Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Homes: Weeks' Salisbury, Romney's Six

May 30, 2012, 8:30 p.m.

How Much Home is Enough?

There are two kinds of people who fail to recognize, and respond to, Iowa's tourist attractions: (1) those who live in Iowa, and (2) those who don't. The area around Des Moines, the state capital located in the center of the state, has a rich cluster of attractions.

During a 32-hour stay in Des Moines last weekend, I explored what was, for me, a new one -- although built in the mid-1920s -- called the "Salisbury House." Supported by the Salisbury House Foundation, here is a picture of the front, taken from the Salisbury House Web site:

The structure is the creation of Carl Weeks and his wife Edith. Born in 1876, Weeks created the Armand cosmetics company in 1915. Buying cold cream by the barrel, face powder by the ton, and perfume by the gallon -- which he then sold by the ounce in attractive containers -- produced enough profit in 8 years for him to begin building this 9-plus-acre lot, house, art and antique collection for $3 million 1920s dollars.

How much would that be in today's dollars? My rule of thumb -- based on 1930s prices for candy bars, ice cream cones, and automobiles (standard Fords and Chevrolets were then $500-700) -- is that most things have increased by at least 20 to 30 times. In today's dollars that would make the cost of building Salisbury House and buying its contents -- if they could even be found today -- somewhere between $60 and $100 million.

There are many reasons why the Salisbury House is worth a visit -- the Steinway in its hand-carved body, the surround-sound organ built into the house itself, a tapestry and a suit of armor from the 1500s, the shrunken heads collection, the rare book room.

Some of my little iPhone pictures of these and other items (and rooms) can be found here, and with more, and of better quality, on the Salisbury House Web site.

With the current awareness of the 99% and the 1%, however, those items (and more) are not the primary significance of this house. From my perspective, its importance lies in helping us to better understand the thinking and motives of the 1% -- the folks who are increasingly ruling over us.

The 19th Century, New York City Tammany Hall political Boss Tweed used to say, "I don't care who does the electing, so long as I do the nominating." (Quoted in Susan Welch, Understanding American Government (2003); "William M. Tweed," Today our choice is still at least paid for and approved, if not actually chosen by, individuals in New York City. It's just that they're Wall Street bankers instead of political bosses. They're leaving the voting to us. They've just done the nominating -- of two relatively self-controlled, bright, centrist Harvard graduates, neither of whom is inclined to reduce their multi-million-dollar bonuses or send any of them to prison. (For my take on Romney, see "Why Mitt Romney?" March 22, 2012.)

So why would anyone want to build, and live in, a home like Salisbury House, let alone amidst all those artifacts?

One of the influential books I encountered in junior high or high school was Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class. ("Thorstein Bunde Veblen . . . (July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was an American economist and sociologist, and a leader of the institutional economics movement. Besides his technical work he was a popular and witty critic of capitalism, as shown by his best known book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)." Thorstein Veblen

It was Veblen who opened my eyes to what he called "conspicuous consumption" by the wealthy classes, and those who aspired to join them. Molly Ivins expressed it as the philosophy of wealthy Texans who believed that "more is better, and too much is not enough." ("Conspicuous consumption is the spending of money for and the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power — either the buyer’s income or the buyer’s accumulated wealth . . . a means either of attaining or of maintaining a given social status. Moreover, invidious consumption . . . [denotes the intention] to provoke the envy of other people, as a means of displaying the buyer’s superior socio-economic status." "Conspicuous Consumption,"

Doesn't this make more understandable -- not more acceptable, but more understandable -- why CEOs and college football coaches want multi-million-dollar salaries, and lesser dignitaries believe they simply can't get by on a paltry $150 or $200,000 a year salary plus benefits in a town like Iowa City? It's not about "need." It's not even about wants. These folks already have more stuff than they can use. It's about making a statement.

In Weeks' day this was done with one humongous home, designed to look like old money from the outside (he told contractors they will have failed if it didn't look at least 100 years old) while outfitted with all the latest modern conveniences on the inside. (Salisbury House had phones in all 42 rooms, electricity, two grand kitchens, and so forth.)

In Romney's day, it's done with multiple homes -- he has (or had) six, plus the horse farm "where the Romneys use a Mediterranean-style guesthouse as a getaway."
Trip Gabriel, "In Rarefied Sport, a View of the Romneys’ World," New York Times, May 27, 2012, p. A1.

"Want a Sixteenth Century tapestry?" "Hell no; I'd rather have another house." It's just a different way of thinking.

Here are pictures of some of the other locations (a couple of which may have been sold recently), some found on

Here is his little ski cabin in Park City, Utah:

His $10-million New Hampshire home in Wolfeboro, on Lake Winnepesaukee [photo credit: Jim Cole/AP]:

There are (or were) three other homes in Belmont, Massachusetts, a townhouse in Boston, and the family home in Michigan. Meredith Galante, "A Peek At The Homes Of The Republican Presidential Hopefuls," Business Insider, December 29, 2011 ("Mitt Romney owns the most homes of all the candidates.").

But his current home-building project is in California, on the beach at LaJolla. Paula Wilson, "Mitt Romney’s Home: It’s the 'Big House' (a $12 Million One) for the Presidential Candidate,", May 3, 2012. Despite the price tag it is, alas, too small. So Romney's plan is to tear it down and put up something four times bigger. Simon, "Mitt Romney’s Beach Home: Plans to Tear Down and Quadruple the Size,", January 4, 2012. The plan has not been universally welcomed by his new neighbors. Michael Barbaro, "The Candidate Next Door," New York Times, June 7, 2012, p. D1.

This is where the famous garage with its car elevator will be located -- just in case Ann Romney somehow manages to drive both of her two Cadillacs to LaJolla and needs to fit them in an already-full four-car garage. Ashley Parker, "For Romney, a Four-Car Garage With Its Own Elevator," Caucus/New York Times, March 27, 2012.

Here's a picture of the shabby digs that are there now:

And Obama?

Well, he's already living in the only house that Mitt Romney wanted to live in that Romney hasn't yet acquired. But he sure has his eye on it.

So, how big, or how many, homes are enough? It all depends. Do you want to actually live in the house comfortably? Or do you just want other people to know that you can afford to live in it -- and, of course, that they can't.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Measuring a Lawyer's Success

May 22, 2012, 10:55 a.m.

What It Means to be a Lawyer

Too many to credit have, over the years, noted the distinction between "data," "information," "knowledge," and "wisdom." (If it's new to you, and you're curious, here's a place to start: "DIKW,"

We hope our students can make those leaps to knowledge. Many do. And rarely you even come to know one who makes it all the way to wisdom. One such was a former law student of mine, Van Everett, chosen by his classmates to speak for them at their commencement ceremony the afternoon of May 11 in the Iowa Memorial Union ballroom.

Van exchanged his usual Superman tee shirt for a suit and tie for the occasion, and chose to speak about "success." Given my father's, and my, writing about the problems words like "success" can create (Dad called some of them the "IFD disease"), a commencement address on the subject would normally not be something I'd choose to reproduce. See Wendell Johnson, People in Quandaries, ch. 1 ("Verbal Cocoons") (1946); Nicholas Johnson, What Do You Mean and How Do You Know? An Antidote for the Language That Does Our Thinking for Us (2009), and Nicholas Johnson, Test Pattern for Living (1972). This one is different.

Not all lawyers are paragons of virtue and compassion. Moreover, by the time trials come around most of the "win-win" solutions to human problems have been explored and rejected by the parties. Roughly half are going to come away at least disappointed, if not downright angry. Those who lose tend to be more prone to blame their "incompetent" lawyer than the lack of justice in their own position.

How many other businesses' public relations could withstand these odds -- if half of all restaurant patrons suffered food poisoning, or half of a motel's guests would suffer bedbug bites every night?

In fact, there's a lot more of going above and beyond, of compassionate energy, a lot more free (pro bono) legal service, than the profession is given credit for. It's true that the practice of law has become much more of a business, an industry, than it was 50, not to mention 200, years ago. But it's still there, and Van Everett has illustrated why.

The legendary trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), writes in his autobiography that "The most important case I had in Ohio was an action of replevin for a harness worth fifteen dollars." See Michael Hannon, "Clarence Darrow State & Federal Cases," University of Minnesota Law Library ("Darrow’s client, James Brockway, was a boy who received a harness worth $15 for attending a wealthy man who was a habitual drunkard and was ill. The man failed to pay for the harness and the creditor wanted it back. . . . Darrow received five dollars from his client for the first trial, but the litigation went through two trials and three appellate court decisions over seven years before it ended. Darrow’s client was unable to pay more than the initial five dollars so Darrow worked for free and paid the necessary expenses throughout the long legal process.").

The pro bono practice of my old firm, Covington & Burling, in Washington, D.C., is consistently ranked among the top three of all the law firms in the country by The American Lawyer magazine. It devotes hundreds of thousands of dollars (probably much more), and a Web page to what they do and how they do it and what they've accomplished for these clients. This is obviously a part of the firm's law practice that is valued by the partners and associates and something of which they are rightfully proud.

For an example of such altruistic compassion reaching even into the animal kingdom, I'm reminded of the comment of a law school faculty colleague the other day. Mind you this is a brilliant lawyer, an accomplished scholar, beloved by students and research assistants, respected by colleagues, an increasingly skilled administrator. I commented within his earshot to someone else about how he had crawled into a sewer to save a half-dozen young ducklings recently. He turned and said, "You know, I think that's the thing I'm proudest of that I've done around here." He can't have been totally serious, but I know him well enough to know that he was at least partially so. In short, in addition to his many other accomplishments he is able to compare and balance the worth of an additional duckling's life against the worth of an additional law review article on his resume.

