For publications after after May 14, 2013, and before March 10, 2014, there are not, yet, annotations. However, for publications prior to May 14, 2013, below, this annotated bibliography lists, and provides links to, the full text of most of the 490 additions of articles, transcripts, speech texts and comments by Nicholas Johnson created since the spring of 1996 (along with a few odds and ends). They are listed in reverse chronological order (most recent first). Some additions since November 2006 also may be incomplete and without annotations or links. Listings prior to that time are, for the most part, very thorough. In addition, the Nicholas Johnson Bibliography Main Page: 1952-1995, is available online and prints out at over 300 pages.
Index of blog entries. Since June 23, 2006, Nicholas Johnson has created and managed over 1000 blog essays in the blog, FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com. Although those essays are not listed on this Web page, many are substantial texts that anyone visiting this "Recent Publications" page might be interested in knowing about. A chronoligical listing of each entry, with its date, heading, and URL location is available as a spreadsheet at http://www.nicholasjohnson.org/BlogStuf/Blog Index.xls. A volume containing an edited and organized collection of the blog entries of 2012 was published by Lulu Press in December 2012 as, From DC to Iowa: 2012.
Johnson's books are available from the Nicholas Johnson Amazon Author Central Page (select Sort By "Publication Date"), Nicholas Johnson Barnes & Noble Nook Page, and Nicholas Johnson Lulu Press Page.
Some of the linked texts created prior
to 1998 make reference to outdated, incorrect, e-mail addresses
which are no longer in use: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The current, correct e-mail address for contacting Nicholas Johnson
can be found from the main Web site, www.nicholasjohnson.org.
“What Is It With the Iowa State Board of Regents?!” Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 16, 2014, p. A7; embedded in blog essay, "Iowa's Economic Foundation? Graduate Education & Research," May 5, 2014
“Blogfeed: From DC2 Iowa,” The Gazette has a hard copy feature (unavailable online) it calls Blogfeed, in which it runs edited versions of online blog essays. On Sunday, May 11, 2014, p. A10, it ran a lengthy excerpt from “Iowa’s Economic Foundation? Graduate Education & Research,” May 5, 2014
“Talking TIF: Costs Outweigh Possible Benefits,” The Gazette, April 13, 2014, pp. A9, A12; embedded in blog essay, "Tussling Over TIFs: Pros and Cons; Tough TIF Talk," April 30, 2014
"Too Many Negatives, Too Little Upside to TIFs," The Gazette, March 25, 2014, p. A6; embedded in blog essay, "TIFs: Too Many Negatives," March 25, 2014
"TIF: If You Can't Beat 'em, Insist on More Transparency," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 18, 2014, p. A7; embedded in "TIF Apology," March 18, 2014, with the supporting "TIFs: Links to Blog Essays," March 16, 2014
"Communications Evolution, Revolution and the Role of the Academy," Keynote Address, Dirty Sexy Policy Conference, Carsey-Wolf Center, University of California Santa Barbara, February 20, 2014
"Public Comments About Public Comments Guidelines," Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 15, 2014, p. A9; embedded in "Open Mikes At Open Meetings? A Discussion About Discussion," February 12, 2014.
"Blogfeed: From DC2 Iowa" The Gazette has a hard copy feature (unavailable online) it calls Blogfeed, in which it runs edited versions of online blog essays. On Sunday, January 19, 2014, p. A10, it ran a lengthy excerpt from "Polar Vortex; God's 'Cold Shoulder Revenge," January 7, 2014.
"Blogfeed: From DC2 Iowa" The Gazette has a hard copy feature it calls Blogfeed, in which it runs edited versions of online blog essays. On Sunday, December 15, 2013, p. A10, it ran a lengthy excerpt from "Gasoline Tax Is Our Friend," December 5, 2013, in which is embedded the Press-Citizen column, "Think Long and Hard Before Diluting the Gasoline Tax," immediately below.
"Think Long and Hard Before Diluting the Gasoline Tax," Iowa City Press-Citizen, Dec. 5, 2013, p. A7; embedded in "Gasoline Tax Is Our Friend," December 5, 2013,
"Bars, Students Should Be Thankful," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 3, 2013, p. A8, with link to "Underage Drinking As Human Right? I Don't Think So; Why Bar Owners, Students, Should Embrace Iowa City's 21 Law," October 16, 2013 (the source material for the Press-Citizen piece, but without an embed of it).
"Re: 21-Ordinance is Human-Rights Violation,"The Daily Iowan, October 17, 2013, p. 4A, embedded in "Underage Drinking As Human Right? I Don't Think So; Why Bar Owners, Students Should Enbrace Iowa City's 21 Law," October 16, 2013
"Blogfeed: From DC2 Iowa" The Gazette has a hard copy feature it calls Blogfeed, in which it runs edited versions of online blog essays. On Sunday, September 29, 2013, p. A10, it ran a lengthy excerpt from "Paying By The Mile Is A Terrible Idea; The Gasoline Tax Is Our Friend," September 25, 2013,
"Working Our Way Through the McGinness Kerfluffle," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 20, 2013, p. A7, embedded in "Is 'Moderately Honest' Enough? When Is an Elected Official's Behavior Disqualifying?" September 20, 2013
"A Win-Win Advisory Board for District," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 5, 2013, p. A7, embedded in "School Board Election: Whom to Vote For? Nine Candidates, Three Positions; How Can We Benefit From All?" September 9, 2013
"The Future of Surveillance, and How to Stop It," Text of Nicholas Johnson's Remarks, 1984 Day: Restore the Fourth's Nationwide Action Against the NSA’s Unconstitutional Surveillance, Ped Mall, Iowa City, Iowa, August 4, 2013, 12:00-2:00 p.m.
"Magazine Cover Not Whole Story," Des Moines Register, July 20, 2013, p. A19; embedded in "The Picture Worth Destroying 11,000 Words; Dzhokhar Tsamaev Photo: Celebrity or Monster?" July 20, 2013
"Is Boston Bomber's Photo Worth 11,000 Words?" Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 20, 2013, p. A10; embedded in "The Picture Worth Destroying 11,000 Words; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Photo: Celebrity or Monster?" July 20, 2013
"Dorman Enlightens on Law Process,"The Gazette, June 29, 2013, p. A8
"Blogfeed: From DC2 Iowa" The Gazette has a hard copy feature it calls Blogfeed, in which it runs edited versions of online blog essays. On May 26, 2013, p. A10, it ran an excerpt from "Bike to Work, Bike for Life; Bicycles as Problem Solvers," May 17, 2013
"Blogfeed: From DC2 Iowa" The Gazette has a hard copy feature it calls Blogfeed, in which it runs edited versions of online blog essays. On May 12, 2013, p. A10, it ran excerpts from "The Morning After; More Jail Cells ("Justice Center") Strikes Out; Third Time's Not Charm ," May 8, 2013, and "Still Many More Options for Jail," for which, see below.
"Still Many More Options for Jail" The Iowa City Press-Citizen invited a number of local individuals to address one each of three questions. Question 1: Some critics of Johnson County’s plan for a new justice center oppose building more jail space because of racial disparity in the jail and because some non-violent criminals are incarcerated. Are those reservations relevant to the justice center vote? What can be done locally to address those concerns? Question 2: Is the justice center proposal the most cost effective solution for addressing the problems that come with the overcrowded jail and century-old courthouse?” Question 3: What should happen next if voters say "no"? The answers were published online. I chose Question 3, "What should happen next if voters say 'no'?" The Press-Citizen subsequently chose to publish a version of my response in its hard copy edition in the form of a Letter to the Editor: Nicholas Johnson, "Still Many More Options for Jail," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 6, 2013, p. A7, from the original online essay, embedded in "The Morning After," May 8, 2013, where it is headlined, "Vote Again, But Separate Courthouse From Jail." This essay suggests that most opponents agree "something" needs to be done, but it does not follow that "therefore" the proponents' proposal is the only option; it would be beneficial to first approve Courthouse improvements (about which there seems to be little controversy), and then at least consider the possibility of a totally separate criminal justice facility.
"Online Comments RE: 'Getting to "Yes" by Voting "No" On Justice Center" See, "Getting to 'Yes' by Voting 'No' On Justice Center," and "There Are Alternatives," below. The day after that column appeared, an addendum was added to the blog essay. The next day (by now, May 2), The Daily Iowan, on its own, edited and took excerpts from that addendum, and ran it on its opinion page under "Online Comments": Nicholas Johnson, "Online Comments RE: 'Getting to "Yes" by Voting "No" On Justice Center," The Daily Iowan, May 2, p. A4, embedded in the blog essay, "There Are Alternatives," April 30, 2013. It suggests an additional two steps: (1) a calculation of the potential reductions in incarceration numbers as a result of the use of alternatives to putting more people in jail, followed by (2) a "peak-load" analysis; that is, (a) on the assumption that occuplancy rates change from day to day, and that (b) it doesn't make financial sense to construct enough additional jail cells to be able to house every single person on every day of the year, (c) what are the optimum number of days per year for which it makes sense to build enough to house everyone, and the number of days for which it makes more sense to send some elsewhere.
"Getting to 'Yes' by Voting 'No' On Justice Center" This column in the Daily Iowan was in part a response to one by one of the proposal's proponents the prior day. It points out that proponents' emphasis on why "something" needs to be done fails to join issue -- since the dispute isn't over need, the disipute focuses on what that "something" should be, how much of it, where it's to be located, and what new procedures will accompany construction. The column notes the distinction in negotiations between "positions" and "interests," and that adopting Margaret Thatcher's TINA stance ("There Is No Alternative") is no path to compromise. An analogy is drawn to the innovative response to communities' increased need for landfills: recycling and composting, with the suggestion there are also alternatives to building ever-more jail cells, and the suggestion that a detached, one-stop-shop criminal justice center might better serve our needs. Nicholas Johnson, "Getting to 'Yes' by Voting 'No' On Justice Center," The Daily Iowan, April 30, 2013, p. A4, embedded in the blog essay, "There Are Alternatives," April 30, 2013.
"Vote 'No' on Justice Center, But 'Yes' for Courthouse" The Johnson County, Iowa, Supervisors propose to build a new, expanded jail and associated facilities as a modern architecture attachment to a 100-year-old architectural gem of a Courthouse. At a bond election in November 2012, it was voted down. It was then scheduled for a second vote May 7, 2013. The county's voters are sharply divided between the "yes" voters and the "no" voters. Johnson proposes -- if and when there is yet a third vote -- separating the proposals to improve the Courthouse, about which there is relatively little disagreement, and getting them approved. That would clear the deck to give more serious attention to the advantages, laid out in this column, of a separate, detached Criminal Justice Center. Nicholas Johnson, "Vote 'No' on Justice Center, But 'Yes' for Courthouse," Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 12, 2013, p. A7, embedded in the blog essay, "Vote 'No' on Justice Center; 'Yes" for Courthouse, Detached Criminal Facility," April 12, 2013.
"Congress' First Step in Long Journey" This column is a proposal and plea that Congress consider, as a first step toward elimination of corporate tax loopholes, and drawing down the debt, that it simply substitute above-the-table subsidy payments for the present tax deductions. It acknowledges the debt elected officials owe to their campaign contributors, and therefore the difficulty of simply eliminating the returns contributors get for their "investment." Making public and clear who is getting taxpayers' money, and how much, might be a first step in this journey of a thousand miles. Nicholas Johnson, "Congress' First Step in Long Journey," The Gazette, April 4, 2013, p. A5, embedded in the blog essay "First Step to Reducing National Debt," April 4, 2013.
"Are the Iowa Universities' Stations No Longer 'Educational'?" The Gazette reported that Iowa Public Radio responded to The Gazette's open meetings/public records request that since it was not a government body it didn't have to comply with the law. Johnson responded with a Letter to The Gazette that read, in part, "Today’s Iowa Public Radio is neither noncommercial nor educational. Indeed, it’s baffling why schools that think they’re misunderstood don’t use this valuable resource to tell their story. 'Self Help for a Helpful University,' If the universities want to fritter away what their stations could contribute to the schools’ mission, that’s one thing. But if IPR is truly 'not a government body,' and a part of neither the Regents nor the state schools, there is, minimally, at least an ethical and moral issue as to whether the schools should continue to hold their valuable licenses to these 'educational” stations.'" Nicholas Johnson, "Public Universities Not Using Radio Well," The Gazette, March 28, 2013, p. A5. It is embedded in the blog essay, "Are the Iowa Universities' Stations No Longer 'Educational'?" April 2, 2013.
"Blogfeed: From DC 2 Iowa" The Gazette has a hard copy feature it calls Blogfeed, in which it runs edited versions of online blog essays. On February 24, 2013, one of three it ran was drawn from "Home Grown Drones; Drones Abroad, Drones At Home," February 16, 2013. As the blog essay title suggests, the subject was drones. "[Notwithstanding] the absence of the traditional elements of a 'war' . . . we are using them [drones] to invade countries with which we are not at war . . . to kill their non-uniformed citizens or visitors . . . because we believe they might someday [attempt to kill U.S. military personnel], or are engaged in planing or training to do so. . . . [B]efore we have even developed a vocabulary, and a legal and ethical set of standards for describing, not to mention judging, what we are doing with our drones abroad, we're confronted with anoither set of issues regarding our drones at home."
"Like Death and Taxes, TIFs and TIFing Seem Here to Stay" This column begins with, "Considering all the downsides of tax increment financing (TIF), you have to wonder why public officials continue to use it. Is there that much joy in playing Santa with other people’s money? Whatever the reason, like death and taxes TIFs are here to stay. Officials and their lucky beneficiaries love them, and the public doesn’t seem to care — at least not enough to make an organized, political difference. Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile to remind ourselves from time to time why they are such a bad idea. Here’s a summary." This is followed with a summary presentation of twenty, count 'em, twenty categories of reasons why TIFs are a bad idea. As of the time of this entry in "Recent Pulications," no one has yet come forward to explain why each and all of these twenty assertions are wrong. The column was originally published as "Like Death and Taxes, TIFs and TIFing Seem Here to Stay," Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 3, 2013, p. A7, and embedded in the blog essay, "Tough TIF Talk," February 3, 2013.
"Proposed Social Security Changes Punish the Poor" As a part of the effort to bring the federal budget, deficit, and debt under control, those who have always opposed any Social Security program at all are advocating a re-calculation of the Social Security inflation index. This column argues that Social Security was, and should be, "off the table" for these purposes (because it is separate and self-funded, and addressing its issues is a diversion from the most pressing "fiscal cliff" challenges). Moreover, the change proposed -- a "chained CPI" -- would be a significant cut in the benefits for the elderly poor; one that presumes that, for example, a reduction in purchasing power is not really a cut if the recipient can substitute beans for meat. It is not an effort to design an index more precisely applicable to the elderly; such an index, "the elderly index," is available -- but not being discussed because, in part, it would require larger payments rather than smaller. The column was published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 26, 2012, p. A11, and reproduced in the blog entry, "Social Security: The Press-Citizen Column," the same day. (The column is a 650-word derrivative of an 2179-word earlier blog entry, "Social Security, Inflation, and Punishing the Poor," December 19, 2012; and see, "Rappelling Down the Fiscal Bluff; Why Cliff is Clearly the 'Least-Worst' Win-Win Solution," December 16, 2012.) Letters to the Editor in the Press-Citizen criticizing the December 26 column, prompted a Letter of response: Nicholas Johnson, "Let's Move Beyond 'Tis-'Tain't," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 7, 2013, embedded in "Social Security and the Cliff: A Response," January 7, 2013.
"Readers Nominate Persons of the Year: Theater Group Should be Person of the Year" The Press-Citizen selects a "Person of the Year" each year. Sometimes that includes a group, such as the Englert Civic Theatre Group in 2000. November 30 Johnson nominated the Combined Efforts Theatre, "Because in addition to great theater, CET provides an all-volunteer forum in which residents of all ages, with and without disabilities, get to know and understand each other while working together on a common project . . .." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 30, 2012, p. A7, and embedded in "Iowa's Inclusiveness: Source of Pride and Reward," December 5, 2012.
"How the County Can Get to 'Yes' on the Justice Center" See, "Vote 'Yes' for Justice Center, But With Issues," October 15, 2012, below. Bond funding for the proposed building went downt to defeat in the November 6, 2012, election. Some of the proponents advocate going back to the voters with the same proposal. Johnson argues for a process involving proponents and opponents designing a compromise that might win approval. Responding to the rational objections with civil discussion and compromise is likely to be more effective than stiff-arming the electorate. Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 16, 2012, p. A7, and reproduced in "'Iowa Nice' & the Compromise Three-Step," November 16, 2012.
"Value of Independent Judiciary" (with Paul Gowder) A unanimous Iowa Supreme Court decision found an Iowa law banning gay marriage to be a violation of the civil rights provisions of the Iowa Constitution. Opponents of gay marriage settled on the Iowa "judicial retention" elections as their weapon to remove from the bench those justices who had signed on to the opinion. Johnson and Gowder argue that the purpose of retention elections is, and should be, limited to voters' evaluation of the judges' "integrity, professional competence, judicial temperment, experience and service" -- not their agreement or disagreement with individual opinions -- thereby eliminating judges' need to campaign and accept contributions. They conclude, "Independent judges, uninfluenced by campaign contributions, and supported by the public, enable each of us to live under a 'rule of law' rather than arbitrary and unchecked political decisions. If we protect them now, they'll be able to protect us in the future." Published as "Value of Independent Judiciary," The Gazette, October 27, 2012, p. A5, and embedded in the blog entry, "Judicial Retention and Iowa Justice David Wiggins," October 27, 2012.
"School Boards: Governance and Intransigence" As a member of the Iowa City Community School District Board, 1998-2001, Johnson started his term with a focus on governance issues -- drawing on the work of John and Miriam Carver. This included the establishment of measurable Board goals (what the Carvers call "ends policies"), or as Johnson says, the data necessary to answer the question, "How would we know if we'd ever been successful?" (It also involves Board members talking, and ultimately writing their agreements regarding, among other things, their individual and group relationships with the "CEO" (superintendent) and each other, and "executive limitations" on the superintendent's actions.) The Carvers' publication, Board Leadership: Policy Governance in Action, asked Johnson to prepare for their September-October 2012 issue the story of his experience with the ICCSD Board, introduction to and implementaton of the Carver governance model, and his reflections regarding what happened to it after the terms expired for those Board members who had successfully tried it. That article was published as "School Boards: Governance and Intransigence." Individual hard copies of the September-October 2012 issue, or subscriptions to, Board Leadershipi: Policy Governance in Action are available from Jossey-Bass, One Montgomery St., Ste. 1200, San Francisco, CA 94104, or through the Jossey-Bass Website. Online versions of the publication, and this article, are available by subscription from Wiley Periodicals' Wiley Online Library. See also Johnson's Governance Web Page.
"Vote 'Yes' for Justice Center, But With Issues" The Johnson County, Iowa, criminal courtrooms and jail are thought by the Sheriff and County Board of Supervisors to be inadequate to handle the current populations. Intuitively, as phrased that seems a reasonable proposition. However, it leaves a number of unanswered questions. What is the rationale behind the number of additional jail cells? Should each of Iowa's 99 counties be building jails large enough to handle their peak number of inmates each year? Or should there be a rational use of neighboring counties' jails empty cells? Why is there no central rationalization of local governments' mounting taxpayer bonded debt? (The "Justice Center," as proposed, will add another $48 million. Should we do more with a holistic approach to the proportion of jail population that suffers from mental illness and alcohol or other drug dependency? Published as "Vote 'Yes' for Justice Center, But With Issues," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 15, 2012, p., A7, the column can be found embedded in the blog entry, "Prisons: The Costs and Challenges of Crime," October 15, 2012.
Taxpayers Should Buy Wal-Mart a Gift Shop" "The issue?
