Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Asking the Right I-380 Question

Asking the Right Questions About Interstate 380 Expansion

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, December 1, 2019, p. D3
[The Gazette (online), November 26, 2019]
also as:
"Asking the Right I-380 Question,"
Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 4, 2019, p. A7

Asking the right question is the first step to finding the right answer.

Asking how many lanes should be added to The Corridor's corridor, I-380, may not be the right question.

“Slow elevator” complaints caused a hotel manager to call in engineers. Complaints continued. Someone suggested, “Your problem is not elevators, it’s complaints.” So perceived, the solution was full-length mirrors by each elevator. Guests’ who admired themselves while waiting no longer complained.

As I wrote in "How to Totally Eliminate Flood Damage," the question is not how to have less water in the river, it’s how to have fewer structures in the flood plain.

The Iowa DOT's December 2018 I-380 Planning Study compares favorably with similar studies elsewhere. Unfortunately, most of them recommend what board consultant John Carver describes as "doing the wrong things better."

The Study mentions CRANDIC. Most nations use passenger rail. That iron horse left Iowa’s barn a century ago when we had 10,500 rail miles. The auto industry campaigned to replace tracks with auto dealerships. Now U.S. highways and parking lots cover an area roughly the size of Iowa, and Americans pay from $7,000 to $10,000 a year to drive cars. China has 2,800 pairs of trains travelling 200 mph between 550 cities. We have CRANDIC. [Photo of G7232 Bullet Train leaving Zhenjiang Station, credit: Wikimedia]

Even if this was a “congestion” problem, most studies find additional lanes increase congestion. Economists call it "induced demand." What did Houston get for its $2.8 billion expansion of the Katy Freeway to 26 lanes? Increased travel times of 55 percent. [Photo credit: Wikimedia, Michael Coghlan]

Sometimes removing freeway lanes is both cheaper and more effective than adding them. San Francisco cut lanes and daily 100,000-passenger freeway traffic in half and created one of its better neighborhoods in its place.

But the I-380 question should not be, “what’s the best way to make room for more cars?” It’s “what are the alternatives to requiring a population the size of a large Iowa community to relocate daily, like unwelcome immigrants, up and down I-380?”

There are many possibilities. Some have been tried. Most require good will among governments, businesses, and employees.

Educate the public to the full cost, in dollars and time, of commuting by car; the months they must work just to pay for getting to work.

Parents buy homes close enough to schools their kids can walk. Imagine the savings if the homes were close enough to work those parents could walk.

Employers could be encouraged to pay workers enough to afford neighborhood housing at 30 percent of their income, or work with governments and landlords to subsidize workers’ rents.

Plans for new businesses and factories could include plans for employee housing.

Current businesses could create regional or coworking centers closer to employees’ homes.

Rethink “employment.” Instead of buying an employee’s time in place, employers could buy their productivity from anyplace.

Employers could rethink communications. What’s the most efficient mix of one-on-one face-to-face, group face-to-face, group phone or video meetings; reaching customers with personal meetings, phone calls, personal emails and texts, newsletters? Did everyone have to be at that last meeting?

Must employees be in “the office” every day to do their work? Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world, used telegraph messages to manage Carnegie Steel from China and elsewhere. Today, 100 years later, 50 percent of our workforce hold jobs compatible with what we now call telecommuting.

We can’t solve I-380 congestion with the hotel manager’s mirrors. Nor are more lanes the answer. The answer will be found in creatively redrafting the question.

Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City promoted containerized shipping as U.S. Maritime Administrator in 1964, and is the author of Columns of Democracy. Comments: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org.

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Sources for Column

(in order in column)
Hotel elevators. https://marc-lemenestrel.net/IMG/pdf/dery1.pdf, pp. 16-17

How to Totally Eliminate Flood Damage, May 30, 2013. https://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2013/05/how-to-totally-eliminate-flood-damage.htmlj

Iowa DOT's 2018 Planning Study. https://iowadot.gov/i380planningstudy/pdfs/I-380-PEL-Final-Report%20.pdf

Carver; "wrong things better." Carver, "Remaking Governance," ASBJ, March 2000, p. 26, http://nicholasjohnson.org/writing-2/asbjcarv.html ("Much of what is published for boards -- including advice appearing regularly in these pages -- reinforces errors of the past or, at best, teaches trustees how to do the wrong things better.")

Iowa's 10,500 rail miles. Iowa DOT, Rail Transportation, Iowa Rail History. https://iowadot.gov/iowarail/Historical-Culture/Iowa-Rail-History

Auto dealerships for tracks. "History of rail transportation in California," Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transportation_in_California ('The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge opened to rail traffic in 1939 only to have the last trains run in 1958 after fewer than twenty years of service – the tracks were torn up and replaced with additional lanes for automobiles. All four streetcar systems, and other similar rail networks across the state, declined in the 1940s with the rise of California's car culture and freeway network. They were then all eventually taken over to some degree, and dismantled, in favor of bus service by National City Lines, a controversial national front company owned by General Motors and other companies in what became known as the General Motors streetcar conspiracy.")

Land covered by highways and parking lots; Iowa in square miles. "Paving the Planet: Cars and Crops Competing for Land," Earth Policy Institute, ("However we visualize it, the U.S. area devoted to roads and parking lots covers an estimated 16 million hectares (61,000 square miles), an expanse approaching the size of the 21 million hectares that U.S. farmers planted in wheat last year.") Area of Iowa. 56,272 square miles. "Iowa Population 2019 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs), World Population Review, http://worldpopulationreview.com/states/iowa-population/ Accord, Iowa DOT, Demographics, https://iowadot.gov/about/Demographics

$7,000 to $10,000 annually to operate car. AAA NewsRoom, "Your Driving Costs," https://newsroom.aaa.com/auto/your-driving-costs/ Discussion includes chart with 8 categories of vehicle from "small sedan" ($7,114) to "Pickup" ($10,839). See also "average" in "The Cost of Owning Your Car? $9,000 a year," USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/16/aaa-car-ownership-costs/2070397/

China's 2,800 pairs of trains; 217 mph; 550 cities. Travel China Guide, "China High Speed Train (Bullet Train). https://www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains/high-speed/

CRANDIC. "Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway," Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedar_Rapids_and_Iowa_City_Railway

Additional lanes increase congestion. "Induced Demand," Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand. ("after supply increases, more of a good is consumed. ... [T]his idea ["induced demand"] has become important in the debate over the expansion of transportation systems, and is often used as an argument against increasing roadway traffic capacity as a cure for congestion. ... City planner Jeff Speck has called induced demand 'the great intellectual black hole in city planning, the one professional certainty that everyone thoughtful seems to acknowledge, yet almost no one is willing to act upon.'")

Houston Katy Freeway; 55% increased travel time, $2.8 billion. CityLab, "City Lab University: Induced Demand," https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/09/citylab-university-induced-demand/569455/ ("cost of $2.8 billion. ... [A]fter the freeway was widened, congestion got worse. ... [T]ravel times increased by ... 55 percent during the evening commute."

San Francisco removal of lanes. "What's Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse," WIRED, June 17, 2014, https://www.wired.com/2014/06/wuwt-traffic-induced-demand/ ("San Francisco removed a highway section, called the Central Freeway, that carried nearly 100,000 cars per day in 1989. The boulevard that replaced it now only carries around 45,000 daily cars and yet they move.") "Six Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever," GIZMODO, May 25, 2016, https://gizmodo.com/6-freeway-removals-that-changed-their-cities-forever-1548314937 ("It seems counterintuitive, right? Rip out eight lanes of freeway through the middle of your metropolis and you’ll be rewarded with not only less traffic, but safer, more efficient cities? But it’s true, and it’s happening in places all over the world. . . . Okay, you’re thinking, but where do all the cars go? It turns out that when you take out a high-occupancy freeway it doesn’t turn the surface streets into the equivalent of the Autobahn. A theory called “induced demand” proves that if you make streets bigger, more people will use them. When you make them smaller, drivers discover and use other routes, and traffic turns out to be about the same. Don’t believe it? Check out these freeway removals in cities all over the world and see for yourself.")