All of which is a lead in to Van's commencement speech. Here's a quote, followed by the full text -- additional evidence that there are lawyers, even lawyers with over $100,000 in student loan debt, who value some things more than a $160,000 starting job on Wall Street, a courthouse win, or a year-end bonus. (Although I have Mr. Everett's permission to reproduce his text, I have not yet sought, and do not have, the permission of the fellow student about whom he speaks -- a former research assistant of mine -- and so her name has been deleted from the text.)
The pressure to strive in the workplace is tremendous, just as it was to get good grades here at law school, and under that pressure, sometimes all else is forgotten. . . . I just hope that somewhere down the road, if you’re struggling to achieve the more tangible form of success, if you’re having a hard time finding a job, or getting a raise, or making partner at a firm, I hope you’ll remember . . . the difference you’ve made in someone’s life, and the everlasting pride that comes with that kind of success.
-- Van Everett

Van Everett
University of Iowa College of Law Commencement
May 11, 2012
Iowa City, Iowa

When I woke up this morning, I felt different. I felt an emotion that I didn’t quite recognize. I knew I’d experienced it before, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly what it was. I felt like I should be singing, or dancing, or some combination of the two. And then I suddenly realized what it was. It was joy - pure, unencumbered joy. Not the kind of qualified joy that we’ve all become used to settling for while in law school. Not the kind of joy where you have to check your watch and say, “Okay, I can afford to be happy for the next two hours, then it’ll be time to study for the next final.” No, this was pure, unlimited elation. It took me so long to recognize this emotion, because it had been at least three years since I last experienced it. For all the friends and family that are here today, your graduates can confirm with you later that that joke is funny because it’s mostly true.

Additionally, to all the friends and family that are here with us to celebrate this joyous occasion, I would just like to say that, if you don’t like my speech, feel free to direct any complaints or criticisms to the graduate you’re here to support. They’re the ones that voted me up here, so they’re the ones you should hold responsible for the grave mistake they’ve made.

I’ll be honest with all of you, I still don’t truly understand the purpose of this speech. I don’t really know what wisdom or sage advice I can offer to all of you, when I’m in the same position as all of you. It’s not as though I have any kind of real world experience that would qualify me to offer any of you any advice. So with that in mind, I have a very modest goal for this speech, one I’ll return to in a moment.

I want to talk about the idea of success, and what it means to be successful. It seems like a pretty relevant topic, since it’s something we’ll all be striving for in our upcoming careers. As I was preparing for this speech, and pondering what I was going to say about this concept of success, I started to think about what I consider to be my greatest success here at law school, or my proudest achievement. I thought immediately of my role on our intramural flag football team, the Hung Jurors. The team made it to the Championship game of the Law Bowl all three years we were here, bringing home a championship in our second year. To quote widely respected football mind and great Marshawn Lynch, our play on the field could only be described as “Beast Mode.” While I am very proud of the team’s achievements, I have to say that they aren’t my proudest moments in law school.

Next, I thought of my role on some slightly more academic teams that I had the great privilege of being a part during my time here. I was very blessed to be on three different advocacy teams that finished in the top eight in the nation in their respective competitions. Those three top eight finishes were the highest finishes our law school has ever had in each of the three individual tournaments. Of course, the most important word I’ve mentioned in discussing these accomplishments is “team.” All three national runs were the result of team efforts through and through, and I’d be remiss at this point if I didn’t recognize my comrades at arms on each of these teams. In our second year, I was on a trial advocacy team that finished second in the nation at the AAJ competition. We were coached by two Cedar Rapids attorneys named Mark Zaiger and Megan Dimitt, and my teammates were John Lande and Meghan Corbin, both of whom graduated last year, and last but most certainly not least, Tyler Buller.

In our third year, Tyler and I teamed up again to finish in a four way tie for fifth in the nation at the National Moot Court Competition. Professor Gail Brashers-Krug and former Justice David Baker coached us, and we received invaluable moral and logistical support from another student Kevin O’Neill.

Finally, I was on trademark moot court team finished third in the nation at the Saul Lefkowitz Trademark Moot Court Competition. We were coached by Professor Christina Bohannan, my teammates were Alexandria Christian, Amy Hein, and Brian Kearns. We also received invaluable support from another student, Katherine Ross, who offered her advice, expertise, moral support, friendship, and the most inspiring rendition of the song The Final Countdown at a moment’s notice that I’ve ever heard. I feel very blessed to have been on each and every one of these teams, and to have worked with each and every one of my coaches and teammates, and I’m very proud of the success that each and every one of these teams experienced as a result of our hard work. But none of them is my proudest moment in law school.

My proudest moment happened in the second semester of our first year. Unfortunately, it resulted from a tragic event. A good friend lost her aunt, a relative that she was very close with. She was telling me about it, and told me that she would be going home to Chicago for the funeral for at least half of a week, if not an entire week. She was obviously very upset and stressed as she was telling me all this, and without really thinking about it, I offered to go back to Chicago with her for the funeral. I vividly remember that at the moment I said that, her eyes lit up and for the briefest of moments I could tell that the stress of the situation had left her. She told me that she would love for me to come, but continually told me that I shouldn’t feel obligated to. I knew she would never ask me to miss a week of class, and have to make up a week’s worth of reading and lectures, but I could also tell that she would really appreciate it if I came.

Through a series of uninteresting events over that weekend, she ended up leaving at the last minute without me. We were texting each other after she got home to Chicago that day, and I told her that if she still wanted me to come, I could catch a ride down to the train station in Mount Pleasant and ride over the next day. Again, she didn’t want to ask me to come, but told that if I wanted to she’d really appreciate it. Before texting her back, I remember briefly thinking to myself that maybe I shouldn’t go, that it would be much more convenient for me to not miss an entire week of class and not have to get a train ticket and a ride to the train station. I came very close to giving into that fleeting thought, and staying in Iowa City, but just as suddenly, I talked myself out of it. I told myself that some things are just more important than school or grades, and that this was one of those things. I had one of my roommates drive me to the train station the next day, and took the first train to Chicago.

While I was in Chicago, I honestly didn’t do all that much. In the days leading up to the wake and funeral, she and I just hung out, went to coffee shops and tried unsuccessfully to do all the reading we were missing. I met all her friends and family from back home. During the wake I was little more than a glorified thumb-twiddler, making polite conversation to the family and friends that were there, most of whom didn’t really understand why I was there. But at the end of the week, she looked me right in the eyes and told me that it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her, and that she’d never forget it. I haven’t been prouder of myself since that moment. It was by far my proudest and most successful moment in my three years here at Iowa, and one the proudest and most successful moments of my entire life. For the first time in a great while I felt like I had really made a difference, like I had accomplished something real and lasting that grades or awards or jobs or promotions or money simply can’t measure up to.

Which is not to say that all those things I just mentioned aren’t worth aspiring to or achieving. They certainly are. But in my experience, pride over that type of tangible success fades as the years go by. The thrill of winning that big case or getting that great job will subside in time, just as my thrill of succeeding in those competitions has already begun to subside. But the pride you feel in yourself after you really make a difference in someone’s life lasts forever. And the thing is, I know that all of you sitting here in front of me know exactly what I’m talking about. If any of you had to trade places with me right now, each of you could tell a story similar to the one that I just told. We’ve been in school in rather close quarters for three years now, and I’ve seen, heard about, and been the recipient of countless acts of kindness just like the one I described. As far as I’m concerned, all of you sitting before me now are successful in the most important way you can be.

Unfortunately, in our society, this type of success is frequently overshadowed by the more tangible kind of success, such as making money or getting promotions. The pressure to strive in the workplace is tremendous, just as it was to get good grades here at law school, and under that pressure, sometimes all else is forgotten. Getting back to the modest goal for this speech that I mentioned earlier, I just hope that somewhere down the road, if you’re struggling to achieve the more tangible form of success, if you’re having a hard time finding a job, or getting a raise, or making partner at a firm, I hope you’ll remember these words, and remember all the lasting success you’ve already achieved. That you’ll remember the difference you’ve made in someone’s life, and the everlasting pride that comes with that kind of success. If just one of you remembers and finds comfort in these words somewhere down the road, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished my modest goal for this speech.

I want to thank you all so much for being such great friends to me during our time here at Iowa. While these last three years have certainly been stressful, I really truly enjoyed my time here, and it’s thanks to all of you. As we go our separate ways, I hope you’ll all keep in touch. I wish you nothing but the best in all your future endeavors, and may the odds be ever in your favor. Thank you.

# # #

That is, also, what it means to be a lawyer.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Three Simple Steps to School Redistricting

May 17, 2012, 9:00 a.m.

School Board Alternatives to Procrastination and Frustration

Who goes to which K-12 schools and why?

There are 15,000 school districts and school boards across the country confronting those questions.

[Photo of prior ICCSD Board.]

Apparently the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) school board is now doing so again.

Here's a three-step process for easing everyone's pain.

Step One. Decide to do it. You. The Board members. Not a community committee or a consultant or the Superintendent. Not a series of open forums prayerfully in search of what one board member called "a solution that satisfies the whole community." Alesha L. Crews, School board members talk about next steps; Say portable buildings a short-term solution, should not be permanent," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 17, 2012, p. A3.

You are the buffer among the District's stakeholders -- students, parents, administrators, teachers, staff, property tax payers, and citizens. Face it, you'll never satisfy them all.

Only you can create "fairness" for the poor and working poor and lower middle class District parents, when the contests arise in which their interests are pitted against those of our most economically and political powerful families.

Remember, this is a public school system. No one but you has a right to dictate policy. Dissatisfied students and parents who want more absolute control over the details have options, from private schools, to other school districts, to home schooling.

Consider their wishes? Of course. But to think, as one board member put it, that it is "absolutely critical that we don’t ignore anyone’s needs," is a classic example of the triumph of hope over experience. It will inevitably produce the K-12 equivalent of the line that "a camel is a horse built by committee."

Nothing against camels mind you, but only the Board can create a rational, efficient, school system in which all the pieces fit, work together, and optimize the desired output -- increased numbers of students graduating closer to their academic potential.

As Nike says, "Just do it."

Step Two. Think specifically about District goals, not generally about drawing lines.

This is where "if you don't know where you want to go, the odds are very high that you'll never get there" comes into play.

Here are some of the destinations you might want to think about:

(a) Are you willing to take your time, or do you have to do it right now? You could announce a new approach to redistricting that will take effect six or seven years from now. That would eliminate most of the emotional opposition from students and parents affected by a shorter time in which to accommodate change. Most of those who will be affected by a future plan don't yet have kids in school -- or haven't even yet moved to Iowa City.