Whether taxpayers really support the councilk handing over taxpayers' money,
without their approval, to favored for-profit businesses." On this occasion
the Iowa City City Council chose to help a local bookstore battle the competition
from e-books and online sales, not with a creative 21st Century way to
run a profitable bookstore, but with a way to get out of the bookstore
business -- money for a "museum quality gift shop" and cafe. Given that
the Big Box stores are among the businesses taking the greatest hit from
online commerce, Johnson suggests perhaps the Council's next step should
be to buy a gift shop for the local Wal-Mart stores. Published as "Maybe
Taxpayers Should Buy Wal-Mart a Gift Shop," Iowa City Press-Citizen,
11, 2012, p. A7, the column can be found embedded in the blog entry, "E-Commerce
Challenges Businesses, Governments, Taxpayers," June 11, 2012.
"From Precinct to President" This is a transcript of remarks on the occasion at which Nicholas Johnson, and his wife, Mary Vasey, were inducted into the Johnson County [Iowa] Demcracts Hall of Fame, May 5, 2012. Johnson draws upon, among other things, the remarks of President Harry Truman, the first president Johnson ever met in the White House, mentioning that Truman had done precinct work, and explaining why he thought young people "learning about government is absolutely essential" -- advice Johnson said influenced his own career. The transcript is embedded in the blog entry, "From Precinct to President," May 12, 2012.
"Moen TIF Proposal Just Doesn't Pass the 'Sniff Test'" Fifty years ago tax increment financing, or TIFs, were designed to encourage urban renewal of blighted areas. Should they now be used to enrich the developers of millionaires’ high-rise condos? The local newspapers' stories indicate this Mark Moen deal is even worse than a TIF. Like other TIFs, it shifts tax revenue away from schools and Johnson County, and it’s unfair to the competing landlords without TIFs. So why worse? It’s a direct payment to Moen before construction of his $10 million, 14-story tower; a “forgivable loan.” Forgive a $2.5 million loan?! Can the Council guarantee the tower’s economic success? That it wouldn’t be built without the TIF? That taxpayers’ interests are protected if it fails, or Moen becomes bankrupt? So far, this use of taxpayers’ money offers more questions than answers. "Moen TIF Proposal Just Doesn't Pass the 'Sniff Test,'" Iowa City Press-Citizen,April 9, 2012, p. 7A, and embedded in the blog entry, "TIF Towers," April 9, 2012.
a 'Prudent TIF' More Than an Oxymoron" TIFs are a way public
officials can transfer taxpayers' money to the bottom line of the owners
of for-profit private businesses. The recipients are grateful, the officials
seemingly addicted to the process, and taxpayers are either oblivious or
confused. As a result TIFs show no signs of slowing down. Since it doesn't
appear they can be stopped or modified, perhaps the best approach would
be "TIF impact statements" -- like environmental impact statements, or
the Powell Doctrine's checklist of questions to be answered before going
to war: Why does the need for this TIF exceed all conventional needs for
public funds? Among for-profit enterprises why does this one have highest
priority? Are there other ways of funding it? What will be the impact on
the recipients' competitors? This checklist, and more, is examined in "Making
a 'Prudent TIF' More Than an Oxymoron," Iowa City Press-Citizen,
November 29, 2011, p. 7A, and embedded in the blog entry, "TIF
Impact Statements," November 29, 2011.
"(Mis)understanding Carver" The Iowa City [Iowa] Community School District school board adopted the "[John] Carver governance model" at the turn of the 21st Century. For whatever reasons, it fell into disuse and misunderstanding with subsequent boards. In 2011, community complaints about their disfuntional board, and board members' frustrations, in a search for a scapegoat, made "Carver" the target. Drawing an analogy to cursing the camera when it was you who left the lens cover on, Johnson wrote, "The basics of Carver are common sense, and the common practices of anyone who achieves their goals . . .. Carver's suggestions are like an exercise routine. Make the commitment, work the plan, you'll get results. But as we all know, because there are more exercise books published than read, and more read than followed, is not a reason to curse the books." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 6, 2011, p. A7, and embedded in the blog entry, "Governance: School Board Job No. 1," September 6, 2011.
"Shared Governance Still Needed" When Michael Gartner, a former member of the Iowa Board of Regents, wrote an op ed column attacking the concept of "shared governance" of universities (involving the faculty in major institutional decisions), Johnson responded, "Shared governance is a major component of most successful corporations. . . . It's understandable Gartner didn't like the University of Iowa faculty's vote of 'no confidence' in his regents. The NFL owners didn't like it when the players voted no confidence in them either. But if the corporate CEOs Gartner wants as university presidents are good ones, they will be insisting on shared governance. Shared governance in higher education began in 1920. There are even more reasons for it today, 91 years later." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 20, 2011, p. A9, and embedded in the blog entry, "Should Faculty Share in University Governance?" July 28, 2011.
"Legislature Shifted the Cost of Education" The Des Moines Register did a major investigation and report of "the rising costs" of college education, but phrased it in terms of the ever-increasing share of those costs allocated to "rising tuition" -- with the suggestion that this was in major part the fault of university administration for not controlling costs. Johnson responded in a Register op ed, "A major reason for the increase in tuition is not the cost of education, but the allocation of those costs between taxpayers (who receive a public benefit from a well educated workforce) and the private beneficiaries (the students who go on to better jobs and lives). . . . The most appropriate allocation? That's a debate worth having. But for now, let's recognize that it is the Iowa Legislature that has chosen [by reducing the state's contribution to its 'state universities'] to allocate an ever-increasing share of the costs to students' tuition; not the Iowa Board of Regents, universities' administrators or faculty members." Published in the Des Moines Register, May 29, 2011, p. 20, and embedded in the blog entry, "Allocating Costs; Setting the Price," May 30, 2011.
"Just What's a Board to Do?" When it looked like the Iowa City Community School District would likely have a significant number of new board members after the election, Johnson offered some suggestions regarding what the departing members might be able to accomplish before they left. "[An assessment of the District's] major challenges and opportunities." "What the rest of the country and world are doing in K-12 education . . . and what ought to be given serious consideration [here]." And their recommendations regarding governance." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 21, 2011, p. A17, and embedded in the blog entry, "The School Bored, Take Two, May 21, 2011.
"TIF Helps the Rich Get Richer" There are many ways by which politicians can transfer taxpayers' money to corporations and the wealthy, including out-and-out cash payments (subsidies) and tax breaks. A favorite of local governments are "TIFs" (for "tax increment funding"). Nicholas Johnson wrote of a proposed local TIF project: "Capitalism excels at what it does best. . . . But government has a lousy record when picking businesses. Corporatism (technically fascism) intertwines the worst features of both government and business with predictable results -- whether in Iowa City or Washington. . . . Capitalists are eager for investments backed by business plans documenting cash flow and high returns. There's no shortage of money for those projects. They don't need taxpayers' money. . . . In fact, if those sources aren't adequate, if this TIF project will fail without a mere $250,000 from taxpayers, that's a good sign it's not a wise investment. And if it doesn't make sense for capitalists it darn sure doesn't make sense for taxpayers." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 25, 2011, p. A7, and embedded in the blog entry, "Brother, Can You Spare a TIF?"
"Branstad and Public Transparency" At the beginning of newly elected Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's 2011 term (along with the Republican control of the State House of Representatives) the Iowa City Press-Citizen requested and ran a series of op ed columns on "Issues to Watch: State Government." Nicholas Johnson was asked to reflect on the meaning and implications of, and issues surrounding, Governor Branstad's professed commitment to "transparency," or openness in government. He notes the distinctions between "data," "information," "knowledge," and "wisdom," comments that government and the media often offer little more than data and information when what citizens need is knowledge. The knowledge they need, he suggests, involves the linkages between the various ways in which taxpayers' money is transferred to the bottom line of for-profit corporations, the sources of campaign contributions, and which legislators support the payments. Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 5, 2011, p. A7, and embedded in the blog entry, "Governor Branstad's Transparency; Making Transparency in Government Meaningful," January 5, 2011.
"Net Neutrality" Nicholas Johnson was interviewed the afternoon of December 21, 2010, by Michele Tafoya, host of "The Michele Tafoya Show," WCCO-AM 830, Minneapolis, regarding the FCC's "net neutrality" rules announcement. She began by asking, "Net neutrality, can you dumb this down . . . What does it mean?" In his effort to respond, Johnson drew comparisons, contrasts and analogies to the AT&T network prior to breakup, the fees paid by trucking companies for highway maintenance (a payment per truck rather than per company), and the costs associated with an eight-lane, rather than a four-lane, Interstate highway (similar to the costs of additional bandwidth). He urged that the national benefit from the free flow of information is best served if 95 percent of users, and content suppliers, pay a flat fee for service, and any increases in prices based on usage be limited to the top five percent of the heaviest users and suppliers. This link goes to a transcript of the exchange. A podcast of the interview is available from the WCCO site (as of December 23, 2010).
"Making 'Shop Locally' a Meaningful Suggestion" In this Iowa City Press-Citizen op ed column, Nicholas Johnson notes "the Press-Citizen Editorial Board is urging us to 'shop locally,'" and then asks, "But what does 'buy local' mean?" If the point is to spur the local economy by keeping our money circulating in the community, Johnson asks, don't we need to have a little more detail about how much is leaving for "raw materials," "manufacturing," "packaging," "utilities," "national franchises," "local owners" who in fact live elsewhere, and other components of the retail price? " If you want your money to circulate as fast as possible locally, giving more of it to local workers is the answer," he contends. Without this kind of detailed data and analysis, he argues, "'shop locally' is just a rousing bumper sticker of a slogan, and, as Tom Joad says to the filling station attendant in Grapes of Wrath: 'You're jus' singin' a kinda song.'" Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 3, 2010, p. A9; and embedded with additional discussion in the blog entry, "Downtowns' Future: 'Shop Locally' Column & Dialogue; Making 'Shop Locally' a Meaningful Suggestion," December 7, 2010 (see also, "'Buy Locally'? Good Luck; 'Buy Locally': Rousing Slogan, Largely Meaningless," November 24, 2010).
"The Commercialization of Non-Commercial Radio" Nicholas Johnson asks, "When, and why, did our Iowa universities’ non-commercial, educational radio stations go commercial?" To make his point, the column is interrupted every paragraph or so with the full text of a sampling of the actual commercials running on Iowa Public Radio at the time this piece was written. He notes that at the time the licenses for these stations were granted -- and to Iowa's state universities; not contracted out to something called "IPR" -- their Congressional and FCC purpose was to provide a non-commercial alternative to commercial radio. Moreover, "Law aside," he argues, "the universities are spending big bucks on technology, personnel and press releases to improve their image, encouraging 'faculty engagement' with Iowans, and lobbying for a level of financial support from the Legislature more befitting 'State' universities. Their failure to enlist in these endeavors the statewide radio network they already own is a bewildering oversight of monumental consequence." Published in the December 2010 issue of The Prairie Progressive, p. 2 (distributed November 17, 2010); and embedded in the blog entry, "Commercializing Non-Commercial Radio; IPR's 'Enhanced Underwriting,'" November 19, 2010.
"Opinions and Personality: Brown on the Law" Nicholas Johnson clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, Judge John R. Brown, 1959-60. In 2010 (17 years after Judge Brown's death), as evidence of his impact on his former clerks (the first of whom clerked 55 years earlier), they came together informally to organize and attend a celebration of his 100th birthday (December 10, 2009) with a lecture and dinner on March 1, 2010, at the University of Houston (where his papers are archived). Nicholas Johnson's contribution of memories to that occasion was a manuscript uncovered in Johnson's archives. It was written shortly after his clerkship, but never fully footnoted or published until 2010, as Nicholas Johnson, "Opinions and Personality: Brown on the Law," 47 Houston Law Review 553 (Fall 2010), distributed in early November 2010.
"Was It Something I Said? General Semantics, the Outspoken Seven, and the Unacceptable Remark" This is the speech text of Nicholas Johnson's presentation to the Institute for General Semantics Conference in New York City, October 30, 2010, based on the draft article, below. The Power Point slides used on that occasion are also available online.
"Was It Something I Said? General Semantics and the Unacceptable Remark" This is the October 22, 2010, draft of an article, a work in progress, that evolved from the research Nicholas Johnson did in the course of preparing for a presentation to the New York City Conference of the Institute for General Semantics, October 30, 2010. It represents an inquiry into the possible contribution of general semantics to an understanding, and more sensible handling, of employees' "unacceptable remarks" -- as illustrated in seven case studies, including Sharon Sherrod, Helen Thomas, and General Stanley McChrystal, among others.
"NPR Botched its Firing of Juan Williams" Juan Williams, former Washington Post journalist and prize-winning author, was employed by both Fox TV and National Public Radio (NPR). He appeared on a Fox program with Bill O'Reilly on October 18, 2010, following which he was fired by NPR on October 20. Johnson argues that the comment of Williams that was seized on by NPR (he is sometimes a little nervous when he sees Muslims on airplanes), when read in context, was actually used to make precisely the opposite point from that which NPR drew from it. Johnson notes that even NPR's Ombudsperson acknowledged "a more deliberative approach" might have avoided the "public relations nightmare" NPR created, and that even Jesse Jackson has acknowledged he's a little nervous when he thinks he's being followed by a potential African American robber. Published under this headline by the Iowa City Press-Citizen on October 27, 2010, p. A15, it is available as "Juan Williams and NPR: Sacked for Speech," embedded in "NPR Botched Firing of Juan Williams; Sacked for Speech," FromDC2Iowa, October 27, 2010, and see also the related, "Unacceptable Remarks: Ex-NPR Juan Williams; What Words Warrant Firing?" FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com, October 22, 2010.
"The Conservative Case for Judicial Retention" The Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum decision, holding the legislature's law banning same sex marriage to violate the Iowa Constitution, became a rallying focus for the anti-gay marriage crowd when three of the court's justices came up for "retention" on the November 2, 2010, ballot. Judges, lawyers, law professors and editorial writers took the position, among others, that a vote not to retain a judge, based upon one's opposition to the outcome in a single decision, was a perversion of the judicial retention standards and procedure. The argument did not seem to persuade many of those opposed to Varnum. Johnson decided it was important to put the argument in the language of political conservatives, and relied on The Federalist Papers to make his case. The column appeared in The Gazette (Eastern Iowa), on October 17, 2010, p. A17, and was also embedded in a related blog entry the same day, "Why Conservatives Support Judges Retention; Those Supporting Removal Are 'Conservatives in Name Only' (CINO)," October 17, 2010.
"Honor Workers Every Day" The death of Tom Fosdick, a construction worker at the University of Iowa's Boyd Law Building, prompted this Iowa City Press-Citizen column by Nicholas Johnson. He notes President Obama's honoring of those who've died in America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years, and that a similar number die in workplace accidents in the United States every year. He argues that those who built America, with skills and a willingness to assume risks that most of us don't have, deserve our respect -- along with better pay and workplace safety protections -- every day, not just on Labor Day. "Honor Workers Every Day," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 6, 2010, p. A7, and embedded in a related blog entry the same day, "Labor Day: Honor Workers Every Day; Nick's 2010 Labor Day Press-Citizen Column," September 6, 2010.
"The DPJ's FCC: Letter from America" Nicholas Johnson made four appearances at four Japanese universities in the Kyoto-Osaka area from June 30 through July 8, 2010. They were occasioned by the proposal of the newly elected Democratic Party of Japan ("DPJ") to move media regulation from the Ministry of Interior and Communication to an independent regulatory commission, a "Japanese FCC." The author's contribution was designed to be reflections from a former FCC commissioner on the challenges confronted by the U.S. FCC in its attempts at broadcast regulation. This article was written during the course of preparing for those presentations, some of which drew upon it without, of course, including the endnotes. The extensive references in those 75 endnotes, linked to sources on the Internet, are now made available for any in those audiences, or others, interested in pursuing further the subjects discussed in the lectures. This is the version as of July 27, 2010.
"Public Access to Media: History, Status and Future" This was the third of four appearances at four Japanese universities during Nicholas Johnson's June 30-July 8, 2010, speaking tour in the Kyoto-Osaka area. The audience on this occasion consisted of about 200 undergraduate media studies students of Professor Tsutomu Kanayama at Risumeikan University, Osaka, Japan. Johnson lectured in English; Professors Kanayama and Shinji Uozumi provided the translation into Japanese. The lecture was designed to introduce undergraduates to the U.S. "public access movement," the concepts of rights of "entry" and "access" to mass media, why the Internet is not an adequate alternative, the regulatory role of both "East coast code" and "West coast code," the inadequacy of the mere language of the U.S. First Amendment and Japanese Article 21 to resolve disputes, thereby necessitating reference to the purposes and goals of "free speech," and the origins and evolution of "public access" cable channels in the U.S. It was presented at Ritsumeikan University, Osaka, Japan, July 6, 2010. This is a copy of the advance text from that occasion.
"A Japanese ‘FCC’: A Former U.S. FCC Commissioner’s Perspective" This was the second of Nicholas Johnson's four appearances at four Japanese universities in the Kyoto-Osaka area of Japan, June 30-July 8, 2010. This lecture was in some ways a full 30-40-minute expansion of the much shorter presentation the prior day under the same title, in that the lecture focused on description of the U.S. experience with media content regulation, the issues raised by those efforts, and how some of them have been resolved. Conclusions regarding the implications of this history for Japan were left to the audience. It was organized around the following questions: Introduction: how much FCC do you want?; Is there a need for regulation of the media?; What are the constitutional constraints on government regulation of media?; What has the U.S. FCC regulated with regard to the media -- how and why? What issues have emerged?; What are the limitations on the independence of an "independent regulatory commission"?; The counterforce of public participation. It was presented to the Faculties of Law and American Studies, Center for American Studies, Study Group Number 2: The American Legal System, at Doshisha University, July 5, 2010. This is a copy of the advance speech text.
"A Japanese ‘FCC’: A Former U.S. FCC Commissioner’s Perspective" Nicholas Johnson made four appearances at four Japanese universities during a June 30-July 8, 2010, speaking tour in the Kyoto-Osaka area. The invitations were occasioned by a 2009 proposal from the then newly-elected Democratic Party of Japan for a "Japanese FCC." On this occasion he spoke at a Japan Society for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communications Workshop, at the Kansai University, Osaka-Suita, Japan, July 4, 2010. This is a copy of the advance speech text.
"Whatever Happened to the 1934 Communications Act?" Nicholas Johnson is interviewed about a number of FCC and media policy issues on Ed Madison's "Media Talk" program # 107, May 13, 2010. Available for download or streaming from the Media Talk Web site and as a transcript.
"Corporate Free Speech" Although the Supreme Court went well beyond what was necessary in resolving the Citizens United case, when it declared that corporations have full First Amendment free speech rights, the disproportionate influence of corporations and their money on American politics and government was not altered all that much. Unaffected were the ability of corporate executives to contribute to candidates and political parties, to "bundle" checks from corporate employees, to set up political action committees (PACs), to make million-dollar contributions to parties, to have multi-million-dollar lobbying programs, and to broadcast commercials or documentaries attacking, or supporting, candidates. All that was altered was the McCain-Feingold prohibition on their broadcasting such material 30 days before primaries and 60 days before general elections, which the Court ruled could not constitutionally be restricted. Nicholas Johnson's comments were part of the weekly "Ethical Perspectives on the News" program on KCRG-TV9, Cedar Rapids. The Moderator was Scott Samuelson; the other panelists were David Halfpap, Senior Vice-President, Aegon USA, and Nathan Willems, Iowa House of Representatives, District 29; with Executive Producer Cedric J. Lofdahl and Associate Producer Terry Boyden. The show was taped April 6, first broadcast April 25, 2010, 10:30 a.m., and a transcript of Nicholas Johnson's comments uploaded May 19, 2010.
"Broadband Expansion" "Why does the FCC think America needs its newly- announced ‘National Broadband Plan' and why are Iowa cities scrambling to be Google’s choice for superfast broadband? We examine broadband expansion with former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson." Ben Kieffer's "The Exchange," Iowa Public Radio, originally broadcast April 5, 2010, with audio available for streaming or download from "The Exchange" Web site.
"Dear Mr. President . . ." In the Press-Citizen's edition on the day President Barack Obama delivered his health care speech to a 3000-person packed Field House in Iowa City, its editorial page reported, "We asked several local readers and writers what they would say to President Obama if they were given a minute to speak with him today. Here are edited versions of some of their replies . . .." Here is a link to Nicholas Johnson's submission to the paper, along with what was chosen for publication. "Dear Mr. President . . .," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 25, 2010, p. A7.