I-380 commuters, over 4,000 each way twice a day, if a city would be in the top 100 of Iowa’s 947 cities (roughly top 10%); https://www.iowa-demographics.com/cities_by_population, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_in_Iowa

30% of income for housing. HUD, “Affordable Housing,” https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/comm_planning/affordablehousing/ (“Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing. A family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.”)

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Tags: AndrewCarnegie, bulletTrains, CedarRapids, commutingCosts, congestion, coworkingCenters, CRANDIC, employeeHousing, I380, IowaCity, IowaDOT, JohnCarver, MaritimeAdministration, questions, slowElevators, telecommuting, traffic
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Monday, November 11, 2019

Understanding Impeachment

There is so much nonsense spouted about impeachment these days, whether deliberate obfuscation or unknowingly, that you might find these items useful. (The most basic sources, from the Constitution, are Article II, Section 4 (impeachment power), Art. I, Sec. 2, Clause 5 (possessed by the House), Art. I, Sec. 3, Cl. 6 (trial in Senate). You are spared additional footnotes, though specific citations can be provided if desired.)

This material is hoped, intended and believed to be accurate, but does not purport to be, and is not, either a "legal opinion" or "scholarship."

There are three sections to which these links can take you: (1) The Obligation to Impeach, (2) Impeachment Standard Not "Illegality," and (3) Trump Has Violated the Law. [Photo credit: Wikimedia.]

The Obligation to Impeach. Every president, House and Senate member, and federal judge has sworn to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution requires each branch (legislative, executive and judicial) to maintain the balance of power among the three branches and prevent constitutional violations by the other two.

Thus, it can be argued the House has a constitutional obligation to begin an impeachment inquiry when there is reason to believe a president may have said or done things that precedent suggests constitute “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The Congress has no more constitutional right to evade this responsibility, to fail to exercise this specifically granted power, than it has a right to fail to exercise its power to take the census every ten years. It certainly cannot refuse to start an impeachment inquiry because it might be politically harmful to the majority party in the House, or because the president may fail to win reelection. Nor can it fail to impeach because the Senate is unlikely to convict, any more than a grand jury can fail to indict because of the possibility the trial jury may be biased in favor of the accused.

Why? Because there are more reasons for the impeachment power than the potential removal of a specific president. Impeachment is designed to maintain for the future both (1) the standards of presidential conduct required by the founders and (2) exercise of the checks and balances the Constitution compels between the Legislative and Executive branches.

Impeachment Standard Not “Illegality.” President Trump’s defenders have altered their arguments as facts evolved – from, in effect, “he didn’t do it,” to “he may have done it, but he did nothing wrong,” to “he may have exercised bad judgment and done something wrong, but he did nothing illegal,” to “it can’t have been illegal because there was no quid-pro-quo,” to “even if it was illegal, and there was a quid-pro-quo, it is not an impeachable offense.”

As “Late Night” host Seth Meyers would say, “It’s time for a closer look.”

The founders modeled their constitutional standard for impeachment on British practice, which had its origins in 1341. Articles of impeachment in Great Britain included such things as “arbitrary and tyrannical government,” “procuring offices for persons who were unfit, and unworthy of them,” “squandering away the public treasure,” “improprieties in office,” “gross maladministration,” “corruption in office,” “neglect of duty,” excessive drinking and cursing that created “the highest scandal . . . on the kingdom.”

The British practice was to treat impeachment as a remedy separate from the process and standards of the criminal law and to include conduct not expressly recognized as “illegal.”

Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s language is influenced, but not bound, by British history. But American history is almost identical. The writings of Constitutional Convention members Alexander Hamilton, James Wilson, and James Madison indicate they believed impeachment did not require criminal offences. Nothing in the records of the states’ ratification of the Constitution indicate they believed impeachment was limited to criminal offenses. Of the first 13 impeachments by the House since 1789 (mostly of judges), at least 10 included charges that did not involve criminal law. Finally, Congress has never attempted to define “impeachment” in Title 18 of the U.S. Code (criminal code).

So far, three U.S. presidents have been impeached (Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton) and a fourth (President Trump) is undergoing an impeachment inquiry. None, so far, has been removed from office following the Senate trial. (President Johnson was saved by one vote; President Nixon resigned before his seemingly inevitable formal impeachment.)

Each presidential impeachment has involved some article dealing with other than criminal illegality.

As discussed in ”Trump’s High Crimes and Misdemeansors,” October 31, 2019, President Andrew Johnson’s tenth article of impeachment charged “That the President of the United States, unmindful of the high duties of his high office and the dignity and proprieties thereof, and of the harmony and courtesies which ought to exist and be maintained between the executive and legislative branches of the Government of the United States . . . [did] make and declare, with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces . . . amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled . . ..”

The first of the Articles of Impeachment regarding President Nixon included: “[Nixon] has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice . . .. [He has] engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry [into Democratic National Committee headquarters]; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities. “ (This is followed by nine examples.)

Article II, par. 5, alleged that “he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation . . . and the Central Intelligence Agency.” Article III charged that he “has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives . . ..”

President Bill Clinton’s third article of impeachment included, after citing 7 specific items, “In all of this, [Clinton] has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the Presidency, [and] has betrayed his trust as President . . ..”

Taken together, the evidence is overwhelming that the validity of an article of impeachment does not turn on whether a "law" has been violated. Thus, even if it were true, as some Trump defenders contend, that "he has done nothing illegal" it does not follow that, therefore, he cannot and should not be impeached.

But wait, even if one insists that a violation of law is a requirement for impeachment . . .

Trump Has Violated the Law. Although unnecessary for impeachment, for a response to those who argue “he did nothing illegal” or “there was no quid-pro-quo” it seems clear he did violate the law, and that the law he violated does not require proof of a “quid-pro-quo.”

The law involved is contained in Section 30121 of Title 52, United States Code (“Voting and Elections”).

The relevant words are, “It shall be unlawful for . . . a person to solicit . . . or receive . . . from a foreign national ["a . . . thing of value . . . in connection with a Federal . . . election"].

(The primary subsection is Sec. 30121(a)(2). The [bracketed] words are from subsection 30121(a)(1)(A) because Sec. 30121(a)(2) defines what cannot be received as that which was "described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1).")

Thing of Value. Given the quantity of confirming testimony regarding the range of ways that Trump displayed his desire to obtain dirt on former Vice President, and candidate for president, Joe Biden, there can be no doubt he considered such information “a thing of value in connection with a Federal election.”

Solicitation. Notes from Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky included Trump’s now-infamous line, “I would like to ask you to do us a favor, though.” It turns out there was more than one “favor” requested, but one is enough to clearly establish “solicitation.”

Quid-Pro-Quo. Note that the law does not require a quid-pro-quo. So even if there had been no quid-pro-quo that would have been irrelevant to whether Sec. 30121 had been violated. Clearly, it would not have been a defense. But for whatever relevance it may have, it seems to have clearly been the impression of many of those who have testified before Congress that a quid-pro-quo was understood by both presidents.