(b) How much flexibility, or rigidity, do you want? Flexibility is a variable that can be turned up or down, like a rheostat controlling the lighting in a dining room. Do you want fixed, immovable lines -- until the next time you have a redistricting crisis? Or would you like to give the Superintendent, and yourselves, some flexibility?

For example, you could provide (and, if (a) is adopted, not until, say, seven years from now) that (1) once assigned to an elementary school a student could finish at that school, but that (2) there would be two, not just one, geographical areas feeding that school. [i] One would be immediately contiguous to the school, a small enough area that virtually no projection of increased population would result in more students living there than the school could properly hold. The children of families living in, or moving into, that area would be assigned to that school. [ii] The other, larger area, would give the Board and Superintendent the flexibility to assign students living there to any one of three or four closest schools. (Of course, once assigned, under principle (a) the student could finish there.) Thus, as new families moved into that larger area they might know the probabilities of where their children would be assigned, but they would not have a firm commitment of a school from the District. (For more discussion and detail, see, e.g., "Disparity in Class Sizes: Simple Solution Rejected," October 13, 2010.)

(c) Settle upon your position with regard to the demographic balance represented in the assignment of "free and reduced lunch" students to the schools. You may want greater disparity than we now have, less, about the same, or have no position, leaving the outcome to chance -- the latter in all probability a policy that will produce an increase in the disparity. Just make up your minds; hopefully with specific numbers.

(d) There are many other variables you can think about, resolve, and announce. Do I have personal preferences on some of these District goals? Of course. But that's irrelevant. These are the Board's decisions to make. My focus at the moment is not on what you decide but what it is you decide about.

By laying out your own very specific metrics for where you say the District is headed, and providing that they will have little to no impact on today's students and parents, because they won't take effect immediately, you provide stability for the future, and virtually eliminate the emotional opposition.

Step Three. Evolve toward your goals. With a little advance individual reading and thinking, Steps One and Two should be capable of resolution with one or two weekends of Board-member-only workshops. Remember, it's your decisions we're talking about, not those of some consultant. Once you announce the outcome, where the District is headed, it will be possible -- without forcing decisions, but as needs for tweaking arise (like now!) -- to make those decisions consistent with your longer range plan (without imposing it wholesale ahead of schedule).

When I confront computer frustration, which seems to happen with some regularity, my computer consultant son, Gregory ( usually advises, "Well, Dad, there are three steps," following which he puts in simple, three-step language what it is that his cyberlaw professor father should do to get on with his personal life in our digital world.

I thought this "Three Simple Steps to School Redistricting" might be helpful for our local School Board as well. We'll see.
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Great Grate Duck Saves

May 12, 2012, 4:05 p.m.

What Is It About Ducklings?

The Press-Citizen gives page one coverage this morning [May 14] to the latest Iowa City duckling rescue. Tara Bannow, "Locals Come to the Rescue of Baby Ducks," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 14, 2012, p. A1 ("In an unexpected Mother’s Day twist, a handful of Walmart shoppers in Coralville ended up spending about an hour and a half fishing ducklings from the drain that runs the length of the parking lot.")

It reminded me of a couple incidents in which I was involved in providing the necessary human intervention to save ducklings.

A couple weeks ago, when leaving the law school, I saw a live human head on the grass. No body, just the head. Since none of my colleagues or students are capable of magic tricks of that sophistication, my first assumption was that it was a training exercise in a comparative legal systems course. This would be a way that faculty could illustrate, and students could then experience, what it feels like to be partially buried alive before being stoned to death.

As I approached closer to the scene of the exercise, the head turned out to belong to my next door colleague, Todd Pettys, who shares my sentiments and theories regarding animals' legal rights. He had crawled down a manhole to stand in the sewer, grabbing and handing up little ducklings one at a time to their waiting mother. Like the ducklings at Walmart, these baby ducks had followed their mother across a grate with openings small enough for her to walk on, but too wide to prevent the little ones descent.

Upon the completion of the family reunion, Todd emerged, head firmly attached to body, and the mother duck headed off into the woods to the south of the law school with her brood following close behind, presumably on their way to the Iowa River. We were all a little concerned as to how that was going to work out. (a) How they would get down to Riverside Drive, and (b) if they did succeed that far, how they would cross the highway. But we decided she was a pretty sharp mother, so long as she stayed away from grates, and that she'd probably figure it out.

Years ago I had occasion to help a mother duck and her ducklings across Riverside Drive near Benton Street. They had apparently come into Bruegger's for bagels, and were now on their way back to the river. But the mother had never been told to look both ways before crossing streets, or having once been so instructed had long since forgotten. I decided to take on the role of a school crossing guard for ducks; gestured to the oncoming traffic from both directions to stop (unfortunately the intersection lights were green for north-south traffic), and patiently walked the ducks across the four lanes. The drivers were not, alas, so patient. They began a chant, in the only bumper sticker poetry they were apparently able to come up with extemporaneously, of "F**k the ducks," while revving their engines.

If I may be pardoned a little grandiosity, I did feel a little like that young man standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

What is it about ducklings?

After all, when as children we were presented with their yellow, marshmallow representations on Easter morning, the temptation was to bite off their little heads. And yet, even if we played guitar in a heavy metal band, we'd never think of biting off the heads of real, live ducklings.

I don't know about you, but my introduction to ducks (and China) came from a delightful children's book, The Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese -- copyright 1933, the year before I was born. It was read to me so many times I virtually memorized it. Ping was cute, but also vulnerable, both in need of, and worthy of, protection. Maybe that's why I stopped traffic for my own family of Pings.

We are lucky to have the ducks we do along the Iowa River. At least I think we are. They have many favorite resting places. One is under a couple of trees between the sidewalk and the River, about halfway between Park Road and the baseball fields.

Here's what they looked like this morning as I passed by on my bicycle.

All in a Mothers' Day of Great Grate Duck Saves.

# # #

Bicycles As Problem Solvers

May 14, 2012, 9:10 a.m.

Bike a Week, Bike for Life

As the Press-Citizen reminds us, "Bike to Work Week" has rolled around on its two wheels again this year. Editorial, "Try Biking to Work This Week, Month," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 14, 2012, p. A 7 ("As we have during past Bike to Work weeks, we urge area residents to try biking at least part of their commutes or errand-running this week."). For local resources see "Think Bicycles" (and thanks to Rod Sullivan for that link).

Just as dutifully, here's my annual essay on the subject. These ideas were first advanced 40 years ago as a section of an article in the Saturday Review, Nicholas Johnson, "Test Pattern for Living; How About Trying to Find Out What You Would Do and Be and Think and Create if There Weren't Some Corporation Trying to Sell You on Doing Everything Its Way," Saturday Review, May 29, 1971, which was modified into a chapter in a subsequent book with the same title, "Antidote to Automobiles," Nicholas Johnson, Test Pattern for Living (Bantam, 1972), ch. 7, pp. 110-117, and later in the New York Times, Nicholas Johnson, "Bicycles are Model Citizens; The Bicycle -- It's Like Giving Up Smoking," New York Times, August 2, 1973, p. 35, col. 2 -- reprinted at the bottom of this blog entry.

Iowa City is once again devoting a week to reflecting upon, and riding upon, bicycles as a preferred system of small town transportation.

The week has often involved some data gathering regarding the comparative virtues of three transportation modes: automobile, bus, and bicycle. The conclusion from the bike, car, and bus race across town last year, from the Coralville Library to the Iowa City Library? "[T]he commute takes about the same amount of time, no matter what mode of transportation." As Emily Schlettler quoted Coralville City Council member Tom Gill as saying, "'Why burn the gas? The commute by bike is more convenient and quicker.'" Emily Schlettler, "Bike to Work Week Celebrated," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 17, 2011, p. A3.

Of course, there are many more reasons than efficiency and comparable speed for biking. Here are some of them:

Costs. Even without $3 or $5 gas, operating a car is extraordinarily expensive -- and even more in time than in money. Years ago, when the average mileage was 7500 miles a year, I calculated (a) the total costs of car ownership: amortization of the purchase price, gas and oil, repairs, insurance and license fees, parking fees, tolls, and so forth. (b) The amount of time it would take the average car owner to earn the money to pay these costs -- plus the time it takes to drive the car, take the car to the mechanic and pick it up, pump the gas, look for parking, and similar non-transportation, car-related time consumption. (c) The total time totaled 1500 hours a year. (d) To take 1500 hours to go 7500 miles is an average of 5 miles an hour -- something you can do without an automobile in a very brisk walk. (e) Can't get from Iowa City to Des Moines that way? Think again. You start working, I'll start walking. I'll be there before you. And that's walking! A biker who's in shape ought to be able to average 20 miles an hour and get there days before you do. This may not be a reason to never own, rent, or otherwise operate an automobile. But unless you are so wealthy that "money is no object," it is certainly something to think about for trips around town when a bike would do as well, or better than, a car. You can acquire, operate, maintain and insure a bicycle for roughly 1% of the cost of a car.

Time Saving, Convenience. Parking in an urban area can be a real hassle, as well as an added cost, whether navigating a parking garage or looking for street parking. My rule of thumb when looking for street parking in the Georgetown area of Washington was to pick the first parking space I could find within one mile of my destination. The 15-minute walk would take less time than driving around and around looking for a closer place to park. Iowa City's not that bad, but you can no longer pull up in front of your downtown destination (and not have to deal with parking meters!), as was the case when I was a boy. And don't talk to me about parking garages! The ticket often turns into nothing more than a hunting license, as you drive around and around, ever upward, until you end up parking on the roof. And allow plenty of time to exit, especially if you're coming from an event where numerous other attendees are in line ahead of you trying to pay for the pain of parking and exit.

You don't have to warm up your bike in the winter. You don't have to search for your car keys (if you have a combination lock for the bike). The odds are good there will be either a bike rack, or something else to lock your bike to, right outside the front door of your destination. And you will be taking up about 1/30th the space required for a car when you do so.