"Much at Stake for Iowa in FCC Broadband Plan" "Having spent seven years as an FCC commissioner writing what were mostly critical, dissenting opinions, I want to complement the FCC this time. The NBP is one of the agency's largest, boldest efforts ever. There is much in it that mirrors my own recommendations, such as promotion of broadband for poor families and underserved rural areas, a super-fast access point in each community, and better informed consumers. On the other hand . . . the NBP offers broadband consumers no hope of protection from price-gouging by limited-competition phone and cable companies earning upwards of 80 percent profit margins. The industries' campaign contributions had already eliminated local, state and federal regulation." Originally published as an op ed column in the Des Moines Register, March 24, 2010, p. A15, and embedded in the blog entry, "Broadband: Save Us From the Broadbandits," March 24, 2010.
"The Broadband Challenge: Consumer Protection in a Deregulated Digital Age" In late 2009 and early 2010 the State Public Policy Group undertook, on behalf of the Iowa Department of Economic Development, a review of Iowa's future infrastructure needs. It specifically focused on five sectors: Buildings and Vertical Infrastructure, Energy, Natural Resources, Telecommunications, and Transportation. Nicholas Johnson was a member of the Telecommunicatons Sector Committee. In that connection, he prepared this paper, "The Broadband Challenge: Consumer Protection in a Deregulated Digital Age," for the Telecommunications Sector Committee members' use. It is listed as a reference in, and linked from the online, SPPG report, "Infrastructure Plan for Iowa's Future Economy: A Strategic Direction," May 2010, "Infrastructure Strategy for Iowa's Future Economy, Telecommunications Sector Report & Recommendations," February 2010, pp. 127, 156. Here is the direct link to the paper, presented in February 2010.
"What Happens if UI Were to Lose its Monopoly on Certification?" "If students can learn for free, why pay? Because it's not about learning. It's about degrees. Degrees increase income, and universities control the degrees monopoly. What if they didn't? Monopolies are fragile and short lived in today's 'flat world.'" Originally published as an op ed column in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 20, 2010, p. A15, and embedded in the blog entry, "Higher Ed: When UI Loses Its Monopoly," February 20, 2010 (a subject addressed earlier in "From SUI to ACT: Higher Ed's Crumbling Monopoly," January 31, 2010).
The Current State of Radio and Television Johnson was invited to address the residents of the Oaknoll retirement community in Iowa City the evening of January 28, 2010, on the subject of television. It was an opportunity to reminisce about the origins and history of broadcasting with an audience that lived through much of it, as well as the early history of Iowa City. And it included an effort to bring the story up to the minute: "There are changes in the technology of broadcasting, the impact of digitization, the convergence of technologies and industries, the economics and business models. There are changes in regulatory schemes and the role of government, the popularization and adoption of the Internet and World Wide Web, and the impact of all of this on our sense of self, family relations, what are now called social networks, the workplace, politics and government, retail marketing and banking, crime and warfare. January 28, 2010; here is a link to the prepared remarks.
"Media and the Internet: The Ultimate Internationalization" The University of Iowa International Programs debuted a new video contribution the evening of January 28, 2010, at the local Prairie Lights Books, called "Prairie InSights." The first program's theme was "The World's Our Stage: Why Internationalization?" Gerhild Krapf, Director, External Relations for International Programs, was the program moderator. Johnson's prepared remarks for the occasion began, " "With all due respect to my colleagues this evening, I would contend that what I teach – media law and Internet law – represent the ultimate in 'internationalization.'" Here is that text.
"Moto FCC Iin-karano Message" Following World War II Japan operated with a broadcasting regulatory commission modeled on, and similar to, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. After two years it was abolished. With the coming to power of the Democratic Party of Japan, the idea has been proposed once again. The concern is that to leave the regulation of broadcasting to a ministry that is a part of the executive branch creates a conflict of interest with regard to the regulation of broadcasters' programming about the government. Former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson was asked to comment on this proposal, and did so in collaboration with Japanese communications scholar Shinji Uozumi. The Japanese language version of their paper is available in pdf format as JOHNSON, Nicholas & Shinji UOZUMI, "Moto FCC Iin-karano Message (The Message from a former FCC Commissioner), "HO-SO REPORT (BROADCASTING REPORT)," No. 222, Jan. 2010, pp. 22-25 (Media So-go Kenkyu-sho (Media Research Center)). Johnson's English language submission for the piece is available as an html file. January 2010.
"Censorship From State to Self" (a chapter in the book, Making the Invisible Visible) "If we believe that a prerequisite to democracy is a free flow of information and opinion -- not incidentally from as well as to a nation's citizens -- this imposes enormous demands upon that nation's mass media to uncover and present the full range of information and opinion as fully, fairly and accurately as possible. Engineers refer to the 'signal to noise ratio' of electronic communications. Censorship eliminates the signal entirely. But, as we have seen, 'misperceptions' are another way of confusing noise with signal. And both can come from a reporter's self-censorship as well as from a global media conglomerate's pushing either its owner's ideology or its stock price." (An earlier version was presented to the Commission on Radio and Television Policy: Central, East and Southeast Europe, Vienna, Austria, October 21, 2005.) Published as a chapter in Richard Farson, editor, Making the Invisible Visible: Essays by the Fellows of the International Leadership Forum (Greenway, 2009), p. 58.
"School Board Has Work to Do" "[F]or for the board to delegate its responsibility for boundaries to a committee of unelected citizens in the form of a multiple-variable set of criteria with no algorithm, made up of vague categories with no metrics, is an abdication of its responsibility, a kicking the can down the road, a recipe for chaos and frustration, and an unconscionable imposition on the time, energy, good will and financial resources of 30 dedicated local citizens and the public at large." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen November 2, 2009, and embedded in the blog entry, "Boundaries: Only Board Can Do Board's Job; Drawing School Boundaries Made Easy," November 2, 2009.
"Board Members Won't be Universally Beloved, So Don't Try to be; There's a Board Because Supposedly Seven Heads Are Better than One. Unanimous Votes Defeat that Purpose" "With 15,000 school districts, there are few challenges you'll confront that haven't been identified, addressed, resolved and Web-posted by at least one of them. Plan to spend hours each week with the online K-12 trade journals and reports from governments, other districts, foundations and academics. Don't keep one eye on re-election. You won't be universally beloved, so don't try. Speak up. Write out your suggestions and dissents. There's a board because supposedly seven heads are better than one. Unanimous votes defeat that purpose." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 19, 2009, p. A11, and embedded in the blog entry, "School Board Members' Advice; So You Want to be a School Board Member," August 19, 2009.
"GOP Puts Party First in Health Care Debate" "Why do Republicans fight meaningful health-care reform? The answer's not pretty. The Cato Institute candidly explains in a blog entry headlined, 'Blocking Obama's Health Plan Is Key to the GOP's Survival.' Bill Kristol's 'Project for the Republican Future' said as much in 1993: 'The Clinton [health-care] proposal is a serious political threat to the Republican Party.' Looks as if those who thought health-care reform opponents were just paying back some of their most generous campaign contributors gave the politicians too much credit. It's worse. It turns out some officials are willing to put partisan political advantage ahead of Americans' health care." Published in the Des Moines Register, July 8, 2009, p. A12, and embedded in the blog entry, "Why GOP Fears Meaningful Health Care," July 8, 2009.
What Do You Mean and How Do You Know? An Antidote for the Language That Does Our Thinking for Us As the blurb summarizes: "We are the only species able to talk ourselves into difficulties that would not otherwise exist, from divorce to war. Here's a book full of practical suggestions on how to use our language to improve our lives." Preview and book available from Lulu Publishing since June 21, 2009, the book was created in anticipation of Johnson's University of Iowa "First Year Seminar" on General Semantics, scheduled for the Fall Semester, 2009.
Virtualosity: Eight Students in Search of Cyberlaw As the blurb summarizes: "Nicholas Johnson and eight law students in the University of Iowa Cyberspace Law Seminar, Spring 2009, investigate everything from property rights in virtual worlds to domestic cyber attacks to K-12 students' rights with their online, off-campus speech." Preview and book available from Lulu Publishing since June 16, 2009.
"Many Past Board Members Tried" A school board member commented "'that he wished all the former board members who have been writing guest columns advocating for district-wide boundary changes would have actually implemented those changes back when they were on the board themselves.' Let me assure you it was not for lack of trying. I clearly argued to the board I served on a decade ago the district-wide boundary changes and cluster school concept I wrote about on these pages. . . . The only thing you need to know to accomplish something as an Iowa City School Board member is how to count up to four. It makes little difference what one board member advocates. Until you have four votes, nothing happens." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 15, 2009.
"District Needs Cluster Schools" "Do we need a do-over, a district-wide rethinking of our elementary schools' boundaries? Based on citizens' organizations, talk at meetings, this newspaper's editorials, columns and readers' online comments, that seems to be the community consensus. What might be helpful now are conceptual ideas that attempt to make the most of this opportunity, while taking into account the desires of students, parents, teachers, school board members, central administrators, taxpayers, developers and realtors. Here are some approaches that, with community input and modification, might have potential." Op ed column published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 3, 2009, and embedded in the blog entry, "Cluster Schools: Potential for IC District?" June 3, 2009.
"Don't Fear Fairness Doctrine" The Fairness Doctrine ((a) over-the-air stations must cover at least some controversial issues in their communities of license, and (b) in doing so must present some range of views about those issues) was a staple of broadcast regulation for the first 60 years of radio (and television's) history. It was accepted by the broadcasters, FCC, Congress, courts and public. However, courts ruled that the FCC had the authority to repeal it if the agency wished -- which it did in the tsunami of deregulation during and following the Reagan Administration. Twenty years later there is a mini-movement to reinstate it (notwithstanding President Obama's stated opposition to doing so). The prospect of its returned has fueled a wildfire of opposition, primarily from conservative Republicans (although there are also conservative Republicans who see the Doctrine's benefit to them) who are especially concerned it might be used to cancel Rush Limbaugh's program. In this op ed column in the Gazette Johnson explains why that's nonsense (the Doctrine only applies to licensed stations, not talk show hosts), and gives broadcasters virtually total freedom in chosing subjects, formats, and time. It was published March 13, 2009, p. A4.
"Carterfone: My Story" Nicholas Johnson was invited to present the keynote address at the “Carterfone and Open Access in the Digital Era” conference of The High Tech Law Institute and the BroadBand Institute of California, held at the Santa Clara University School of Law, in Santa Clara, California, on October 17, 2008 -- in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Johnson's opinion in the FCC's Carterfone decision in 1968. The conference recognized the contribution of the decision's reversal of AT&T's restrictive tarriff to what ultimately became the ability to connect computers via the telephone network and the creation of today's Internet. It also addressed the current implications of that decision for controversies involving cell phone and handheld device connection to the Internet today. Johnson's paper was subsequently revised, expanded, and more thoroughly footnoted into this law review article. Nicholas Johnson, "Carterfone: My Story," 25 Santa Clara Computer & High Technology Law Journal 677 (March 2009).
"The Exchange" Interview With Nicholas Johnson Ben Kieffer, host of Iowa Public Radio News' hour-long program, "The Exchange," interviewed Nicholas Johnson about his new book, AYour Second Priority, and a ramge issues involving the mass media, from IPR's WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City, Iowa, on February 24, 2009. Kieffer put questions regarding "second priority," whether the Internet will displace older media, should the Fairness Doctrine be reinstated, the 40th anniversary of students' speech rights (Tinker v. Des Moines decision) -- along with the decline in young people's reading of mainstream media, and the role of blogs, community radio stations, and public access programming on cable. Here is an audio mpg file of that interview, as well as a transcript of their exchange.
"Reforming the FCC" On January 5, 2009, a "Reforming the Federal Communications Commission,” conference was held in Washington, D.C., as a joint project of Public Knowledge and Silicon Flatirons, a Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado. The purpose of the conference, and the follow up Website created thereafter, was to provide information and solicit suggestions regarding the changes need to take place at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the agency to restore the public’s confidence that it will meet its legal obligation to promote the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” As an initial matter, the suggestions were submitted to the new leadership at the FCC as well as the appropriate officials in the incoming Obama Administration. At the conference, former Chairmen, Commissioners and staff members of the agency, along with experts from academia, the public interest community, and industry evaluated how the agency operated in the past, how it operates currently, and how it might operate in the future. The consensus was clear – the FCC has serious procedural, organizational, and cultural problems that must be addressed by the agency’s incoming leaders as soon as practicable. There are multiple links to the remarks of former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson on that occasion: an MSWord1997-2003 formatted text on this server, an html version and also a pdf version on the conference Web site, and a video of the exchanges among the panel members, of which he was one, from the main Web site and also here from YouTube.com. The date was January 5, 2009.
"Carterfone: My Story" Nicholas Johnson was invited to present the keynote address at the “Carterfone and Open Access in the Digital Era” conference of The High Tech Law Institute and the BroadBand Institute of California, held at the Santa Clara University School of Law, in Santa Clara, California, on October 17, 2008 -- in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Johnson's opinion in the FCC's Carterfone decision in 1968. The conference recognized the contribution of the decision to the beginings of computer connection to the telephone system and today's Internet, and addressed the current implications of that decision for controversies involving cell phone and handheld device connection to the Internet today. This entry links to the paper Johnson prepared for that occasion (in MSWord1997-2003 format) -- a paper which, in modified form, has been accepted for publication in the SCU Law School's Computer & High Tech Law Journal for 2009.
"A $2.20 Gift to Our Great-Grandchildren" Beginning in the fall of 2007 Nicholas Johnson began promoting the idea of a greenbelt around much of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids in Iowa's Johnson and Linn Counties. Early in 2008 the Johnson County Conservation Board proposed a possible $20 million bond issue for the additional purchase and set aside of conservation land in the county, a proposal which Johnson supported. By the time it was on the ballot in November much of Eastern Iowa had already sustained the tragic flood damage from the floods of 2008. Those who normally oppose any increase in property taxes were out in force urging a vote against the bond proposal -- which had to pass by 60% to take effect. In this piece he points out the return on investment the bond will provide, primarily financially but with other values as well. It was published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 30, 2008, p. A15.
"After the Flood: Vision for Long Range Recovery" A local Iowa City group, FAIR!, sponsored a post-2008 flood program September 9, 2008, to address the causes and prevention of floods, with a panel of three: Jim Throgmorton (UI professor of urban and regional planning and former city council member), Connie Mutel (author of The Emerald Planet) and Nicholas Johnson. His proposal for "How to Prevent Flood Damage"? "It's easy," he says, " "there are only three rules: (1) Don't put businesses or homes in floodplains. (2) Don't put businesses or homes in floodplains. (3) Don't put businesses or homes in floodplains. Period." Johnson presented, and spoke regarding, the Power Point presentation, Nicholas Johnson, "Benefits from Johnson County's Greenbelt and Greenways," September 9, 2008.
"The Exchange" Interview With Nicholas Johnson Ben Kieffer, host of Iowa Public Radio News' hour-long program, "The Exchange," interviewed Nicholas Johnson about his new book, Are We There Yet?, and a ramge issues involving government and politics, from IPR's WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City, Iowa, on September 2, 2008. Kieffeer asks what is the most relevant past experience for a president to have had, will the new communications technology threaten or strengthen democracy, what are the consequences of "government by campaign contributions," and what is the most appropriate role for third parties and grassroots movements? Here is an audio mpg file of that interview, as well as a transcript of their exchange.
"The Question of Television Violence" Scarcely a "recent publication," it was recently discovered that this Canadian Film Board film of Senate hearings on television violence, including Johnson's testimony and exchange with Senator Howard Baker is still available. The film is the work of Graeme Ferguson in the Board's "Challenge for Change" series, and is described by the Canadian National Film Board as, "A film report of the hearings of the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications investigating the effects of television violence. An NFB crew recorded the four days of intensive debate in Washington, where representations were made by the three major networks, the Surgeon General of the United States, independent scientists, and representatives of concerned parent groups. The hearings established that there is a correlation between violence on the screen and violence in real life." Details: ID NO. 113C0172061; Duration: 56 min 0 s; Production Year: 1972; Producer: Colin Low. The Question of Television Violence [click on "Home Use," put "The Question of Television Violence" in the Search box, click on the title when it appears].
"Flying Video Screens, Stories and Tourism" Nicholas Johnson was asked to apply his lessons from the Iowa Child/Earthpark indoor rain forest project to the "Stories Project" proposed for the space that would have been occupied by the rain forest along the Iowa River in Coralville before it was rejected by the City. His op ed appeared in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on August 30, 2008, p. A15, along with a critique offered by the project's creative catalyst, Josh Schamberger, and an editorial from the paper's editorial board. The column is embedded in a blog entry, "Tell Me a Story," August 30, 2008 (with links to the Stories Project Web site, critique and editorial).
"Past Success and Future Possibilites" The media and telecommunications reform organization, FreePress, holds a National Media Reform Conference every year or so that has grown to an attendance in the thousands of a wide variety of persons associated with one aspect or another of mass and alternative media. Nicholas Johnson has often participated. At the June 6-8, 2008 conference in Minneapolis he spoke at an event organized by Charles Benton of the Benton Foundation and entitled "Past Success and Future Possibilities: A Discussion with Media Reform Pioneers" that included film maker and community video pioneer George Stoney, CBS correspondent Randall Pinkston (speaking on behalf of the United Church of Christ's Dr. Everett Parker), Free Press' moderator Stevie Converse, and Nicholas Johnson. The Power Point he used on that occasion is available here, Nicholas Johnson, "What's New." Text of his remarks and or audio or video may be uploaded later. The panel's presentation was June 7, 2008, 2:30-4:00 p.m.
"It May Seem Corny, But Sullivan's Good" Nicholas Johnson endorces Rod Sullivan for re-election to Johnson County, Iowa, Board of Supervisors, saying, among other things, "I've known presidents, and I've known school board members. And I can tell you, Sullivan is, in my book, one of the most decent, the most worthy, public officials I've ever known of the whole lot." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 29, 2008, p. A4.
Book: Are We There Yet: Reflections on Politics in America (Morrisville: Lulu, June 2008) (Johnson's recent writings about candidates' "experience," "campaigning," "issues," "spin," "process," and above all the role of money -- sprinkled with an occasional contemporaneous blog entry as the 2008 primary progressed). Available from Prairie Lights in Iowa City, the publisher, and Amazon.
Book: Your Second Priority: An FCC Commissioner Speaks Out (2nd edition, Morrisville: Lulu, May 2008) (Johnson's recent writings about the power and failings of the media, his contention to public interest advocates being "whatever is your first priority, your second priority has to be media reform.") Available from Prairie Lights in Iowa City, the publisher, and Amazon.
"Assessing Candidates 'Experience'" Drawing distinctions between "experience as a U.S. Senator" and the breadth of international, domestic and administrative/executive experience that might be useful to a president, as well as noting the difference between "30 years' experience" and "one year's experience 30 times," Johnson concludes regarding the 2008 presidential primary finalists, "All are qualified; none is uniquely 'experienced.' Clinton loses credibility by suggesting otherwise." Published by The Gazette, March 30, 2008, p. A9, and embedded in the blog entry "Gazette Op Ed: Candidates' 'Experience,'" March 30, 2008.
"Here's a 'Least-Worst' Solution for Florida, Michigan" The Democratic presidential primary of 2008 created a problem of what to do with delegates from Florida and Michigan -- states that violated the Democratic Party rule that they should not move the dates of their primaries earlier in the year. Nicholas Johnson proposed a solution in an op ed column published by the Des Moines Register March 15, 2008, p. A11, and embedded in the blog entry "'Least-Worst' Florida, Michigan Solution," March 15, 2008.
"Preserving for Our Grandchildren" Nicholas Johnson extolls the virtues of Greenbelts: "Greenbelts help to clean the air and water while holding the soil, reduce greenhouse gases, provide unlimited recreational opportunities of all kinds, preserve family farms, increase real estate values both inside and outside the greenbelt and serve as an unbelievable magnet in attracting new, clean businesses." Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 20, 2008, p. A13, and embedded in the blog entry "Greenbelts for Grandchildren," February 15, 20, 2008.
