Sunday, March 19, 2017

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: "How to Save Highter Ed," March 19, 2017 [embedded: "Saving Higher Ed; Step1: Listen to What Iowans Want," Nicholas Johnson, "Insight & Books," The Gazette, March 19, 2017, p. D1]

"Resources for Trump Watchers," February 11, 2017

"Who Are We?" January 31, 2017 (a response to President Trump's ill-considered travel ban)

"No Elephants in the Room," January 15, 2017 (NFL football)

"Educating In and For a Digital Age; The Vast Waistline & Other Challenges to Education as We Knew It," January 14, 2017 [text of remarks delivered at 4CAST - Campus Academic Strategies and Technology Conference, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, January 12, 2017]

"Eastern Iowa's Declaration of Human Rights," January 5, 2017 (contains "Focus on Our Common Values," The Gazette, January 1, 2017, p. D2)

"Tracking Trump," November 15, 2016 (More like a Web site with links to associated pages than like an individual blog essay, this is both a daily report and a repository of news and opinion regarding President-Elect Donald J. Trump from the day after the election (i.e., November 9) through the day of his inauguration as president on January 20, 2017.)

"Democratic Party's Past -- and Future," November 9, 2016

"Hillary's New Emails: A Solution for FBI Director Comey," October 31, 2016

"An Outrageous Merger," October 29, 2016

"Republicans Need to Get Their Party Back From Trump," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 20, 2016, p. A7

"Iowa's Top Republicans' Major Mistake," October 13, 2016

"Law, Social Norms and Trump," October 2, 2016

"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,

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"

# # #

How to Save Higher Ed

Saving Higher Ed; Step1: Listen to What Iowans Want

Nicholas Johnson

"Insight & Books," The Gazette, March 19, 2017, p. D1

As a child of the University of Iowa – literally and figuratively – its current financial woes are troubling.

Frankly, I don’t think the Iowa Legislature can pass the laugh test when it awards $12 billion in tax breaks while fashioning a $7 billion state budget and then says it “can’t afford” to adequately fund its “state” universities. The truth? It just has other priorities.

What to do?

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences recommends its Lincoln Project’s “An Educational Compact for the 21st Century” ( It’s not the first proposal for our plight, and won’t be the last – but it’s coherent and data driven.

On March 9, the Academy organized a powerhouse panel in Iowa City (and later Des Moines) to discuss this Compact. It was headed by the project’s co-chair, Mary Sue Coleman, President, Association of American Universities, and former president of the Universities of Iowa and Michigan. Joining her were UI President Bruce Harreld and former University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise.

Our multi-faceted Jim Leach added to the panel his experience as our former member of Congress, Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and currently UI's Senior Scholar, Chair in Public Affairs, Professor of Law, and Interim Director, Museum of Art.

It turns out that Iowa’s woes are part of a national trend. States’ support of research universities declined 35% the last 17 years (per full-time student, in constant dollars). Private universities have three-to-four times state schools’ funding per student. We can hope for a brighter future, but as President Harreld said, “Hope is not a strategy. We may need a ‘Plan B.’”

There’s more to the Educational Compact than a column can hold: the impact of research universities' discoveries on Iowa's (and the world's) economic growth and job creation (the mere purchases of eight schools put $2 billion into 1750 counties one year), their research that corporations can’t or won’t do, their advances in medical science, their innovative cost-cutting efforts, the economic as well as personal value from arts and humanities (Jim Leach’s HUMANISTEAM), or their financial aid for low income undergrads, among many others.

The tuition-free college programs of California and New York – and the one in the post-World War II GI Bill – were a major reason for those states, and our nation’s, spurts of economic growth.

But if that evidence isn’t enough, how can legislators be persuaded?

President Harreld came the closest with his insightful, joking (and illegal) proposal for a vote-buying, pro-education PAC.

There’s another Politics 101 approach that never came up; something I’ve been harping on for years and was reminded of November 8, 2016.

In 1936 President Roosevelt won by over 24% (61% to Alf Landon’s 36%). The coalition that made that victory possible – the unemployed, working poor, working class, and ultimately union members -- held for 40 years. When the Democratic Party started turning to Wall Street and corporations for the money, and the East and Left coasts for the voters, it lost its natural constituency along with its soul – a constituency that, had it been served, could have assured victories in every election from school board to White House.

For higher ed to restore its state funding it needs the support of legislators; to have the support of legislators requires the support of their constituents. Higher ed has been as neglectful of its constituents as the Democrats have been of theirs.

Historically, Iowans’ enthusiasm and generosity for education has been overwhelming. It still could be.

In the 1800s they paid for 12,000 one-room schoolhouses for their kids. In the 1900s they were rightfully proud of funding a K-12 system ranked among the nation’s best. Iowa State University began in 1858, was aided by President Lincoln’s Morrill Act of 1862, and “focused on the ideals that higher education should be accessible to all.” But it, the University of Iowa, 1847, and University of Northern Iowa, 1876, were primarily built with Iowans’ dollars, further evidence of Iowans’ continuing financial commitment to these educational ideals.

It’s clear why businesses in Ames, Cedar Falls, and Iowa City, should support the Regents’ universities. But why should the residents of Iowa’s 96 other counties? How can we answer their question, as President Harreld posed it, “What have you done for us lately?”

We have answers: Where do you think your agricultural research, doctors, nurses, and teachers come from? (; click on any county)

Main Street in Holstein, Ida County, one of my favorite western Iowa towns.
But what if they don’t have those doctors, our graduates aren’t their kids, and our astrophysicists’ discoveries haven’t touched their lives?

Let’s start by asking, “What do Iowans most want in their communities?” Then let’s shut up and listen, rather than telling them how great we are. As President Harreld said, “We can’t just wait for the people to come; we need to reach out. We owe the public something back.”

We’ve taken baby steps in that direction. I went on two of what are now called the University of Iowa Engagement Tours – Iowa professors travelling by bus, discovering our beautiful state, meeting with local leaders.

OK. But what we most need is at least a ten-fold expansion of what the UI calls our “Outreach” program. ( Listening to the legislators’ constituents, then surveying the universities’ resources to see what we could do, as their responsive partners, to help solve their communities' problems or flesh out their proposals.

Iowa Public Radio, the multi-million-dollar statewide radio network, licensed to Iowa’s universities, could be a big assist with this effort.

We don’t need another bus ride. What we need is a “full Grassley” of 99 counties with an army of listeners.

The rule in Washington is that you do ten favors for a politician before you ask for one in return. The same applies to universities’ constituents. What collaborative favors have we done for Iowa’s communities lately?

This political approach will take time, yes, but it’s legal, will cost a lot less, and produce a lot more, than that PAC.
Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City is a retired member of the University of Iowa College of Law faculty, one-time Democratic primary congressional candidate, and three-time presidential appointee. comments:

[For The Gazette's online presentation of this column click HERE.]

# # #

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Resources for Trump Watchers

Introduction: Why Resources for Trump Tracking?

How are Donald Trump's presidential years like the Afghanistan War?

We've been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001. We're still there -- one of America's longest, continuous wars. The Afghanistan War was initially our response to the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City. Why Afghanistan? For the same reason the fellow in the story who had lost a quarter was looking for it a block from where he'd dropped it. As he explained, "The light is better here." The 9/11 attack was primarily planned, funded, and executed by Saudis. Afghanistan had better light.

News from Afghanistan continues to dribble out: an attack on an American base here, our responsibility for civilian casualties there. But 14 years of details are forgotten, if not the next day, certainly by the next month. The only way to even try to make sense out of it is to wait for a book to weave those details into a storyl; or, at a minimum, read through a month or two's worth of all known details.

So it is with our new president. There are more details regarding what he's done and failed to do than we can even recall, let alone make sense out of. Indeed, given the Administration's penchant for secrecy and lack of transparency, and the President's ability to come up with multiple tweets and headlines a day to control the evening news and next day's papers, the media have done an extraordinary job bringing the audience as many of the details as they have.

Of course, not everyone cares about following the daily activities of President Trump. Many Trump supporters seem to either admire, don't care, or don't know what he has been doing. Other Americans -- some who voted, some who didn't -- have been so put off by the campaign, and the flood of news since the election, that they simply want to shut it all out. Among those who do care, many are willing just to dip in and out of the news; if they hear an item, fine, but if they don't it's no big deal.

The sources linked from this blog post are for those who, for whatever reasons, want to see the whole picture. They see the times we are living through as historically unique and potentially dangerous.
(1) There are concerns about Trump's personality and style, such as his attitudes, speech, and behavior regarding women. They see his troubling narcissistic personality traits, ease of factual misrepresentations, tendency to strike out against anyone not sufficiently admiring (including our global allies).

(2) There are concerns about his substantive policies regarding such things as immigration, healthcare, and the environment.

(3) But of all these concerns, and more, those that are of greatest importance are those that go to the heart of the ability of a self-correcting democracy to function: his disregard of centuries of American constitutional principles, legislation, and norms regarding the behavior of the president -- the authoritarian's technique of diminishing the people's regard for the media and judiciary; his almost total lack of education and experience regarding the role of government at any level, from local to NATO (and apparent disinterest in learning); his unwillingness to reveal his tax returns or establish a legitimate blind trust; his appointment of cabinet officers with similar lack of understanding and experience.
For those who, for these reasons, do believe they have a responsibility to keep a continuous eye on what Trump is doing, someone needs to bring the daily facts together for us.

Following the election, from November 9, 2016 to January 20, 2017, I decided that one of those someones would be me -- at least for the days of President-elect Trump. It's called "Tracking Trump", a blog post covering weeks one and two, to which are linked four additional "pages" for weeks 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, and 9-10 -- organized under topics such as "international," "appointments," and "temperament."

This took a substantial amount of "opportunity time" away from other high-priority tasks which had to be postponed. So I decided to make President-elect Trump's weeks the finite period of time to be covered by my own efforts, and look for other sources of comparable efforts regarding President Trump's first 100 days -- or four years. With credit to Julie Johnson for her early efforts at ferreting out most of these sources, here are some you may find useful. I'd welcome your suggestions of more to add. And remember, it's never been more important to support the efforts of these media sources with our subscriptions!

Trump Tracking Sources

New York Times, Politics

New York Times, "First 100 Days Briefing." Use (substituting for 2017/02/09 the date desired) or search on "First 100 Days Briefing" on the Times' opening page search field.