War for Oil. We send our brave soldiers off to war around the world in search of an answer to the perplexing question: "How did our oil get under their sand?" It costs us taxpayers trillions of dollars to provide this military protection for our oil companies -- not to mention tens of thousands of lives, and hundreds of thousands of wounded, Americans and others, military and civilian. Bicycles do require a little lubricant for the chain from time to time, but aside from that their only demands for energy involve peddling with your leg muscles.

And Speaking of Muscles -- and Obesity. You can bike outdoors all over town for a month for far less than what your favorite fitness center will charge you to bike in one place indoors. And if you're interested in firming up, and losing a little weight -- and who isn't -- biking just may be your answer. It's cheaper than Lipitor and better for your heart -- as well as a positive for prevention of diabetes and cancer. In fact, virtually every bit of advice about our health, regardless of the disease or injury in question, ends up coming back to "diet and exercise."

Multitasking. "Don't move your thumbs while I'm talking." Students sit in class with their laptops, managing their Facebook pages. Couples sit in restaurants, each on their cell phone. Kids think they can do their homework while watching TV, talking on the phone to one person, while texting another. Whatever you think about those kids of electronic multitasking, bicycling offers another that is in no way socially offensive. You have to go to work, or shop for groceries. If you drive, maybe you'll listen to the radio, music, or engage in the risky behavior of talking on a cell phone or texting. But if you hop on your bike, instead of hopping into the car, for those trips (or even portions of them; drive to cheap parking, with a bike rack and your bike; bike the rest of the way) you're multitasking: building exercise into your day in a way that takes no additional time (or money!) whatsoever. Bike baskets can carry many of the items you formerly drove to the store to get; and if you want to do more, the relatively cheap bike trailers will enable you to carry almost anything -- up to and including your small child.

Stress Reduction. Driving can be noisy, aggravating and stressful. Biking makes virtually no noise and is more calming and peaceful; the additional oxygen to the brain makes you more creative. You are closer to nature and know you're doing something that uses no fuel, is non-polluting, and healthier for both you and the Planet. And that's just for the commuting and shopping trips. With 80 miles of bike trails locally, there's also safe recreational riding -- such as the Clear Creek trail from Iowa City to the Coral Ridge Mall, or the Iowa River Corridor Trail from the City Park to the new Terry Trueblood Recreation Area and lake along Sand Road. That will really clear your mind.

The list could go on and on, but as a concession to the necessary shortness of a blog entry, and life itself, it will stop here.

Finally, for old time's sake, a republication of a column I wrote on the subject for the New York Times about 40 years ago. A little background: I was then working as an FCC Commissioner in downtown Washington, D.C., living in Maryland, and commuting by bicycle each day along the C&O Canal towpath. The facts it contains are from 1973, and the theme of the column is as much an anti-automobile and petroleum-based transportation system tirade as pro-bicycle -- as befits the early '70s. But many of the points are still valid. Chapter 7 ["Antidote for Automobiles"] in Test Pattern for Living, published by Bantam Books a year earlier (and now available for free download), strikes a similar theme.

"Bicycles are Model Citizens"
The Bicycle -- It's Like Giving Up Smoking
New York Times
August 2, 1973, p. 35, col. 2

I ride a bicycle. Not because I hate General Motors but haven't the courage to bomb an auto plant. I don't do it as a gesture of great stoicism and personal sacrifice.

I am not even engaged, necessarily, in an act of political protest over that company's responsibility for most of the air pollution tonnage in the United States.

It's like finally giving up cigarettes. You just wake up one morning and realize you don't want to start the day with another automobile.

Cigarette smoking is not a pleasure, it's a business. In the same way, you finally come to realize that you don't need General Motors, they need you. They need you to drive their cars for them. You are working for Detroit and paying them to do it. Automobiles are just a part of your life that's over, that's all.

No hard feelings. You've just moved on to something else. From now on, you just use their buses, taxis, and rental cars when they suit your convenience. You don't keep one for them that you have to house, feed and water, insure and care for.

You ride a bicycle because it feels good. The air feels good on your body; even the rain feels good. The blood starts moving around your body, and pretty soon it gets to your head, and, glory be, your head feels good.

You start noticing things. You look until you really see. You hear things, and smell smells you never knew were there. You start whistling nice little original tunes to suit the moment. Words start getting caught in the web of poetry in your mind.

And there's a nice feeling, too, in knowing you're doing a fundamental life thing for yourself: transportation. You got a little bit of your life back! And the thing you use is simple, functional, and relatively cheap.

You want one that fits you and rides smoothly, but with proper care and a few parts, it should last almost forever.

Your satisfaction comes from within you, and not from the envy or jealousy of others. (Although you are entitled to feel a little smug during rush hours, knowing you are also making better time than most of the people in cars.)

On those occasions when I am not able to cycle through the parks or along the [C&O] canal -- because the paths are rough with ice or muddy from rain or melting snow -- bicycling enables me to keep closer to the street people, folks waiting for buses or to cross streets, street sweepers, policemen, school "patrol," men unloading trucks.

Needless to say, you cannot claim any depth of understanding as a result of such momentary and chance encounters but by the time I get to the office I do somehow have the sense that I have a much better feeling for the mood of the city that day than if I had come to my office in a chauffeur-driven government limousine.

Although I am willing to brave the traffic and exhaust, I am aware it is dangerous. I think bicycles ought to be accorded a preferred position in the city's transportation system. At the very least, they deserve an even break.

Notice that bicycle riding also has some significant social advantages over the automobile. Cars unnecessarily kill sixty thousand people every year, permanently maim another one hundred and seventy thousand, and injure three and a half million more.

The automobile accounts for at least 66 percent of the total air pollution in the United States by tonnage -- as high as 85 percent in some urban areas -- and 91 percent of all-carbon monoxide pollution; it creates about nine hundred pounds of pollution for every person every year.

One million acres of land are paved each years, there is now a mile of road for each square mile of land. The concrete used in our Interstate Highway System would build six sidewalks to the moon.

Even so, everyone is familiar with the clogged streets and parking problems -- not to mention the unconscionable rates charged by the parking garages.

Automobile transportation is the largest single consumer of the resources used in our nation's total annual output of energy. It is an economic drain on consumers -- in no way aided by auto companies that deliberately build bumpers weaker than they were fifty years ago in order to contribute to an unnecessary bumper repair bill in excess of one billion dollars annually.

The bicycle is a model citizen, by comparison.

Happy biking -- not just for "Bike to Work Week," but the other 51 weeks as well.

# # #

Saturday, May 12, 2012

From Precinct to President

May 12, 2012, 11:40 a.m.

Maintaining Democracy
with the Johnson County Democrats Hall of Fame

As we encourage the creation of the institutions of a "civil society" in other countries, and watch the emergence of democracies during "the Arab spring," it's appropriate to take the pulse of our own political system. ("Civil society is the arena outside of the family, the state, and the market where people associate to advance common interests." "Civil Society,"

It's come a long way -- and not necessarily for the good -- from the days of ward bosses who provided jobs for constituents in exchange for their votes on election day, or the fundraising during Adlai Stevenson's campaigns for president that took the form of $1 contributions during door-to-door solicitations of "Dollars for Democrats."

Voting in Elections. It was early in my life, and interest in politics and government, that the importance of participation in political party activities firmly registered. The number of Americans who don't even vote is discouraging, and possibly dangerous -- sometimes as many as 90 percent or more of registered voters don't vote in city council or school board elections.

Voting in Primaries. What was particularly worthy of reflection was the 19th Century, New York City Tammany Hall political Boss Tweed's saying, "I don't care who does the electing, so long as I do the nominating." (Quoted in Susan Welch, Understanding American Government (2003); "William M. Tweed,"

If not everyone chooses to vote in elections, fewer still vote in primaries -- a process that, for the most part, requires membership in a party. As a result, those who do vote in primaries -- and thereby participate in the selection of the parties' nominees -- have at least a couple orders of magnitude (100 times) the political power and influence of those who only vote in elections.

Working in Primaries and Elections. Finally, those who actually work in campaigns, party headquarters, and their local precincts -- as distinguished from just voting in their party's primary -- increase their political power by another couple of orders of magnitude. That can be increased further by holding office within the local party, from precinct co-chair and central committee member to county chair; to state or national delegate to party conventions; to state or federal office holder.

But to sustain this system we need a constant influx of enthusiastic youngsters too young to vote, but not to work, new voters, and others with the energy needed to fuel our democracy.

One of the ways to bring that about is for the adults who have been there to look for opportunities to tell their story, to make the case why young people will find friends and fun as well as deep satisfaction from "getting involved in politics."

A week ago today [May 5], Mary Vasey and I were among those inducted into the Johnson County [Iowa] Democrats "Hall of Fame." Although well attended, it would have been better had more of those young people been present. Nonetheless, I used the occasion to tell a part of the story of my own political involvement, involving a chance opportunity to visit with President Harry Truman at the White House, and why all of us should do what we can to encourage today's young people as he did on that occasion in 1952.

Here is a transcript of those remarks:

From Precinct to President
Nicholas Johnson
On the Occasion of Being Inducted Into the Johnson County (Iowa) Democrats Hall of Fame
Marriott Hotel, Coralville, Iowa
May 5, 2012

My thanks to whoever it is who thought us worthy of this honor, and to Brian Flaherty – one of Iowa law school’s finest – for that introduction.

Mary has acknowledged those of our children who are able to be here [Julie; Greg, with Makur; Joel, Jason and Karl]. I want to mention the grandchildren who are present: granddaughter Laura, who speaks Spanish fluently and helps Spanish-speaking people get access to services in Des Moines; her daughter, and our great granddaughter, Nia, who is headed toward a career in science; Jason’s son and our grandson, Alec, a graduate of West High, who is a member of the Iowa City treasure that goes by the name of the Combined Efforts Theater; and Shinji Uozumi, our friend and a distinguished visiting scholar from Japan, whom we consider a member of our family whenever he and his family are here in Iowa City. [It was Shinji who prepared the professional video of our presentations, and the still pictures, one of which is embedded in this blog entry.]

Because I do not have a reputation as a man of very few words, with so many articulate people here this evening I thought I should limit myself to but one relatively short story -– at least short by my standards.