"Shed Light on Problem Behind Fighting; Adults' Decisions Increase Violence" Nicholas Johnson questions whether many educational administrators' approach to high school violence -- "video cameras, ID badges and locks, armed guards, metal detectors and lockups" -- is as effective as smaller schools when "the data is overwhelming [that] when enrollment goes above 600 students there is an increase not only in violence but in dropouts, absences, alcohol and drug abuse, bullying, graffiti, teen pregnancy and often a decline in academic performance." Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 16, 2008, p. A13.
"Assessing the Presidential Picks: Qualities to Keep in Mind When Picking a President" Nicholas Johnson offered some guidance to his fellow Iowans prior to what would be for some of them their first experience supporting a potential presidential candidate at an "Iowa precinct caucus." He urged picking someone other than those (Obama, Clinton, Edwards) virtually guaranteed top billing in New Hampshire, in order to keep the race open. He analyzes each in terms of "Who has the broadest, deepest range of experience." He also mentioned understanding of citizen empowerment, independence from special interests with an accompanying, willingness to put forward "best practices" policies, and "a people person," among other observations. Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 22, 2007, p. A15, and embedded in the blog entry, "Op Ed: Caucus Choices Analysis [Dec. 22]," December 22, 2007.
"UI Show Insightful and Entertaining" Nicholas Johnson reviews a local production of "Anton in Show Business" and urges attendance not only for its entertainment value but for the insights it provides the audience into the workings of the entertainment industry that has such an impact on Americans of all ages. Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, p. A13, December 7, 2007.
"Talking Back to Your Television Set 37 Years Later" The Unitarian-Universalist Society of Iowa City asked Johnson to speak to its "Worthley Club" February 6, 2007. As this was the 37th anniversary of the publication of his book, How to Talk Back to Your Television Set, Johnson chose to review some of the changes -- and remaining challenges -- in broadcasting during those years. The topics the text addresses include conditions in the 1920s, the impact of cable television and the Internet, the continuing "obligations, and limits, of capitalism," some propoals, "content, conduit, and the First Amendment," political broadcasting reforms, ownership limits and diversity of views, and the "adequacy of American journalism." The text was subsequently distributed by the International Leadership Forum as International Leadership Forum, Commentary 17, November 6, 2007.
"Binge Drinkers for 21 Ordinance" The University of Iowa, in Iowa City, is often ranked among the nation's top "party" (i.e., alcohol imbibing) student bodies. Binge drinking is a serious problem, with all its obvious consequences. Although "underage" (i.e., less than 21) drinking is illegal, the community's notion of a "solution" was to "toughen up" local practice by forbidding underage drinking only between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. A bar owners'-organized, student body-supported, campaign voted down the radical proposal. Johnson argued, tongue in cheek, that binge drinking students should have supported it as a sweet deal. "Binge drinking students are blessed with powerful bar owners, a UI administration on both sides of the issue, a self-censored faculty, and a City Council that refuses to vote. But you can’t count on the continuation of such cowardice, irresponsibility and stupidity. . . . Reject this ordinance and even Iowa City could respond like sensible communities with a real '21-only.' Illegal drinking only 20/7 instead of 24/7 is a restriction. But unless you’re not macho enough to get blotto by 10, isn’t it a whole lot better than not drinking at all?" Published by The Daily Iowan, October 29, 2007, and embedded in the blog entry, "Sidestepping," October 27, 29, 2007.
"'@#$%& the FCC' and the Case for Deleting Expletives" Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 20, 2007, p. A17, embedded in blog entry, "The Case for Bleeping Expletives," October 20, 2007.
"Courage, Councilors" Nicholas Johnson takes on "corporate welfare, subsidies, tax breaks and the TIFs that transfer taxpayers' dollars to a business's bottom line" and provides 12 categories of reasons why "corporate subsidies make no sense for Iowa City," as he says "both because of the multiple categories of reasons they’re foolish for any community, and the additional reasons they’re especially silly for Iowa City." Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 3, 2007, p. A12, and embedded in blog entry, "Courage, Councilors," October 3, 2007.
Your Second Priority (First Edition, Myrtle Orchard Press-Lulu, Morrisville, North Carolina, Sept. 2007, 208 pp.)
"Public Officials and Private Actions" When the Press-Citizen editorialized that a local county official should resign because he had pleaded guilty to drunk driving, Nicholas Johnson argued that "the media's power to destroy a reputation and to promote the loss of an official's job should be more sparingly used. Keep it for serious job-related misbehavior -- like starting unnecessary wars in the Middle East, a matter that has yet to produce any calls for resignations by this newspaper." He acknowledged that "drunk driving is dangerous behavior," that "the media has a constitutional right to embarrass us for whatever reason it chooses," and that "alcohol is our nation's No. 1 hard drug." But he continues, "all I know of his reputation is that he has been one of the most competent and innovative . . . in Iowa -- if not the United States. That doesn't make it OK for him to drive with an illegal blood alcohol level, but it does raise an issue regarding when personal behavior -- even illegal personal behavior -- should require a forced resignation. . . . [G]iven [the newspaper's] lack of an anti-drunk driving campaign, and the editorial's failure to show a direct relationship between the county auditor's driving and his performance in office, it appears to be little more than a personal attack -- for reasons we can only guess." Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 11, 2007, p. A17, and embedded in blog entry, "Press-Citizen Above & Beyond 1st Amendment," August 11, 2007.
"Introducing Governor Bill Richardson to Iowa City" During Iowa's pre-2008 Democratic Party Presidential Primary season, Nicholas Johnson emphasized Governor Richardson's breadth of experience when introducing him to a large Iowa City gathering at the University of Iowa's Memorial Union on August 2, 2007.
"In Media Concentration Age, Fairness Needed More" Published by The Gazette [Eastern Iowa], July 17, 2007, p. A4, and embedded in blog entry, "Wellmark, Rape and Murder," July 17, 2007.
"Activism: Having a Positive Impact on the World" Nicholas Johnson's address to the Resources for Life Conference, Iowa City, Iowa, July 7, 2007.
"Where Are We Going? Who's Going With Us?" Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 19, 2007, p. A11.
"Community Media at Risk" Nicholas Johnson participated with three other guests in a special hour-long edition of Iowa City, Iowa's, public access cable (PATV) presentation of the "Live & Local" program involving, among other issues, those discussed in his Des Moines Register op ed column from a week earlier, immediately below. Audio and video excerpts have not yet been uploaded. The program was first broadcast live, April 20, 2007, and repeatedly re-run thereafter.
"A Fight Over Video Services: Rein in Prices by Keeping Tough Local Regulation" Telephone companies are free to enter into the cable television business under the same terms as cable companies. Not satisfied with this "level playing field" they've been working over state legislatures in an effort to tilt the field in their favor with special terms for themselves that opponents believe do not well serve present cable subscribers or the cities that have issued them franchises. (In Iowa, it also involved campaign contributions of some $165,000.) The Des Moines Register wanted to present the arguments pro and con regarding the version of this legislation pending before the Iowa Legislature. It chose Max Phillips, President of Qwest Iowa, to present the company's position, and Nicholas Johnson to present the opposition. Johnson itemizes a significant list of ways in which the bill will hurt Iowans. Published by the Des Moines Regislter, April 12, 2007, p. OP9; listing added May 7, 2007. Also embedded in blog entry "UI Held Hostage Day 446 -- Cable and Kaul," April 12, 2007.
"Process Matters Most in Election" When the University of Iowa Community Credit Union CEO and Board decided to change the credit union's name to "Optiva," there was a good deal of opposition among the members -- eventually enough to overturn that decision, at a membership meeting February 28, 2007. Much of the opposition was directed at the name, "Optiva." But there was also concern about the way in which it was done, as Johnson explained in a piece in the Press-Citizen, "Process Matters Most in Election." He wrote, "For UICCU administrators to make genuine efforts to seek out members opinions before making decisions is like fastening their seat belts: 'It's not just a good idea, it's the law.'" (Congress has provided that credit unions are "member-owned, democratically operated . . . organizations.") He concluded, "Process isn't trivial. It's the heart and soul of credit unions, without which we're just 'bank customers' risking loss of the legal benefits, along with responsibilities, of membership." Published February 27, 2007; listing added May 7, 2007, and embedded in blog entry, "UI Held Hostage Day 402 - Feb. 27 -- Optiva," February 27, 2007.
"Poetic License: The Iowa Bets Song" As the Press-Citizen explains, "Poetic License is a weekly feature in which the Press-Citizen asks local residents to comment poetically on current events." Nicholas Johnson was asked to comment on the controversy surrounding the use of the copyright "Iowa Fights Song" (and other obvious ties to the University and its athletic program) as the basis for a commercial promoting the joys of playing the Iowa Lottery. Johnson's proposed parody of the commercial, which he titled "The Iowa Bets Song," was as follows:
"We'll take your cash or check or credit
Let every loyal Iowan pay
You want a skybox serving alcohol?
Business is open every day (Buy now!)
We advertise casinos and lotteries
So coaches' living wages can be great
It's all for athletes' education
Until they graduate"
Published February 19, 2007; listing added May 7, 2007.
"Talking Back to Your Television Set 37 Years Later" The Unitarian-Universalist Society of Iowa City asked Johnson to speak to its "Worthley Club" February 6, 2007. As this was the 37th anniversary of the publication of his book, How to Talk Back to Your Television Set, Johnson chose to review some of the changes -- and remaining challenges -- in broadcasting during those years. The topics the text addresses include conditions in the 1920s, the impact of cable television and the Internet, the continuing "obligations, and limits, of capitalism," some propoals, "content, conduit, and the First Amendment," political broadcasting reforms, ownership limits and diversity of views, and the "adequacy of American journalism." Uploaded April 18, 2007.
"It's Sure Cheapter Than a Rain Forest" When Iowa's Senator Chuck Grassley questioned the propriety of permitting tax deductions for contributions to college football programs, Johnson agreed that the IRS' definition of "charitable" ("relief of the poor" or "defending human and civil rights") didn't sound much like football. But he came back with a proposal of his own: "Keep 'the Iowa Hawkeyes.' Keep Kinnick Stadium. Keep the tailgating and drunken crowds. But make the football program its own, separate for-profit corporation. It keeps the football revenue, but pays to lease Kinnick. The corporation could pay the coach whatever it wanted. It might even pay the players a little fairer share of those revenues, too." Published February 3, 2007; uploaded April 18, 2007.
"New Jail Isn't Answer" In response to a Daily Iowan editorial advocating a new jail for Johnson County, Iowa, Johnson agrees that prisoners "are still people and still entitled to decent care," but asserts that's "not the issue." "Some see crowded jails and want to buld more and bigger ones. Others ask, 'Why are these people in jail?" He advocates that, before building more jails ("our public-housing program") we apply "basic systems analysis and 'thinking outside the cell' to 'crowded jails.'" Published by The Daily Iowan January 25, 2007; uploaded April 18, 2007.
"Community Problem Solving" Iowa Public Radio's program, The Exchange, hosted by Ben Kieffer, dealt with community planning and problem solving in the January 4, 2007 program. One of the guests was Tim Boyle, Executive Director of the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau. Nicholas Johnson, who has been maintaining a Web site regarding the proposed Iowa indoor rain forest, noted that the project has not raised a dime in ten years, and asked Tim Boyle what is the best way to deal with a community's "cheerleaders" -- those who seem prepared to become boosters for virtually any big "attraction" but are unwilling to focus on the "Business School 101" data regarding realistic projections of visitors and cash flow. Uploaded April 18, 2007.
"General Semantics, Terrorism and War" Nicholas Johnson provided the keynote address at a symposium in New York City on September 8, 2006, "The World in Quandaries: Coping with Controversial Communication in the Global Village -- Personal, Social, National, Cultural," jointly sponsored by Fordham University, the New York Society for General Semantics and the Media Ecology Association. (The "quandaries" is a reference to his father's book, Wendell Johnson, People in Quandaries (1946), the 60th anniversary of which was also being celebrated on this occasion.) A text drawn from that address has now been published in ETC: A Review of General Semantics, vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 45-64 (January 2007). That text will be made available as a pdf link from here once it is available.
"Rethinking Higher Education" With higher college tuition crowding out many for whom the public universities were once created, Johnson reminds readers of the national economic benefits that came from free public education and the "GI Bill" post-World War II. What used to be adequate as K-12 education now requires K-16, he asserts, and if the public and its elected representatives are unwilling to provide it he has an alternative. Recognize that the college education market is now a national, not a state, market. Establish a national fund, half provded by taxpayers, half by the college graduates. But key their payback to their economic benefit, as a proporton of their adjusted gross income. Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 13, 2006; uploaded April 18, 2007.
"Lets Not Gamble With Students' Lives" This op ed is a response to a Press-Citizen article, "Students Find New Ways to Earn Cash" (linked from this text), that led, and concluded, with what Johnson took to be the paper's promotion of gambling as a way for students to put themselves through school (such as, that the featured student had found that gambling had "proven to be much more lucrative than any regular job"). Johnson questions whether the reporter or editor ever confirmed his brags before risking the harm from encouraging more student gambling, which Johnson quotes sources as indicating is expanding among the high school population as well and causing a variety of harm to students. Published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 3, 2006, and listed here October 9, 2006.
"General Semantics, Terrorism and War" Nicholas Johnson was asked to keynote a conference in New York City September 8, 2006, occasioned by the 60th anniversary of the creation of the New York Society for General Semantics and the 60th anniversary of the publication of Wendell Johnson's basic general semantics book, People in Quandaries. (Nicholas Johnson is Wendell Johnson's son.) Other sponsors included the Media Ecology Association, the Institute of General Semantics, and Fordham University. This footnoted version of that speech text provides some basic explanation of "general semantics" (as well as demonstrating some of its techiques), describes its origins in concerns flowing out of World War II, and relates them to the language we still use in talking about (and engaging in) "war" and especially a "war on terrorism." He includes lessons he learned in Viet Nam and applies them to Iraq, a description of "the Powell doctrine," and some suggestions regarding "What We Can Do." Originally prepared September 8, 2006, subsequently revised and expanded with footnotes, and uploaded September 13, 2006. (And see, Ben Hauck, "'The World in Quandaries' Symposium.")
"Earthpark Business Plan: A Review" After years of fruitlessly asking the rain forest promoters for one of the most basic documents of any new project seeking financing -- their "business plan" -- Nicholas Johnson had occasion to come upon, examine and write this review of a document and appendices so titled, dated March 2006. He points out that so long as the promoters have neither the money ($155-180 million), haven't raised a dime, and have no prospects for doing so in the immediate future, it doesn't really make a lot of difference what is in their "business plan." Nonetheless, he goes through it, complementing their consultant for the thorough check list of issues and considerations, while questioning many of the numbers that are provided, and noting the many blanks and omissions in a document not really focused on the only two remaining possible locations, Pella and Riverside. Written August 12, 2006, the review was uploaded here August 14.
"Caution: Rain Forest Ahead" As the Riverside, Iowa, City Council and the Washington County Riverboat Foundation confront the pros and cons of inviting the Iowa indoor rain forest ("Earthpark") to town, Nicholas Johnson offers them some words of caution. Whether $180 million or the reduced-size $155 million project, it still doesn't have the money and hasn't raised any in 10 years. The focus of what's going on inside is still not clear (e.g., teacher training, overnight camping, national research center, theater and entertainment, tourist attraction). The project's claims that "no city money" will be involved are demonstrably false. And when, as many suspect, the project is unable to sustain itself in a few years, the burdens on the City, financially and otherwise, will be substantial. This op ed column was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen August 9, 2006, and uploaded here August 14.
"Internet Neutrality" The Iowa City, Iowa, public access organization (PATV of Iowa City) presents a weekly discussion program over the local cable system it calls "Live and Local," hosted by Adam Burke. The evening of June 26, 2006, Nicholas Johnson was a guest, along with Ben Anderson and Sam Garchik, on a program devoted to the then-current debate over legislation designed to protect "network neutrality." Johnson's remarks have been transcribed and are available here. Uploaded to this site July 31, 2006.
"Line Blurs Between Campaign Contributions, Bribes" In response to a Des Moines Register editorial argument that "Spending money to further political views is freedom of expression, pure and simple," Johnson replied in an op ed that it "states both too much and too little." He detailed the instances in which governmental "abridging the freedom of speech" is considered constitutional. While campaign cash is sometimes protected "speech," he says, "it's not always. Under slightly different circumstances, the same participants, exchanging the same money, are engaged in punishable 'bribery' not protected 'speech.'" Indeed, "In Washington's current 'culture of corruption' the gossamer line between 'campaign contributions' and 'bribery' is see-through thin. Special interests buy their legislation." He goes on to propose that Iowa adopt the kind of public financing of elections that seems to be so popular in states like Maine and Arizona. Published in the Des Moines Register, July 5, 2006, and uploaded July 10.
"Perspective on Military Murder and the Mission at Hand" In addressing the case of the eight U.S. troops charged with murdering an Iraqi, Johnson suggests that, while not justified, their actions need to be perceived and understood in terms of the perspective of the thousands of innocent civilians who are killed in war -- often deliberately (as in Dresden and Hiroshima during WWII). He also believes that "you can't play basketball on a football field," in other words, that there are some of the world's problems virtually inacapable of being resolved through war (indeed, in which war is counterproductive), and some sets of conditions under which no military force can accomplish the mission it has been handed. "Murder" is almost inevitable when the military is asked to conduct war in urban areas where the soldiers can't speak the native languge, there are no front lines, there are ethnic or religious divisions, and because they don't wear uniforms, members of the military's "enemy" are indistinguishable from innocent civilians. Published as an op ed column in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 2, 2006, and uploaded July 3.
"When Too Much is Not Enough" Responding to a Daily Iowan story quoting Iowa Regent President pro tem Teresa Wahlert as saying, "'You get what you pay for. You don't get an extremely qualified academic and entice him to stay' with a lower salary," Johnson writes, "You get what you pay for? Consumer Reports has spent 70 years disproving that canard. . . . Perhaps someone who could earn much more, but takes the job anyway (because of the challenge, opportunity for growth, sense of contribution, or affection for the institution), is the president who would be most likely to be 'enticed to stay.'" Published in The Daily Iowan June 30, 2006, and uploaded July 3.
"Taking One Step Beyond" Broadcasting & Cable, a leading broadcasting industry trade magazine, celebrated its 75th anniversary with a special edition. It included a section headlined, "Taking One Step Beyong: B & C Asks 14 Industry Veterans to Gaze Into the Crystal Ball." The 14 included, among others, Tom Brokaw, Ted Koppel, Newton Minow, Leslie Moonves, Brian Williams -- and Nicholas Johnson. The article used a Q & A format. Excerpts from examples: "B&C: What represents this business at its worst?" Nicholas Johnson: "The myopic focus on stock prices over programming." "B&C: How about at its best?" Nicholas Johnson: "'This business' is at its best when it realizes that it is ever so much more than 'just another business.'" "B&C: What makes you hopeful about the future of TV? Nicholas Johnson: "What makes you think I'm hopeful?" Published May 22, 2006, and uploaded here June 19, 2006.
"Voters Should Boycott Moneyed Candidates" Nicholas Johnson contends that the number one problem in American government and politics -- the extent to which law and policy is driven by campaign contributions rather than the public interest -- can only be addressed by citizens rising up and taking a pledge to simply refuse to vote for any candidate whose campaign is funded by large personal contributions, PAC and other special interest money. The comments were made during a call-in to the WOI-AM 640 "Talk of Iowa" program devoted to Representative Ed Fallon's campaign for governor, May 30, 2006. Uploaded here June 5, 2006, and expanded June 19, 2006.
"Standing With Ed Fallon" Nicholas Johnson was asked to introduce Representative Ed Fallon, candidate for governor of Iowa in a four-way primary race, June 6, 2006, at a gathering at The Mill, in Iowa City, May 2, 2006. Johnson quoted from the country song lyrics, "you've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything," and suggested that not only is it not worth losing one's soul in order to win elections, but that it hasn't proved a very effective way to win elections either. Uploaded May 8, 2006.