Washington Post, Politics

Washington Post, Politics, White House

The Guardian: "The First 100 Days of Trump; Tracking the 45th President of the United States, One Day at a Time"

New York Magazine, Daily Intelligencer: Eric Levitz, "All the Terrifying Things That Donald Trump Did Lately,"

Euronews: "This is What Trump Has Done So Far"

Politico: "Forty Five: A Daily Diary of the Trump Presidency"

Politico: "Handicapping Trump’s first 100 days; Trump’s campaign promises have run into trouble with his own party — even his own Cabinet members — before he even takes the oath of office," January 20, 2017

YAHOO! Style: Natalie Gontchrova, "Everything That's Happened Since Trump Took Office,"

Campaign Promises, Executive Orders and Tweets

Ray Giles' "Trump Campaign Promises Monitor"

USA TODAY: "On Politics: President Trump's executive actions: The complete list so far"

Los Angeles Times: "Here's everything Donald Trump has tweeted since he became president"

"Russia: Trump & His Team's Ties to Russia," Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Calif. 15th Dist.)

# # #

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Who Are We?

"All That We Share," a production of Denmark's TV2Danmark, was published January 27, 2017. The video is described by the network as follows: "We live in a time where we quickly put people in boxes. Maybe we have more in common than what we think?" (The video was brought to my attention by Gregory Johnson, Resources For Life.)

Trump has in an instant damaged American soft power but we have also seen lawyers flock to American airports to give free advice, while an American judge has ruled that those with green cards and visas can enter. It is heartening to see American soldiers who served in Iraq standing up for interpreters who worked with them. . . . We have seen the worst of Trump's America but also the best of America in the actions of lawyers, judges and people demonstrating for visitors and refugees. . . . President Roosevelt described the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 as a day of infamy. Trump's ill-considered and fruitless actions amount to a self-inflicted day of infamy for America and will long be remembered as the moment that pointlessly alienated America's allies and assisted its enemies.
-- Excerpts from Gary Kent, "America's Sad Day of Infamy," Rudaw [a newspaper and media network based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq], January 30, 2016 (for additional excerpts, see below.)

There is little more that can be or need be added to the world's overwhelming negative responses to President Trump's mean-spirited, ill considered, negligently executed, serious blow to our national security and international reputation from his "Executive Order" restricting immigration by refugees and other individuals from seven designated Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen). Made all the worse because he excluded from the ban Muslim countries in which he is doing business, and "Christians" from the seven designated countries (which looks like a violation of the First Amendment's "establishment" and "free exercise" of religion prohibitions).

But I think it is important for all who have access to a blog, or other means of communication, to take a stand at this time for American values. The excerpts from Gary Kent's piece from Kurdistan, recognizing the efforts of Americans to come to the aid of those most adversely and unfairly impacted, is one more reason why public opposition to Trump's action is helpful in retaining as much as possible of America's reputation as a nation of welcoming people. Kent's reaction in this regard is consistent with what I have heard from delegations from Turkey and Russia with whom I met yesterday and today. [Photo credit: AFP.]

So here are some truncated random thoughts about this disaster.

Putting "Terrorism" in Perspective. Obviously, we want, and have every right, to minimize the death and injury of Americans, and damage to our property, from what we call "terrorist acts." (1) But to the extent we're concerned about death, injury and property damage, that which is occasioned in America from "terrorism" is almost statistically insignificant compared with the 400,000 who die from tobacco-related disease, the result of alcohol and drug abuse, or the roughly equivalent numbers (about 35,000) who die from guns or automobile accidents. (2) And to the extent we do care about "terrorist acts" (or "hate crimes" involving death or serious bodily injury) many-to-most are caused by (a) those who would self-identify as "Christian" or non-believers rather than as Muslims, and (b) those -- including Muslims -- who were born in the U.S., or are otherwise legally here rather than refugees or new immigrants. (3) The handful Trump describes as "radical Islamic terrorists" in the U.S. have for the most part (and perhaps exclusively) been known to law enforcement and were "radicalized" here in the United States. In short, the return on this investment of time, effort, money -- and loss of American goodwill -- is not likely to produce much return.
[Since writing this I came upon a CNN presentation, consistent with what is written here, including the fact that you have only a 00.00003% chance of being killed in a foreign-born terrorist attack in the U.S. A.J. Willingham, Paul Martucci and Natalie Leung, "The Chances of a Refugee Killing You -- And Other Surprising Immigration Stats," CNN Politics, January 31, 2017. And see, Philip Bump, "The White House would like America to focus on terror attacks. Let's add context," Washington Post, February 8, 2017.]

Putting the Seven Countries in Perspective. I'm not going to do the research and produce the links to document what follows in this paragraph. But I believe it is a fair reading of what I've seen so far to say that (1) none of the seven countries Trump has chosen (originally singled out by President Obama for other reasons) have produced Muslims who have carried out terrorist attacks in the U.S., (2) he has excluded from his designated list countries those that have produced terrorists who attacked America (e.g., most of those involved in the 9/11 attacks on New York's Twin Towers came from Saudi Arabia), and (3) he has also excluded Muslim countries in which he has business interests. Whatever else one may think of this travel ban, this approach is simply irrational in terms of the stated purpose of the exercise: "to keep Americans safe." If there really were a serious likelihood of a flood of immigrants and refugees coming into the U.S. to do us harm -- because of their Muslim religion -- for which there is no evidence of which I am aware or to which Trump hinted, then the ban should have been applied to all countries with substantial Muslim populations. If a selection of countries was to be made, it would have made more sense to select those, based on past history, most likely to produce those wishing to do us harm rather than these seven.
Was Trump's travel ban an "anti-Muslim" action? He appeared to be stirring up Islamophobia among his supporters during his campaign, promising to do something like what he has just done. And even more telling is what Rudy Giuliani reports regarding his exchange with Trump. Amy B. Wang, "Trump asked for a 'Muslim ban,' Giuliani says -- and ordered a commission to do it 'legally,'" Washington Post, January 29, 2017 ("Former New York mayor Rudy W. Giuliani said President Trump wanted a 'Muslim ban' and requested he assemble a commission to show him 'the right way to do it legally.' Giuliani . . . appeared on Fox News late Saturday [Jan. 28] night to describe how Trump's executive order temporarily banning refugees came together. . . . 'How did the president decide the seven countries?' [Fox News host Jeanine Pirro] asked. . . . 'I'll tell you the whole history of it,' Giuliani responded eagerly. 'So when [Trump] first announced it, he said, "Muslim ban." He called me up. He said, "Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally."'")
Putting the Process in Perspective. The chaos and crises that have followed Trump's action is as good a case study as could be found of why we have government departments and agencies to aid the White House staff and president. Why we have a professional, well-educated, experienced, dedicated, patriotic civil service, bringing their well-informed experience and judgment to bear on why and how some proposals should be pursued and others should not. It appears Trump's idea was not vetted; those who could have helped were not consulted; those who would have to execute it were not informed. For someone who claimed the ability to bring sound American business practices to government, this looked more like someone headed for bankruptcy -- as indeed Trump did when he couldn't even make gambling casinos profitable.

This could go on and on, and you may think it already has. There is much more that could be said, none of it positive. It would be bad enough if imposing travel bans on another country's entire population of a given religion were merely ineffective. In this case, it's much worse. The backlash has already started. Iran has launched a missile, other countries' cabinet officers have been turned away, our universities' international students are nervous, those with "green cards" were initially turned away (before that insanity was walked back), those who served our military as interpreters are not being provided the protection they were promised, American overseas military and tourists are at greater risk, global commerce and airline operations are suffering.

Welcome to the world of government by tweets. Sad.

Who are we? If you didn't watch the video at the top of this blog essay when you began reading, watch it now. That's who we are. That's who we need to rise up and demand we will continue to be.

Additional Excerpts from Gary Kent, "America's Sad Day of Infamy," Rudaw, January 30, 2016
Many feared the worst of President Trump while others hoped he would become more presidential. Such hopes have been dashed by his edict on "extreme vetting" that Times columnist Roger Boyes says is "the bluntest of blunt instruments, sledgehammer-politik." . . . It was announced on Holocaust Memorial Day which reminded people of restrictions preventing Jews escaping the Nazis in the 1930s and ending up in death camps. . . .

Quick footwork by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who persuaded the American authorities to modify the presidential decree so it largely does not apply to British citizens, will slightly lessen the issue. But expect more heartbreaking stories of family division, people being unable to visit dying relatives, start jobs while hundreds of Iraqi interpreters are reported as being in a visa limbo. Daesh must be rubbing its hands in glee. . . .

Our fear last year was that this would chill investment as people found out that going to Kurdistan would complicate later visits to the US. International business groups have expressed fears that the latest ban will harm them. No one denies that the US has the right to patrol its borders and to prevent terrorists from entering the US. But there is no evidence that current measures are failing or that a blanket ban is necessary. . . .

Trump has in an instant damaged American soft power but we have also seen lawyers flock to American airports to give free advice, while an American judge has ruled that those with green cards and visas can enter. It is heartening to see American soldiers who served in Iraq standing up for interpreters who worked with them. We will see in the near future whether further changes can be made and whether the State Department can induce Trump to find a face-saving formula to rescind the order soon. . . .

Trump will probably continue to govern in this disruptive, defiant and divisive manner and this presents big difficulties for America's allies. . . . [Former British Foreign Minister Alistair Burt] suggested that a diplomatic excuse for postponing Trump's planned state visit to the UK in the summer might be wise.

We have seen the worst of Trump's America but also the best of America in the actions of lawyers, judges and people demonstrating for visitors and refugees. . . .

[Professor Eliot Cohen, a former adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] writes in The Atlantic that: "Precisely because the problem is one of [Trump's] temperament and character, it will not get better." Cohen argues it will worsen as power intoxicates Trump and those around him, and probably end in calamity such as substantial domestic protest and violence, broken international economic relationships and major alliances, and one or more new wars, even with China. He would not be surprised if Trump is impeached.

More optimistically Cohen concludes that "There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him." The ban may be further modified or lifted but leaves a lingering bad taste.