We had an organization called Hi-Y when I was attending University High School, U. High. Hi-Y was a high school organization within the national YMCA. How I came to be the national president of Hi-Y is a story for another day -- indeed, a day, you will be relieved to know, that need not ever come.

The point of this evening’s story is that, as national Hi-Y president, I was invited to attend an event in Washington, D.C., called the “YMCA Youth in Government Assembly.”

One of the featured events of our Assembly was a visit to the White House to meet President Harry Truman, where he addressed us in the Rose Garden.

Although I knew his remarks had a great impact on me, years later I couldn’t recall exactly what he said and did not have a copy. I didn’t even know if a copy existed anywhere. Nor could I recall the exact date, necessary to track it down if it did exist.

Then, 17 years ago, going through some old files, I came upon a brochure from that Washington Assembly, and was eventually able to find Truman’s remarks among his presidential papers.

I won’t read the entire talk to you. These brief excerpts will make my point.

He said, quote,

“Now this one person before you here has been from precinct to President all along the line. I have been in elective public office for 30 years. . . . I am going to continue to serve the country, understand, but I will do it in a little freer way than I do now.

“Learning about government is absolutely essential to people your age,” he continued, “because it is going to be your responsibility now, in a few years – you will be responsible for the operation of the Government,” unquote.
(President Harry S. Truman, "Remarks to the Members of the National YMCA and Government Assembly," June 26, 1952, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum.)

We refer to the “take-away” from a speech, or a meeting; what you think is most important; what you recall days or even years later.

And what I heard from President Truman, my take away from that afternoon at the White House, was (1) the fact that he had started with precinct work, and thought it worth mentioning, (2) the importance of learning about government, and (3) that high school students my age would someday be responsible for the operation of the government.

It was his reference to precinct work that encouraged me to become a precinct captain in my college town.

It was his insistence on studying government that prompted me to become a political science major, and later a law student.

And when he said that, quote, "in a few years you will be responsible for the operation of the Government," well, I guess I must have decided right then that I was going to set out to prove him right.

Ultimately, in the 1980s, I came back home to Iowa City, where I was born, the family home in which I lived during the 1940s, and which I now occupy once again, with Mary.

I had by then visited with two presidents in the Oval Office, a fourth in the Rose Garden, and held three presidential appointments during the administrations of all four of them, with the exception of the President, Harry Truman, who started me on this path.

And for much of the 1980s and beyond I served as co-chair for what was then Precinct One in Iowa City, going door-to-door to get out the vote.

I have been flattered to have been asked to run for the U.S. Senate and Congress from Iowa, and the local School Board -– two of which I actually did undertake -– and even asked to be the presidential candidate for a third party, which you will be relieved to hear I did not do.

But in many ways I am most proud, and rewarded, by the work I’ve done in the precincts, in candidates’ campaign headquarters, and in a variety of roles within the Johnson County Democrats organization. Why? Because, ultimately, that is the work that makes our democracy possible, and the foundation upon which it builds in each of America’s 3100-plus counties.

I hope you will find two take-aways from these remarks.

(1) The importance and dignity of precinct work in the lives of each of us -- as well as in the life of a great Democrat, President Harry Truman.

(2) The role that each of us can play, and must play, in encouraging our young people to participate in the nuts and bolts of democracy, in campaigns and at the precinct level – as President Truman did for me, and I try to do for those in the generations which will follow us.

Thank you again for this honor, and the honor of knowing and working with you through the years.

Other Johnson County Democrats' Hall of Fame
Inductees Honored May 5, 2012

J. Patrick White, former Johnson County Attorney
Jeanette Carter, long-time, all-purpose, hard-working precinct and Party activist
Mary Larew, multifaceted participant in numerous local organizations
# # #

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Institution of Marriage

May 10, 2012, 8:15 a.m.

Who, What, Threatens "The Institution of Marriage"?

Two days ago this blog addressed the basic human decency and respect owed everyone with regard to those suffering from problems of overweight and obesity. "Speaking of Obesity."

Today [May 8], following on the culmination of President Obama's "evolving" thoughts on gay marriage, here are the long-ago-evolved thoughts of another heterosexual about the basic human decency and respect owed all of our fellow humans in the GLBT community.

Last evening PBS' Newshour, as a part of its coverage of the president's "personal" position on the issue, included a debate of sorts in its story "Obama Supports Same-Sex Marriage: Now What?" (with transcript and video). Judy Woodruff hosted the segment, interviewing author Kerry Eleveld, and then questioning Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry, and the Rev. Harry Jackson (not the Rev. Jesse Jackson), senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, and presiding bishop of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches -- an outspoken opponent of gay marriage.

Unfortunately, the two did not really join issue. Wolfson hammered away on his assertion (kind of self-evident on the surface) that individual straight couples suffer no harm as a result of the marriage of gay couples ("you're not able to point to a single, actual, real consequence"). Rev. Jackson was saying, "It [gay marriage] may change the institution [of marriage], though. That's the issue."

My point is that, with regard to "the institution of marriage" both are right. How can I say that?

There are many issues involving gay marriage. (1) Central, I think, given the role of religion in the arguments of many gay marriage opponents, is the fact that the legalization of gay marriage has no effect, none, on the ability of any given religious organization to refuse to perform, or recognize, gay marriage. There are two parallel tracks here: what the state can (and many, including myself, would argue, constitutionally must do) and what individual religious organizations can do with regard to "marriage." There is a significant body of constitutional law declaring, put most simplistically, that the state should stay out of our bedrooms. (2) However, the president and Mitt Romney both agree that states should be free to define civil (not religious) "marriage" as limited to a man and a woman -- and 30 states have decided to do just that (including North Carolina this week). (3) At the same time, polls seem to indicate that 50% of Americans, give or take, and especially younger persons, are totally untroubled by the idea.

I leave discussion of those, and other gay marriage issues, to another day.

What I want to address are Rev. Jackson's assertions regarding the changes in "the institution of marriage" brought about by permitting gays and lesbians to marry.

I think he's right. Gay marriage does change "the institution of marriage." It's just that the change it brings about is insignificant compared with other changes.

Title IX has changed "the institution of college athletics." Prohibitions on "sexual harassment" have changed "the institution of courtship."

The real and very, very significant changes in "the institution of marriage," however, have come from the heterosexual, not the homosexual, community.

At its inception, marriage in a patriarchal society treated women as chattels, "owned" (and certainly controlled) by their husbands (as they still are in some countries today). Children born of unmarried parents created a significant problem for a community. There were more than moral reasons to prohibit sex outside of marriage (still punished by death, at least of the woman, in some countries today). Children were necessary for the perpetuation of the species. (As late as 1600 the world's population was about 500 million, compared with today's 7, and soon to be 9, billion. World Population Estimates, As recently as the 19th and early 20th Century children were needed to do their share of the unending work involved in a married couple's operation of a farm. Infant mortality rates were such that a couple needed many births to be assured of enough survivors. Divorce was theoretically possible, but thoroughly discouraged socially, legally -- and economically (given the many ways in which women were oppressed, and economically dependent upon their husbands).

That "institution of marriage" has certainly changed.

Today's (at least potential) economic and other independence of women, coupled with multiple forms of birth control, means that their sexuality no longer either requires, nor is restrained by, marriage. (E.g., when I entered law school in 1956 there were but two women among the 700 or so students; today's UI Law School entering classes are roughly 50% women.) Access to abortion, an abhorrence to many Americans and unavailable in most of geographic America (of 3100-plus counties in the U.S., among non-metropolitan counties only 3% offer access to abortion) is another major change. There are good reasons for being married, and monogamous within marriage; but today those reasons are more self-discovered and lived by as a matter of choice than externally imposed. This has been an enormous "change in the institution of marriage" for both heterosexual men as well as women (as we are reminded daily by the media).

Divorce rates are up, in part, because (at least many) women are not economically compelled to stay in "bad marriages" (sometimes including domestic violence). Most people would consider that a net plus for society. But it also makes divorce possible for somewhat more frivolous reasons. In any case, the easier access to the termination of marriage has to have been the cause of significant "change in the institution of marriage."

Procreation is no longer a societal necessity, either to tame Planet Earth or to have access to an adequate workforce on the farm. Indeed, one of our species' most urgent needs is to curtail births, not increase them. We seem to be approaching (if not exceeding) the maximum number of humans our Planet can sustain. Infant mortality rates, still too high in many countries, are radically below what they were. Super-sized farms and farm equipment have reduced the farm population from roughly 80% of all Americans in 1800 to 3% today.

So, is Rev. Jackson correct? Yes, the legalization of gay marriage is "a change in the institution of marriage."
But to truly understand these changes, and keep them in perspective, we need to recall the observations of Edward R. Murrow and Walt Kelly.

In explaining the Senator Joseph McCarthy anti-communist phenomenon, Murrow concluded his famous "See It Now" McCarthy program with the line from Shakespeare, "'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'" "Edward R. Morrow," En*Cyclopedia, State Library of North Carolina; the quote is from Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene ii.

Walt Kelly, creator of the "Pogo" comic strip, is perhaps best remembered for his comparable line regarding environmental degradation on a 1971 Earth Day poster: "we have met the enemy and he is us." "Pogo (comics)," Wikipedia.

If Rev. Jackson, and other heterosexuals, are fearful of any "changes in the institution of marriage," and feel the necessity of a "Defense of Marriage Act," they should begin with a good long look in the mirror. It is not the gays they need fear, but themselves.

Rush Limbaugh, May 9, 2012
# # #

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Speaking of Obesity

May 8, 2012, 10:40 a.m.

Decency and Obesity

This morning [May 8] brings us more news of a kind of growth America could do without: the "epidemic" of overweight and obesity. This time it was highlighted by a gathering of 1200 experts at the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "Weight of the Nation" conference in Washington yesterday. Melissa Healey, "42% of American adults will be obese by 2030, study says; Though the rate of the last 30 years has slowed, it's far from leveling off, and it's going to get expensive, say experts at the Weight of the Nation conference in Washington," Los Angeles Times, May 8, 2012.