"First Amendment: Freedom For Religion" During the April 13, 2006, tornado (see item immediately below), one of the grand, historic Iowa City, Iowa, buildings to suffer the most severe damage was St. Patrick's Catholic Church, a brick structure built in the late 19th Century. In an effort to help raise money for its rebuilding, a group of UI Hawkeye basketball players offered to play a game against coaches, under the sponsorship of the West High School Boosters' Club. A local member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation brought this to the attention of the organization's national headquarters, which promptly protested on grounds such a fund raising event would violate the constitutional separation of church and state. The local paper devoted a page to the Foundation's spokesperson, a represenative of the church, and Nicholas Johnson. Each of those pieces and more is available here. Johnson endeavors to summarize the applicable law, points out ways the project could have been undertaken legally, and reports his hope that "Iowa City might use this opportunity to organize a great ecumenical coming together. I visualized people of many faiths -- Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim and others -- working side by side, in the spirit of an Iowa 'barn raising,' building both a stronger sense of religious community and a great church. It may still happen." The piece was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on April 29, 2006.
"Tornado Damage, Iowa City, Iowa, April 13, 2006" Iowa City, Iowa, suffered sufficient tornado damage during the evening of April 13, 2006, that it became national news. This site contains Nicholas Johnson's commentary about his experience that evening in his neighborhood, along with links to pictures of tornado damage in his part of Iowa City that he photographed during a morning walk on April 14, "the morning after." This Web page also provides links to major collections of professional photographs of damage throughout other locations in Iowa City. Prepared and posted April 14, 2006, and revised April 15, 2006.
"Values Fund May Not Be So Valuable for Taxpayers" The so called "Iowa Values Fund," among other things, provides cash to businesses that can be bribed to come to the state, or that blackmail the state with a threat to leave without cash grants. Johnson finds the program inconsistent with his understanding of "free private enterprise," noting "if a business can't garner the support of sophisticated investors and loan officers, shouldn't we think twice before filling its tin cup with public money?" He argues that "The prestigious, independent Corporation for Enterprise Development concludes that 'most economists agree incentives are not good development policy' because they foster unfair competition, don't create net new jobs and divert attention from better strategies." The piece, as uploaded, comes with links to detailed footnotes and sources. Published in the Des Moines Register April 13, 2006, and uploaded as a "special" at that time.
"Pricey Presidents' Added Cost" With the departure of the University of Iowa's President, David Skorton, the lead on the Des Moines Register's story was, "Money — lots of it — will play a key role in attracting and keeping the next University of Iowa president." Johnson responded in a Daily Iowan op ed column, March 7, with a quote from Skorton, “When the median family income in Iowa is around $45,000 and I make over $300,000, it’s hard to argue that is not a lot of money. It’s very generous.” He notes the disparity in compensation of CEOs and their workers, the likelihood those attracted by pay alone will stay no longer than their next better offer, and asks, "Is there no one of quality in America who would love to assume the challenges, opportunities and prestige of leading this great university for compensation President Skorton deems 'generous'?" Published March 7, 2006, and uploaded here March 13.
"Shooting Our Messengers" Johnson County, Iowa, Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek testified before the Iowa Legislature regarding a range of options for fighting crime in more cost effective ways. One idea was to substitute citations and fines as punishment for possession of the very smallest amounts of marijuana. Republicans attacked him as "irresponsible" for his failure to "enforce the laws on the books." Johnson came to Pulkrabek's defense. He notes the costs of the U.S. continuing to be number one in the world for the number of persons in prison ("our nation's primary public housing program"), citing the much more radical proposals from Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico, a conservative Republican who thinks putting drug users in prison is "a waste of money." Johnson says public officials willing to take the political risks associated with offering solutions to problems need to be supported rather than attacked if we are going to have more like Pulkrabek. Published as an op ed column in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 3, 2006, and uploaded here March 6.
"Retroactive Ethical Judgments and Human Subjects Research: The 1939 Tudor Study in Context" has been published as Chapter 9 in Robert Goldfarb, editor, Ethics: A Case Study From Fluency (Oxford and San Diego: Plural Publishing, 2005). Nicholas Johnson's chapter is a rewrite and update of his paper presented at the "Symposium on Ethics and The Tudor Study: Implications for Research in Stuttering," organized by the Ph.D. Program in Speech and Hearing Sciences of the City University of New York and held at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York City, December 13, 2002. The chapter, as a pdf file, was uploaded to this Web site February 20, 2006.
"Technology's Role in Domestic Spying" The Iowa ACLU's Ben Stone was the guest on WOI-AM 640's "Talk of Iowa" for a discussion of the constitutional law questions raised by President Bush's NSA spying on Americans program, and public opinion regarding the tactic as a means of fighting terrorism. Nicholas Johnson commented that it's very difficult to address the legal issues surrounding the propriety of "searches" without explaining the technological differences between putting alligator clips on an individual's telephone line, on the one hand and monitoring every phone simultaneously on the other. The former makes search warrants possible; getting 300 million search warrants to do the latter is another matter. The program was broadcast February 2, 2006; Nicholas Johnson's comments were transcribed and uploaded February 6, 2006.
"Can't See the Forest: Lessons from a $180 Million Terrarium" Nicholas Johnson was invited to address rain forest issues for the Environmental Law Society of the University of Iowa College of Law on January 27, 2006. This links to the full text of those remarks in which he described, but disassociated himself from, the ridicule that has been heaped on the project, talked about his own experiences with and respect for nature, told the law students they would need to address "which side are you on?" with regard to their legal services for the polluters, asked, but did not resolve, the extent to which botanical gardens and aquariums actually increase public support for environmental law, noted the legal arguments regarding the "legal rights" of animals and even plants, and then expanded on the "lessons" described in his op ed of the week before (Nicholas Johnson, "Time to Learn from 'What Works,'" Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 20, 2006). Uploaded to this site January 30, 2006.
"Time to Learn from 'What Works'" Johnson identifies a number of factors he says tend to be associated with attractions and other projects that work: focus, community based, logical location, up-front financing, business plans, control of cost overruns, realistic projection of revenue streams, and a realistic evaulation of these factors by public officials and mass media. He cites examples of such projects both in Iowa and around the country. He concludes, "Iowa needs bold vision. Naysaying doesn't help; but rational analysis does. And when 'the emperor has no clothes' we ignore the difference at our peril." The op ed column was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen January 20, 2006, and uploaded to the Web site January 23.
"The Politics of Domestic Spying" President George W. Bush apparently issued a secret order permitting the National Security Agency (NSA) to "spy on Americans." Johnson lists a sampling of the range of issues he says are "more deserving of books than a column," but then discusses the implications of the potential abuse of such technological capacity during political campaigns, given that it is operated by a secret agency with little oversight. He cites numerous examples of past abuses by government involving the NSA and other technologies, and asks "How would we even know if abuses occurred during our congressional and presidential elections?" This op ed column was published in the Daily Iowan January 19, 2006, and uploaded Janary 23.
"Rain Forest Lessons" After two years of rain forest promoters unsuccessful efforts to raise a dime from private donors the Des Moines Register editorialized, "Rain Forest Hinges on Donor Support; D.M. a Fine Site, But City Must Weigh Its Priorities," Des Moines Register, December 13, 2005. Johnson responded in this Des Moines Cityview op ed column of December 29. He argued that the project's "gate" required more hinges than donor support. He questioned why public officials and the media, from the project's birth, emphasized only "the 'Wow!' and the wonderful" while ignoring the lack of focus, business plans, realistic projections of visitors, and other of the "Management 101" considerations any venture capitalist or bank loan officer would have brought to bear. Uploaded January 1, 2006.
"Rainforest Project Requires Focus" With Dubuque emerging as one of the targets of the rain forest promoters' travelling sales pitch, Nicholas Johnson wrote the Dubuque Telegraph Herald's readers, "enthusiasts' 'wow!' is no substitute for realistic business plans, no justification for emphasizing benefits while ignoring costs and risks." He awards the project "Three 'F's' for focus, funding and feasibility," and notes that "Without focus, there can't be a business plan. Without a business plan, it's impossible to evaluate the feasibility of any project's projected revenue stream." He says, "Dubuque has done attractions right. . . . Most are solidly grounded in Dubuque's history and natural setting; realistic in scope and financing. Their synergy adds sparkle to this Iowa gem of a city." Published in the Telegraph Herald December 15, 2005, and uploaded here December 19.
"Thinking Outside the Cubicle: Business Skills in a Wider World" In response to the speaking invitation from the University of Iowa business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi, Nicholas Johnson explained that, although he had never managed a for-profit enterprise, he had used business skills throughout his life, from his first board membership as a high school student (the national YMCA board) through his current interest, as what Ralph Nader calls a "public citizen," in what he sees as the failure to use basic business practices with the proposed indoor rain forest in Coralville, Iowa. He urged the College of Business students to think equally broadly as they select not only occupations, but volunteer activities: business skills are needed in a far wider world than just the for-profit sector. Delivered November 9, 2005; linked from here November 10, 2005.
"Censorship from State to Self" This is the text of remarks delivered by Johnson as a panelist at a meeting in Vienna, Austria, of the Commission on Radio and Television Policy: Central, East and Southeast Europe, "Media Regulation, Censorship, and the Potential for Corruption: Practices Protecting or Controlling the Public, October 21, 2006. He discussed the pressures from the financial community on publicly-held corporations, advertisers' influence, journalists' self-censorship and other limitations, and stories "off the radar." He said, "It makes little difference who wears the boot that steps upon the hose of news and information; whether we call it 'censorship' or 'ediing;' whether it is done by government, global media conglomerates, or advertisers. Propaganda is propaganda; omission is omission; and the ignorance and misinformation that result are equally damaging regardless of who bears responsibility." Johnson cited the data on Americans' misperceptions about the 2003 Iraq War, and urged the group to think beyond "censorship" to the range of factors inhibiting citizens' access to the information and opinion necessary for their functioning in a popular democracy. Uploaded October 14, 2006; Delivered October 21, 2005; linked from here November 1, 2005.
"Fork in the Road and Alternative Futures" Nicholas Johnson was the opening panelist at the "Town Meeting on the Future of Media," sponsored by FreePress and attended by FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein and Commissioner Michael Copps assistant Jordan Goldstein. He spoke of the deterioration of FCC standards over the past 35 years, and the alternative future the agency might choose. The event, attended by approximately 500 persons, was held October 5, 2005. This advance text was posted to the Web October 11, 2005. An audio version of the evening is also available, and linked from this text.
"Why You Should Care Who Serves on the FCC" Not withstanding the headline, this op ed column focuses on "why you should care who holds the license to your local TV station," and alerts readers to a somewhat unprecedented opportunity to meet with -- and testify before -- two FCC commissioners at a forum in Iowa City, Iowa, on October 5, 2005. The column touches on everything from the impact of televised violence to the quality of children's programs as reasons why TV's audience should "be there." Published in The Gazette, September 25, 2005, and posted to the Web site September 26.
"Your Second Priority" Johnson says that for 40 years he's been telling labor and other organizations, "Whatever is your first priority, your second priority has to be media reform." In these 2005 Labor Day remarks to the Iowa City Federation of Labor Labor Day Picnic he provides a number of illustrations of the hostility of America's corporate, mainstream media to a presentation of the concerns of labor, from the perspective of labor. He notes the October 5, 2005, Free Press-sponsored FCC Hearing in Iowa City and urges the audience's participation. Uploaded as a link from the "Nicholas Johnson and Media Reform" Web site September 6, 2005.
"Power Question is Simple One" Nicholas Johnson explains why "The public power questions are both more simple than first appear for the voters, and more complicated than first appear for the lawyers." This op ed column was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and uploaded to this site, on August 29, 2005.
"The Significance of Iowa City's 'Public Power' Vote; Where Are the Relevant Statutory Provisions and What Do They Say?" Nicholas Johnson doesn't offer a "legal opinion" as such, but does try to work his way through the possibly relevant statutes and their apparent meaning in an effort he describes as an "intellectual exercise" in an effort to figure out what will be happening, legally, when the voters go to the polls on November 8, 2005. First written August 1, 2005, and linked from this site August 29, 2005.
"Is the FCC Wrong to Hire the Religious Right?" Nicholas Johnson was a guest on "The Mike Webb Show," KIRO-AM, Seattle, Washington, the evening of August 11, 2005. The primary subjects during Mike Webb's interview of Johnson were issues related to the FCC's recent hiring of Peggy Nance. A former board member of Concerned Women of America, Mediaweek described Nance as an "anti-pornography activist and former lobbyist for groups that push for Christian precepts in public policy." (The full article can be accessed from this link.) She was hired to work in the FCC's Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis. This transcript of Johnson's side of the interview was uploaded August 22, 2005.
"Perils of Public Payment for Private Projects" Four articles in the July 21 and 22 Des Moines Register prompted Nicholas Johnson to this comment and listing of seven categories of concerns raised when private land (eminent domain) or cash (taxes) is transferred from one individual or group to another private individual or business by the State for what's represented to be "public purposes." Written July 22, and uploaded July 27, 2005.
"The Trifecta of Local Development" Three major development projects, discussed in three Iowa City Press-Citizen stories on July 21, reminded Nicholas Johnson of Molly Ivins' description of some of her fellow citizens of Texas who believe that "more is better and too much is not enough." The projects included a $200 million proposal for a town of 1500, a $107 million project for a town under 1000 population, and yet another housing and industrial development for Iowa City-Coralville. Written July 21 and uploaded July 27, 2005.
"How to Violate Copyright Without Copying Anything" The Gazette editorialized regarding the Grokster case, "Stop Bumming Your Music" (July 1, 2005). It wrote "What Grokster is doing is wrong. And by extension, those illegally downloading copyrighted songs are wrong, too." In this Gazette op ed column Johnson responds, "The Gazette got it backward." The question, the central question in the case, is whether Grokster (which copied nothing; it simply made its software available) has violated the copyright laws "by extension" because those using its software were violating copyright. "The challenge," writes Johnson, "lies in striking the balance between encouraging technological and intellectual progress on the one hand, and preventing theft on the other." Published and uploaded July 10, 2005.
"KUD-Rain Forest 'Understanding' Retains, Creates Questions" On June 23, 2005, local papers reported that the negotiations between the rain forest project and KUD were underway. (See "Rain Forest Hires Rain Man; A Commentary on Rain Forest Project's Negotiation with KUD," below.) By July 7 they reported that a $5.5 million memorandum of understanding had been signed. Nicholas Johnson reviews the terms of the understanding, and notes that most-to-all of the previously unanswered questions regarding the project remain. KUD, well regarded as a contractor and project manager, is not primarily known for its fundraising abilities, and the project is still at least $90 million short. Written July 8, and posted to the rain forest Web site July 11, 2005.
"What Works: Colonial Williamsburg and Coralville's Rain Forest" Following a June 8 visit to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's facilities in Williamsburg, Virginia, and research on the Foundation's Web site, Nicholas Johnson presents his analysis of the features of this "attraction" that have made it so popular with visitors from around the world. The piece is, thus, comparable to the July 17, 2004, Des Moines Register op ed, "Coralville Project Can't Match Up to Omaha's Zoo," below, which analyzed the Henry Doorly Zoo from this perspective and then compared its qualities with those of the Coralville rain forest proposal. Based on his analysis Johnson concludes that the rain forest promoters' promises of attendance may be overly optimistic. Written June 29 and uploaded July 1, 2005.
"Public Finance and Public Broadcasting" Nicholas Johnson was the guest of host Gayane Torosyan on WSUI-AM, Iowa City, Talk of Iowa, June 22, 2005. This is a transcript of Part 2 of 2 from that guest appearance. The subject was the public financing of public broadcasting, the $100 million cuts being discussed in the House of Representatives at that time, the early origins of public broadcasting, and the original intention to keep it's programming free of political pressure from the White House and Congress, and its funding free of the pressure of commercial underwriting. Part 1, below, used the proposed Coralville rain forest as a case study. Recorded June 22, transcribed and uploaded June 27, 2005.
"Rain Forest Hires Rain Man; A Commentary on Rain Forest Project's Negotiation with KUD" The Gazette and the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported on June 23 that the rain forest project was negotiating with John Best of KUD to take over consulting responsibilities for fund raising, design and construction of the project. The Iowa Pork Forest blog site responded. This commentary is Nicholas Johnson's response, with the provision of links to the articles, blog site, and the consulting firms' Web sites. Posted June 24, 2005.
"Public Finance and the Coralville Rain Forest" Nicholas Johnson was the guest of host Gayane Torosyan on WSUI-AM, Iowa City, Talk of Iowa, June 22, 2005. This is a transcript of Part 1 of 2 from that guest appearance. The subject was the process and propriety of public financing of for-profit and non-profit projects. Part 1 used the proposed Coralville rain forest as a case study. (Part 2 dealt with the public funding of public broadcasting.) Recorded June 22, transcribed June 23, and uploaded June 24, 2005.
"Senators Refuse Condemnation of Lynching" Following the U.S. Senate vote on S.Res. 39, apologizing for the Senate's failure over the years to condemn lynching, contributors to The Carpetbagger Report: Reality-Based Commentary, Analysis, and Tirades on Politics in America discussed which senators did, and did not, co-sponsor the resolution. Johnson researched official sources and reported the results: about half of the 87 who co-sponsored the resolution did so in February, when it was first offered, and another half in June, just before the vote; 8 co-sponsored it after the voice vote; 13 never co-sponsored it. Written and submitted to The Carpetbagger Report on June 19, 2005, uploaded to this site June 24, 2005.
"Unfocused and Unfunded, Rain Forest Inspires Mostly Questions," The Des Moines Register editorialized in support of the Coralville rain forest on April 25, 2005: "Fund the Unexpected, the Iowa Rain Forest" (linked from Nicholas Johnson's Coralville rain forest Web site). "Unfocused and Unfunded" is Johnson's letter to the editor responding to that editorial. The Register editorialized the project is "not as crazy-sounding as it once was." Johnson's response points out that one full year after the Register's earlier editorial endorsement the project still has no name, not one dime more funding, no focus, specific plans, budgets, nor realistic projections of ongoing operating funds. Published, and uploaded to the Web site, June 5, 2005.
"Media Responsibility and the Iowa License Renewals" Nicholas Johnson was the guest on the Iowa-statewide "Talk of Iowa" radio program May 31, 2005. The host was Gayane Torosyan. The program is carried on WSUI-AM, Iowa City, and WOI-AM, Ames. The program was truncated from its usual 60 minutes to 20 because of President George W. Bush's news conference. This "Talk of Iowa" program is scheduled to be continued May 22. Meanwhile, during the available 20 minutes the topic discussed was the St. Louis Media Reform Conference (May 12-15), the Iowa TV station license renewals due at the FCC in late 2005, and the recent formation of Iowans for Better Local TV, which Johnson described as one of hundreds of local groups springing up across the country. Audio posted May 31, 2005, transcript posted June 2, 2005.
"Broadcasting and It's Regulation: 1895-1970" Nicholas Johnson participated in "The FCC Past and Present" panel at the National Conference on Media Reform, St. Louis, May 14, 2005, along with former FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani (now with the United Church of Christ, Office of Communication) and sitting Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. Johnson's extemporaneous remarks, arguing that officials in the 1920s were more aware of the risks of media power than officials today, are available in this transcript. An audio recording of the entire panel is available at http://www.freepress.net/conference/=sessions (scroll down to "Saturday May 14 9:00 A.M"). Posted to the Web May 28, 2005.
"The Register's Rain Forest Endorsement: A Summary Response" The Des Moines Register once again editorialized in support of the rain forest on April 25, 2005, saying the project is now "not as crazy-sounding as it once was." With links to, and quotes from its current and past editorials, Johnson questions that conclusion, listing the categories of questions that have yet to be addressed, let alone answered, if the rain forest promoters' dreams are to be transformed into fiscally-responsible detailed plans. Written and posted April 26, 2005.
"What's New? Evaluating Iowa Child's $20 Million Application" and "The Rain Forest Education Plan" Has the Coralville Rain Forest project's application for $20 million from the Community Attractions and Tourism fund, or its newly proposed "Education Plan" helped resolve any of the long-pending questions and concerns about this project? Johnson thinks not, and explains in these two "blogs" written, and posted, the days of the announcements: April 20 and 21, 2005.