President Roosevelt described the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 as a day of infamy. Trump's ill-considered and fruitless actions amount to a self-inflicted day of infamy for America and will long be remembered as the moment that pointlessly alienated America's allies and assisted its enemies.

# # #

Sunday, January 15, 2017

No Elephants in the Room

Will football be next? This morning's [Jan. 15] New York Times reports Ringling Brothers circus will close forever in two months.

Animal rights activists, growing public support for their sentiments, leading to declining ticket sales, played a major role in this decision.

If public concern over physical and other harms to animals can close "the greatest show on earth," how long can it be before public concern over physical and other harms to humans will close professional football?

# # #

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Educating In and For a Digital Age

The Vast Waistline & Other Challenges to Education as We Knew It

Nicholas Johnson

4CAST - Campus Academic Strategies and Technology Conference
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
January 12, 2017

Note: Information regarding an audio of the presentation can be found HERE.


In the 1920s, when a quarter of America’s 115 million people lived on farms[1], two farm kids arrived in Iowa City; one from northwest Iowa and one from eastern Kansas.

It was a time when less than half the American population had even an eighth-grade education.[2]

The University of Iowa diplomas these two kids received put them in an educational elite: that upper 5 percent of Americans with B.A. degrees.[3]

Ultimately, they married. The Kansas boy became a university professor. The Iowa woman, whose high school graduating class had six other women and one man, began teaching in the West Branch schools.

During the Twenties, the UI -– then SUI, the State University of Iowa -– was doubling its enrollment[4] and expanding its campus across the River with the Field House[5], Stadium[6], and the recently-demolished Quadrangle.[7]

In 1934, six years after the hospital was built[8] -- what’s now called Boyd Tower -- the woman entered that hospital pregnant, and left with a 12-pound baby boy.

That was me.

As if being born on third base was not privilege enough, I was soon enrolled in the University of Iowa’s Child Welfare Research Station,[9] and then the University’s experimental schools[10] -– both sources of numerous educational research projects.

So, what are the lessons so far from this nostalgic rambling?

One lesson from a review of education’s past is that it puts our current classroom technology in context. Iowa’s Nineteenth Century teachers can still teach us. What were they doing in those 12,000 one-room school houses across the state – without any of our technology -– that enabled them to educate those 19th and early 20th-Century farm children like my parents?[11]

A second lesson is that to understand the challenges Twenty-First Century educators confront, it’s helpful to understand how and why they differ from the challenges of the 1920s -– and why these are differences of kind, not merely differences of degree.

My childhood research involved libraries with hard copy books, magazines, newspapers, and the Encyclopedia Britannica; card catalogs and the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. We wrote on paper with pencils, ink pens, and ultimately typewriters.

“Mass media” was a couple Iowa newspapers, regional AM radio stations, phonograph records, and films in local movie theaters. “Social media” was face-to-face, phone calls, and postal mail.

In 1969 I wrote what ultimately became a book chapter, “Communications and the Year 2000.” [12] I envisioned a 30-year progression toward what I called the “instantaneous, ubiquitous, no-cost communication” that we have today.

Today there are digital books, magazines, failing newspapers and Wikipedia. Our Main Library’s card catalogs have been pushed aside for computer stations, food courts, and lounges.[13] Two billion people have smartphones[14] that can instantly reach over one billion Websites[15] with 40,000 Google searches every second.[16]

Hollywood still turns out 34 films a year earning over $50 million each.[17] But today it’s competing with those two billion people uploading over 300 hours of video per minute to YouTube alone.[18]

Not incidentally, those Internet resources include free access to much of the content that we teach -– and charge our students thousands of dollars to receive.[19]

All of which brings me to another challenge we confront as educators: students who have grown up participating in a national conversation in which many participants neither know nor care about the distinctions between truth and lies, facts and opinions.

I recall sitting in a movie theater with two of my sons, then ten and seven. The seven-year-old noticed an “Exit” sign over a door near the front of the theater. “Hey, Dad, look,” he said, pointing to it. “We could just come in that door and we wouldn’t have to pay.”

Seizing this teachable moment, I replied, “That’s right, son; there’s nothing you can’t do if you’re willing to lie, cheat and steal.”

It was a risky response on my part. It could have propelled my sons into a life of very profitable crime. Fortunately, they grasped the lesson and have lived by it ever since.

“The Law,” and fear of punishment if caught, control some human behavior. But in most cultures, social norms –- such things as the space we give others, what is considered “appropriate” in speech, dress, or eating habits – provide more behavioral guidance than law.

An even greater force is one's internal moral compass.

Sometimes even school administrators rationalize that a questionable practice – like taking advertising revenue from the gambling, alcohol, or sugar-water industries – is OK because, as they say, “revenue is needed.”[20]

My response? “Once 'revenue is needed' becomes your polestar, your moral compass begins to spin as if you were standing on the North Pole.”[21]

It is that lack of moral compass that makes possible our most recent presidential campaign in which the candidate whose statements were “false or worse” 27 percent of the time lost to the candidate whose statements were false or worse 70 percent of the time.[22]

As we’ve recently discovered, lies work. A politician can lie his or her way into office. Why? Because their followers believe what they’re told.[23]

Among Trump’s supporters,
• 67% say unemployment increased under Obama (in fact, it declined)
• 39% think the stock market went down under Obama (it went up)
• 52% insist Trump won the popular vote (he didn't; Hillary Clinton had three million more votes)
• 14% believe Hillary Clinton's running a child sex ring out of a Washington pizza parlor (she's not)[24]
Which brings us to the challenge we confront from the mass media -– a force that can multiply the impact of speech beyond our wildest imagining.

During my 15 minutes of fame, I was doing a national lecture business and appeared as a guest on the late-night network TV shows.

I was curious about the size and impact of a national TV audience compared with a lecture hall audience. It turned out that, to lecture to as many folks as were watching those TV shows, I would need to deliver lectures every day, to eight different audiences, five days a week, fifty weeks a year, for -– want to guess? -– for 100 years![25]

The Congress that enacted the first radio regulation understood this power. As one member said in 1926:
American politics will be at the mercy of those who operate these stations. . .. [If] a single selfish group is permitted to . . . dominate them . . . woe be to those [of us] who dare to differ with them. It will be impossible to compete with them in reaching the ears of the American people.[26]
The FCC’s predecessor, the Radio Commission, regulated accordingly.

Dr. Robert Shuler was a Los Angeles preacher in the early 1930s. He also owned radio station KGEF. His language and attacks on politicians, police officials, trade unions, Catholics, Jews and African Americans were like those today by Rush Limbaugh, or tweets from our President-Elect.

The Radio Commission refused to renew Shuler’s license, under the congressionally-mandated “public interest” standard. On appeal, the court affirmed the Commission.[27]

That is no longer the law.

In my day, the FCC had something called the “Fairness Doctrine.” Unlike the Shuler case, it put few if any restraints on what could be said. It did not require a child’s sense of “fairness,” nor “equal time.” It merely required stations to program about controversial issues of public importance, and in doing so to give some coverage to a range of views.[28]

That, too, is no longer either the law or the reality.

Fifty years ago, given ABC’s then weakness, it was said we had a two-and-one-half television network economy regulated by the FCC. Today we have hundreds of channels with virtually no FCC content regulation.[29]

And what does all of this mean for technology in our classrooms?

The University of Iowa faculty can take some pride in the technological innovations of the last 20 years we have welcomed into our offices and classrooms. We’ve come a long way from the days when our critics said it had taken us 50 years to get the overhead projector out of the bowling alley and into the classroom.

But technology alone is not enough to deal with the lie -– whether part of a Big Lie technique, or a little fib. In fact, as we’ve seen from the fake news sites and the online social media, technology can sometimes make things worse.

So what are we to do?

There is a bumper sticker that reads, “Whatever is the question, war is not the answer.” My version reads, “Whatever is the question, education is the answer.”

Forty-seven years ago, I calculated that the average five-year-old had already spent more hours watching television than they would later spend in a college classroom earning a B.A. degree.[30] Today, their screen time is even greater.[31]

One-third of children under two have a TV in their bedroom.[32] One-half of those over eight, with access to everything from video games to laptops, have multiple digital and Internet-connected devices.[33]

Are there benefits from our children living virtual lives on screens? Absolutely. But there are also downsides. The CDC lists “watching television or other screen devices” as a contributing cause of obesity.[34]

In 1961 FCC Chair Newton Minow called television programming “a vast wasteland.”[35] Today, children’s and adults’ increased screen time is contributing to our nation’s increasingly “vast waistline.”

Texting while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk.[36] Students texting, tweeting and Facebooking during class time just end up proving there’s no such thing as “multi-tasking.”[37]

Central to our concern as educators is our students’ -– and sometimes our own – seeming inability to swim through the ocean waves of the Internet, this murky soup of truth and trash, with an ability to pick the facts from the phonies.

Stanford researches were, they said, “shocked” to find students’ fake news detection abilities, quote, "dismaying," "bleak" and "[a] threat to democracy."[38]

This is not a new phenomenon.

Twenty years ago, the Kettering Foundation, Grant Wood Area Education Agency, and Herbert Hoover Presidential Library asked me to address regional students attending their National Issues Forum.[39]

As I summed up the central message of that talk,
More important than theories of government, more important than the examples and data you discuss, more important than the personal experiences I could share, more important than all of this, is your ability to be thoughtful about the language you use to talk about these public policy issues.[40]
I reminded them of the portion of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath in which he describes a filling station attendant who repeats to Tom Joad, “What’s the country comin’ to? What’s the country comin’ to?” To which Tom replies, “You ain’t askin’ nothin’; you’re jus’ singin’ a kinda song.”[41]

I closed that National Issues Forum talk by saying,
We have to know how to tell a fact from a phony. We have to get beyond the generalities and the ideology. We have to stop “just singing a kind of song.” We have to ask – ourselves as well as others – “What do you mean? and How do you know?”[42]
In the fall of 2009, when then-Provost Wallace Loh asked that I teach one of Iowa’s First Year Seminars, I produced a book for my Iowa undergraduates that used those questions as its title: What Do You Mean? And How Do You Know? An Antidote for the Language That Does Our Thinking for Us[43] –- drawing on my own writing, and that of others, about what in the 1950s was called “general semantics.”