There's more below regarding how those experts define "overweight" and "obesity," how you can find yourself on their continuum, their projections regarding where our scales will tip in 2030, the causes, best strategies for cure, and long-term costs -- in our individual health and sense of well-being, the nation's public health, the costs to business of accommodation, and the multi-hundred-billion-dollar increase in the nation's healthcare costs.

But first . . .

As Joan Rivers used to say, "Can we talk?"

Because we have an accompanying problem associated with obesity, and that's how we talk about it -- to each other, to ourselves, and especially to those suffering from this condition.

It was illustrated in Iowa City recently with what turns out to be standard practice at a local bar catering to University of Iowa students, both under-age and legal.

Jordan Ramos, a third-year UI undergrad, paid the cover charge to enter the Union Bar the evening of March 3, 2012, and subsequently, and wanted to dance on a platform with the other girls. On both occasions she was forbidden to do so by employees on the grounds that she "was not pretty enough" (from photos, she has a pretty face by my standards) and was pregnant. (Somewhat overweight, she was not pregnant.)

Rosa Parks, pictured here with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1955, wanted to sit on the Montgomery buses wherever she chose. On December 1 of that year she refused a bus driver's order that she get up and give her seat to a white person. It was a major milestone in what became the civil rights movement, and eventually, with President Lyndon Johnson's leadership, a series of civil rights laws in 1964 and 1965.

Rosa Parks refused to be stereotyped, to know, and stay in, "her place." She wanted to sit, not stand.

Jordan Ramos also did not want to be stereotyped or kept in her place. Just as Rosa Parks didn't want to be forced to stand because of her appearance, Jordan Ramos didn't want to be forced to sit because of her appearance. She wanted to dance, not start a revolution. But she soon came to echo Emma Goldman's feeling that, once a revolution is requesting her membership, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

It wasn't quite a revolution, but it has been a series of demonstrations by students of all shapes, sizes and ages, protesting the policies of Union Bar owner George Wittgraf, and their execution by his employees. See, e.g., Emily Schettler, "Student: Bar Discriminates by Weight; Union Owner Says He Hadn't Heard About Situation, but He Wouldn't Condone Such Behavior," Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 28, 2012, p. A1; Logan Edwards, "Rally Will Accuse Union Bar of Size Bias," The Daily Iowan, April 30, 2012, p. A1; Emily Schlettler, "Bar owner wants to apologize; Protest over alleged discrimination at Union Bar planned for Friday," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 1, 2012, p. A1; Editorial, "Let's Redirect All This Energy, Indignation," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 3, 2012, p. A7; Mitchell Schmidt, "Union Bar Dance Platform Will be Torn Down; City Officials: Platform is a Safety Hazard and Doesn't Meet City Code," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 3, 2012, p. A1; Alesha L. Crews, "Group uses gathering to bring attention to sizeism; UI student wants to shift attention away from bar incident to bigger issue," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 5, 2012; Luke Voelz, "Rally Condemns Size Bias; Around 30 People Participated in Friday's Rally," The Daily Iowan, May 7, 2012, p. A1.

On May 3 the Press-Citizen trivialized Ms. Ramos concerns in an editorial headlined, "Let's Redirect All This Energy, Indignation," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 3, 2012, p. A7. First, the editorial gives a half-hearted nod in her direction: "all establishments in the Iowa City area should be providing equal access and equal service for all their customers, regardless of external appearance."

Why? Because "even when that's not required by law, it's still just good business."

Good business?! Well, yes. But that's not really what this controversy is about. Ms. Ramos was not complaining about Wittgraf's failure to maximize his profits, his failure to recognize what is "good business." It was his failure to recognize what is good sense, his failure to treat all persons with dignity and respect, when and whether it will increase his profits or not.

It's not good business to have policies that create hostile demonstrations in front of your bar, anymore than it was good business for the Montgomery bus company to bring on a bus boycott. But Ms. Ramos is no more concerned about the business of the Union Bar than Rosa Parks was concerned about the business of the Montgomery buses.

The editorial continues with,
Ramos has been focusing her time, energy, passion and organizational skills on a goal unworthy of them: being able to dance on a platform overlooking the dance floor at The Union Bar. . . .

Because neither the state's civil rights law nor the city's civil rights ordinance includes body size as a protected category, there's little the Human Rights Commission could have done about the situation even if the commissioners had wanted to. And if Ramos had been complaining about something more significant -- if, say, a bar refused to serve her because of her size, or denied her a job, or paid her less than skinnier employees -- then we, along with many others in the community, would be more open to supporting her attempts to move forward with a civil rights claim.

But . . . [such] Commissions shouldn't be in the business of making sure more people of all shapes and sizes have equal opportunity to break their face after . . . falling off a beer-soaked bar platform. . . .

Now that everyone in The Union Bar has been consigned to the dance floor only, we hope that Ramos -- along with the people inspired by her -- will find a cause more worthy of all their indignation and creative energy.
What the Press-Citizen's usually sensitive and insightful Editorial Board missed on this one, I think, is that this controversy was, at base, no more about dancing on platforms in bars than Rosa Park's controversy was, at base, about sitting on buses. As UI grad student Mara Determan was quoted as observing, it was about "the root causes of prejudice against women" the "objectification of women." As Ramos said, "No wonder women feel they have to put on so much makeup and lose so much weight in order to feel valued in society." Luke Voelz, Daily Iowan, above. For an earlier blog entry addressing what we all lose out on when judging women by such standards, in that case a spectacular singing voice, see "Susan Boyle as General Semantics Lesson," April 20, 2009.

Notwithstanding Wittgraf's protestations that it "has never been our policy" to discriminate based on size, from news reports it appears Ramos' experience was the result of an overt policy, not an aberration. (Picking up on the Press-Citizen's editorial approach, he was quoted as saying, "We can't be mean to people. It's bad business.") Ramos said "others have told her about their own experiences of discrimination at the Union based on size, race and sexual orientation." "Austin Fell . . . said he witnessed the discrimination firsthand when he worked as a bouncer at the bar . . .. [H]e was told by owners to 'keep the fat and ugly girls away from the stage . . ..' Others who worked there told Fall, 'We usually let girls dance on the bar if they're skinny, but if they're fat, we just don't want that image.' . . . [O]ver the course of one month, he said he probably told about 20 'heavy-set' girls that they couldn't dance on the platform . . .." Emily Schettler, Press-Citizen, May 1, above.

It's as if these folks are still taking their ethical values from the obnoxious cigarette commercial aimed at women in the 1950s and '60s: "Cigarettes are like women. The best ones are thin and rich. Silva Thins are thin and rich."

How the experts define "overweight" and "obesity," how you can find yourself on their continuum, their projections regarding where our scales will tip in 2030, the causes, best strategies for cure, and long-term costs -- in our individual health and sense of well-being, the nation's public health, the costs to business of accommodation, and the multi-hundred-billion-dollar increase in the nation's healthcare costs
Governor Mike Huckabee, questioned regarding his conservative credentials, responded: "I'm a conservative. I'm just not angry about it."

Similarly, one can be concerned about the "obesity epidemic" and its consequences without disparaging others regarding their body type and size -- regardless of whether they're trying to do something about it or not. See Perry Beeman, "Iowa, U.S. Expected to Pack On the Pounds," Des Moines Register, May 8, 2012.

Jordan Ramos is the first to acknowledge this. She's fully capable of distinguishing between the range of problems associated with obesity and non-discriminatory human decency: "I'm not condoning obesity. That was never my intention. I just . . . don't think anybody's size should impact the way they are treated." Emily Schettler, Press-Citizen, May 1, above. "She said some people misinterpreted her story and thought she was trying to promote obesity, which she is not. She said she is trying to raise awareness about discrimination based on size. 'We are all humans and we all deserve to be treated equally and nobody should be denied access or the right to do things because of their outward appearance,' Ramos said." Alesha L. Crews, Press-Citizen, May 5, above.

If data regarding Americans' overweight and obesity is to be useful we need to define our terms. That has been done, and the definitions involve something called Body Mass Index or BMI. Don't worry about the math. Just use the calculator provided by the NIH's National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (The actual metric formula is weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. The calculator speaks feet, inches and pounds.)

Once you get that BMI number from the calculator, here are the categories:

Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
Overweight = 25–29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater (>40 = "severely, or super obese")

By these standards, today 36% of adult Americans are obese -- a number that is projected to increase to 42% by 2030. (If past trends were to continue it would be over 50%. The severely obese are expected to increase from 5% to 11% of the population.) These trends are hard to turn around, but the experts at Monday's conference point to such things as "more effective weight-loss drugs, public health campaigns to encourage exercise and more-healthful eating, or workplace health promotion policies" (such as the UI's "LiveWell" program). As with nicotine addiction and alcoholism, one of the most cost-effective approaches is to prevent obesity in young children: 77% of obese children become obese adults; only 7% of non-obese children have the problem as they grow older.

Experts acknowledge the insuperable political hurdles: "For weight gain to be averted — let alone reversed — policymakers would have to move beyond politically palatable initiatives such as removing sugary sodas from schools . . .. Very likely, junk food would have to be taxed to discourage consumption, and advertising for those products would have to be prohibited . . ." said one.

Overweight and obesity contribute to many diseases and disabilities, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease. The costs of treatment are a significant part of our nation's healthcare bill. Estimates are that the additional costs from the additional number of obese persons between now and 2030 could be as much as 550 billion (over one-half trillion) dollars. There are also added costs for public and private employers in addition to health insurance costs, from the increased number of sick days to the redesign of airline and theater seats, wheelchairs, and buildings. ("U.S. hospitals are ripping out wall-mounted toilets and replacing them with floor models to better support obese patients. The Federal Transit Administration wants buses to be tested for the impact of heavier riders on steering and braking. Cars are burning nearly a billion gallons of gasoline more a year than if passengers weighed what they did in 1960." Sharon Begley, "As America's waistline expands, costs soar," Reuters, April 30, 2012.

(The above is drawn, in part, from Melissa Healey, "42% of American adults will be obese by 2030, study says; Though the rate of the last 30 years has slowed, it's far from leveling off, and it's going to get expensive, say experts at the Weight of the Nation conference in Washington," Los Angeles Times, May 8, 2012.) For Iowa statistics see Iowa Department of Public Health, "Obesity in Iowa: A Statewide Epidemic," undated (with 2006-07 data).