Without exploring yet another possible crime, the existence of a quid-pro-quo, while irrelevant to Section 30121, may be very relevant to a charge of bribery.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Trump's High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Trump's High Crimes and Misdemeanors
Like the individual "charges" in a grand jury's indictment, there are individual "articles" in an impeachment. I have obtained one of those Articles:

“Article 10. That the President of the United States, unmindful of the high duties of his high office and the dignity and proprieties thereof, and of the harmony and courtesies which ought to exist and be maintained between the executive and legislative branches of the Government of the United States, designing and intending to set aside the rightful authorities and powers of Congress, did attempt to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States, and the several branches thereof, to impair and destroy the regard and respect of all the good people of the United States for the Congress and the legislative power thereof, which all officers of the government ought inviolably to preserve and maintain, and to excite the odium and resentment of all good people of the United States against Congress and the laws by it duly and constitutionally enacted; and in pursuance of his said design and intent, openly and publicly and before divers assemblages of citizens of the United States, . . . on divers other days and times, as well before as afterwards, make and declare, with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces . . . amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled . . ..”

Pretty flowery language maybe, but this is a solumn business. A violation of "the high duties of his high office and the dignity and proprieties thereof" pretty well covers a part of what Congress is dealing with, wouldn't you say?

Scholars seeped in details of impeachments in American history will recognizer the quote, above, as one of the 11 Articles of Impeachment of President Andrew Johnson (no relation) approved by Congress March 4, 1868.

So its relevance for us today is not that it is language ultimately included in whatever Articles of Impeachment of President Trump the House sends on to the Senate.

However, for those who interpret the Constitution's language historically, relying on "original intent," it is (1) language that could describe President Trump's behavior, and (2) evidence of what the House of Representatives found to be among the "high crimes and misdemeanors" warranting impeachment at the time of the first impeachment 151 years ago.

Sources, Credits and Links

Text source: https://www.senate.gov/…/…/briefing/Impeachment_Johnson.htm… Photo credit: wikimedia.org, Congressman Brad Sherman, June 12, 2017; Illustration credit: Theodore R. Davis, Harper's Weekly, April 11, 1868.

#articlesOFimpeachment, #charges, #Congress, #Constitution, #courtesy, #dignity, #GrandJury,#hatred, #highcrimesANDmisdemeanors, #HouseOfRepresentatives, #impeachment, #indictment, #originalintent, #PresidentAndrewJohnson, #PresidentDonaldTrump, #propriety, #Senate
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Monday, October 21, 2019

What Is A Newspaper?

What Is A Newspaper?"
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, October 21, 2019, p. A5
NOTE: The first entry in this blog post is the 584-word text, and the requested "sources," as presented to The Gazette's Editorial Board. As of this morning (Oct. 21) the print version (shortened for space and slightly modified) has not yet been posted on The Gazette's Web site. When it is available it will be copied and reproduced below, with a direct link to it here.

For the record, I am not employed by The Gazette, have no financial interest in the paper or its parent corporation, no family member working there, and am not paid for the columns I submit. My motive for writing this column, as my book, Columns of Democracy, makes clear is that I believe very strongly in the urgency of reestablishing democracy in America, and the preeminent role of local journalism in making that possible.

Gazette columnist Adam Sullivan’s “America Needs Local Newspapers” (Oct. 11), put forward a well-written case for local news in general and Iowa’s Carroll Times Herald and Quad-City Times in particular. Both papers had substantial costs of defending themselves in trials they ultimately won.

He’s right. And it’s not just local. Authoritarians are disparaging and assassinating journalists. But there are multiple sources of their stories.

It’s local news that’s disappearing. National print newspaper ad revenue dropped from $60 billion to $20 billion in 15 years. Half our 3,000 counties have only one newspaper, 171 have none; 2,100 papers closed.

So what? Democracies die from a thousand cuts to their supporting institutions: universal public education; fair, inclusive elections; nonpartisan, respected judges -– what I’ve called the Columns of Democracy.

And the greatest of these? An independent, respected journalism. Says who? Says Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them."

“Receive those papers?” Little more than one percent of Americans subscribe to the New York Times, or Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal. “Capable of reading them?” Mandatory public education was originally to provide us the civic virtues for active participation in democracy. No longer.

The Gazette is preeminent among our local democratic institutions, serving all of them. Its investigative reporters are our communities’ “inspectors general.” It informs us about our local businesses; schools, colleges and universities; courts, city councils, county supervisors, legislators – plus presidential candidates. It monitors our hospitals, public roads, bridges, parks and libraries. It tracks our safety, from natural disasters to the law breakers and enforcers. It hears our complaints and publishes our letters. It is our historian and librarian, with Time Machine articles and book, Ties to Our Past – plus papers from 1883. It educates and offers advice about our physical and financial wellness, cooking, cars, homes and gardens, “Things To Do Today” and Sunday’s “What’s Trending on the Gazette.com.” [Photo credit: Tony Webster, January 25, 2016]

But wait, there’s more! Examine carefully each story, and reporter’s name, in one day’s hard copy or Green Gazette. Leaf through a week’s papers, or stroll through the vast Web site with its Menu, More Links, Our Sites, and Additional Links.

The Gazette is magazines, like Iowa Ideas and HER, special supplements like Hoopla and quarterly Brain Teasers. It is editorial board meetings, Pints and Politics, business breakfasts, and Iowa Ideas symposium. It’s generous support of dozens of organizations and causes -– and more than this space can hold. [Photo: Pints & Politics event before packed house at Theater Cedar Rapids, first evening of 2019 Iowa Ideas symposium, Oct. 3, 2019. From stage right: Erin Jordan, Todd Dorman, James Lynch, Lyz Lenz, Adam Sullivan. Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson]

Forty-five years ago, as a congressional primary candidate, I could look around an Iowa town and guess the quality of its newspaper. It’s still true. If there are things you like about our part of Iowa thank The Gazette.

But it needs our support more than our thanks. Unlike other public institutions, it’s not only protected from government interference it also gets no government support.

The Gazette cannot do it alone. It can print newspapers, but it can’t print money. It needs advertising dollars from an engaged business community. It and our democracy need more of us to subscribe -– even if only digitally.

It is we who need to be engaged in our communities, we who need to be informed about our local challenges and opportunities, we who need to financially support, read and act on the local news in this paper. Do your part.
Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City, former media law professor and FCC commissioner, is the author of Columns of Democracy." Comments: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

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[https://cpj.org/data/killed/?status=Killed&motiveConfirmed%5B%5D=Confirmed&type%5B%5D=Journalist&start_year=1992&end_year=2019&group_by=year; Committee to Protect Journalists (“1354 Journalists Killed between 1992 and 2019/Motive Confirmed”)

https://cpj.org/data/reports.php?status=Imprisoned&start_year=2018&end_year=2018&group_by=location (“250 Journalists Imprisoned in 2018”)

Amanda Erickson, “2018 Has Been a Brutal Year for Journalists, and It Keeps Getting Worse,” The Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2018/10/09/has-been-brutal-year-journalists-it-keeps-getting-worse/

RWB World Press Freedom Index, https://rsf.org/en/2019-world-press-freedom-index-cycle-fear]

Newspaper economics. Derek Thompson, “The Print Apocalypse and How to Survive It,” The Atlantic, Nov. 3, 2016, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/11/the-print-apocalypse-and-how-to-survive-it/506429/

The Rise of a New Media Baron and the Emerging Threat of News Deserts; Daily Papers That Were Closed, Merged, or Shifted to Weeklies, http://newspaperownership.com/additional-material/closed-merged-newspapers-map/

Newspapers closed. Douglas A. McIntyre, “Over 2000 American Newspapers Have Closed in Past 15 Years,” 24/7 Wall St., July 23, 2019, https://247wallst.com/media/2019/07/23/over-2000-american-newspapers-have-closed-in-past-15-years/ (“Abernathy told 24/7 Wall St. that, “It appears at this stage that we’ve lost approximately 2,100 papers, all but 70 of which are weeklies, since 2004.” The industry implosion has left almost half of the counties in America (1,449) with only one newspaper, which is usually a weekly. As of the most recent count, 171 counties do not have a paper at all.”)