General semantics was then a subject of academic courses across the country, scholarly and popular books, and even local chapters of the International Society of General Semantics. It had grown out of World War II – the perceived dangers from future use of Hitler’s powerful propaganda techniques, and the role of language in our desperate efforts to prevent future human annihilation from atomic bombs.

America’s next four years present equivalent challenges.

Whatever is the question, education is the answer.

And it may just be time, once again, to include some of the literature of general semantics in that education;[44] to provide our undergraduates some help as they struggle with the questions, “What do you mean? And How do you know?”


Note About Audio: The audio of this presentation contains the Introduction, at 1:19-3:42; the Speech, at 4:09-27:51; and a Q and A, at 28:11-44:22. You can link to the audio here. (Thanks to the UI's Trevor Templeman and Kirk Batterson for producing the audio and making it available, and to Gregory Johnson of Resources For Life for enabling me to post it here.)


1. These are estimates based on "The farm population in 1920, when the official Census data began, was nearly 32 million, or 30.2 percent of the population of 105.7 million, the report said" and related data." "Farm Population Lowest Since 1850's," New York Times, July 20, 1988; "July 1, 1925 - 115,829,000," "Historical National Population Estimates: July 1, 1900 to July 1, 1999," Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, June 28, 2000

2. "In 1940, more than half of the U.S. population had completed no more than an eighth grade education. Only 6 percent of males and 4 percent of females had completed 4 years of college." "National Assessment of Adult Literacy; 120 Years of Literacy," National Center for Education Statistics; a 1925-26 study of eight Oklahoma cotton belt counties found, among farmers, only 2% of males and 3.5% of females had attended college. Faith M. Williams and Carle C. Zimmerman, Studies of Family Living in the United States and Other Countries: An Analysis of Material and Method, U.S. Department of Agriculture, December 1935, p. 94. By contrast, "• In 2015, almost 9 out of 10 adults (88 percent) had at least a high school diploma or GED, while nearly 1 in 3 adults (33 percent) held a bachelor’s or higher degree." Camille L. Ryan and Kurt Bauman, "Educational Attainment in the United States: 2015," Current Population Reports, Population Characteristics, U.S. Census Bureau

3. Ibid.

4. From 1920 to 1929 SUI's enrollment increased from 5300 to 9700; graduates from 700 a year to 1400."University of Iowa Enrollment Chart, 1856-1942," Special Collections, University of Iowa Main Library

5. Field House "Field House," University of Iowa Recreational Services ("The Field House originally opened in 1927 . . ..")

6. Stadium "Kinnick Stadium," ("Opening in 1929 . . ..")

7. Quadrangle "Remembering Quadrangle Hall," University of Iowa Housing and Dining

8. Hospital "History; Timeline of Facilities," University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics ("1928: The seven story, 770-bed General Hospital opens.")

9. Iowa Child Welfare Research Station

10. Nicholas Johnson, "The Last Commencement Address: The U High Idea," June 1, 1972

11. "Numbering an astonishing 12,000 to 14,000 at one time, depending on what report you use, Iowa had more one-room school houses than any other state in the union." "A walk through Iowa's one-room schoolhouses," Iowa Department of Education. "One-Room Schools," Iowa Pathways, Iowa Public Television. Few would wish for a return to the one-room school era, but there were some features of them that we do, and more that we could, use to advantage. For example: they often had fewer students in the entire school than we have in a classroom, enabling more individual attention from the teacher in this place "where everybody knows your name"; the consistency of one teacher for all years and all subjects; collaboration by necessity, with older students helping younger; all courses "accelerated" as younger students absorbed some of what was being taught to those older; more time for individual instruction ("no special ed but lots of special help"); more time for reflection, mastery of material, memorization ability.

12. Nicholas Johnson, How to Talk Back to Your Television Set, ch. 6, p. 86 (Atlantic-Little Brown and Bantam Books, 1970; 3d. ed. Lulu Press, 2013)

13. University of Iowa Main Library Learning Commons

14. "For 2016, the number of smartphone users is forecast to reach 2.1 billion." "Number of smartphone users worldwide from 2014 to 2020,"

15. "In 1994, for example, there were fewer than 3,000 websites online. By 2014, there were more than 1 billion. That represents a 33 million percent increase in 20 years." Adrienne LaFrance, "How Many Websites Are There?" The Atlantic, September 30, 2015

16. "By 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, Google was serving more than 3.5 billion searches per day—equivalent to 40,000 searches every second." Ibid.

17. "Though there are more big pictures and tiny pictures, there aren’t enough films in the middle. The number of movies that grossed between $50 million and $100 million, essentially the range of grosses that could once be expected for romantic comedies and thrillers, fell from 41 in 2004 to 34 last year. The drop over that time frame was even more severe in the pictures in the under $50 million range . . .." Brent A. Lang, "Is Hollywood Making Too Many Movies?" Variety, June 23, 2015

18. "Hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute," YouTube Company Statistics

19. Nicholas Johnson, "Higher Ed: When UI Loses Its Monopoly," February 20, 2010

20. For one of the earlier examples, linking to some others, see Nicholas Johnson, "'Revenue is Needed' Updates," September 26, 2007; a Google search -- "revenue is needed" site: -- produced "About 66 results."

21. Ibid.

22. "One persistent narrative in American politics is that Hillary Clinton is a slippery, compulsive liar while Donald Trump is a gutsy truth-teller. . . . Yet the idea that they are even in the same league is preposterous. . . . One metric comes from independent fact-checking websites. As of Friday [Aug. 5], PoltiFact had found 27 percent of Clinton's statements . . . were mostly false or worse, compared with 70 percent of Trump's." Nicholas Kristof, "Clinton's Fibs vs. Trump's Huge Lies," New York Times, August 7, 2016, p. SR 9

23. Lies can lead a country to war. Indeed, to paraphrase President Roosevelt’s famous line, “All the weapons manufacturers have to fear is the absence of fear itself.” Snopes confirms that Hitler’s Hermann Goering explained this at the Nuremberg trials: "Of course the people don't want war. But . . . it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. . . . That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger." "War Games; Rumor: Hermnn Goering proclaimed that although 'the people don't want war,' they 'can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders;' True,"

24. "Trump Remains Unpopular; Voters Prefer Obama on SCOTUS Pick," Public Policy (includes much more polling data) Of course, this phenomenon is not limited to any one ideological orientation. See, e.g., Nicholas Johnson, "Seeing is Believing," July 14, 2014, and Nicholas Johnson, "Snopes, Popes and Presidents," December 26, 2013. Lest we leap to the conclusion that this is all the fault of the Internet, we should remember Steffanson's exploration of how it was that errors in our hard copy sources would ultimately wend their way into our hard copy encyclopedias: Vilhjalmur Stefansson, The Standardization of Error (W.W. Norton & Co., 1927).

25. Obviously, this is a fanciful exercise as every number is a variable -- size of audience, number of lectures per day, number of days per year, number of years, the year we're talking about, number of U.S. homes, percentage with TV reception, percentage of those homes watching TV, percentage of those homes watching any given program. In the 1960s there were, say, 60 million homes ["Housing," U.S. Census Bureau], 90% of which had a TV. With 50% of those homes watching TV, and three dominant networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) splitting that audience, a given program could have something like 10 million viewers. Eight lectures a day times five days a week times 50 weeks a year times 100 years is 200,000 lectures; times an audience of 50 is 10 million viewers.

26. About 90 years ago, when the Radio Act was debated in Congress, and the miracle of radio was only barely understood, Congressman Luther Johnson of Texas was so remarkably prescient to foresee: "American thought and American politics will be largely at the mercy of those who operate these stations. For publicity is the most powerful weapon that can be wielded in a Republic, and when such a weapon is placed in the hands of one, or a single selfish group is permitted to either tacitly or otherwise acquire ownership and dominate these broadcasting stations throughout the country, then woe be to those who dare to differ with them. It will be impossible to compete with them in reaching the ears of the American people." 67 Cong. Rec. 5558 (1926).

27. Trinity Methodist Church v. Fed'l Radio Com'n, 62 F.2d 850 (D.C. Cir. 1932). The court had to decide whether the First Amendment prevented the Commission from considering Shuler’s “defamatory and untrue matter.” The court affirmed the Commission’s refusal to renew, saying, "If . . . one . . . may . . . use these facilities . . . to obstruct the administration of justice, offend the religious susceptibilities of thousands, inspire political distrust and civic discord, or offend youth and innocence . . ., and be answerable for slander only at the instance of the one offended, then this great science, instead of a boon, will become a scourge . . .."

28. A useful discussion of the Fairness Doctrine, in the context of a specific case, can be found in Brandywine Main Line Radio v. F.C.C., 473 F2d 16 (D.C. Cir. 1972), which includes the court's reproduction of a "parable" of the author's view of the matter (previously presented to a congressional committee), found in the three paragraphs before note call 118.

29. For one explanation (the author's) of how and why more and more agencies seem to regulate less and less, see the discussion of Washington's "sub-governments" in Nicholas Johnson, What Do You Mean and How Do You Know? An Antidote for the Language That Does Our Thinking for Us, "You As Citizen I: What Do You Mean and How Do You Know?" ch. 5, pp. 56-59.

30. "By the time the average child enters kindergarten [they have] already spent more hours learning about [their] world from television than the hours [they] would spend in a college classroom earning a B.A. degree." Id. in Ch. 1, "The Crush of Television," p. 7.

31. "The study found that fully half of children under 8 had access to a mobile device like a smartphone, a video iPod, or an iPad or other tablet. . . . [A]lmost a third of children under 2 have televisions in their bedrooms, . . .. In families with annual incomes under $30,000, the new study found, 64 percent of children under 8 had televisions in their rooms . . .." Tamar Lewin, "Screen Time Higher Than Ever for Children," New York Times, October 25, 2011, p. A18

32. Ibid.

33. Id.

34. "Behaviors that influence excess weight gain include . . . sedentary activities such as watching television or other screen devices . . .." "Childhood Obesity Causes & Consequences," Overweight & Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

35. Newton N. Minow, "Television and the Public Interest," National Association of Broadcasters, May 9, 1961 ("Your industry possesses the most powerful voice in America. It has an inescapable duty to make that voice ring with intelligence and with leadership. . . . But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.) And for an update, see Nicholas Johnson, "Forty Years of Wandering in the Wasteland," Federal Communications Law Journal, 55 F.C.L.J 521 (2003).