There are few among us who would not be better off for ourselves, and our nation, if we ate better, exercised more, and shed a few pounds. I am one of the fortunate ones who has never had to struggle with obesity. I have sympathy for those who do. But neither am I of "normal weight" by the standards of the BMI chart, being more in the low to mid-range of the "overweight" category, weighing every morning, graphing the results alongside my goal for the week.

We need to talk about obesity. We need to do what we can to improve the public policies that support public health rather than diminish it. But when we are "speaking of obesity" we need to recognize the human need to do so in a way that respects the feelings of those with a problem. While we try to promote sensitivity, and the elimination of racism, antisemitism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination or ridicule of those with disabilities or special needs, we need to add a similar respect for the feelings of those who suffer in a society in which all too many apparently still believe that "the best women are thin and rich."
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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Nicholas Johnson's Mike Wallace Memories

May 2, 2012, 7:50 p.m.
Mike Wallace: May 9, 1918 – April 7, 2012

"I can't let the life, and now death, of Mike Wallace go without comment," Tim Weiner, "Mike Wallace, CBS Pioneer of 60 Minutes, Dies at 93," New York Times, April 9, 2012, p. A1; see also "Mike Wallace (journalist)," (Photo credit: Wikimedia commons)

Mike Wallace was both a significant part of my television viewing experience since the 1950s, and of my professional experience during the 1960s and 1970s -- during which at least two interviews have been recalled. Excerpts from the transcript of our exchanges during my "Face the Nation" guest appearance on September 14, 1969, and my legal assistant, Tracy Westen's memory of a Mike Wallace interview in my FCC office, are reproduced below.

CBS, I can now confess almost 40 years after leaving the FCC, was kind of my favorite family network. It featured Dad in its Peabody Award-Winning interview show, "The Search." In fact, I think it was that program that convinced Dad -- after I'd left for college -- to buy a TV set; apparently that experience finally brought him to the insight that there might be at least some programs worth watching on television.

Like many Americans, I was a fan of CBS' Edward R. Murrow, and his then-partner Fred Friendly -- whom I came to know when Fred served as CBS News President, professor at Columbia University, and at the Ford Foundation. "Harvest of Shame" (about migrant workers) and their presentation of Senator Joseph McCarthy (that played a major role in his downfall) are both major milestones in American broadcasting, history.

My sister, Kate, got an early start on her broadcasting career. While in high school her proposal for a "Teen Talk" radio program won a local contest, and gained her the role of its host on local radio station KXIC-AM, where she also hosted the "Breakfast Club." She created two TV shows for WMT-TV in Cedar Rapids: "It's Fun to Find Out" (a science program for kids) and "Hobby Hunt" (either while still in high school or during summers when in college). After college, in Europe, she fed stories to NBC's "Monitor" radio program, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (where she worked with a TV predecessor to CBS' "60 Minutes," "This Hour Has Seven Days").

She began at CBS with, among other assignments, Mike Wallace's radio program, "Mike Wallace at Large." She ultimately worked for CBS Television News for a few years, including Walter Cronkite's "CBS Evening News," where she continued occasional assignments with Mike Wallace.

I found watching the in-studio creation of Cronkite's Evening News -- with directors barking orders, and film (as it then was) arriving, and being processed, only minutes before the show, more exciting than any sports match. As improbable as it seemed during the countdown to air, somehow it always came together. And to my delight Cronkite extended a standing offer to come by anytime I was in New York, or they were doing the show from Washington, at the CBS offices just a block or two down the street from the FCC building.

My next door neighbor and one of my best friends at the time, Bob Pierpoint, had been one of "Murrow's boys," and was then working as the CBS White House correspondent. Although I never met Murrow, I do remember a dinner party at Bob's that Murrow's widow, Janet, attended.

In the midst of Washington's lobbying pressure, and good old boys' use of raw power as an alternative to rational persuasion, I used to say, sarcastically and dramatically to make the point, that most industries had at least one CEO who had attended college and has some sense of the public interest. When Maritime Administrator my memory is that Mærsk McKinney Møller and Jakob Isbrandtsen (of Isbrandtsen Lines) helped show the way to ship operations without government subsidy, and that my interests in cutting down port costs (often 90% of the cost of trans-ocean shipping), as well as the subsequent rail and truck costs, were substantially accelerated by Malcolm McLean, a former trucking company owner, who created Sea-Land and the containerization revolution I was advocating.

Anyhow, in broadcasting the one network CEO who was head and shoulders above the rest was CBS' Frank Stanton, often chosen (wisely) by the other broadcasters to be their spokesperson -- and who, among other things, got the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which had no congressional appropriation) off the ground with his own $1 million contribution. (Among group station owners it was Don McGannon, of Westinghouse, who led the way by removing cigarette commercials, and creating his own "family viewing hour," before being ordered to do so.)

When CBS started "60 Minutes," it got off to a slow start. In fact, the network was considering canceling the program almost before it got off the ground. I had been encouraging broadcasters to provide more substantive programming in general, and supported "60 Minutes" in particular. I can't recall the format it took – whether it was a speech, article, or just a conversation – but I do recall encouraging the network to stick with it, confident as I was that if they'd give the program a chance it would ultimately build an audience. Reflecting back, it turned out to be one of, if not the, longest running programs in television history.

When news of Mike Wallace's death reached him, one of my brilliant, creative, charming and personable former FCC legal assistants, Tracy Westen, emailed me the following:
I saw the news this morning that Mike Wallace just died, which is certainly a shame, but it reminded me of a story involving you . . ..I remember the time Wallace interviewed you in your office (probably some time in 1970). He already had a reputation as a fearsome interviewer, so we were all a little apprehensive. His crew came in and set up a one-camera setup, with the camera focused on you in your desk chair. The interview proceeded; he asked tough questions; your answers were great.Then they reversed the camera to get reaction shots of Wallace, shooting over your shoulder. They said just "make conversation" while Wallace nodded, as if he were listening to your answers. (Was that a form of news staging?)Then, you started asking Wallace tough questions. I don't remember what you said, so I'll make it up, it was something like this:"Isn't it true, Mike, that you're really just a corporate shill for CBS, and that your news stories are just designed to sell your sponsor's products?" (Something like that.) Poor Mike, he had to sit there, and nod, as though he was listening to one of your answers -- but the hilarious part was that you were forcing him to "agree" (nod in assent) to all your critical questions.He left shortly after that, seemed a bit disgruntled, but, as I recall, gave you a good interview when it aired.I still remember that and will always associate it with Mike Wallace, and your undaunted wit in the face of a notoriously tough reporter.
There are a number of stories regarding the "Face the Nation" program from which the transcript excerpts of my exchanges with Mike Wallace are reproduced below.

One of the producers of the program, whom I had met but never dated, told me the following amusing story. Apparently someone with CBS in New York wanted to use as a backdrop on the "Face the Nation" set in Washington a large graphic including my face, and made a very early call to the Washington producer. Assuming she and I had a relationship of some sort, he asked her, "Does Nick Johnson still have his mustache?" (It was subsequently featured on the cover of the Rolling Stone.) Flummoxed, irritated at being awakened and at her caller's assumption, she told me she replied, "Just a minute, I'll roll over and look."

We received in my FCC office something like 7000 letters regarding the program. The network informed me that they got more mail for that particular "Face the Nation" than for any other.

This was especially noteworthy, since I had noticed TV Guide listed the program for the wrong time. Thus, anyone who watched it saw it by accident. Indeed, one woman wrote me how pleased she was to have caught it. She was dusting her TV set when it accidentally went on, and there I was.

When I commented about this to one of the show's producers, she explained, "What you have to realize, Nick, is that you're not paranoid; you have real enemies." So I did.

So here are the excerpts from that program that involve the exchanges between Mike Wallace and myself (plus an opening and closing with CBS moderator, George Herman). (The third reporter was Richard Burgheim, of Time magazine.)

CBS Television and Radio Networks
Sunday, September 14, 1969 -- 12:30-1:00 PM EDT
Washington, D.C.

Mr. Herman: Commissioner Johnson, you are noted for some very critical views about the television industry. Your organization, the Federal Communications Commission, is far older than television. It presided over the birth and growth of the industry. It licensed and regulated the television stations. If there is something wrong with television, what is wrong with the FCC?

Commissioner Johnson: I think the FCC suffers from the problems that confront many of what we call sub-governments in Washington DC: the virtual domination of its day-to-day activities by the very industries that it is supposed to regulate. The political power of the broadcasting industry is, in my judgment, unsurpassed by that of any other industry in America today. * * *

Mr. Herman: Commissioner Johnson, if the FCC is dominated by the industry, is there something wrong with the members of the FCC, or is it the setup?

Commissioner Johnson: No, I think it's a not uncommon phenomenon in this town. The concept of a sub-government Is very important to an understanding of how its decisions are really made in Washington. In most areas of decision-making, the power is really outside the domain of Congress or the president. It rests with a very small group of individuals who have an economic interest in the outcome. This would apply to areas of subsidy, of government contracts, with bestowal of monopoly rights as in broadcasting, setting of rates; any matter of that kind that involves tremendous economic interests.

And in that area of decision-making, generally the decisions are dominated by a group made up of the trade magazines; the trade associations; that segment of the Washington bar which represents the industry involved; the principal spokesman for the industry, those from the major companies making up the industry; the government agency that is involved in dispensing the economic largess; and the subcommittees and staff within Congress that is responsible for this area.

And this group tends to enjoy a symbiotic relationship: the members of the various components of the sub-government end up working for one another at one time or another. And, it's a long, long way from democratic control of political decision-making.* * *

Mr. Wallace: You were persuaded to stay, and now Dean Burch, who worked for Barry Goldwater during the 1964 campaign, Dean Burch, it is said, is going to be the new chairman of the FCC. And Nick Johnson, those who know him best say, is very unhappy about that. Why?

Commissioner Johnson: Well, I would make every effort to assume the best about any new appointee to the FCC, and endeavor to work well with him to the extent possible.