Thomas Jefferson quote. Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington," January 16, 1787, Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 11:48-49 (emphasis supplied). http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_speechs8.html

Not used: Indeed the media, sometimes called the fourth branch of government, is the only industry recognized and protected by our Constitution (“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … of the press”).

Subscribers. NY Times “new goal of 10 million subscriptions by 2025, up from 4.3 million today. Nearly 80 percent of those 2018 subscribers are digital.” AP New York Times subscriber numbers are skyrocketing in the Trump age, Over 265,000 digital subscriptions were added in the last three months of 2018,” Feb. 6, 2019 https://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-york-times-subscriber-numbers-are-skyrocketing-in-the-trump-age-2019-02-06

Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2019 ranking of 180 countries finds only 24% “good” or “satisfactory.” The U.S. fell to 48th.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

An Evangelical Explains Trump

Why did evangelicals vote for Trump?
Thomas L. Johnson
Quora.com, July 18, [otherwise undated; presumably 2019]

NOTE: In order to do anything involving President Donald Trump -- from impeachment to presidential election defeat -- it is necessary to understand as much as possible about the man. There are a number of blog posts and columns in which I've taken a stab at it. For example:
"Intelligence Community's Inspector General and Impeachment," September 26, 2019
Understanding Trump: Know Thine Opponent," September 23, 2019
"Trump Won't Be Beat With Plans Alone," The Gazette, August 17, 2019, p. A5 (blog post title: "Marianne Williamson's Questions and Answers")
"Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure," The Gazette, May 29, 2019 (blog post title: "Why Trump May Win") (a list of 13 categories of Trump's advantages)
• For a contrary view to the one presented here, see Anthea Butler, "White Evangelicals Love Trump and Aren't Confused About Why. No One Should Be.: Focusing on the Disconnect Betseen Trump's Actions and the Moral Aspects of Evangelicals' Faith Misses the Issue That Keeps Their Support Firm," Think, NBC News, September 27, 2019.
However, one perspective I have not, and cannot, provide is how the evangelical portion of his base rationalize to themselves their relatively solid support of the man, seemingly regardless of his violations in thought, word and deed of what one would assume to be evangelicals' beliefs and standards.

As Mayor Pete Buttigieg has put it, "I do think it’s strange, knowing that no matter where you are politically, the gospel is so much about inclusion and decency and humility and care for the least among us, that a wealthy, powerful, chest-thumping, self-oriented, philandering figure like [Donald Trump] can have any credibility at all among religious people. ... Your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. ... That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth." Sojourners. "For a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that … God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again." The Atlantic.

[Photo caption: "Members of Cross Community Church, an EA congregation in Berne, Indiana, pose for a photo published on the Evangelical Assocation's Desk Calendar." Photo credit: FatherRon2011, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0, Wikimedia.org.]

The following piece by Thomas L. Johnson (no relation) provides some helpful insights:
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As an evangelical who did not and never will vote for Donald J. Trump, I fully understand why many evangelicals voted for a man who is crass, mean-spirited, personally unethical, and embarrassingly self-serving. They felt that they had no choice and have every reason to feel that again in 2020:
• Trump gave them two Supreme Court justices who will vote their interests for the next thirty years. Given the reality that many if not most evangelicals have never come to terms with abortion, particularly later term abortion, that absolves Trump of his extramarital dalliances.
• Trump has evoked the sort of tribalism that evangelicals understand. They live in a world of us versus them; so does Trump.
• Like Trump, evangelicals do not allow science to compete with their preconceived notions in areas like global warming or perceived conspiracies.
• Trump has embraced Israel. Many conservative Christians see Israel as part of the end-of-times prophecies.
• Like Trump, evangelicals are not fans of social change of the sort that came out of the Obama years. They believe in two genders determined and defined at birth, in a biblical view of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and of a level of patriotism that rejects figures like Colin Kaepernick or Megan Rapinoe.
While Hillary Clinton’s campaign and personality were non-starters for evangelicals in 2016, often for reasons created or exploited by Cambridge Analytica, a Democratic candidate from the Medicare for All, open border, free education wing of the Democratic Party will present an even larger challenge.

Given their 25–26% share of the total electorate and their over 80% allegiance to Trumpism, evangelicals will more than offset the moderates who will move out of their comfort zone in the middle to vote for an Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Intelligence Community's Inspector General and Impeachment

Now What?
As I watched the three hours of the House Intelligence Committee's questioning of Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire it increasingly seemed to me that (1) no one was entirely pure, and (2) the Constitution and Acts of Congress are inadequate to resolve the challenges confronting the Committee and the Director. [Photo: Director Joseph Maguire; source: Wikimedia Commons.]

The Trump-can-do-no-wrong Republicans were overstating President Trump's innocence. The Democrats were playing fast and loose with the language of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Act (IGICA) and trying to get Director Joseph Maguire to make statements in support of their case for impeachment that Maguire was at least entitled, if not required, to refuse to make. And Director Maguire was refusing to acknowledge the conflict of interest he had in (a) serving the President who had appointed him and to whom he reported, and (b) carrying out the spirit (though not the language) of the IGICA. [Photo: President Donald Trump; source: Wikimedia Commons.]

This blog is not a "legal opinion." I have read the IGICA -- which can be found here 50 USC Sec. 3033 -- and scanned the 8000-plus-word Responsibilities and Authorities of the Director of National Intelligence Act -- available here 50 USC Sec. 3024. That's not enough research to produce a definitive judgment about the applicability of either or both laws.

But the IGICA's title referencing the "Intelligence Community," its numerous uses of variations of the phrase "programs and activities within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence" throughout the Act, can reasonably lead one to the conclusion that the probable legislative history of the Act (i.e., events preceding and surrounding its creation, press reports, committee hearings, and debates on the floor) would not support an interpretation of the language of the Act as including the process to be followed in the case earlier before Director Maguire and now before Congress: namely acts of the President alleged to be "fraud and abuse," other criminal violations, or threats to national security. [Photo: House Intelligence Committee Chair, Adam Schiff; source: Wikimedia Commons.]

Of course, this does not mean that the President did no wrong. It is only to say that it is not clear that the IGICA contemplated or addressed, let alone compelled, the Inspector General to investigate, or Director Maguire to send to the Intelligence Committee the Inspector General's findings.

What they clearly could do, and did do, was to refer the whistle-blower's complaint to the FBI.

The central problem, as I now see it, is that neither the Constitution nor acts of Congress address the challenges to our democracy posed by a president like President Donald Trump. Indeed, I doubt that the founders' effort to avoid a monarchy in the White House, and their single choice of impeachment as a check on "high crimes and misdemeanors," envisioned the possibility we would ever elect a president like Trump.

The Constitution provides for impeachment of the president and other officials, Article II, Sec. 4, that the House "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." Article I, Sec. 2, clause 5, and that the Senate "shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments." Article I, Sec. 3, clause 6. (Article II, Sec. 4, provides: "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.")

The 25th Amendment, certified by the President in 1967, provides for removal of a president found to be "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" -- a remedy primarily focused on physical or mental disability.