"Time to Build or Get Off the Lot" A Coralville Rain Forest local advisory council member, Sandra Hudson, wrote a column in the local paper revealing that it was a "misconception" to think of the project as a tourist attraction insofar as "the primary intent is scientific research and education." This column is Nicholas Johnson's response. He notes that there has been no shortage of promoters' dreams over the nine years of the project's evolution (including dreams of a scientific research center). The problems have involved tethering those dreams to reality. There is still a $90 million shortfall in funding this $180 million project, the name keeps changing, there is no focus on a single dream, the promoters resist transparency regarding specific plans, programs, and budgets. Johnson concludes, "Now why don't they pick just one [of those conflicting dreams], share with use their detailed budgets, construction and program plans -- and 'show us the money.'" Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and posted here, April 11, 2005.
"Politicians Lie" The Iowa Legislature gave some consideration to a law prohibiting a politician from lying about his or her opponents. Steve Nicoles of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, station KCRG-TV9, interviewed Nicholas Johson about the bill and used a couple of lines from that interview in brief news story broadcast on various newscasts March 10 and 11, 2005. (Johnson noted that "political speech" lies at the core of what the Supreme Court protects under the First Amendmetn.) This transcript of the story was posted here March 28, 2005.
"Why Iowa Needs to Raise Its Cigarette Tax" Nicholas Johnson identifies four issues involved in reducing the disease and medical costs associated with cigarette smoking: alternatives for tobacco farmers, seriously addicted adults, secondhand smoke effects, and concludes that the most cost-effective approach is to concentrate on reducing the numbers of young, new, "replacement smokers" -- which can be done most effectively by raising the price of cigarettes. "And that's why Iowa needs to increase its cigarette tax." Published as a letter to the editor in The Gazette, March 11, 2005, and uploaded March 14, 2005.
"The Responsibilities of Philosopher Kings" Nicholas Johnson was invited to address the 2005 Drake Law Review Banquet in Des Moines, Iowa. This is the advance text of his remarks on that occasion. He spoke of the threats to our concept of democracy under the "rule of law," including the threats to judges here and abroad, and the responsibility of law school graduates to defend our system, and provide public policy leadership, not unlike what Plato advocated some 2500 years ago in the Republic as the role of his propsed "philosopher kings." The address was presented March 11, 2005, and uploaded here March 14, 2005.
"Indecency in Broadcasting" The subject for the WSUI-AM910 segment of "Talk of Iowa" on March 9, 2005, was indecency in broadcasting and the Congressional and FCC response. This is a transcript of the exchanges between Nicholas Johnson, host Gayane Torosyan and Guest Lyombe S. Eko during the program. Uploaded to the Web March 14, 2005.
"Hypocrisy and Indecency in Broadcasting" Nicholas Johnson was a guest on "The Mike Webb Show," KIRO-AM, Seattle, Washington, the evening of March 1, 2005. The primary subject during Mike Webb's interview of Johnson was the current emphasis on regulation of indecency in broadcasting. This transcript of Johnson's side of the interview was uploaded March 14, 2005.
"'No Child' Leaves Kids Behind" This op ed takes the position that while there may be faults with the administration of the No Child Left Behind Act, its underlying purpose -- to help all children learn and narrow the academic gap between the under- and over-privileged -- both remains valid and requires some system of measurement and comparison of results. Those who merely bash No Child Left Behind without offering better ways to achieve its goals raise serious questions about the genuineness of their commitment to all K-12 students. The column was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen and uploaded here March 8, 2005.
"Is Ward Churchill a Conservative?" University of Colorado tenured professor Ward Churchill, in making the point that the U.S. policy and diplomatic/military/economic program of violence, death and exploitation abroad is likely to provide a backlash in the form of terrorist attacks on the United States, included in his rhetoric a reference to the occupants of the Twin Towers on 9/11 as "little Eichmanns." The outburst of outrage that expression occasioned included everything from calls for his firing to death threats. Meanwhile, credentialed conservatives were making the same points in a different language. Johnson poses a little quiz for Churchill's critics to see if they can identify which statements came from whom, and concludes with concern over a public willingness to "shoot the messenger" not so much for what he says but for the way he says it. Published in the University of Iowa's Daily Iowan, and posted here, February 28, 2005.
"10 Questions With Nicholas Johnson" Bill and Fred Jacobs, of Jacobs Media, have an interview feature they call "10 Questions With . . .." For the feature on February 21, 2005, they selected Nicholas Johnson as the interviewee. A number of the questions addressed aspects of the then-current FCC's focus on "indecency" in programming, and others on the FCC's relationship to the audience in general and advocates' production of massive e-mail and other campaigns in particular. Posted to this site February 26, 2005.
"Open Minds About Open Meetings" This op ed column draws from the Drake Law Review article, listed four items below, "Open Meetings and Closed Minds: Another Road to the Mountaintop." Iowa law requires that multi-headed agencies (such as commissions, a city council or school board) deliberate and make decisions in "open meetings" (that is, meetings which the public and media have the right to attend). The law says its purpose is to ensure "that the basis and rationale of governmental decisions . . . are easily accessible to the people." There is, however, no requirement that the agency reveal that "basis and rationale," and it often fails to emerge from open discussions. Johnson argues agencies should have, as an option, the alternative given to courts: closed deliberations followed by reasoned, written opinions -- as well as the freedom to engage in closed, creative brainstorming sessions when there is no proposed decision on the table. Published in the Des Moines Register, and uploaded here February 18, 2005.
"Rain Forest Dreams and Deficits" This op ed column is Nicholas Johnson's response to an earlier editorial in the [Eastern Iowa] Gazette, "Reversing Iowa Stagnation," December 23, 2004. The Gazette had editorialized that "we like the risk and potential reward of The Environmental Project" (the indoor $180 million rain forest project proposed for Coralville, Iowa). Johnson asks, "How can you know?" you like or don't like the "risk and potential reward" of a project that, nine years into the effort, is (a) $90 million short of its $180 million goal and has raised nothing over the past 10 months, (b) still hasn't settled on a name, let alone a clear focus (from among possible missions as varied as corporate demonstration projects, amusement attraction, serious scientific research center, and teacher training facility), and (c) either doesn't yet have, or has but stonewalls about the revelation of, detailed plans and budgets for the construction and operation of whatever the promoters eventually settle on wanting to do? Published in the Gazette as "Bold Thinking Requires Focus to Match Potential," January 9, 2005, and uploaded here January 10.
"Principles of Red Lion on the Endangered List" The Prometheus case, reviewing FCC ownership standards, gives broadcasters the opportunity to challenge the Red Lion case in the Supreme Court (the case upholding the Fairness Doctrine, subsequently repealed by the FCC). Broadcasters argue there is no longer a "scarcity" of frequencies to justify FCC regulation of conentration. Johnson disagrees, drawing on both the historical origins of government regulation and the purposes of the First Amendment. Published in the December 20, 2004, issue of Television Week and uploaded to this Web site December 25.
"Can [Animal Rights] Research Conflict be Resolved?" A University of Iowa animal research lab was trashed in November 2004 by what was believed to be members of a group called the Animal Liberation Front. The predominent response from administrators and researchers alike was to condemn the "terrorism" and call for greater security. Johnson writes that one of the very purposes of the First Amendment is the substitution of informed dialogue for violence, and proposes the animal researchers at least consider the strategy of more open transparency. He suggests they post to the Internet the full details of each animal experiment along with their explanations of why the experiment involves substantial potential human benefit, absolutely requires the use of animals in the research, and utilizes the absolute mininum number of animals necessary, and causes them the minimum possible pain and other harm. Published as an op ed column in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and posted here, December 23, 2004.
"Open Meetings and Closed Minds: Another Road to the Mountaintop" In this Drake Law Review article Nicholas Johnson asserts that Iowa's current open meetings law is both over-inclusive and under-inclusive, and self-defeating of its ostensible purpose ("that the basis and rationale of governmental decisions . . . are easily accessible to the people"). There is no assurance that requiring that all "deliberations" of multi-headed agencies be held in public will reveal the "basis and rationale" of their decisions. There is, however, a high probability that it will seriously interfere with creative brainstorming and thorough exploration of the issues underlying those decisions. If reasoned opinions from an otherwise secretive decision making process of the Supreme Court of the United States are thought adequate, he asks, why are they not a perfectly acceptable option for a small town school board in Iowa? The article appears in 53 Drake L. Rev. 11 (2004) (volume 53, number 1, distributed in mid-December 2004). It was posted here December 20, 2004.
"Media Concentration: An Historical Perspective" FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein have "gone public" in both senses over their concern about the current FCC rush to media consolidation: they have expressed their views in dissenting opinions, and they have gone to the public to seek input from the public regarding the impact that FCC-encouraged concentration of media control has had on the public. They have done this in a series of public "Forums" around the country. They invited Nicholas Johnson to speak at one of their Forums, this one in St. Paul, Minnesota. This link goes to his prepared remarks on that occasion, presented December 9 and posted here December 20, 2004.
"Nicholas Johnson and Media Reform" In anticipation of the FCC Forum (see immediately above), a new Web site was created that provides links to at least a small sampling of Nicholas Johnson's past and current articles and speeches regarding media issues generally. This link goes directly; there is also a "Media Reform" link to it from near the top of the "Main Page" (reached by clicking on "Enter Here" from the opening site, www.nicholasjohnson.org). Posted here December 7, 2004.
"Media's Role in Citizen Activism" Barbara Ehrenreich, lecturer and widely published author, most notably in this connection of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (Metropolitan Books, 2001), delivered a campus-wide lecture at the University of Iowa on November 15, 2004. She discussed, among other things, citizen activism generally. Following her lecture there was a question and answer exchange with members of the audience. What is linked here is her exchange with Nicholas Johnson. The event was held November 15; the exchange was posted here December 20, 2004.
"Dear Vice President Agnew" Although this 1970 New York Times article is, in 2004, scarcely a "recent publication," it has recently been uncovered, scanned and uploaded to the Web both because of its historical interest and its current relevance. President Nixon's Vice President, Spiro Agnew was occasionally used by the Nixon Administration to attack its "liberal" enemies. When things weren't going all that well for the Administration in late 1970, Agnew launched an attack on the "drug culture" represented in rock music lyrics. Then-FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson took on the Vice President, pointing out that (a) many of the lyrics could only, fairly, be characterized as anti-drug, (b) the Administration was reluctant to do anything about the "drug pushers" of alcohol, nicotine, and the nation's pill cuture (who happened to be major campaign contributors), (c) nor was it seemingly willing to tackle many of the conditions that, in Johnson's view, were giving rise to the demand for drugs. Published by the New York Times, October 11, 1970, it was uploaded to this site 34 years later, on November 11, 2004.
"Election As a Civics Class" Many schools provide for anonymous student evaluations of professors. So how do we "students" (citizens) evaluate our "professors" (candidates) following this semester-long civics class (presidential campaign)? Nicholas Johnson thinks they skipped too many chapters in the text book: citizen empowerment, campaign contributors' abuses, the role of third parties, impending economic disaster, and the reluctance of candidates to disclose their positions on the issues when asked. It was published as an op ed in the Des Moines Register, and posted here, November 6, 2004.
"Democrats' Recovery Begins by Looking in the Mirror" This is Nicholas Johnson's early "morning after the night before" reaction to the Democrats' handling of the November 2, 2004, presidential election. Johnson believes the party has lost its way, without a vision, ideology, program or even political strategy. He expresses the hope that, without Nader to scapegoat, the party's leadership "will, at long last, take a look in the mirror, finally devise our own 30-year strategy [as the Republicans did], and begin the long, hard walk down the dusty road to recovery." It was published as an op ed column in the [Eastern Iowa] Gazette, and was posted here, November 4, 2004.
"Selected Writing About Nicholas Johnson" This new Web site was uploaded October 26, 2004, as a beginning list of articles and other writing by others about Nicholas Johnson -- primarily regarding his role as an FCC commissioner (1966-1973). As originally created it contains links to the full text of many of the publications, more of which will be added as they are uncovered.
"Sinclair’s Political Advocacy and the Public Interest" Text based upon Don Shelby's interview of Nicholas Johnson regarding the then-current controversy surrounding the Sinclair stations' proposed broadcast of what was essentially a propaganda attack on Democratic presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry, close to the time of the November 2, 2004, election. The interview was aired on "The Don Shelby Show," WCCO-AM 830, Minneapolis, October 12, 2004, and uploaded here October 19, 2004.
"Birthday Greetings to Z102.9" Nicholas Johnson's October 7, 2004, on-air exchange with KZIA-FM's Scott Schulte on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Eliot Keller and Rob Norton's license being granted by Johnson's former Federal Communications Commission. Posted October 17, 2004.
"Teleprompters and Media Ethics" Nicholas Johnson asks if it's possible General John Abizaid's interview on Tim Russert's September 26, 2004, "Meet the Press" could possibly have involved the prior availability of the questions to the General, and his use of a teleprompter for reading the answers. Posted to the Tung Yin Blog September 27, and to this Web site October 17, 2004.
"Can't See the Forest Or the Trees" This op ed column, drawn from "Boosterism and the Fog of Rain Forests," below, was published in the (Eastern Iowa) Corridor Business Journal, October 4, 2004, issue and uploaded to this site October 5, 2004.
"Boosterism and the Fog of Rain Forests" The Iowa City Sunrise Optimist Club asked Nicholas Johnson to update the members as to his perspective on the proposed indoor rain forest in Coralville, Iowa. Characterizing himself as "neither booster nor basher" Johnson described some of the still unresolved issues, the $90 million shortfall on this $180 million project, and with reference to "benefit-cost" and "risk assessment" analysis addressed the uncertainty the project will produce the necessary operating revenue over the long haul, and the options confronting the local community if it does not. This advance text was made available October 3, 2004; the talk was presented October 5.
"'The Corporation' and the Search for Agreement" The Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan film, "The Corporation," presents a fairly thorough and powerful array of corporate abuses. As such, it stimulates a "piling on" by those pre-disposed to lay many of society's problems on corporations -- as it equally stimulates those who teach or study business to take positions that are either dismissive or defensive. Having seen the film twice, and attended a discussion of it at the University of Iowa College of Business, Nicholas Johnson prepared these comments in response to the positions advocated by both the antagonists and defenders of corporations. Posted here October 1, 2004.
"Media as Politics: What's a Voter to Do?" Advance text of Nicholas Johnson's convocation lecture at Earlham College. Johnson contends that "those who own the country" (John Jay's phrase) continue to hold the view that they should run it, and are aided in doing so by a mass media that is successful in "manufacturing consent" (Noam Chomsky's phrase). He offers suggestions by way of attemtps to answer "what's a voter to do?" involving both media reform and political reforms. This lengthy text (much of which was not actually delivered) is complete with dozens of links to Internet sources. The lecture was delivered September 15, 2004, and the text posted here September 17.
"Media Talk." Transcript of Nicholas Johnson's comments during hour-long interview on Dave Berkman's Wisconsin Public Radio network program, "Media Talk," July 9, 2004. The exchange ranged over a number of subjects including the "public interest" standard and responsibility of broadcasters, the consequences of the growing concentration of media power in fewer and fewer hands, especially when coupled with the Supreme Court's view that with the mass media owner's freedom to speak goes his or her First Amendment right to exclude all others, and the current FCC and Congressional emphasis on indecency in broadcasting. Transcribed and posted August 1, 2004.
"Coralville Project Can't Match Up to Omaha's Zoo" Nicholas Johnson's Des Moines Register op ed column of July 17, 2004, itemizes the differences between the secrets of the financial success of Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo (which includes a rain forest) and the boosters' claims for the as yet unbuilt, and only half-funded, Coralville Rain Forest scheduled for "ceremonial" ground breaking in the fall of 2004. As the Register excerpted from the column, "'Vision' is the easy part. The challenge is in balancing the books." Posted here July 17, 2004.
"Progress or Dystopia for Community Media?" Nicholas Johnson, who as FCC Commissioner played a major role in the creation of community cable access channels, addresses the accomplishments and challenges confronting the community media movement, including its version of Pogo's observation that, "We have found the enemy and he is us." Published in the Spring 2004 issue of Community Media Review, received July 15, 2004, and uploaded here July 17, 2004.
"Nicholas Johnson's Major Magazine Articles." This Web site contains links to the full text (mostly in pdf format) of many of the articles written by Nicholas Johnson and published in major magazines, the bulk of which were published during his FCC tenure (1966-1973). Uploaded July 14, 2004.
"Law Review and Law-Related Articles." Formerly only available as bibliographic entries, there is now a Web site with links to the full text of the 33 law review and law-related articles written by Nicholas Johnson from 1956 to the present. Completed and uploaded June 29, 2004.
"FCC Debate Masks Issues." In this Iowa City Press-Citizen Sunday feature, "Q & A," former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson responds to Jeff Charis-Carlson's questions about the role of the FCC in particular and the recent crackdown on "obscenity" in particular, with some alternative theories as to what's really going on here. Published June 27, 2004, and posted here July 1, 2004.
"Wendell Johnson Audio Lectures and Other Audio Material." Wendell Johnson's University of Iowa general semantics lectures from the fall semesters of 1962 and 1963 have been copied from 40-year-old reel-to-reel audio tapes into digital format and are now available from a streaming server along with other, related, audio material of interest. Completed and uploaded June 25, 2004.
"Looking for Insights on Blogs." Nicholas Johnson discusses the role of "blogs" in the online world of public policy commentary, with an example from a blogger's insight about public finance. Privately financed ventures, whether by shareholders or bankers, require rigorous review of business plans. Publicly financed projects, such as the Coralville Rain Forest, not only have no institution to provide rigorous review, they often don't even have detailed business plans. Johnson notes that while public officials have received contributions from the forest's backers, none have given contributions to the project. He quotes the proposal of blogger "Tusk & Talon" that public officials be given a financial stake in public spending by awarding them a personal contribution of a percentage of all wasteful spending they succeed in curtailing. "Of course Iowans need 'vision.' But is this one 20/20? There's no one to tell us." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and posted here, June 3, 2004.
"What's Kerry Thinking?" Nicholas Johnson attempts some verbal reverse engineering in trying to figure out what political campaign strategy would have brought Kerry to the kind of campaign he is running and positions he is taking. Posted here May 15, 2004.
"Labels and the Law." This excerpt from Kirk Johnson, "Kobe Bryant Enters Plea of Not Guilty," New York Times, May 12, 2004, quotes Johnson addressing the legal and general semantics significance of the use of the word "victim" to designate the woman involved in a case of alleged rape when the defendant's defense is that the sex occurred but was consensual -- a controversy that was very real in the Kobe Bryant trial. Posted May 15, 2004.
"Lessons from Abu Ghraib." Nicholas Johnson finds additional lessons in the pictures from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Why did administrators finally react to the pictures when they had ignored for months the "much worse" written reports from the International Red Cross and others? (1) Johnson suggests is it not uncommon for administrators of a variety of large institutions to be more concerned about public relations than the substantive problems of which they are (or ought to be) aware -- and which they are being paid handsomely to resolve. (2) That being the case, it is even more essential that our mass media courageously perform their constitutional "checking value" role, and that censorship -- whether external or self-censorship -- be seen for the literally un-American act it is. Published in the University of Iowa's Daily Iowan, and posted here, May 11, 2004.
"The Neutrino Explanation of the Ploggly Hypothesis." During the WSUI-AM910 program "Talk of Iowa," Nicholas Johnson, guest physics professor Dr. Mary Hall Reno, and host Dennis Reese, exchange views regarding the scientific method: the ploggly theory of pencil shavings and the neutrino theory of energy and matter. Broadcast May 4 and posted here May 7, 2004.
"Getting Businesses to Do More." Nicholas Johnson offers some new ways to think about the socially positive contributions of business people, from "doing well by doing good," to using for-profits to accomplish non-profits' missions, to innovative ways to give more than money and tiime (such as advertising that informs the public while promoting the business, or volunteer time that makes full use of the business person's talents), as well as things that consumers can do to affect the business climate. Published as an op ed column in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and posted here, May 4, 2004.
"The University of Iowa and the Historic Melrose Neighborhood." As the University of Iowa grows and builds it acquires increasing quantities of land -- often destroying historic Iowa City neighborhoods in the process. One such neighborhood is the Melrose Neighborhood, bounded by Melrose Avenue to the north, the original Rock Island Railroad tracks to the south, and Riverside Drive to the east. Nicholas Johnson has created this new Web site as a place from which to link photos, maps and other information about one of the first areas to be settled west of the Iowa River and the home of many persons affiliated with the University. First created April 30, 2004.