Mr. Wallace: But what's wrong with the Burch appointment, if indeed it comes, Commissioner Johnson?

Commissioner Johnson: Well, I wouldn't really comment on that. The president hasn't nominated anyone yet, and I'm not sure it would be appropriate then for me to comment on it. I think that the thing that everyone will be watching on whomever president Nixon does ultimately decide to choose, is once again, just how far the political power of the broadcasting industry has gone. Surely, President Nixon is very much aware of the kinds of problems that president Eisenhower got into during the 1950s with his FCC and the ex-party scandals at that time. He's very mindful of the, really, the outrage on the part of many Americans at the seeming business domination of the regulatory commissions. So that, if he ends up making appointments that principally serve the interests of the broadcasting industry, I think we can assume that he is doing so knowingly and fully mindful of the tremendous political price that he will pay for such an appointment, and that he is presumably doing so only because of a tremendous political power that this industry does have, not only over Congress but over the presidency itself.

For he is, after all, in the same position of any other elected official. The only way he can reach his constituency, the only way any elected official can reach his constituency, is by knocking on the broadcaster’s door and begging him for a little time. It is the broadcaster, after all, who controls what information the American people will receive, what candidates they will be permitted to view and to hear from, what issues they will be permitted to know about. And every elected official is very mindful of this power. The question is, to what extent is it also a power applicable to the presidency itself. And as I say, I think that will be tested as these appointments come up.* * *

Mr. Wallace: Have you never helped out, Commissioner, been consulted by or offered encouragement to any specific group that was trying to replace the current licensee of any station across the country?

Commissioner Johnson: In my judgment, it would be inappropriate for a Commissioner to, I don't know what your words were, but to represent in the way a lawyer might, any party before the commission during a hearing. We have express rules on this, and once a case is set, it's up to the parties to get counsel and take care of themselves. Prior to that time, my door is open as is that of other Commissioners. I try to answer my mail and answer my phone calls and see people who request an opportunity to visit with me. I talk with representatives of the broadcasting industry and the telephone company; I talk with representatives of public groups. I try to see as broad a cross spectrum of those people who want to see me at times when it is appropriate and it is possible.

Mr. Wallace: My words were "helped out, been consulted by or offered encouragement to" any specific group. In other words, did you help any group? For instance, at KRON-TV; did you talk – people are trying to get their license. Or KNBC in Los Angeles, or WMAL-TV here in Washington. There are specific groups that are trying to get those licenses. Have you offered any encouragement to or specific help to any of those groups at any time?

Commissioner Johnson: I think the fair answer to your question is no, to the extent that you are asking have I done anything more than I would have done or have done in the past for industry representatives or any other American citizen, and the answer to that clearly is no, I have not.* * *

Mr. Wallace: Would you like to see the FCC regulate or somebody regulate the prices that are paid for political broadcasts?

Commissioner Johnson: Well, that rather assumes, Mr. Wallace, that a price ought to be paid. In my judgment it is absolutely preposterous that in an industry that is earning, many stations well in excess of 100% return on depreciated capital investment, an industry that is using public property, the airwaves, an industry that is permitted to make private profit from the use of public property only in exchange for the use of that public property in the public interest, an industry that has an obligation to put on some public service programming and is doing very little of it, for that industry to hold up the elected public officials and make them pay to get time from public property in order to permit the people of this country to hear from their elected officials, it's – you know, the rationing of the time and then charging for them, it's kind of like a criminal stealing a woman's wedding band after he's raped her, you know. * * * [D]uring election time, I think this one-third of the time ought to be devoted to a discussion of public issues and candidates, yes.

Mr. Wallace: By both networks and local stations?

Commissioner Johnson: Yes. Now, you raised the question of what about the splinter parties. This has been adequately handled by every other civilized nation in the world. It's not impossible of solution here. In Great Britain, the proportion given to splinter candidates is roughly apportioned in terms of their vote. Broadcasters in this country complain that because of the equal time rule they are compelled to give all candidates time, and if only we'd suspend the equal time rule, they'd be willing to give more free time. The fact of the matter is that well over fifty percent of the broadcasters, as many as two-thirds in many areas, have not given free time when there were only two candidates.* * *

Mr. Wallace: Let's get to censorship, if we may, Commissioner. Recently you wrote – you said virtually the same thing again here today – you wrote in TV Guide that network officials are “keeping off the television screens anything,” your word, "they find inconsistent with their corporate profits or their personal philosophies." And you talk about "corporate tampering with the product of honest and capable journalists." "Sometimes," you say, "there is a deliberate alteration of content." Do you at genuinely believe that?

Commissioner Johnson: Yes, I genuinely believe that.

Mr. Wallace: What you're saying really, is that –

Commissioner Johnson: As do most former network newscasters who bothered to write books about the matter genuinely believe it. Edward R. Murrow said that the final and most crucial decisions in network news are made by top corporate management.

Mr. Wallace: Well, now, wait –

Commissioner Johnson: Fred friendly, who was former president of CBS news, said very much the same thing in Due To Circumstances Beyond Our Control. Robin McNeal, who was with NBC, in his book, People Machines, documented very much the same story. These are not imaginings of mine, Mr. Wallace. My only source of information, necessarily, is from those who are now in this business and are willing to talk, not for attribution, or those who have been in the business in the past and have written books about it.

Mr. Wallace: Well, Commissioner, you say, again, "Network officials keep off the screen anything they find inconsistent with their corporate profits or personal philosophies." You wrote it in TV Guide, next week's TV Guide. And I believe you have a copy of Dick Salant, who is the president of CBS News, his statement says, "in the eleven years I was corporate officer and the six years I've been president of CBS news, to my knowledge," and he is not an unknowledgeable man I think you'll agree, "there is no issue, no topic, no story that CBS News has ever been forbidden or instructed, directly or indirectly, to cover or not to cover by corporate management." Now –

Commissioner Johnson: Well, are you familiar with the inner-office memorandum that was published in Variety from CBS management to the news department on how coverage of the New York Yankees, a ball club owned by CBS, was to be handled by the news department?

Mr. Wallace: Candidly, I am not. But the word "anything"? And let's say that you were right one percent or five percent –

Commissioner Johnson: Edward R. Murrow said it. He said look at prime time television. He said 8:00 to 11:00; I think you could extend that time a little bit. He said, see how much you see there of relevance to what is going on in our society today. He quoted Stonewall Jackson as saying, "When the war breaks out, you draw your sword and throw away your scabbard." And here is television, rusting in its scabbard.

Mr. Wallace: Mr. Johnson –

Commissioner Johnson: It's a sign of crisis.

Mr. Wallace: – aside from the New York Yankees, what are the issues that you think are in – have not been covered on television, on CBS news? How many times have George Herman or I, for instance, on CBS news, because I don't want to talk about the – been instructed to tamper with our product? You know what you're calling us when you say that?

Commissioner Johnson: I didn't call you anything. If you read the article carefully, you will see that I said that I would far rather leave the judgment as to what is going to be in America's marketplace of ideas to the creative writers and performers and journalists in this business, individuals from all sections of the United States, than to leave these decisions to committees of frightened financiers in New York City. * * *I would much rather, Mr. Wallace, that you were making those decisions on your own. I would much rather that you were deciding, Mr. Wallace, how much time in the evening schedule of CBS was going to be devoted to something that matters.

Mr. Wallace: You're not talking about timing in your article, Mr. Johnson; you're saying –

Commissioner Johnson: I am talking about time. I'm saying that one of the ways that you censor is by putting on so much tasteless gruel, by keeping America asleep, when important issues need to be discussed, when the people need to have information, and they watch television. Notice that – I think it was a week and a half before the ABM Senate vote, a Gallup poll revealed that sixty percent of the American people had either never heard of the ABM or didn't know enough about it to have a position on the issue.

Mr. Wallace: Commissioner –

Commissioner Johnson: I think it's rather interesting, if I can finish this point, that sixty percent of the American people also tell Elmer Roper that they get most of their information and opinion from television. Now, whether this happened to be the same sixty percent that was watching television that didn't know enough about the ABM to form an issue on it or not, I don't know. But I do know that the American people are woefully uninformed if they are dependent solely upon television news. Walter Cronkite said as much. And if you cannot find authority in Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly, who was Dick Salant’s predecessor, and Walter Cronkite, who’s now anchoring your evening news show, I don't know what authorities I can cite to you, although I can find them from other networks as well. The ABC executive who says we censor ourselves was also quoted in the pages of TV Guide.

Mr. Wallace: . . . You say, "Network officials are keeping off the television screens anything they find inconsistent with their corporate profits or personal philosophies." Now, those are your words.

Commissioner Johnson: Well, this was in part based upon CBS's experience with the Smothers Brothers, where I think it's demonstrable, in that instance, that they were not acting in terms of corporate profit, because the shareholders of CBS have suffered as a result of the cancellation of the Smothers Brother's Show. That was nothing but personal predilection.* * *

Mr. Herman: . . . In your article you complained about several different things that we've kept off the air. Information about cigarettes, cyclomates, black lung –

Commissioner Johnson: You want to talk about cigarettes?

Mr. Herman: I just want to say that I've done several stories on the air on each of those things, and I'm a little troubled to find in the twenty seconds we have left what I did wrong.

Commissioner Johnson: Well, I'll be happy to discuss the cigarette story with you in gruesome detail. There is a prime example of this industry's effort to take all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States the argument that they have the constitutional right to keep from the American people information about the health hazards of cigarettes. The only reason those anti-smoking spots are on the air is because they were ordered to be put on the air by the FCC over the protests of the broadcast industry.

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Addendum, May 4: After writing this, I listened to a repeat of Diane Rehm's interview of Dan Rather. He’s just published a book, Rather Outspoken. He describes what happened, even to CBS News, after the years when I was complaining about corporate control of the networks in the 1960-70s (see "Face the Nation" excerpts, above), and after Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 film, “Network.” Rather's take is, on the whole, not only totally confirming of what Chayefsky and I had predicted, described and complained about 30-40 years earlier, it also explains how concentration of control of mass media led to an acceleration of the abuses. See also, "Dan Rather," New York Times Topics; "Dan Rather,"; and Dan Rather Reports on Facebook.