While the allegations in the whistle-blower's complaint may be among the most serious of Trump's offenses, the challenge confronting Congress is the tsunami of Trump's governance by tweets, over 14,000 false or misleading statements, attacks on columns of democracy (such as an independent media and judiciary), brazen violations of previously accepted required norms, ethics, morality, laws and constitutional restraints on presidents. For a partial list, see, e.g., Max Boot, "Trump Isn't Just Violating Norms -- He's Also Breaking the Law," The Washington Post, April 25, 2019.

What Congress must do is (1) reassert the constitutional powers it has been granted, that have gradually been taken over by the Executive branch, and (2) then address what additional checks are necessary to deal with this unprecedented string of presidential abuses. Perhaps what is first needed is a kind of Congressional Inspector General whose sole job it is to oversee the president and White House staff, receiving whistle-blower complaints, doing its own monitoring, then reporting to the House and Senate leadership and relevant committees. Perhaps this could provide the congressional incentive to create the constitutionally appropriate additional legislation to restrain the variety and quantity of presidential abuses unimagined by the constitution's drafters.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Understanding Trump: Know Thine Opponent

Understanding Trump

For 2500 years humans have been advised of the importance of knowing, of understanding, one's opponent in politics and enemy in war. Notwithstanding the availability of such advice it is more often ignored than followed -- including our "wars" in Vietnam and soon-score of years in Afghanistan.

The first known offer of this advice came from a famous Chinese general, Sun Tzu (544-496 B.C.). He wrote:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War, III. Attack by Stratagem, 18.

I read books when I have time to sit. When I'm driving, walking, or tending to home chores that require my eyes but not my ears, I listen to audiobooks. This morning, while doing kitchen chores, I was listening to Cliff Sims' Team of Vipers. Sims was involved with the Trump campaign and White House and seems capable of a relatively balanced portrayal of the President -- at least as far as I am in the book. What he said reminded of Sun Tzu, so much so that one section of Sims' chapter 7 caused me to go back to it later, when at my laptop and able to transcribe it. [Photo: Cliff Sims with President Trump on walkway outside Oval Office; photo credit: Yellowhammer News]

Cliff Sims was describing former Speaker Newt Gingrich's effort to categorize politicians by using the ancient Greek poet Archilochus' line, "a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing." Hedgehogs are the "big picture guys." Foxes are the policy wonks, focused on details and creative alternative solutions to problems.

With these ancient literary sources in mind, here is what Sims wrote:
Trump is a hedgehog who knows one very big thing: 'We need change.' . . . He is the agent who will deliver the needed change. . . . Trump believes he alone, often through shere force of will, can solve certain problems. That's one lens. Layered on top of that is his belief that all of life is a negotiation, and that all negotiation is a zero-sum game. There's no such thing as a 'win-win.' Someone will win and someone will lose. Layered on top of that is his belief that personal relationships are paramount, taking precedence in all negotiations, even over mutual interests. And layered on top of that is his belief that creating chaos gives him an advantage, because he's more comfortable in the mayhem than anyone else.
Make of it what you will. This characterization of Trump helped me to understand the Democrats' opponent. And I'm with Sun Tzu -- knowing, understanding, Trump is an essential part of any successful campaign.
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See also, "Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure,""The Gazette, May 29, 2019, p. A6.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Presidential Qualities

Considering Bullock's Presidential Qualities

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, September 18, 2019, p. A6

Democrats will end up voting for whomever their convention picks. This column is too early for an endorsement. My favorite will be someone as a campaigner who can beat President Trump, and as president will have the competence, compassion, relationships, experience and ethics to be effective.

Get out the vote? Yes. But to win the Democrats’ candidate will have to win over independents, Libertarians, Greens, and yes, Republicans and the 40-percent-plus of voters who still support President Trump. Where do those voters live? Where Democrats must go to become a national party: those 80 percent of U.S. counties that President Trump carried in 2016.

Earlier I wrote about Marianne Williamson’s formula for Democrats’ victory – while acknowledging her odds of becoming the party’s candidate were somewhere between slim and none. ("Trump Won't Be Beat With Plans Alone," The Gazette, Aug. 17, 2019) Governor Steve Bullock’s current odds may be no better. But his qualities and strengths are something Democrats should look for in whomever they choose next July.

Bullock is the only incumbent Democratic governor to win re-election in a state that Trump carried (in Montana by 20 points).

He’s persuaded his Republican Legislature to pass progressive programs: campaign finance reform, Medicaid expansion and more. He is, as we say, mostly “right on the issues,” both as governor and as campaigner.

He’s been sufficiently pro-labor as Montana’s attorney general, governor and practicing lawyer to have been endorsed by the AFL-CIO – and Iowa’s Attorney General Tom Miller. And he’s sufficiently respected by other governors to chair the National Governors Association.

He is a young 53. I have two sons older than that.

He and his wife, Lisa, grew up in Montana, have been married to each other for 20 years and have three children. Both are well educated; he has a law degree, with honors, from Columbia, she a degree in mathematics and computer science.

[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore; https://commons.wikimedia.org. Governor Steve Bullock speaking with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.]

He comes across as genuine, comfortable in his skin and his Levis. He can connect with small town folk, farmers, ranchers, and others in the mountain time zone and the 80 percent of counties Trump carried, as well as Washington (where he practiced law) and New Hampshire, where he’s picked up support.

We have no training program for presidents. Any president would benefit from experience on the receiving end of the White House’s impact on school boards, cities, counties, state governors, legislatures, the U.S. House and Senate, military, intelligence and executive branch agencies, federal courts, international organizations and our allies.

No Democratic presidential candidate today has the range of experience in those venues possessed by President George H.W. Bush (43’s father) or former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (tinyurl.com/y4tt2zb8).

“Senator” is not an administrative position. Governors come the closest to the administrative and legislative challenges confronting presidents; 17 presidents had experience as governors.

Whomever the Democrats ultimately choose, Bullock provides examples of the strengths they should be seeking.

Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City is a three-time presidential appointee whose latest book about Washington is Catfish Solution. Comments: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

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Links to Governor Bullock Sites
As explained in the opening paragraph, this blog post is NOT an endorsement. But if you are intrigued by what you've just read, here are links to Governor Bullock's Web site and some of his supporters' Facebook pages:

Web Page
Bullock 2020, https://stevebullock.com, and see "Meet Steve," https://stevebullock.com/meet-steve/

Steve Bullock For President
Bullock For America
Governor Steve Bullock
Gov. Steve Bullock For President 2020 https://www.facebook.com/Gov-Steve-Bullock-For-President-2020-398433613859824/

And here are some of the sources used in writing this post:

(1) Brandon Duffy, “Democratic hopeful Steve Bullock on what Amazon and President Trump have in common, and why young voters should care,” CNBC, Sept. 1, 2019,


(2)Wikipedia, “Steve Bullock (American politician),”


(3) S Grace Panetta, “Steve Bullock is running for president in 2020. Here's everything we know about the candidate and how he stacks up against the competition,” Business Insider, Jul. 31, 2019, 11:11 AM


(4) Steve Bullock’s Biography, Vote Smart,


(5) Jonathan Martin, “Steve Bullock, Montana Governor, Is Running for President,” New York Times, May 14, 2019, p. A18,


(6) Steve Israel, “Can Steve Bullock Win?” The Hill, Aug. 21, 2019,


(7) “First Lady Lisa Bullock,” Office of Governor Steve Bullock,” undated,


(8) “List of Presidents of the United States by Previous Experience,” Wikipedia


(9) The tinyurl following the Governor Bill Richardson experience reference (https://tinyurl.com/y4tt2zb8) links to one of my prior Gazette columns, “Candidates’ ‘Experience,’” (The Gazette, March 30, 2008, p. A9, https://tinyurl.com/y4tt2zb8)

(10) For number of counties carried by Trump in 2016 see, e.g., Mark Muro and Sifan Liu, “Another Clinton-Trump Divide: High-Output America vs Low-Output America,” The Avenue, Brookings, Nov. 29, 2016


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Note: Some of the handful of words that were deleted for reasons of space in the published column have been included in this version.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Sub-government

The Sub-Government
Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 21, 2019, p. A7

We worry where our country and world are headed. We rely on the media’s tweet trackers to tell us what’s next. It’s rumored our president wants to buy Greenland before it melts.