"Will Rain Forest be a Boon or Boondoggle?" Nicholas Johnson's Des Moines Register op ed column of April 29, 2004, summarizes the range of as yet unidentified or unaddressed issues still surrounding the "Iowa Environmental/Education Project" with only a few months remaining before ground breaking in the fall of 2004. He concludes, "To make this project successful, borrowing from the country song, 'We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.' We might make it still. But until the promoters are willing to provide the media and public with a roadmap, destination, credit card and gas gauge, our odds aren't very good." Posted here April 29, 2004.
"The Coralville Rain Forest: A Brief Overview of Remaining Issues" On April 7, 2004, Citizens Against Government Waste gave Senator Charles Grassley their "Soak the Taxpayers Award" for the $50 million rain forest gift from federal taxpayers and designated the project "the poster child of pork." Much national publicity followed. Believing the focus on such ridicule diverts everyone's attention from a whole host of categories of very serious questions about a project scheduled to begin construction in six months, Nicholas Johnson drew up this annotated list. It is supported by references to statements of promoters and others from Iowa City Press-Citizen stories since 2000. Posted here April 9, 2004 (and subsequently revised).
"The Elephant in the Rain Forest." Following a March 22, 2004, open public forum sponsored by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, at which 11 spokespersons for what is now called the Iowa Environmental/Education Project praised its virtues, Nicholas Johnson believes there are still "many other categories of questions crying out for answers." Among those categories, "the elephant in the living room" -- or, in this case, the rain forest -- is the challenge of coming up with an additional $90 million in up-front capital before the scheduled groundbreaking in the fall of 2004. Published in the Press-Citizen as an op ed column, and posted here, March 25, 2004.
"Rain Forest Issues and Concerns." Putting some brief thoughts and questions together prior to attending a March 22, 2004, open public forum sponsored by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, at which the promoters of the Iowa Environmental/Education Project (formerly "Iowa Child") were scheduled to present its details, this is what Nicholas Johnson came up with for himself. Written March 22, 2004, and posted here March 24, 2004.
"Programming Indecency and the FCC." This transcript of an interview of Nicholas Johnson on KPBS-FM, San Diego, conducted by Tom Fudge, covers a wide range of subjects, but begins with, and emphasizes, the then-current focus on "indecency" in broadcasting from Congress and the FCC. This attention was widely believed to have been motivated by the public comment following a Janet Jackson routine during the Superbowl halftime entertainment. The program aired March 10, 2004; the transcript was uploaded to this site March 21, 2004.
"What Are Nader's Options?" Nicholas Johnson asks UI Professor Peverill Squire, if you don't want Ralph Nader to run for president as an independent, what alternative strategy can you offer him for doing something about the big money contributions that eat at our democracy like a cancer? I suspect Nader would welcome any workable alternatives. A "Talk of Iowa" transcript from the February 23, 2004, program on WSUI, posted here March 5, 2004.
"Public Investment, Private Profit: A Decision Tree." Between the economic activity that is clearly private sector, and that which is traditionally governmental, are an increasing array of combinations of the two. Nicholas Johnson does not argue that overlap should never be permitted. But he does offer a draft "decision tree" as a way of working one's way through the analysis of when the intertwining of public resources and private profit is appropriate and when it should be prohibited -- or at least heavily conditioned. Originally written as an e-mail February 26, 2004, it has been modified and uploaded here May 1, 2004.
"Rain Forest Questions Remain." "Is the 'Iowa Child' rain forest financially viable? Asking the question isn't 'opposition.' It's common sense." Nicholas Johnson points out that Coralville, Iowa, isn't the "destination" that Washington or San Francisco are. Where will the visitors, especially repeat visitors, come from? Comparable "attractions" all across America "open on fleecy clouds of confidence only to fall into seas of red ink." Why will this one be different? The public's paying for the construction, and may have to pick up the pieces when it fails. It deserves answers to these questions. Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen as an op ed column, and posted here, February 16, 2004.
"Superbowls and Less Than Super Leadership." WCCO-AM's Don Shelby interviews Nicholas Johnson regarding the FCC then and now, with focus on the Superbowl half-time entertainment in general and the Janet Jackson routine in particular, journalism and other programming quality, the consequences of conglomerate corporate ownership, and other matters. Recorded February 11 and posted here March 2, 2004.
"Jackson Reaction Seems Odd." Nicholas Johnson is interviewed by the Iowa City Press-Citizen's "Sunday Q&A" reporter about Janet Jackson's Super Bowl performance and the FCC's reaction. Johnson suggests the FCC might better begin by investigating the sexual offensiveness of commercials. Published, and posted here, February 8, 2004.
"Why Do Networks Send TV Programs to Iowa Before the East Coast?" Nicholas Johnson answers a caller's question regarding why Iowans are sent their network television programming one hour "earlier" than viewers on the east coast. The exchange occurred during the lighthearted "Our Big Brain" edition of "Talk of Iowa," WSUI-AM, February 5, 2004, and was posted here February 6.
"Is Kerry 'Bush Lite'?" Nicholas Johnson asks WOI-AM's Dr. Politics on "Talk of Iowa" whether there's a risk to the Democrats nominating a candidate to oppose Bush's war, Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and lobbyist support who, as senator, voted for the war, Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and has received more lobbyist money than any other senator. The program aired February 3, 2004; the transcript was posted February 4.
"Iowa Child: Question About Questions." Nicholas Johnson asks the Iowa Child chief administrator, David Oman, why it is so difficult for the public to get answers to basic questions about the financial viability and other aspects of the Iowa Child project. This is a transcript of the exchange on WSUI-AM's "Talk of Iowa," January 26, 2004, posted here February 4, 2004.
"Iowa Caucus Evaluation." Following the Iowa caucuses, January 19, 2004, Nicholas Johnson explains the process and analyzes Dennis Kucinich's results in a comment entered in the Kucinich4President Yahoo! Group discussion. Posted here January 20.
"Kucinich Compassionate, Courageous, Electable." "If everyone who resonates to Dennis Kucinich would vote for him he’d not only be electable, he’d be elected." He, alone among the Democratic candidates is willing to stand up to the military-industrial complex, the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, because "He knows we can neither win elections nor survive as a species by capitulation to corporations or by confrontation with the world." Given how poorly the other candidates do in polls pitting them, one at a time, against President Bush, and given Daniel Brown's analysis of the numbers, "Kucinich is not just the wisest choice, he may be Democrats’ only choice." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and posted here, January 14, 2004.
"Comment on Kurt Nimmo's 'Ashcroft Goes After the Left." Having lived through the years of Hitler, Senator McCarthy and COINTELPRO, Johnson quotes the famous lines from Martin Niemoller, and urges readers to object to this Administration's policies. Posted January 4, 2004.
"Can Howard Dean Win?" The Des Moines Register's David Yepsen, and WSUI-AM's host Al Kern, respond to Nicholas Johnson's "Talk of Iowa" questions for Yepsen regarding Howard Dean. Why are progressives supporting a candidate with such conservative credentials, and does Yepsen think Dean can he beat President Bush? The show aired December 23, 2003.
"The Electability Myth." Half the Democrats can't name a presidential candidate. Popularity among Democratic primary voters doesn't equal ability to beat President Bush. In fact, polls indicate that none can as of December 2003. Moreover, there's no meaningful difference between the percentage of the voters favoring one Democrat over another. It's nearly a year until the election; not even a primary vote has yet been cast; voters' preferences can change over night. Put it all together and it makes it a little silly to pick a presidential challenger to Bush on the basis of "electability." Democrats would do better to focus on program if they really want to win back the disaffected -- and Dennis Kucinich's program may be the best to do it. The Daily Iowan, December 18, 2003.
"TV's Presidential Horse Race: Homer to Gazette, Gomer to Television." Nicholas Johnson congratulates and thanks the eastern Iowa Gazette for its series about the Democratic presidential candidates and its full-page comparison of their positions on the issues and takes to task the broadcast media in general, and ABC in particular, for their emphasis on endorsements, polls and money. (ABC pulled its reporter from the Kucinich campaign the day after he complained about TV's focus during the New Hampshire debate, December 10.) The piece appeared on The Gazette's opinion page, December 16, 2003.
"It's Not Which Candidate Can Win, But Which Policies." Nicholas Johnson argues that Iowa Democrats need to focus on helping the Party "regain its soul" by supporting the candidate -- Dennis Kucinich -- who supports the people-oriented policies that can inspire the apathetic, alienated and angry electoral dropouts to register once again as Democrats, attend the caucuses and vote in elections. Iowans shouldn't concern themselves with "who can win." There are plenty of forthcoming primaries, and the Democratic National Convention itself, to sellect the candidate with the greatest possibility of beating President Bush. The piece appeared as an "Iowa View" on the Des Moines Register's Opinion page December 12, 2003.
"A Great Return on Investment." In this December 12, 2003, Iowa City Press-Citizen opinion piece Nicholas Johnson praises the Press-Citizen for researching and reporting the campaign contributions that preceded a congressional grant of $50 million for the "Iowa Child" rainforest project. He goes on to point out that the return -- usually 1000:1, or 2000:1 -- is not an aberration; it is the standard return to campaign contributors over the years. Posted December 12, 2003.
"Kucinich: Health Care, Not Health Insurance." Speaking for Congressman Dennis Kucinich at the AARP Iowa Health Care Forum, Coralville, Iowa, December 8, 2003, Nicholas Johnson explains the congressman's universal, single-payer plan as something supported by 62 percent of the American people and virtually every civilized, industrialized nation on earth -- but not by the four other leading candidates also represented at that event. Posted here December 8, 2003.
"Pill Bill Chock-Full of Defects." Nicholas Johnson argues that the Republicans' bill, supposedly providing pharmaceutical benefits to seniors, may be politically useful in the 2004 election, but won't even go into effect until 2006, by which time (since it forbids pharmaceutical price controls or imports) most seniors may well end up paying more than they do now. The primary beneficiaries, he says, will be the pharmaceutical and insurance companies that have been some of the largest campaign contributors to the senators and members of congress who voted for the bill. This op ed was published in the November 29, 2003, Muscatine [Iowa] Journal, and posted here December 8, 2003.
"We've Got Trouble With a Capital 'P.'" Harold Hill, the Music Man, is back in Iowa, only this time it's not a pool table, it's a real pool: a million-gallon acqurium in a 4.5 acre rain forest called "Iowa Child" that will need to be heated throughout Iowa's winters and cooled in its summers. The Republican Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, says the $70 million contribution of federal tax money makes it a "pork project." Nicholas Johnson agrees: "It does have something of the aroma of a hog lot." Moreover, the secrecy and speed makes it look like "elected officials and backers are trying to sneak into town, under cover of darkness, a questionable project larger than a herd of white elephants and nearly six times costlier than the recently approved school bond issue." Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and posted here, November 18, 2003.
"Kucinich vs. Dean: Pentagon Budget, Pre-Kindergarten and Health Care." Congressman Dennis Kucinich responds on air to Nicholas Johnson's question, via e-mail, regarding differences between him and Governor Howard Dean on issues regarding defense spending, public funding of preschool programs, and health care. "Talk of Iowa," WSUI-AM 910, Iowa City, Iowa, with host Dennis Reese and guest Congressman Dennis Kucinich, November 14, 2003.
"The Limits of Human Subjects Research." Nicholas Johnson and psychiatrist and human subjects researcher Dr. Michael Flaum are engaged in conversation with host Gayane Torosyan regarding the history, effectiveness and detrimental consequences of ethical standards for human subjects research. "Week's End," WSUI-AM 910, Iowa City, Iowa, November 9, 2003.
"The History of Media Reform: Scanning the Horizon." This is the advance text of Nicholas Johnson's remarks at the History of Media Reform Panel of the National Conference on Media Reform in Madison, Wisconsin, November 7, 2003. He offers a broad view of the sweep of what he contends should be considered as "media reform" efforts well beyond the work of the so-called public interest organizations of the 1960s and beyond. Posted here November 7, 2003.
"Kucinich and Education." Nicholas Johnson points out to the student readers of the University of Iowa student newspaper, the Daily Iowan, that while they and others in the state are arguing about the amount of tuition increases, Dennis Kucinish has staffed out and introduced legislation to fully fund education for all from age three through a college degree. Johnson says this is something the U.S. did after World War II that it called "the GI Bill" and that it's worth a serious look now -- if the media could only look at serious issues in the presidential primary rather than report it as a horse race. He concludes the opinion piece, "you have a personal stake in Iowa's precinct caucuses Jan. 19." Published in the Daily Iowan and posted here November 6, 2003.
"Kucinich Fights for Health Care." Nicholas Johnson argues that presidential primary and general election campaigns should be seen as a great opportunity for adult continuing education about citizenship and public policy issues -- and would be if only the media would focus on something other than the candidates' standing in the polls and fund raising. At a time when seemingly everyone is focusing on health care costs Johnson notes that most proposals retain corporate profit-maximizing; meanwhile, Kucinich is proposing, and two-thirds of all Americans support, the kind of "single-payer" program that exists in virtually every civilized, industrialized nation. The opinion piece was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and posted here, October 31, 2003.
"Politics and the Funding of Higher Education." With public higher education confronting deep, deep cuts -- at the University of Iowa and throughout the country -- legislators and educational administrators are accepting the reduction, setting priorities and debating how much to raise tuition. Johnson argues that presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has the more creative and courageous approach: free college tuition for all. It worked when we expanded public education from 8th grade to a full 12 years including high school. It worked for college with the "GI Bill" after World War II, empowering a generation and energizing an economy. It's time to extend public education once again, from K-12 to K-16. Nicholas Johnson's comments were presented to host Dennis Reece, and guest UI Professor Peverill Squire, on the "Talk of Iowa" program over WSUI-AM 910, Iowa City, Iowa, October 27, 2003.
"Dennis Kucinich and the National Democratic Party's Future." This is the prepared text of Nicholas Johnson's talk as a Kucinich "surrogate" at an October 25, 2003, gathering of Iowa Democrats in Des Moines organized by Chet Culver. It offers the party faithful a report and analysis of the national Democratic Party's demise over the last 30 years -- along with Johnson's recommendations regarding how to reverse the trend, and Congressman Kucinich's potential contribution to that result. An earlier version was presented to the Muscatine County [Iowa] Democratic Party Dinner, October 11, 2003.
"Media Concentration and Democracy." This is the text of Nicholas Johnson's presentation to the Iowa City, Iowa, Unitarian-Universalist Church, August 10, 2003. It deals with, among other things, the reasons for the First Amendment, early history of broadcasting regulation, and the multiple adverse consequences from global, multi-media, conglomerate corporate mergers.
"Back PLA Deal for Local Schools." Nicholas Johnson argues "1. The contractors have already won 95 percent of their battle. All we’re talking about is a pilot project for the remaining 5 percent. 2. There are no magic ingredients in PLAs. That’s why they’re called 'agreements.' The parties (district, unions, contractors) can put in them virtually anything they want. So what’s the fight about? For the sake of the kids, let’s get on with it." The opinion piece was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen July 23, 2003.
"Kucinich Backers Aren't Kidding." Nicholas Johnson reports that Congressman Dennis Kucinich supporters believe that not only can he win, he may very well be the only Democrat who can beat President Bush. This Des Moines Register op ed column from July 21, 2003, sets forth their reasoning as to why same-old-same-old capitulation to corporate interests won't cut it.
"Wendell A.L. Johnson Memorial Web Page" was updated July 18, 2003, with links to Nicholas Johnson, "Retroactive Ethical Judgments and Human Subjects Research: The 1939 Tudor Study" -- a paper presented, by invitation, at a City University of New York symposium in December 2002 -- and a couple of articles in the eastern Iowa Gazette: Tom Owen, "When Words Hurt: Stuttering Story Missed the Mark" and "UI Professor's Son Defends Him, Research," both July 13, 2003.
"Is Dean 'a Liberal'?" This well-documented article by Nicholas Johnson is an effort to collect and cite chapter and verse on some of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean's positions on a number of issues. It is, in that sense, a response to any who look at "Who Comes Closest to Your Dreams and Beliefs . . . Kucinich or Dean?" (below) and are so stunned as to believe that its representation of Dean's positions can't possibly be true. It is dated July 7, 2003, and is available in three formats: html, pdf, and doc.
"Who Comes Closest to Your Dreams and Beliefs . . . Kucinich or Dean?" Nicholas Johnson's chart comparing the positions of presidential candidates Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean on 19 issues; it raises questions as to why Dean has been characterized as "liberal" by his supporters and the media. First posted June 25, 2003.
"Another Iowan for Kucinich." Nicholas Johnson prepared and uploaded this new Web page during the last week of June 2003. It provides links to his, and others', endorsements, Web pages and writing about presidential candidate Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
"Want Free Speech Rights? Go Buy a Station." The FCC has proposed weakening its rules limiting mass media ownership. Some in Congress want to hold the agency to its present standards. In this June 23, 2003, Des Moines Register op ed column Nicholas Johnson argues, "Either is unacceptable. . . . FCC and Congress' approval of media concentration is outrageous. But it's made multiples worse when only owners have First Amendment rights, they can censor, own content as well as distribution systems, combine multiple media within one firm, have few to no obligations to their communities and are not even limited by a watered down fairness docgtrine." Uploaded to this site, June 23, 2003.
"PLAs Help Grow Local Economy." Nicholas Johnson responds to an anti-project labor agreement column: "Our state, like our nation, cannot build economic growth on layoffs and reducing wages. And yet that’s what architect John Lind’s June 14 column (“Bad PLA(y) on school building”) urges the school board to perpetuate. . . . PLAs produce savings . . .. That's one of the reasons PLAs are so widely used by experienced builders in the private sector. They are more likely to complete projects with quality workmanship, ahead of schedule and under budget. Why deny the public sector these benefits? Don’t our school children deserve as much?" The piece was published on the opinion page by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and uploaded to this site, June 21, 2003.
Nicholas Johnson Regarding the June 2, 2003, FCC Ownership Rules:
May 19, 2003. Adam Burke, host, "The Federal Communications Commission and Media Ownership" [transcript only], "Live & Local," Iowa City PATV.
May 19, 2003. University of Iowa News Release, "UI Law Professor Nicholas Johnson Criticizes Proposed FCC Rules Changes."
May 21, 2003. Laura Sidell, NPR, "FCC Proposed Ownership Rules Changes" [transcipt only].
May 28, 2003. Andy Ratner, Baltimore Sun. Andrew Ratner, "How the FCC has influenced what you see, hear, read", Baltimore Sun, June 1, 2003.
May 30, 2003. Peter Maer, CBS, Washington, D.C.
May 30, 2003. David Kirkman, New York Times.
May 30, 2003. Dennis Bernstein, "Flashpoints," KPFA-FM, Berkeley.
May 30, 2003. John Grebe, "Sounds of Dissent," WZBC, Boston.
June 1, 2003. Ian Masters, "Background Briefing" (as downloadable or streaming audio), KPFK-FM, Los Angeles. (A streaming (in Apple Quick Time 6.0) or downloadable mp3 file is also available courtesy Gregory Johnson and ResourcesForLife.com.)
June 1, 2003. Anthony Fest, KPFA-FM, Berkeley.
June 2, 2003. Ed Baxter, KSO-AM, San Francisco.
June 2, 2003. "The Al Malmberg Show, WCCO-AM, Minneapolis [request; N.J. unable to schedule].
June 2, 2003. Cathy Lewis, "HearSay with Cathy Lewis," WHRO-FM, Norfolk.
June 2, 2003. Mike Webb, "Mike Webb Show," KIRO-AM, Seattle.
June 3, 2003. Chris Askew, WAOK-AM, Atlanta [request; N.J. unable to schedule].
June 3, 2003. Peter Werbe and Juline Jordan, "Peter Werbe Show," IE America Radio Network, Detroit.
June 3, 2003. Jerome Lewis and George Umballa, Trinidad's i95FM.