36. Kiernan Hopkins, "Is Texting While Driving More Dangerous Than Drunk Driving?", April 2, 2013 ("Car and Driver Magazine performed an experiment . . .. [C]ars were rigged with a red light to alert drivers when to brake. The magazine tested how long it would take to hit the brakes when sober, when legally impaired at a BAC level of .08, when reading an e-mail and when sending a text. Sober, focused drivers took an average of 0.54 seconds to brake. For legally drunk drivers four feet needed to be added. An additional 36 feet was necessary for reading an e-mail, and a whopping added 70 feet was needed for sending a text.")

37. Jim Taylor, "Technology: Myth of Multitasking," Psychology Today, March 30, 2011 ("Like many wired people, you probably take great pride in being a multitasker. . . . There's one problem with this scenario: there is no such thing as multitasking -- at least not the way you may think of it.")

38. Camila Domonoske, "Students Have 'Dismaying' Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds," NPR, November 23, 2016 ("If the children are the future, the future might be very ill-informed. That's one implication of a new study from Stanford researchers that evaluated students' ability to assess information sources and described the results as 'dismaying,' 'bleak' and '[a] threat to democracy.'")

39. Nicholas Johnson, "You As Citizen I: 'What Do You Mean and How Do You Know?', What Do You Mean and How Do You Know? An Antidote for the Language That Does Our Thinking for Us, ch. 5, p. 49 (Lulu Press, 2009)

40. Id. at p. 51.

41. Id. at p. 54, n. 2. John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath (1939; Penguin Books ed. 1977), ch. 13, p. 174.

42. Id. at p. 59.

43. Nicholas Johnson, What Do You Mean and How Do You Know? An Antidote for the Language That Does Our Thinking for Us (Lulu Press, 2009).

44. For a brief introduction to what is meant by "general semantics," see "Introduction: Why General Semantics?" in Nicholas Johnson, What Do You Mean and How Do You Know? An Antidote for the Language That Does Our Thinking for Us (Lulu Press, 2009), ch. 1, p. 1.4

# # #

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Eastern Iowa's Declaration of Human Rights

Note: Each year around January 1 The Gazette calls upon its "Writers Circle" for brief pieces regarding the year to come. What follows was my contribution to "Writers Circle: Our Resolutions for 2017."

Focus on Our Common Values

Nicholas Johnson

The Gazette, January 1, 2017, p. D2

The prefix, “comm,” has been around for 700 years: “communication,” “the commons,” a “commune,” “communitarian,” “communal” – and “community.” My column in this space last year focused on the role of communications in defining and building a community.

This year’s focus is on our common values; the standards we want for all.

A couple weeks ago, in a play based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, I played Mr. Fezziwig – a jolly employer with communal values, in stark contrast to their absence in Ebenezer Scrooge. It is a contrast, alas, that persists 170 years later.

Eastern Iowa, and this newspaper, are blessed with a good many Fezziwigs. My suggestion for 2017 is that we come together in the spirit of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights to draft our own (see especially Articles 25 and 26 – look it up).

What do we wish for all who live among us? We are all in need of something. Even the well-educated wealthy can suffer disabilities or addictions. But what can we do for those with less income, new immigrants, recently released prisoners, homeless veterans, or those with jobs but no reliable transportation?

A “community” should know, and implement, the answers.

# # #

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tracking Trump

Updated Daily
Introduction: Why Track Trump?

Issues (an outline of categories in weekly compilations)

Week 1 -- November 9-15, 2016

Week 2 -- November 16-22, 2016

Week 3 -- November 23-29, 2016
Highlights and Trends
Week 4 -- November 30-December 6, 2016

Week 5 -- December 7-December 13, 2016

Week 6 -- December 14-December 20, 2016

Week 7 -- December 21-December 27, 2016

Week 8 -- December 28-January 3, 2017

Week 9 -- January 4-January 10, 2017

Week 10 -- January 11-January 17, 2017

[Note: Because of the physical volume of entries, beginning with Week 3 the blog post you are now on will remain the opening post for this series, and the links in its "Contents" section at the top of this post will take you to the new blog pages for subsequent weeks.]

Introduction: Why Track Trump?

Of the 1200 or so blog essays in FromDC2Iowa, most stand alone -- they treat a single subject, or event.

Occasionally a thread emerges, as a single, ongoing subject is dealt with over a period of months. For example, the Board of Regents' selection of University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld (someone with as little experience with higher education administration as Trump has had with the administration of government), was an ongoing subject of blog essays over a period of months.
See, e.g., "Business Background: Enough for University President?" September 2-October 31, 2015 (with links to 20 collections of material and comments); "UI President Harreld - Nov. 2015," November 1-30, 2015 (with links to 10 collections); "UI President Harreld - Dec. 2015," December 1-31, 2015 (with links to 10 collections); "UI President Harreld - Jan. 2016," January 1-31, 2016 (with links to 10 collections); "UI President Harreld - Feb. 2016," February 1-29, 2016 (with links to 11 collections).
The election of Donald J. Trump cries out even louder for such ongoing attention.

Every new U.S. president brings some measure of uncertainty as to what he will say and do. However, most have arrived with a package of clues as to what that might be, based on some sort of track record in the public sector.

President-elect Donald Trump brings no such record. Moreover, his unprecedented refusal to reveal his tax returns, and the sketchy, largely unproven assertions about his business record -- whether praise or criticism -- means we have even less solid information about his behavior in the private sector. [President-Elect Donald J. Trump; photo credit: Wikipedia]

In this, and succeeding, blog posts we will attempt to identify the issues requiring attention, and begin the process of finding and revealing the clues that may emerge regarding how a Trump Administration might deal with them. Where available, we will provide media reports with more detail. Our principal sources will be The New York Times and The Washington Post. For a full collection of New York Times' stories, see generally, "The Trump White House; Stories on the Presidential Transition and the Forthcoming Trump Administration," New York Times undated/updated.


The Issues

Transition. Regardless of agendas and intentions, a functioning executive branch of our federal government requires some 4,000 presidential appointees, and supporting civil service staff, who are experienced and knowledgeable. Those resources are now in place. Most of those folks will be gone by, or soon after, the inauguration of Donald Trump, January 20, 2017. Have their replacements been found? Are they being brought up to speed by their predecessors?

Leaders. One of the most significant subsets of an administration's staffing are those chosen by a president as his closest advisers. This is particularly significant for a president, like Trump, who has no experience and very little knowledge of what is required of a president. Who are those individuals? What do their experience, knowledge, ties to special interests, and ideological orientation tell us about the advice they'll be providing?

International. The president of the United States wears many hats, among them CEO of the executive branch, commander-in-chief of the military, leader of his or her political party, cheerleader in chief for the American people in times of trouble. But none is more important than the president's role as America's face for the 7 billion people living elsewhere (sometimes referred to as "leader of the free world"). Every one of these roles can benefit from a depth of knowledge and a breadth of experience -- for which Trump has neither. Will he reach out to America's (and the world's) "best and the brightest"? Or will he continue to rely on his questionable confidence that he "knows more than the generals" -- and the diplomatic corps?

Conflicts. For the last 40 years, every president coming into the office with investments has put them in a "blind trust" -- a separate legal entity, managed by an independent wealth manager during the president's term in office, during which time the president has neither control nor even knowledge of how the assets are being managed. During the campaign Trump did not agree to do this, saying that his business interests would be managed by his children. If that turns out to be the arrangement it would be an unprecedented conflict of interest.

Temperament. During the campaign, Donald Trump often engaged in behavior and speech that many, perhaps most, Americans (including many of his supporters) found unacceptably divisive, hateful, disrespectful of others -- and potentially dangerous in international relations. Will this continue from time to time, or was Trump's campaign performance merely that: a "performance"? Will he successfully transition into a new role as a responsible president?

Media. During the campaign Trump was unrestrained in his attacks on both individual journalists and "the media" in general. Since winning the election this seems to have toned down a little. An intimidated media cannot well serve a self-governing democracy, and there are many ways a president can intimidate -- especially when the media is a part of a much larger conglomerate with a diverse range of relationships with the federal government (e.g., proposed mergers, defense contracts).

Divisions. As the exit polls on election day confirmed, rarely have Americans been as deeply divided as they are now -- the economic 1% and the rest of us, urban and rural, old and young, college educated and high school, professionals and working class, whites and minorities, male and female, American-born and immigrants, religious and not so much, fact-driven and ideologues. Tragically, this has carried over into increases in everything from offensive speech to physical attacks. Regardless of the extent to which it is a consequence of the campaign Trump conducted, it seems to be a reality. He can choose to help with the healing, or simply pour more salt in the wounds.

Policy. There will be, potentially, a very long list of law and public policy areas to watch. There are many things he advocated during the campaign that he has already backed off from somewhat, may never have intended to do, or may discover he can't do. Meanwhile, those who would be adversely affected by the execution of his campaign rhetoric are understandably anxious. Here are some obvious matters with which to begin, starting with what Trump has identified as his top three. There will be more to come.
Immigration. Millions of individuals now living in America, Hispanics and Muslims immediately come to mind, will be impacted by whatever a Trump Administration decides to do.

Healthcare. "Repealing Obamacare" has been a Republican mantra since it was introduced. It never was a universal single-payer healthcare plan (like Medicare or Veterans' healthcare), it was a health insurance plan. But it was better than what many Americans had previously. Will it be replaced before it is repealed or afterwards? If it's only modified, how will Americans then be better or worse off?

Infrastructure. A central question -- aside from how much will be spent, and over what period of time -- is who will most benefit? Will the projects, and jobs, go to the most vulnerable Americans -- a rising tide to benefit those who don't yet even have a boat? Or will it go to upgrading the luxurious airline lounges and other airport facilities for the one-third of Americans who fly at least once each year? Will the money go to wealthy contractors and those with the skills to earn the median American wage (or more)? Or will it (like FDR's WPA and CCC) help those living in neighborhoods with 50 percent unemployment?

Energy. During the campaign Trump aligned himself with the climate change deniers, urged maximum development of U.S. oil, and indicated support for a return to coal as a source of energy and jobs for those in coal country. Whatever these policies prove to be will also have an impact on America's participation and cooperation with global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Clues to policy will come from Trump's appointments in the executive branch agencies and his White House staff.