Our presidential campaign is being waged on teens’ screens of social media. Russia is fighting a war without bombs on the world’s democracies, including our own, and winning. Manipulation of emotions of anger, fear and hate can destroy democracies with escalating divisiveness from within, regardless of elections’ outcomes.

Meanwhile, much of the self-inflicted damage from Washington transpires beneath the radar – in good times and bad. Why? Campaign contributions; yes. But there’s more. Not the conspiracy theory of a “dark state” undermining the president. It’s what I call the “subgovernment phenomenon,” out in the open but unreported by the media, whether in Washington, Des Moines or Iowa City. [Photo Credit Common Dreams ("Ahead of a crucial vote . . . defenders of net neutrality . . . projected . . . 'Property of Verizon' on the [FCC's] building to draw attention to the corporate interests at play . . ..")]

On Saturday, August 24, 4:00 p.m., there will be a discussion of these issues at Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., in the course of a hopeful and sometimes humorous reading from Catfish Solution: The Power of Positive Poking. Hope to see you there.
Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Marianne Williamson’s Questions and Answers

Reading from latest book, #CatfishSolution, next Saturday, Aug. 24, #IowaCity's #PrairieLights, 4-5PM. Hope to see you there.

Trump Won't Be Beat With Plans Alone

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, August 17, 2019, p. A5

Where the column as submitted differs from the column as published the submission is indicated in [brackets] and italics.

Marianne Williamson may not have “the answer.” But she’s the only one who has framed the right questions [– the essential first step to finding answers.] Whether or not that qualifies her to be president, it clearly qualifies her to be a [Democratic Party] campaign strategist. Those who trivialize and mock her do so at their party’s and America's peril.

Here are the questions: "What strategy is President Donald Trump using?" and "What strategy does that require of Democrats?" [One might modify Williamson’s answers, but she's correctly answered the first question and pointed us in the right direction on the second.]

At the June 27 Democratic Debates, she warned the Party that plans are not enough: “Donald Trump … didn’t win by saying he had a plan."

She doesn’t advocate abandoning 20th Century political strategies. Democratic Party candidates still need to meet party members who now stay home or vote Republican – especially the ones living in the 80 percent of American counties that Trump carried in 2016. The candidates must show up, really listen to voters’ challenges and needs, and propose plans that at least outline solutions.
[Photo credit: By Supearnesh - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80914139]

But Williamson closed that Debate by posing and answering the first question: "Donald Trump is not going … to be beaten just by somebody who has plans. He is going to be beaten by somebody who has an idea what this man has done. This man has reached into the psyche of the American people and he has harnessed fear for political purposes."

She’s right about that. Trump won, and may win again, by personally utilizing the same strategy in speech [and tweet] that he and the Russians use in their social media campaigns.

Trump may or may not believe in climate-change science, but he sure believes in the neurological science of the amygdalae, limbic cortex and brain stem, some of the most phylogenetically primitive regions of the brain. He believes in the science of reward and addiction that increase smart phone, videogame and slot machine players’ TOD (time on device); advertisers manipulating consumers into buying things they don't need, with money they don't have, to impress people they don't like; gaslighting, social psychology’s findings regarding groups’ influence on individuals; and the science behind propaganda [and the big lie.]
[Photo credit: public domain, http://lbc.nimh.nih.gov/images/brain.jpg (found on page http://lbc.nimh.nih.gov/osites.html).]

In short, he understands the role of fear, anger and hatred of "the other" [in successful campaigns.] He knows the [2020] presidential election will be won more by targeting the most primitive regions of the brains of [140 million or more] voters than by what’s aimed at their cerebral cortices.

So, "What strategy does that require of Democrats?"

Williamson says, "I have had a career harnessing the inspiration and the motivation and the excitement of people." And in her closing statement said that Trump has "harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out. . . . I’m going to harness love for political purposes."

Her use of the word “love,” with its romantic associations, was neither a precise nor helpful choice in this political context. The Greco-Christian term “agape” would have been only marginally better.

The challenge is much more complex. Trump is strategically increasing the emotions of hate and fear. [In this contest on a playing field in the most primitive regions of Americans’ brains,] what can Democrats do to excite even greater emotional responses involving compassion, empathy, and feelings of community [necessary to our “more perfect union”]?

Marianne Williamson’s questions are a major contribution that deserves understanding and appreciation. Now it’s up to Democrats’ candidates to craft and apply the answers.
Nicholas Johnson is a native Iowan and three-time presidential appointee; his latest book is "Columns of Democracy." [Nicholas Johnson, a native Iowan and former FCC commissioner, will be doing a reading from his latest book, Catfish Solution, at Iowa City’s Prairie Lights, Aug. 24, 4:00-5:00. Contact:: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org]

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Ever-Timely Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie Night at Uptown Bill's

Today would have been Woody Guthrie's 107th birthday (July 14, 1912-October 3, 1967). We celebrate that each year at Uptown Bill's on the closest Saturday Night Concert to his birthday, which this year was last night.

Because during the course of his life Woody wrote "over 1000 songs" it was not possible to perform and group-sing all of them. The selection was limited to what would fit in the two hours allotted for the nostalgic concert.

What was especially moving this year was the realization that at the same time we were singing about the suffering Woody was writing and singing about in the 1940s, the suffering is still playing out along our southern border and for the poor throughout our country (think "Deportee," "Hobo's Lullaby").
As author Stephen King put it in a Tweet today: "First, you stoke hatred and fear of minorities. Then you round them up and put them in camps. Next, you send out rading parties to get those who have been driven into hiding. The armbands come next, right?"
You've heard -- and probably sung -- Woody's "Deportee (Plane Crash at Los Gatos)," written in 1948. But now read the words of "Deportee" and think about President Trump's politics of anti-immigrant, anti-other, and what he has ordered should begin today, July 14, 2019.

The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning, The oranges piled in their creosote dumps; They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border To pay all their money to wade back again

Chorus: Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita, Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria; You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane, All they will call you will be "deportees"

My father's own father, he waded that river, They took all the money he made in his life; My brothers and sisters they working the old church, They rode the big truck still lay down and died [Chorus]

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon, A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills, Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves? The radio says, "They are just deportees" [Chorus]
This is what it sounded like when Woody sang it:

A few of the members of the Family Folk Machine performed. From left (stage right) to right: Kevin Kaufman (harmonica); Lynn Partridge; Claire Sauder; Jean Littleton, Director; and Wendy Levy.

Here is a clip from Lynn Partridge's performance of Woody's "Pastures of Plenty" (1941) [full lyrics below].

