert Reich takes a comparable view. Here are some brief excerpts:
Does Hillary Clinton understand that the biggest divide in American politics is no longer between the right and the left, but between the anti-establishment and the establishment?

I worry she doesn’t –- at least not yet. . . .

In fairness, Hillary is only doing what she knows best. Moving to the putative center is what Bill Clinton did . . ..

But this view is outdated. . . .

The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a system rigged by big corporations, Wall Street, and the super-wealthy.

This is a big reason why Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. It’s also why Bernie Sanders took 22 states in the Democratic primaries, including a majority of Democratic primary voters under age 45.

There are no longer “moderates.” There’s no longer a “center.” There’s authoritarian populism (Trump) or democratic populism . . ..

If Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party don’t recognize this realignment, they’re in for a rude shock -– as, I’m afraid, is the nation. Because Donald Trump does recognize it. His authoritarian (“I’ am your voice”) populism is premised on it. . . .

Most basically, the anti-establishment wants big money out of politics. This was the premise of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. It’s also been central to Donald (“I’m so rich I can’t be bought off”) Trump’s appeal . . ..

Last January, a Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers found 91 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats unsatisfied or “mad as hell” about money in politics.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to move toward the “middle.” . . .

She needs to move instead toward the anti-establishment –- forcefully committing herself to getting big money out of politics, and making the system work for the many rather than a privileged few.
Robert Reich: Does Hillary Get It? Tim Kaine Is As Vanilla Middle As You Can Get," July 24, 2016

Watch this space. I'll return with my post-Convention reactions by the end of this week.

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