Education. Many education policy proposals were put forward during the campaign -- including a nod from Trump in favor of the general idea of making college "more affordable." Others' proposals have included tuition-free community college, our following the European policy of tuition-free higher education (either for all, or for those below a set income cap), tying payback on student loans to a percentage of income, and ideas regarding an expanded opportunity for pre-K education.
Week 1 -- November 9-15, 2016

Transition. Transitions are always difficult -- 60 plus days to put an executive branch federal government together. Trump's meeting with President Obama was a good sign, as was what was reported about what both of them said during and after the meeting. Somewhat troubling is that the designated leader of the transition, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, has indicated he'd like to go on being governor of Indiana until a week or so before the inauguration. There have been questions about the formal role of Trump's children (discussed under "conflicts"). Governor Chris Christie has already been replaced as Chief of Staff-designate by Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus. And apparently whoever is in charge has been somewhat slow in responding to offers of assistance from current office holders (including those in the CIA, Departments of State and Defense). Ben Carson has indicated he is not interested in a cabinet appointment because he lacks the experience and knowledge to do the job. The designated security adviser, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, has announced he will not be serving. But this is only one week in; there will be changes to come -- whether more stabilizing or chaotic.

See the detailed report in Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Mark Mazzetti and Maggie Habermannov, "Firings and Discord Put Trump Transition Team in a State of Disarray," The New York Times, November 16, 2016, p. A1 ("President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition was in disarray on Tuesday, marked by firings, infighting and revelations that American allies were blindly dialing in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world."); and Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller, "Key figures purged from Trump transition team," Washington Post, November 15, 2016 ("'“It became clear to me that they view jobs as lollipops, things you give out to good boys and girls, instead of the sense that actually what you’re trying to do is recruit the best possible talent to fill the most important, demanding, lowest-paying executive jobs in the world,' [Eliot] Cohen ["a leading voice of opposition to Trump during the campaign who had advised those interested in administration jobs to take them, abruptly changed his mind, saying the transition 'will be ugly.'] said.").

Leaders. During the campaign Trump and his followers shouted out that he would "drain the swamp" -- meaning that he would rid Washington of special interests and their lobbyists. What he found when he drained the swamp were the creatures that lived there: lobbyists looking for jobs and contacts in a new administration. The Trump team was willing to take them on board. The Times detailed the process and named the individuals and their conflicts: Eric Lipton, "With Trump's Election, a Bonanza for Washington Lobbyists," New York Times, November 11, 2016, p. P1 (an inside look into who they are and how they do what they do); and Eric Lipton, "Trump Campaigned Against Lobbyists, but Now They're on His Transition Team," New York Times, November 12, 2016, p. A1 ("President-elect Donald J. Trump, who campaigned against the corrupt power of special interests, is filling his transition team with some of the very sort of people who he has complained have too much clout in Washington: corporate consultants and lobbyists.")

Later into the first week the headlines involved Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President, a position he's characterized as equal to that of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. The controversy involves Bannon's prior role as CEO of Breitbart. (You can examine for yourself its Web site here and its Facebook page here.)

See David Weigel, "Is Trump’s new chief strategist a racist? Critics say so," Washington Post, November 14, 2016 ("some of the highest praise for Bannon’s appointment came from white nationalists and white supremacists. . . . [C]omments celebrating the news have posted on Stormfront, a website for the 'White Nationalist Community,' including this one from a reader called Pheonix1993: 'Stephen Bannon: racist, anti-homo, anti-immigrant, anti-jewish, anti-establishment. Declared war on (((Paul Ryan))) Sounds perfect. The man who will have Trump’s ear more than anyone else. Being anti-jewish is not illegal.'”); and David A. Fahrenthold and Frances Stead Sellers, "How Bannon flattered and coaxed Trump on policies key to the alt-right," Washington Post, September 15, 2016 ("[W]hat policies Bannon may try to push can be gleaned from a series of one-on-one interviews on Bannon’s radio show between November 2015 and June of this year. In those exchanges, a dynamic emerged, with Bannon often coaxing Trump to agree to his viewpoint, whether on climate change, foreign policy or the need to take on Republican leaders in Congress.") Michael D. Shear, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, "Critics See Stephen Bannon, Trump's Pick for Strategist, as Voice of Racism," New York Times, November 15, 2016, p. A1 ("A fierce chorus of critics denounced President-elect Donald J. Trump on Monday for appointing Stephen K. Bannon, a nationalist media mogul, to a top White House position . . ..")

Katie Zezima, "Trump pits establishment against populism at the top of his White House team," Washington Post, November 14, 2016 (" Trump named his top two advisers [Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus] on Sunday [Nov. 13] . . . setting up what could be a battle within the White House between the populist, outsider forces that propelled his winning campaign and the party establishment that dominates Washington."); Michael D. Shear, Maggie Haberman and Alan Rappeport, "Donald Trump Picks Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff and Stephen Bannon as Strategist," New York Times, November 14, 2016, p. A1.


Conflicts. The Trump children hold formal positions in the transition, as well as responsibility for running the Trump companies. The request (it's not known from whom) that they all receive top security clearances was apparently blocked by someone. But here's a story of one specific example of private profit from public position, along with ethics advisers general concerns: Drew Harwell, "With Ivanka’s jewelry ad, Trump companies begin to seek profit off election result," Washington Post, November 15, 2016 (Ivanka Trump's company using her family's appearance on "60 Minutes," with Ivanka wearing her company's $8800 bracelet, "marked one of the first moments since the election during which the Trump companies have sought to use Trump's presidential prominence to boost their private fortunes. But it may not be the last. Ethics advisers have increasingly voiced concerns over the unprecedented conflicts of interest that could arise from the soon-to-be first family's empire of real estate, luxury goods and licensing deals.").

Eric Lipton and Susanne Craig, "Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest," New York Times, November 15, 2016, p. A1 ("The layers of potential conflicts he faces are in many ways as complex as his far-flung business empire, adding a heightened degree of difficulty for Mr. Trump — one of the wealthiest men to ever occupy the White House — in separating his official duties from his private business affairs.").

Temperament. After his election it was like someone threw a switch on Donald Trump -- he had kind words praising Hillary Clinton in his acceptance speech, and was deferential and praising of President Obama in the Oval Office. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Trump and Obama Hold Cordial 90-Minute Meeting in Oval Office," New York Times, November 11, 2016, p. A1.

For one of the more detailed descriptions of Trump's executive "style" by those who have worked with him and know him best, see Marc Fisher, "Trump’s huge transition will start with his tight inner circle," Washington Post, November 10, 2016 (e.g., "He reads little and rules by his gut. He picks people by first impressions, sometimes without even talking to them. He is laser-focused on how he is perceived and what people say about him.")

Media. Given the importance of an independent, First Amendment-protected media, it is unsettling when Trump says he wants to dilute the First Amendment. Marc Fisher, "Trump’s huge transition will start with his tight inner circle," Washington Post, November 10, 2016 ("Trump has also used the threat of lawsuits as a cudgel against those who block his way or criticize him in public; that’s an avenue he won’t have as president, though he has said he wants to dilute First Amendment protections of free speech.")

Divisions. Many commentators seem to believe what is intuitive: that Trump's hateful campaign rhetoric has in fact contributed to a deepening divide in America. Abigail Hauslohner, Sandhya Somashekhar and Susan Svrluga, "Vitriol only intensifies after bitter election," Washington Post, November 11, 2016 ("Three days since businessman Donald Trump won the presidency, it is clear that the animosity wrought by a historically divisive election did not simply die in its wake, but may have intensified. U.S. cities have been convulsed by anti-Trump protests. Swastikas, racial slurs and personal threats have appeared on public buildings and dorm room doors. And online, the vicious word-slinging between supporters of the two candidates has escalated to include videotaped accounts of personal confrontation and retribution."); Matt Zkapotosky, "Hate crimes against Muslims hit highest mark since 2001," Washington Post, November 14, 2016 ("Hate crimes against Muslims spiked last year to their highest level in more than a decade — an increase that experts and advocates say was fueled by anger over terrorist attacks and anti-Islam rhetoric on the campaign trail.") Eric Lichtblau, "U.S. Hate Crimes Surge 6%, Fueled by Attacks on Muslims," New York Times, November 15, 2016, p. A13 ("[A]ttacks against American Muslims surged last year . . .. The data . . . is the most comprehensive look at hate crime . . . by researchers and outside monitors, who have noted an alarming rise in some types of crimes tied to the vitriol of this year's presidential campaign . . ..")

Immigration. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Donald Trump Appears to Soften Stance on Immigration, but Not on Abortion," New York Times, November 14, 2016, p. A1 ("On immigration, he [Trump] said the wall that he has been promising to build on the nation’s southern border might end up being a fence in places. But he said his priority was to deport two million to three million immigrants he characterized as dangerous or as having criminal records . . . [not] all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.")

Policy. There is a variation in many political campaigns between what the candidate says before and after election, once in office. Because so many of Trump's campaign assertions were frightening to many Americans, there's more interest than usual in what he's actually going to do. Some are inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, that "of course, he'd never really do that." Others warn, "Don't be so sure. He's told you what he's going to do." So far it appears that he is backing off on some of his promises. There are other promises it will be hard to keep even if he'd like to: Sean Sullivan and Dana Priest, "Many of Trump's sweeping promises will be hard, if not impossible, to fulfill," Washington Post, November 10, 2016 ("Some of Trump’s most dramatic undertakings — such as canceling Obama’s “illegal” executive actions — can be done in his first hours as president. Other priorities, such as repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act or building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, will require the approval of Congress, which will be controlled by Republicans but could still squabble over details. Others still could run into political or legal obstacles that may be difficult to overcome." The story includes a detailed run-through of many categories and detailed examples.)
Immigration. Jose A. DelReal, "Trump and advisers hedge on major pledges, including Obamacare and the wall," Washington Post, November 11, 2016 ("Trump built his campaign message around bold vows to, among other things, force Mexico to pay for a massive border wall, fully repeal the Affordable Care Act and ban Muslims from entering the United States. But in the days since his upset election victory, he or his advisers have suggested that those proposals and others may be subject to revision. . . . 'I want to solve health care, jobs, border control, tax reform,' he [Trump] said.")