It's a mighty hard row that my poor hands have hoed My poor feet have traveled a hot dusty road Out of your Dust Bowl and westward we rolled And your deserts were hot and your mountain was cold

I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes Slept on the ground in the light of your moon On the edge of the city you'll see us and then We come with the dust and we go with the wind

California and Arizona, I make all your crops And its North up to Oregon to gather your hops Dig the beets from your ground, cut the grapes from your vine To set on your table your light sparkling wine

Green pastures of plenty from dry desert ground From the Grand Coulee Dam where the waters run down Every state in this Union us migrants have been We'll work in this fight and we'll fight till we win

Well, it's always we rambled, that river and I All along your green valley, I will work till I die My land I'll defend with my life if it be 'Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free
The two principal organizers of the evening's event were Jeffrey Morgan and Joe Brisben. Here's a clip from their performance of Woody's "Hobo's Lullaby" (1944) [full lyrics below]. (I recall during the late 1930s, when I was a child, hobos knocking on the kitchen door asking for food. Mother would always offer them something to eat.)

Go to sleep you weary hobo Let the towns drift slowly by Listen to the steel rails hummin' That's the hobo's lullaby

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

Do not think 'bout tomorrow Let tomorrow come and go Tonight you're in a nice warm boxcar Safe from all that wind and snow

I know the police cause you trouble They cause trouble everywhere But when you die and go to Heaven You'll find no policemen there

So go to sleep you weary hobo Let the towns drift slowly by Listen to the steel rails hummin' That's a hobo's lullaby

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
And the finale? "This Land is Your Land" (1940), of course. Here's a clip; no lyrics below because you know them and can sing along with us. (You don't? OK, click HERE.)

It was a great night. I hope you can join us next year for this and other great Saturday evening concerts. Uptown Bill's offers a laid-back comfort similar to a gathering with friends and neighbors in your own living room, folks who have come to listen to, rather than talk over, the musicians; and musicians who don't mind (even encourage) you to sing along if you feel like it.

Uptown Bill's has performance rights for these songs. The event last evening, and this blog post, are intended as a tribute to Woody Guthrie, one of America's 19th Century greatest figures as well as musicians. No compensation has been or will be received for posting it. The brief video clips are not intended as, and are not, a substitute for access to the body of his work. If anything it may have a minimal impact on encouraging visitors to visit other sources. The lyrics, and Woody Guthrie's performance of "Deportee," are openly available and unprotected on the Internet. Given the lack of economic impact, the use of the material in a historic and commentary context, and the limited portion (of 1000 songs) used, it may very well be "fair use." However, if any copyright owner objects to this use a simple email to mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org specifying the specific, protected material sought to be removed will result it its removal.]

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Dems Presidential Primary - Polls July 11, 2019

11 Between 1% and 26%; 10 Never Over 1%; Top 6 in Iowa

Iowa's Top 6; Poll June 29-July 4, 2019
Buttigieg 25%
Warren 18%
Sanders 16%
Biden 16%
Harris 16%
O'Rourke 2%
All others 0-1%

National Results

[Source: Wikimedia.org; graphic display of data from 2008 election]

10 candidates with poll numbers 0%-1%; All Polls June 1-July 9
[In addition, for all but Gillibrand and Delaney these candidates have been in the 0% to 1% range in every poll since November 2018.]
Bennet, Bullock, De Blasio, Delaney, Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Moulton, Ryan, Williamson

11 candidates with poll numbers above 1%; their range for July

Biden 18-31%
Sanders 10-23%
Warren 9-22%
Harris 10-21%
Buttigieg 3-10%
O'Rourke 2-4%
Castro 0-4%
Yang 0-3%
Booker 0-2%
Klobuchar 0-2%
Gabbard 0-2%

11 candidates with poll numbers above 1%; average (mean) of last three polls

Biden 26%
Warren 17%
Harris 14%
Sanders 13%
Buttigieg 5.7%
O'Rourke 2.7%
Yang 2%
Gabbard 1.3%
Booker 1.3%
Klobuchar 1%
Castro 1%

Getting into the weeds of the NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll

Later in the day, after this blog was posted, the results of a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll were released. Its biggest contribution was not the predictable revelation that Biden, Warren, Harris, Sanders and Buttigieg still lead the pack.

It was the details -- such as the data indicating 82% of primary voters are "very" or "somewhat" closely following the candidates; only 12% of Democratic voters say they have "definately" made up their minds; and their answer to "Who is your second choice?" The answers? Harris (14%), Warren (13%), Sanders (12%) and Biden (10%).

The poll also dug into how voters' candidate preference varied between those "who want large-scale change" (Warren, 29%; Sanders, 18%; Biden, 16%; and Harris, 14%), those "who want small-scale change" (Biden, 35%; Harris, 14%; Buttigieg, 8%; and Sanders, 7%), those who think issues most important (51%; Biden, 18%; Warren, 18%; Sanders, 17%; and Harris, 11%), those who think defeating Trump is most important (45%; Biden, 34%; Warren, 21%; Harris, 16%; Buttigieg, 8%; and Sanders, 6%).

(1) There's still time. The fact your candidate hasn't yet become the flavor of the month doesn't mean it can't happen. If past primaries and elections are any guide there will continue to be a lot of changes in the rankings between now and the Iowa caucuses in February 2020. Note the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finding, immediately above, that only 12% of primary voters have now settled on whom they're supporting.

(2) Polls vary widely depending upon such things as the quality and reputation of the polling firm, the number of people polled, the way questions are framed, recent news coverage of the candidates and related events, and how closely the public is following the process.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Everybody Gets an Office

Everybody Gets an Office, Even the Losers

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, July 7, p. D2

Democrats have 13 categories of challenges Nov. 3, 2020. ("Why Trump May Win,” May 29, 2019). One of the 13 was on display at The Gazette/Iowa Public Radio’s June 20 Pints & Politics: Why 23 outstanding, qualified candidates are as much curse as blessing. Ben Kieffer asked the 150 politically savvy attendees to applaud if they’d picked their candidate. Only one did. Everyone else clapped for “haven’t picked one.” Two debate nights later many remain undecided. [Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson, Pints & Politics audience, Big Grove Brewery, Iowa City, June 20, 2019.]

Followers of the 22 “losers” may lack enthusiasm for the ultimate winner. What to do? How about this: Have all 23 individually pledge that if they win, they will offer an appropriate, important position in their administration to each of the 22 former candidates who want one (e.g., White House, cabinet, major agency, ambassadorship). They can all have offices, though only one is oval. In other words, we kind of elect all of them. Would that make you more enthusiastic for the winner if your choice loses? What do you think?

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City
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Everybody Gets an Office

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 26, 2019, p. A7

Democrats have 13 categories of challenges Nov. 3, 2020. See “Why Trump May Win.” One of the 13 was on display at a recent local gathering of 150 politically savvy folks: Having 23 outstanding, qualified candidates is as much curse as blessing. The host asked the group to applaud if they had picked their candidate. Only one person responded. Everyone else clapped when asked if they “hadn’t yet picked one.”

Followers of the 22 “losers” may lack enthusiasm for the ultimate winner. What to do? How about this: Have all 23 individually pledge that if they win they will offer to each of the other 22 an important administration position (for which they are qualified) to every former candidate who wants one (e.g., White House, cabinet, major agency, ambassadorship). They all get offices, though only one is oval. In other words, we kind of elect all of them. Would that make you more enthusiastic for the winner if your choice loses? What do you think?

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Making a Greater Greta World

Schoolchildren around the world are trying to get our attention -- and action -- regarding the numerous crises we confront. One of the most dramatic examples is what Greta Thunberg has accomplished. The first video -- 4:22 minutes -- is her appeal to the EU. The second -- 33:46 minutes -- reports on her global movement. You may have already seen these videos; but if not you will soon agree they are "must viewing." [Photo: Wikimedia Commons; Austrian World Climate Summit, May 2019, Wien Copyright: Eugénie Berger.]