Healthcare. After meeting with President Obama, Trump backed away from total repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Reed Abelson, "Donald Trump Says He May Keep Parts of Obama Health Care Act," New York Times, November 12, 2016, p. A1 ("Just days after a national campaign in which he vowed repeatedly to repeal President Obama’s signature health care law . . . Mr. Trump even indicated that he would like to keep two of the most popular benefits of the Affordable Care Act [preexisting conditions; children on parents' plans].")




Week 2 -- November 16-22, 2016

Transition. Michael D. Shear, "Trump Says Transition's Going 'Smoothly,' Disputing Disarray Reports," New York Times, November 17, 2016, p. A14

Leaders. Here's a useful description from the Washington Post of "who's on first" during this second week -- the players and the plays inside the transition team: Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, "In Trump's Washington, rival powers and whispers in the president's ear," Washington Post, November 17, 2016; Karen DeYoung, "Trump defends pace of transition work as process remains opaque," Washington Post, November 17, 2016 ("The 'landing teams' for the State Department, the Justice Department, the Pentagon and the National Security Council will be announced and begin interacting with the Obama administration Thursday [Nov. 17], Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer said late Wednesday. Economic policy landing teams will be announced next week, followed by teams devoted to domestic policy and independent federal agencies.").

The role of Trump's children and their partners continues to be an issue. Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, "Donald Trump's Son-in-Law, Jared Kushner, Tests Legal Path to White House Job," New York Times, November 18, 2016, p. A1 (This thorough review of the legal, ethical and conflict of interest issues surrounding Trump's son-in-law's involvement begins, "Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President-elect Donald J. Trump, has spoken to a lawyer about the possibility of joining the new administration, a move that could violate federal anti-nepotism law and risk legal challenges and political backlash.") And let us not overlook Jared's wife: Monica Hesse, "To understand the Trump presidency, we must decipher Ivanka," Washington Post, November 17, 2016.

National Security Adviser: Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, "Trump Is Said to Offer National Security Post to Michael Flynn, Retired General," New York Times, November 18, 2016, p. A1 (this detailed critique of Flynn leads with, "President-elect Donald J. Trump has offered the post of national security adviser to Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, . . . who believes Islamist militancy poses an existential threat [and who] will be a critical gatekeeper for a president with little experience in military or foreign policy issues. . . . [T]hey [Trump and Flynn] have both at times crossed the line into outright Islamophobia [and] exhibit a loose relationship with facts: General Flynn['s] . . . subordinates . . . called them “Flynn facts.”) Editorial, "Michael Flynn: An Alarming Pick for National Security Adviser," New York Times, November 19, 2016, p. A22 ("It's likely, given his record, that he will encourage Mr. Trump’s worst impulses, fuel suspicions of Muslims and bring to the job conflicts of interest from his international consulting work.")

Attorney General: Eric Lichtblau, Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker, "Donald Trump Selects Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General," New York Times (online edition), September 18, 2016 ("Mr. Sessions, a former prosecutor . . . has opposed immigration reform as well as . . . proposals to cut mandatory minimum prison sentences. . . . [H]is nomination [to judgeship, by President Reagan] was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee because of racially charged comments and actions. . . . Mr. Sessions had referred to the N.A.A.C.P. . . . as 'un-American' and 'Communist inspired.' . . . [He's] also accused of speaking disparagingly of the Voting Rights Act . . ..") Editorial, "Jeff Sessions as Attorney General: An Insult to Justice," New York Times, November 19, 2016, p. A22 ("Donald Trump ran a presidential campaign that stoked white racial resentment. His choice for attorney general — which, like his other early choices, has been praised by white supremacists — embodies that worldview. We expect today’s senators, like their predecessors in 1986 [who rejected President Reagan's appointment of Sessions to a federal judgeship], to examine Mr. Sessions’s views and record with bipartisan rigor. If they do, it is hard to imagine that they will endorse a man once rejected for a low-level judgeship to safeguard justice for all Americans as attorney general.") Thomas J. Sugrue, "Jeff Sessions' Other Civil Rights Problem," New York Times (online edition), September 21, 2016 ("Mr. Sessions [as] Alabama’s attorney general . . . left an indelible mark. He used the power of his office to fight to preserve Alabama’s long history of separate and unequal education.")

C.I.A. Director: Mark Mazzetti and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Mike Pompeo Is Trump's Choice as C.I.A. Director," New York Times (online edition), November 18, 2016 (Pompeo is a graduate of West Point (first in class) and Harvard Law School with three Congressional terms, and a member of the House Intelligence Committee who was especially critical of Hillary Clinton during the investigation of the 2012 Benghazi attack).

Secretary of Treasury: Ylan Q. Mui and Renae Merle, "With Treasury candidate come possible conflicts," Washington Post, November 18, 2016 (Steven T. Mnuchin, formerly with Goldman Sachs, is "A leading candidate to be ­President-elect Donald Trump’s treasury secretary [who] was deeply involved in running a bank that has received $900 million in federal bailout money and that has been accused of discrimination — examples of the potentially thorny conflicts of interest that could plague Trump’s nascent administration.")

Secretary of State: Phillip Rucker, "Trump mulls a secretary of state: Clone, crusader, statesman or clean slate?" Washington Post, November 19, 2016 (no indication of choice when this story ran, but South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and former Governor (and Republican presidential candidate) Mitt Romney are in the running for Secretary of State, along with those who bring ideological baggage and other concerns). Michael S. Schmidt and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Trump Meets With Romney as He Starts to Look Outside His Inner Circle," New York Times, November 20, 2016, p. A1.

Editorial, "Donald Trump's Swamp Gets Murkier," New York Times, November 21, 2016, p. A 22 ("Now that he is president-elect, Donald Trump’s anti-corruption promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington lobbyists and powerful insiders seems to be rapidly dissolving in the swamp itself. An untold number of lobbyists and special interest players have been helping the Trump team’s transition to the White House, their path made easier, according to news reports, by vague and porous ethical standards. The most mischievous of these is a rule by which applicants merely have to de-register as government lobbyists one day to be ready the next for transition and administration jobs.")

Not only does the Trump team seem to be favoring lobbyists and other corporate representatives to head agencies that are supposed to regulate the appointees' former employers, but some of their investments, like Trump's, raise potential conflict of interest problems both here and abroad. Matthew Goldstein and Alexandra Stevenson, "Trump Adviser Takes Stake in China Ride-Sharing Company," November 19, 2016, p. B2 ("A hedge fund billionaire ["John Paulson, who made $15 billion betting against the housing market before the financial crisis"] who was an economic adviser to [Trump] . . . has taken a position in a fast-growing Chinese ride-sharing company that recently signed a deal to acquire Uber Technologies’ operations in China.")

International. Among many concerns one might have about Trump's first two weeks, his and the Transition Team's handling of international relations for our next president rank near the top. It can only be described as "reckless." They have rebuffed the Department of State's willingness to help. Global leaders have been left on their own to figure out how to reach Trump, or know who they should contact. The first face-to-face meeting is to be with the Japanese prime minister -- seemingly without thought to how this "decision" (to the extent there was one) might be received by those nations with which we are said to have "a special relationship." Here is a little lengthier excerpt than usual from the Times' take:
It has been noticed at the State Department that since his victory Mr. Trump has been talking with foreign leaders without any consultation on the often complex protocol involved. “We stand ready to support him and his team with any information that they might require,” said John Kirby, the State Department spokesman. “We are ready and able to provide context if it is desired.” “There has been no outreach to date,” Mr. Kirby added. Japan has been scrambling to find Republican foreign policy experts to advise Tokyo on Mr. Abe’s meeting with Mr. Trump, but have had little luck, according to Japanese officials. Nor, the officials said, have they been able to find anyone in Mr. Trump’s transition team to discuss talking points for the meeting. One official said that the planning for the meeting had been largely limited to logistics, and that was primarily handled by Matthew Freedman, the lobbyist and transition team member who was working on national security issues. But Mr. Freedman was fired on Monday.
Carl Hulse and Helene Cooper, "Donald Trump and Japan's Leader to Meet, With Plenty to Sort Out," New York Times, November 17, 2016, 4:00 a.m. update version.

Conflicts. Donald Trump's seeming refusal to follow the usual presidential protocol of selling his properties and putting the assets in a blind trust, managed in his interest by independent wealth managers who do not report to him, creates uncounted and uncountable conflicts of interest both at home and abroad. Numerous U.S. state and federal agencies, and foreign governments, impact his 500 LLC corporations, other interests, their operations and profits. The New York Times' Editorial Board provides some examples: Editorial, "Donald Trump's Tangled Web," New York Times, November 17, 2016, p. A30 ("Donald Trump refused to release his income tax returns during the campaign and now seems determined to lug every piece of financial baggage connected to his hotels, golf courses and other businesses into the White House.") Jonathan O'Connell and Mary Jordan, "For foreign diplomats, Trump hotel is place to be," Washington Post, November 18, 2016 ("About 100 foreign diplomats, from Brazil to Turkey, gathered at the Trump International Hotel this week to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. president-elect’s newest hotel. . . . Now, those venues offer the prospect of something else: a chance to curry favor or access with the next president. Perhaps nowhere is that possibility more obvious than Trump’s newly renovated hotel a few blocks from the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Rooms sold out quickly for the inauguration, many for five-night minimums priced at five times the normal rate, according to the hotel’s manager.")

Like gravity ("it's not just a good idea, it's the law"), Trump's global businesses may pose serious constitutional challenges as well as violating ethical norms regarding a president's conflict of interests. Adam Liptak, "Donald Trump's Business Dealings Test a Constitutional Limit," New York Times, November 22, 2016, p. A1 ("[T]he Emoluments Clause [of the U.S. Constitution; "no person holding . . . office [shall] accept any . . . emolument . . . of any kind whatever, from any . . . foreign state"] . . . now poses risks for [Trump] should he continue to reap benefits from . . . companies controlled by foreign governments.")

So long as Trump has even a general notion of what and where his business interests are, the only trust that could be truly "blind" would be one following his sale of all of his interests, and turning over the cash to an independent wealth manager to invest on his behalf -- but without his participation or knowledge. Regardless of how "independent" the manager may be, so long as Trump knows what he owns he will have both the appearance, and the reality, of a conflict of interest whenever a federal administrative agency, its proposed regulation, legislation, or the position taken in litigation by the Department of Justice, or hundreds of other examples, could have an impact on the profits or net worth of his investments. This is made even worse, of course, if (as he has proposed) his children will be continuing to run the businesses.

A recent example of his conflicts is illustrated by this double whammy quote from a Times' story: "Mr. Trump, as he used his golf resort as the backdrop for his official activities, gave no indication that he was concerned about news reports over the weekend that he had held meetings last week with three Indian business partners even as he was starting to assemble his administration." Michael S. Schmidt and Michael D. Shear, "Trump Turns Staid Process Into Spectacle as Aspirants Parade to His Door," New York Times, November 21, 2016, p. A1. (1) Whenever he selects a Trump-branded property (Trump Towers, or golf courses) for meetings he's promoting his business. (2) And he obviously sees no problem with continuing to manage his businesses abroad (the meeting with business partners from India) while considering the possibility of appointing Nikki Haley (born of immigrants to the U.S. from India) as his Secretary of State.

Drew Harwell and Anu Narayanswamy, "A scramble to assess the dangers of President-elect Donald Trump's global business empire," Washington Post, September 21, 2016 ("Donald Trump’s company has been paid up to $10 million [for his "brand"/name] by . . . one of Turkey’s biggest oil and media conglomerates, [that] has become an influential megaphone for the country’s increasingly repressive regime. That, ethics advisers said, forces the Trump complex into an unprecedented nexus: as both a potential channel for dealmakers seeking to curry favor with the Trump White House and a potential target for attacks or security risks overseas. . . . [They warn] of many others . . .. At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia and the Middle East.")

The problems are also illustrated by the unsavory and unprecedented spectacle of a president-elect having to take time to deal with a lawsuit regarding his prior fraudulent business practices, practices of sufficient significance and breadth to produce a settlement of $25,000,000. Steve Eder, "Donald Trump Agrees to Pay $25 Million in Trump University Settlement," New York Times, November 19, 2016, p. A1 ("[Trump] reversed course and agreed on Friday to pay $25 million to settle a series of lawsuits stemming from his defunct for-profit education venture, Trump University, finally putting to rest fraud allegations by former students, which have dogged him for years and hampered his presidential campaign. . . . [T]the allegations in the case . . .: Students paid up to $35,000 in tuition for a programs that . . . used high-pressure sales tactics and employed unqualified instructors.")

Temperament. Will Trump, as president, continue his campaign instinct to strike back against and and all -- and especially the media -- whenever others are not entirely to his liking? The continuing middle-of-the-night tweets are not reassuring. Michael D. Shear, "Trump Says Transition's Going 'Smoothly,' Disputing Disarray Reports," New York Times, November 17, 2016, p. A14 ("President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that his transition was not in disarray, assailing news media reports about firings and infighting and insisting in an early-morning Twitter burst that everything was going 'so smoothly.'”)

He's continuing his disparaging adjectives (as in, during the campaign, "crooked Hillary"). Prior to a first meeting with the New York Times he refers to it as "the failing nytimes." Michael D. Shear and Carl Hulse, "Trump Reinstates New York Times Meeting While Pulling Back on Pursuing Case Against Clinton," New York Times (online editiion), November 22, 2016, 10:37 a.m. version (the widely publicized scheduled meeting Tuesday [Nov. 22] between Trump and the New York Times was abruptly cancelled by Trump with a 5:16 a.m. tweet: "I cancelled today's meeting with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice." Fifteen minutes later it was back on again: "Perhaps a new meeting will be set up with the @nytimes. In the meantime they continue to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!")

Nor are his tweets limited to public and media figures; he's monitoring entertainment as well: Andrew R. Chow, "Alec Baldwin Returns to 'S.N.L.' as President-Elect Trump," New York Times, November 20, 2016 ("Alec Baldwin's return to 'Saturday Night Live' this weekend prompted another fiery response from President-elect Donald J. Trump on Twitter." The tweet read, "I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided biased show - nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?" [Nov. 20] Two hours earlier [5:22 a.m.] he tweeted about the cast of "Hamilton" statement to Mike Pence requesting a protection of their rights, "The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior." Pence has made no public statement objecting to the cast's message. "Mr. Pence, who was greeted by a smattering of boos as he entered the theater, got it right when he said later, 'I nudged my kids and reminded them that’s what freedom sounds like.'” [Editorial, "Can Trump Tolerate Dissent?" Washington Post, November 22, 2016])

Media. Probably there will always be tension between the White House press corps and the sitting president and his or her staff. So far the focus has been on Trump's savage attacks on individual journalists and "the media" in general. But an equal, and perhaps even more significant aspect of president-press relations are the protocols regarding press presence and access, as the Times has editorialized: Editorial, "Trump Shouldn't Ditch the Press," Washington Post, November 17, 2016 ("In case of an emergency, it [the press pool] is on hand to provide timely and important information. Think, for example, of 9/11 and how the country was helped by knowing where the president was . . .. Equally important is the day-to-day information . . . about where the president is . . . and whom he is meeting with. Mr. Trump is not yet president, but the information protocols of the office still apply. His spokeswoman . . . said that the next administration intends 'to follow precedent in regards to access as soon as possible.' That commitment is reassuring. It should take effect now.")

He seems to be avoiding news conferences (although, in fairness, it should be noted that Hillary Clinton was also faulted for doing so during the campaign, as have previous presidents). Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Trump, on YouTube, Pledges to Create Jobs," New York Times, September 22, 2016, p. A1 ("The brief YouTube video offered one of the few opportunities for the public to hear from Mr. Trump directly since he was elected two weeks ago. The president-elect has declined to hold a news conference since his victory, and instead has used early-morning Twitter bursts to communicate.")

He called TV network executives and news anchors together for what could have been a conciliatory session between two major institutions (the presidency and the media) that need each other, and turned it into another attack. Michael M. Grynbaum and Sydney Ember, "Trump Summons TV Figures for Private Meeting, and Lets Them Have It," New York Times, November 22, 2016, p. A18 ("Mr. Trump, whose antagonism toward the news media was unusual even for a modern presidential candidate, described the television networks as dishonest in their reporting and . . . criticized some in the room by name . . ..")

He's continuing his disparaging adjectives (as in, during the campaign, "crooked Hillary"). Prior to a first meeting with the New York Times he refers to it as "the failing nytimes." Michael D. Shear and Carl Hulse, "Trump Reinstates New York Times Meeting While Pulling Back on Pursuing Case Against Clinton," New York Times (online editiion), November 22, 2016, 10:37 a.m. version (the widely publicized scheduled meeting Tuesday [Nov. 22] between Trump and the New York Times was abruptly cancelled by Trump with a 5:16 a.m. tweet: "I cancelled today's meeting with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice." Fifteen minutes later it was back on again: "Perhaps a new meeting will be set up with the @nytimes. In the meantime they continue to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!")

Trump demonstrated during the campaign his ability to manipulate media to his ends, picking up an estimated $2 billion of free TV time in the process. He's continuing with one of his techniques: Paul Farhi, "Were Trump's 'Hamilton' tweets 'weapons of mass distraction'?" Washington Post, November 22, 2016 ("As he illustrated with tweets about the musical “Hamilton” over the weekend, President-elect Donald Trump knows how to change the subject — and the entire news cycle. Just as questions were mounting about Trump’s appointments, his business conflicts, his $25 million fraud-case settlement — bam! — Trump had everyone talking about something else.")

Divisions. Here's a post-election report worth reading whether you're concerned, or merely curious, about what appear to be increasing divides among Americans. William Wan, Tanya Sichynsky and Sandhya Somashekhar, "After Trump's Election: 'There are two Americas now,'" Washington Post, November 22, 2016 ("Two weeks after the election of Donald Trump, this is how divided America has become: People have moved beyond staring at the vast gulf that divides them and proceeded to arguing over who is to blame for it, what to do about it and even whether it exists at all.")

Samantha Schmidt, "‘Hijab grab’ defense: As reports of hate crimes spike postelection, Muslim women turn to self-defense," Washington Post, November 21, 2016.

Policy. Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Trump, on YouTube, Pledges to Create Jobs," New York Times, September 22, 2016, p. A1 ([In Trump's YouTube video, "he vowed to create jobs, renegotiate trade agreements, end restrictions on energy production and impose bans on lobbying. . . . [H]e steered clear of his most inflammatory campaign promises to deport immigrants and track Muslims and his pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act.")
Immigration. Early reports indicate that Trump's promises to get tough on immigration, and "build a wall," have brought more immigrants and associated chaos rather than less: Joshua Partlow and Nick Miroff, "Fearing Trump’s wall, Central Americans rush to cross the U.S. border," Washington Post, November 19, 2016 ("President-elect Donald Trump has promised major change to the U.S. immigration system at a time when Central American families are flowing into the United States in growing numbers, many fleeing warlike conditions and poverty back home. . . . By winning the election, Trump may have inadvertently made his job even harder. His plans have become a selling point for the smugglers urging people to cross the border before a wall goes up, . . ..")




Education. Trump's election has already had a negative impact on U.S. colleges' enrollment of international students. Nida Najar and Stephanie Saul, "Is It Safe? Foreign Students Consider College in Donald Trump's U.S.," New York Times, November 18, 2016, p. A12 ("This year, the number of international students in United States colleges surpassed one million for the first time, bringing more than $32 billion a year . . .. College admissions officials in the United States . . . are worried that Mr. Trump’s election as president could portend a drop in international candidates. Canadian universities have already detected a postelection surge in interest from overseas.")

Lands. National parks, forests and other public lands are not the product of a mapmaker's whim. An even greater political battle than at the time of their creation is the continuous fight for their preservation. We are coming into a time of such a fight. Jack Healy and Kirk Johnson, "Battle Lines Over Trump's Lands Policy Stretch Across 640 Million Acres," New York Times, November 19, 2016, p. A9 ("Uranium mines around the Grand Canyon. Oil drilling rigs studding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New coal and timber leases in the national forests. States divvying up millions of acres of federal land to dispose of as they wish.")
[Note: Because of the physical volume of entries, beginning with Week 3 the blog post you are now on will remain the opening post for this series, and the links in its "Contents" section at the top of this post will take you to the new blog pages for subsequent weeks.]

# # #