Friday, June 14, 2019

Presidential Qualities from Elvis to Lyndon

Related columns and blog posts:
"Why Trump May Win," May 29, 2019 [embedded: "Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure," The Gazette, May 29, 2019, p. A6]

"May 4 Updates: Popularity; Klobuchar; Iowa 2nd District," May 4, 2019

"Dem Primary Candidates' Ranking - May 2, 2019," May 2, 2019

"Democrats Qualified for Debates," April 29, 2019

"Presidential Experience," April 28, 2019 [embedded: "Democrats in 2020 Should Value Experienced Candidate," The Gazette, April 28, 2019, p. D3]

"Impeachment and the Mueller Report," April 22, 2019

"Presidential Candidates' Rankings and Experience," April 15, 2019

What to Look for in 20-plus Democratic Presidential Candidates
and How Are They Doing As Of Today?

Those of us Iowa Democrats who have yet to pick our final candidate of choice are thankful we still have some time to make up our minds before the precinct caucuses February 3, 2020 -- with New Hampshire (Feb. 11), Nevada (Feb. 22), and South Carolina (Feb. 29) watching and close behind.

What to look for?

(1) Winner. Top qualification for most Democrats is a winner, someone who can beat President Donald Trump. If you'd like a little pep-me-up, here's the latest: "Top Dems Lead Trump In Head-To-Head Matchups, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Democratic Primary Race Narrows As Biden Goes Flat," Quinnipiac Poll, June 11, 2019. Six Democrats could, today, beat Trump: Biden (53 to 40%, 13 points), Sanders (51 to 42%, 9 points), Harris (49 to 41%, 8 points), Warren (49 to 42%, 7 points), Buttigieg and Booker both 47 to 42%, 5 points).

Sadly, it won't be that easy -- whatever matchup polls show. For 13 categories of reasons why, see Nicholas Johnson, "Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure," The Gazette, May 29, 2019, p. A6 (in the blog post, "Why Trump May Win"). Moreover, even the Quinnipiac details are concerning. For men (47% Biden, 46% Trump) and white voters (46% Biden, 47% Trump) it's a tossup.

(2) Elvis. Louis Armstrong, when asked to define "jazz" is reported to have replied, "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." So it is with your candidate having "Elvis." Your candidate either has it or s/he doesn't. At a minimum we want a candidate who will offer us a presidency we will not be afraid, embarrassed, or bored to watch. [Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons; Tupelo, Mississippi, 1956.]

(3) Policies. To what extent are you and the candidate in agreement about the most important issues, policy positions on those issues, and areas of possible compromise?

(4) Lyndon. President Lyndon Johnson's biographer, Robert A. Caro, titled one of the books in his The Years of Lyndon Johnson series, Master of the Senate because of Johnson's never-equaled capacity to persuade. How effective will your candidate be when functioning as president? They are going to need a measure of "Lyndon" as well as "Elvis." How much support do they already have within the U.S. House and Senate to help pass the legislation you and they want? How effective will they be in rallying the American public behind those proposals? What experience have they had managing very large organizations? Do they work well with staff members? How many qualified acquaintances do they have who could fill the 4,000 positions requiring a presidential appointee? What is their understanding of the military, or international organizations and relationships? [President Johnson in Oval Office with West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. Photo on display at West Virginia History On View.]

So How Are They Doing So Far?

(1) Debates. As of June 12 there were 14 candidates who met the Party's requirement for debate participation under both criteria: (a) polls (3 in which they were chosen by 1% or more), and (b) donors (65,000 with 200 or more in 20 states). They were Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Harris, Inslee, Klobucher, O'Rourke, Sanders, Warren, Williamson, and Yang. Six met only the polls standard: Bennet, de Blasio, Delaney, Hickenlooper, Ryan and Swalwell.

Eight have attracted the support of 2% or more: Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, O'Rourke, Booker and Klobuchar.

Source: Geoffrey Skelley, "The First Democratic Debate Deadline Is Almost Here: Who’s In And Who’s Out," FiveThirtyEight, June 12, 2019.
"Who's on First?" (June 26 and June 27)

The first debates will be held on June 26 and 27 in Miami, from 8:00-10:00 p.m. Central Time, televised on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo with their moderators NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, MSNBC prime-time host Rachel Maddow, and Noticias Telemundo and NBC Nightly News Saturday anchor José Díaz-Balart There are 20 participants; 10 each night. They are said to have been selected at random, drawing folded paper slips from two categories: those in the top tier and all the others. The results?

June 26: Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Tim Ryan and Elizabeth Warren.

June 27: Michael Bennet, Joseph R. Biden Jr., Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Johyn Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.
Source: For more, including photos of all 20, see Reid J. Epstein, Lisa Lerer and Matt Stevens, "The Democratic Debate lineups Are Set. Here's What to Expect," New York Times, June 14, 2019, p. A1.

(2) Endorsements. FiveThirtyEight has a point scale for measuring the weight of a candidate's endorsements: 10 points for former presidents, vice presidents and current national Democratic Party leaders; 8 points for governors; 6 points for U.S. senators; with lesser points for lesser office holders. Thus, a candidate's comparative "endorsement points" takes on meaning as a measure of his or her support from the Party's "establishment" -- an "honor" that some voters would view with suspicion rather than follow blindly. Here, then, for what it's worth is the current "endorsement points" ranking:
Biden - 94
Booker and Harris - 57
Klobucher - 39
Warren - 25
Sanders - 22
O'Rourke - 15
Buttigieg and Castro - 12
Bullock - 8
Delaney - 6
Inslee - 5
Gillibrand, Hickenlooper and Swalwell - 3
Source: "The 2020 Endorsement Primary," FiveThirtyEight, June 9, 2019.

(3) Likability. During one of the 2016 presidential primary debates between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Obama took the opportunity to reassure Clinton, whose "likability" had been questioned, that she was "likable enough."

Is your candidate "likable enough"?

Nate Silver has offered an engaging chart of candidates' various favorability rankings by Iowans; for example, the percentage of those polled who view the candidate "very favorably," "mostly favorably," "mostly unfavorably," and "very unfavorably." From these percentages he calculates the candidate's "favorability score." He also reports the percentage of those polled for whom the candidate is their first choice. He uses data from the Selzer Iowa poll, June 2-5, 2019.

Here are some numbers for the top 8: Buttigieg (4.1), Harris (4.0), Warren (4.0), Biden (3.8), Sanders (3.7), Booker (3.7), Klobuchar (3.6) and O'Rourke (3.6) -- ranked by their Nate Silver "favorability scores" in that order.

Five candidates are the "first choice" of percentages of voters greater than 2%: Biden (24%), Sanders (16%), Warren (15%), Buttigieg (14%) and Harris (7%).

Five candidates have "very favorable" percentages of 30% or more: Warren (37%), Biden (36%), Buttigieg and Sanders (both 32%) and Harris (30%). Combining the "very favorable" and "mostly favorable" percentages, those with a total of 60% or more are: Biden (73%), Warren (71%), Sanders (70%), Harris (63%) and Buttigieg (61%).

The three candidates with the highest (worst) "very unfavorable" percentages are de Blasio (13%), Biden (9%) and Sanders (8%). Combining the "mostly unfavorable" and "very unfavorable" percentages for those over 20% the highest (worst) are: de Blasio (40%), Sanders (25%), Biden (23%), Gillibrand (23%), O'Rourke (21%) and Gabbard (20%). The two best (lowest percentage total unfavorable) among those who were the "first choice" of 2% or more are: Buttigieg (12%) and Harris (13%) (the rest were upper teens and twenties).

If you would like to explore these numbers for all 23 candidates my source is: Nate Silver, "Silver Bulletpoints: Iowans Seem To Like Warren And Buttigieg," June 13, 2019

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