June 5, 2003. Gayane Torosyan, "Iowa Talks,"WSUI-AM, Iowa City (with other guests Rick Sellers of KMRY-AM, Cedar Rapids, and James Gattuso from The Heritage Foundation, Washington by phone). A streaming (in Apple Quick Time 6.0) or downloadable mp3 file is available courtesy Gregory Johnson and ResourcesForLife.com. A written transcript is also available.
June 9, 2003. Richard Kaffenberger, "The Richard Kaffenberger Show," KAAA-1230, Kingman AZ and KZZZ-1490, Bullhead City AZ ( "Media Concentration," transcript only).
June 9, 2003. Adalila Zelada (guest host for Sonali Kolhatkar), "The Morning Show," KPFK-FM, Los Angeles.
Our thanks to the University of Iowa News Services and the Institute for Public Accuracy for their invitations, and role in arranging, some of these media events.
"Proposal for I.C. School Builders is Akin to Teachers' Pacts." Nicholas Johnson's literary friend, Elmer, explains to him how the proposed Project Labor Agreement for the Iowa City Community School District's new elementary school involves principles and a process not unlike what the School Board has been doing for years in its labor relations with the District's teachers. The op-ed column appeared in the Eastern Iowa Gazette on Sunday, June 1, 2003, and was uploaded to this site the same day.
"FCC Proposed Ownership Rules Changes." At a time when the FCC was expected to announce new broadcast station ownership rules on June 2, 2003, arguments raged in some media as the date approached over the pros and cons of the proposed changes. NPR's Laura Sidell interviewed Nicholas Johnson about station ownership limits and related issues. This link goes to a transcript of his answers during that interview on May 21, 2003. Posted here June 7, 2003.
"The Federal Communications Commission and Media Ownership." At a time when the FCC was expected to announce new broadcast station ownership rules on June 2, 2003, arguments raged in some media as the date approached over the pros and cons of the proposed changes. An Iowa City, Iowa, Public Access Television program, "Live and Local," hosted by Adam Burke, featured Nicholas Johnson as the guest discussing these issues on May 19, 2003 (live, with repeats on May 24 and 26). This link takes you to a transcript of the exchange between Adam Burke and Nicholas Johnson on that occasion; uploaded here May 30, 2003.
"Make School Projects Labor Friendly." The Iowa City Community School District Board held an informational meeting May 13, 2003, regarding "project labor agreements" (PLAs) in general, and in particular the possible use of one for a very small portion of its forthcoming near-$40 million construction program. Johnson details at some length the evidence that "Iowa is not very friendly to working people," the advantages to the District of this proposed PLA, and the conclusion that given labor's work in getting the school bond issue passed this "tiny, experimental PLA" would be "good for kids" as evidence that their adult role models value the contribution of the trades and service sector people in the community. The piece was published as an op ed column by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and uploaded to this site, on May 15, 2003.
"Forty Years of Wandering in the Wasteland" Nicholas Johnson was asked to contribute to a special issue of the Federal Communications Law Journal commemorating the fortieth anniversary of former FCC Chair Newton Minow's "vast wasteland" speech. He used the opportunity to look back and describe both what had changed in broadcasting over that time, and what remains the same, what has improved and what become worse. It was published in the May 2003 issue (55 F.C.L.J. 521), posted to the Web site in September 2004, and inserted here in this list December 26, 2004.
"War in Iraq: The Military Objections" is a paper prepared for delivery on February 27, 2003, at the University of Iowa College of Law's "International Law Talks: War with Iraq," Sponsored Jointly by the International and Comparative Law Program and the National Lawyers Guild. The paper examines the war in Iraq not from the perspective of international law, humanitarian concerns, or risk of a resulting increased terrorism in the United States, but from a military perspective. When can national interests benefit from the use of military force and when not? What do the wisest military leaders themselves believe are necessary prerequisites to a successful military venture? The paper presents some elements of the so-called "Powell Doctrine" that speak to these questions, and goes on to argue that the U.S. civilians' decisions with regard to military efforts in Iraq failed to take into account the best military thinking. With revisions through April, the paper continued to expand with endnotes and an appendix as many of the concerns of February were played out over the weeks that followed.
"Ten Questions for Bush Before War." This op ed appeared as a Daily Iowan "Guest Opinion" on February 4, 2003. In it, Johnson does not argue for or against going to war with Iraq, only that before going to war there are a number of questions that need to be asked, and answered that, in his judgment, had not yet been adequately addressed. They involve such things as the impact of the war on terrorists ability to recruit -- and launch more attacks on the U.S., the diversion from our country's anti-Al Qaeda efforts and attempts to rebuild Afghanistan. With the passage of time since this was written, each is being answered in turn. This Web-posted version also contains links to some of Johnson's post 9/11 writing about terrorism in general and the Iraq war in particular.
"Why I'm Voting for the School Bonds." Nicholas Johnson's op ed appeared in the Iowa City Press-Citizen February 1, 2003 and was posted here February 3. In it he explains that he is supporting the ICCSD proposed bond issue in the election February 11, 2003, notwithstanding differences he has with some of the Board's decisions. This is because he believes the process has been both fair and politic in building consensus around the wishes of the District's stakeholders -- rather than, in all instances, selecting what other school districts believe to be "best practices."
"The First Amendment Right to Censor" is a transcript of an interview of Nicholas Johnson by Larry Bensky, KPFA, Berkeley, and Robert Knight, WBAI, New York, during the Columbia University Law School Conference on the FCC's Proposed Relaxation of Media Ownership Standards, January 16, 2003. Johnson notes that Congress was prescient enough in 1926 to see the risks to democracy from media concentration, and says things have only become worse since. Posted January 19, 2003.
The "Nicholas Johnson Media" site was created December 26, 2002, with the assistance of "PC DOC," Gregory Johnson, of Resources For Life. Com. Links from this site currently go to information about the Haefner Award, including two programs from the John Carhoff and Mike Peterson-produced series, "Education Exchange," recorded on September 30, 2002, and broadcast on the Iowa City cable system. They are called "Civic Education and the Haefner Award," hosted by Melanie Goss, and contain contributions from social studies teachers Mike Cervantes, Jeanine Redlinger and Carrie Watson. Those programs include, and the site makes available separately, John Haefner's brief explanation of civic education and the Haefner Award. There is also a link to Nicholas Johnson's December 20, 2002, presentation to the Weber Elementary School students of his recollections of Irving Weber, during the school's week-long celebration of Weber's 102nd birthday, December 17. NOTE PLEASE: This Apple/Mac service works well with broadband T-1, Cable Modem, or DSL connections and fast, memory-laden computers on which the videos will be presented as streaming while downloading. Others can download and watch the material, but will encounter some delays in doing so. The site was last modified December 28, 2002.
"Retroactive Ethical Judgments and Human Subjects Research: The 1939 Tudor Study in Context" is a paper that was prepared for, and provided the basis for Nicholas Johnson's presentation at, the "Symposium on Ethics and The Tudor Study: Implications for Research in Stuttering," organized by the Ph.D. Program in Speech and Hearing Sciences of the City University of New York. It was held at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York City, December 13, 2002, and posted here December 28, 2002.
"Is What's Black and White and Eldred All Over?" is a paper that was prepared for, and provided the basis for Nicholas Johnson's presentation at, the Iowa Intellectual Property Law Association Annual Meeting in Amana, Iowa, October 25, 2002. The paper explores the implications of Eldred v. Ashcroft, a case challenging the Congressional extensions of the terms of copyright protection that was argued before the Supreme Court earlier that month, on October 9th. The link to it was posted here December 28, 2002.
"Open Meetings: IC Meeting Didn't Need to be Public"was published by the Iowa City Gazette October 22, 2002. This opinion/letter piece takes issue with the newspaper's insistance on expanding "open meetings" requirements beyond what Johnson argues either law or common sense would mandate. Posted December 28, 2002.
"Open Meetings: Editorial Went Overboard"was published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen October 21, 2002. This opinion/letter piece takes issue with the newspaper's insistance on expanding "open meetings" requirements beyond what Johnson argues either law or common sense would mandate. Posted December 28, 2002.
"Ernestine in the 21st Century: Take Me Home Country Roads" is the lecture Johnson presented to the 2002 National Rural Telecommunications Congress "Building Demand for Broadband" Conference October 8, 2002, in Des Moines, Iowa. In it he says that Lily Tomlin's telephone operator Ernestine ("We don't care. We don't have to. We're the telephone company.") now confronts enough competition that she has to care. And the "country roads" that took John Denver home to West Virginia are now the coax, optic fiber, satellites and wireless that connect rural America to that global village called cyberspace. Posted here October 9, 2002.
"Capitalists Can Help U.S. Avert War with Iraq" was published in the "Sunday Insight" section of the Iowa City Press-Citizen October 6, 2002. In it Johnson argues that, "The real reasons for going to war may not be savory, but at least they're more understandable than the totally bonkers line we're being sold." The real reasons? Johnson says they are to gain access to Iraq's oil and to pay back the defense contractors for their $10-15 million of campaign contributions. Posted October 10, 2002.
"Free College, or Let Students Cover it All?", Des Moines Register, October 2, 2002. "It's decision time for Iowans. Tuition increases trigger the questions: What educational services do we want? How shall we pay for them?" Johnson outlines a continuum of choices from more money for prenatal care to free college education. He says that "Any choice, if well considered, would be preferable to refusing to consider our options. Otherwise apathy, avoidance, special-interest pleading, drift and political cowardice will continue to drive us by default toward today's unintended consequences." Posted October 3, 2002.
"On Iraq, Tell the Rest of the Story." "The mass media's constant responsibility for an informed electorate intensifies in proportion to the volume from the drums of war." It has met this responsibility, Johnson says, with regard to some Iraq war data and issues. It has done less well with (1) the role of oil, (2) the possible "Wag the Dog" motives and quality of the exercise, and (3) the administration's effort to shift focus from as-Qaida, to "terrorism," to "Iraq." "Since when," Johnson asks, "did our military's war colleges start teaching that when a war isn't going well, the winning strategy is to start another." The Iowa City Gazette, October 2, 2002.
"Media's Role, Power and Censorship" is a transcript of Nicholas Johnson's comments as a guest on Jeff Golden's "Jefferson Exchange" -- a radio program originating with Jefferson Public Radio and carried by a number of radio stations in Oregon. Johnson addresses the role of media in totalitarian and democratic societies, the censorship of points of view antagonistic to advertisers or the ruling elites, the "Fairness Doctrine" (repealed by the FCC), and the general abdication of by FCC of its regulatory responsibilities. Originally aired September 6, 2002, and posted September 10.
"Research Did Not Cause Stuttering" is an op ed piece by a distinguished psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Flaum, Director, Iowa Consortium for Mental Health. Dr. Flaum takes issue with an earlier editorial in the University of Iowa newspaper, The Daily Iowan, that charged a "lack of ethics" in the conduct of the 1939 Tudor masters thesis study of the onset of stuttering. He cites the Ambrose and Yairi study (see below), and suggests that (a) no harm was done to the subjects (some of whom are now potential plantiffs suing the University of Iowa), (b) no harm was intended, (c) the study was well within "the norms of the time," and (d) the ethical standards self-imposed by researcher and supervisor compare very favorably with those often violated by prestigeous institutions today. The piece appeared in the Daily Iowan September 4, 2002, and was posted here September 5.
"The Tudor Study: Data and Ethics." This article by Nicoline Grinager Ambrose and Ehud Yairi was published in the May 2002 volume of the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Given that the Tudor study (a 1939 masters thesis at the University of Iowa) is back in the news, the authors' conclusions are both relevant and striking. Their analysis of the data leads them to the conclusion that the theory put forth is erroneous and that there is no way the study could have "caused stuttering" in the subjects. For this, and many other reasons, they also conclude that most all of the ethical charges against the study are both unfair and undeserved. The paper has been made a link from Nicholas Johnson's article, "Retroactive Moral Judgments and the Evolution of Ethics in Human Subjects Research: A Case Study in Context". Posted August 26, 2002.
"Between Iraq and a Hard Place" was published by both the Omaha World-Herald (August 13, 2002) and the Iowa City Press-Citizen (August 17, 2002). Johnson goes through his own checklist for going to war and finds none of the necessary prerequsites to have been met -- at least not yet, and not on the basis of what the public has been told. The link goes to a page with both papers' version of the column, and the subsequent readers' online comments and published letters from the Omaha World-Herald. The column was posted to this site August 18, 2002.
"A Money Manager Makes a Sweet Deal, For Himself, That Is." Johnson argues that trust officers and brokers should be paid for performance; that to pay them a percentage of assets (whether those assets are increasing or declining in value) is like paying a store manager a percentage of the value of goods in the warehouse -- something totally unrelated to what they're paid to do. The Iowa City Gazette, August 4, 2002. Posted August 8, 2002.
"Market Competition Alone Won't Curb High Drug Costs" was published by the Quad City Times July 24, 2002. Johnson believes that merely transferring more money from taxpayers, through seniors, to the pharmaceutical companies is no solution to the unconscionably high prices the companies charge. Basing health care delivery on a system of private profit maximization never did make much sense, but now we've tried it and proved its abuses far outweigh its benefits. It's time to nationalize pharmaceutical research, eliminate the patent protections, and push generics. Posted July 24, 2002.
"Is 'The Commons' a Useful Framework?" The Boston Review occasionally devotes much of an issue to a single-topic "New Democracy Forum" in which a number of contributors are invited to respond to a lead article. The topic, and lead article, for the summer 2002 issue was David Bollier's "Reclaiming the Commons." Johnson was one of the invited commentators. He argues that the "commons" is useful concept, but may have been spread too thin by Bollier. Johnson says it's more useful when dealing with something like the Internet than when talking about the role of children in American society. Posted July 24, 2002.
"Why Pay Financial Advisors on the Basis of 'Inventory"?"is an exchange between Nicholas Johnson and financial advisor Joe Brisben during the WSUI-AM910 radio program, "Iowa Talks," on July 24, 2002. (The program was hosted by Al Kern.) Johnson pushes Brisben on why financial advisors should be paid under formulas that do not take into account the quality and utility of their advice. Posted July 24, 2002.
"Schools Fail Kids; Not Vice Versa"was published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen July 9, 2002. "What does Stephen Spielberg have in common with Beethoven, Churchill, Edison, Einstein" and others of similar accomplishment? Each was told they were an academic failure. Even the best traditional schools don't work for every student. That's why alternative schools are being built all across America -- including Iowa City, Iowa. Posted July 16, 2002.
"Search for Better Response Than War: Don't Reward the Terrorists, But Understand Their Interests," Des Moines Sunday Register, June 30, 2002, p. 3OP. "There's no question we must prevent future terrorists' attacks. There are questions about the best way to do it. If there are alternatives to military action that are both (a) cheaper and (b) more effective than 'war' shouldn't we at least consider them? Posted July 16, 2002.
"Solve Our Budget Woes: Raise Our State Taxes" was published by the Iowa City Press-Citizen June 9, 2002. (The author proposed as a title, "Read My Lips: No New Axes.") Johnson addresses the cuts in state programs' budgets. That's one response to shortfalls in tax revenue, he admits, but another -- seemingly overlooked by media and officials alike -- is raising taxes to fund essential programs. He acknowledges that some could be made more efficient, and that tax rates could be made more equitable, but argues that we're not overtaxed compared with other countries, that taxes are the price we pay for civilization, and that failing to "pay as you go" just passes the bill to our grandchildren. Posted June 9, 2002.
"Why Are Iowa's Major Parties So Hostile to Third Parties?" is an exchange between Nicholas Johnson and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Sukup during the WSUI-AM910 radio program, "Iowa Talks," on June 3, 2002. (The program was hosted by Al Kern.) Johnson asked the candidate why Iowa's two major parties are so backward and hostile (compared with other states and nations) when it comes to the regulations regarding the establishment, and maintenance, of third parties. The full question, and the non-answer, are provided here. June 9, 2002.
"The Last Commencement Address: The U High Idea" This site contains a verbatim transcript of the extemporaneous remarks of then-Federal Communications Commissioner Nicholas Johnson on the occasion of the last commencement of a graduating class from the University High School, Iowa City, Iowa, June 1, 1972. An old UI archived copy of the address is being scanned and uploaded to the Web at this time in commemoration of the 50th Reunion of the U High Class of 1952 and as a way of sharing some sense of the spirit of a school that now remains only in the memories of those who benefited so very greatly from what it had to offer. The transcript was posted here May 25, 2002.
"The Haefner Award" Following Nicholas Johnson's successful campaign for ICCSD School Board in 1998 the surplus in his campaign fund was used by him to create "The Haefner Award" endowment fund, administered by the ICCSD Foundation. This site explains the purposes and entry requirements for the Award, designed to recognize excellence in an ICCSD high school social studies student's execution of a civic education project designed to identify, and resolve, a public policy issue in local government. This site was created and posted May 23, 2002.
"Given Corporate Greed, Fraud and Corruption: Is the Stock Market Just a Con Game?" Nicholas Johnson asks two financial advisors, Dr. John Spitzer and Larry Swedroe, guests on WSUI-AM910's program, "Iowa Talks," why the wise investor should not ignore their advice. Their answers may surprise -- and enrich -- you. The program first aired May 23, 2002 and was hosted by Barney Sherman; this transcript excerpt was posted May 25, 2002.
"Rewriting the Constitution, Starting with the 'Absolutely Senseless' Establishment Clause" This story begins in Frederick, Maryland, with an observant and knowledgeable high school senior: Blake Trettien. He noticed that a monument with the Ten Commandments was located on public park property, and knew enough to know that this violated the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. So on March 22, 2002, he wrote Frederick County Commissioner Richard B. Weldon a very impressive analysis for a high school student regarding his concerns. The local paper, The Frederick News-Post, editorialized that it was "absolutely senseless" to apply the Establishment Clause in this way. Nicholas Johnson responded with a Letter to the Editor suggesting other provisions of the Constitution that might also be revised -- but was informed that the letter would not be published because only local letters are used (notwithstanding the fact that this paper often runs letters from elsewhere). This page contains the relevant documents, and was posted May 22, 2002.
"What and Where is 'Truth'?" The Western Behavioral Sciences Institute, La Jolla, California, runs an invitation only, online exchange of views between Fellows on a variety of topics called the International Leadership Forum. One under consideration during May 2002 is titled "Post-Truth Era." (Is lying now so commonplace as to be expected in public and private life?) One of Nicholas Johnson's comments in that conference challenges the assumption that there is such thing as "truth" standing alone. He lists and illustrates everything from "Accounting Truth" to "Witness Truth." Posted to the WBSI ILF, and to this site, May 8, 2002.
"How Ethical Are 'Ethical Wills'?" Nicholas Johnson speaks out on the dangers and ethical questions surrounding so-called "ethical wills" during a news interview by WQAD-TV8's Mark Martin. The interview was first aired May 19, 2002, and was posted here on May 29, 2002.
"Iowans Listen to Governor Howard Dean" Rumor has it that Vermont Governor Howard Dean may be exploring whether to consider a run for the Democratic Party's nomination for president in 2004. Iowans haven't heard the answer to that one yet -- but they are listening. This non-political, non-partisan (and clearly unauthorized) Web site links to pictures from the Governor's Iowa visits, and to some other sites providing background information about the man and his record. Posted to this site May 8, 2002.
"Bringing the Outsiders Into the Legislative Tent" is an exchange between Nicholas Johnson and Congressman Jim Leach during the WSUI-AM910 radio program, "Iowa Talks," on May 1, 2002. (The program was hosted by Al Kern and Dean Borg.) Johnson asked the Congressman if he could provide any case study examples of instances in which, say, welfare recipients (most of whom are children), the working poor, or others normally outside the big money tent that is Washington politics today, had shaped the legislative system to their ends as well as the major campaign contributors do on a regular basis. Congressman Leach offered no examples. Posted May 1, 2002.
"New Challenges Facing Global Leadership: Refocusing the International Leadership Forum" is the full text from which Nicholas Johnson's talk was drawn at the First Annual Meeting of the International Leadership Forum (a program of the Western Behavioral Science Institute, La Jolla, California), April 27, 2002. In it Johnson argues that groups focused on discussions of public policy might find it fruitful to give proportionately more time to strategies for implementation of change, and proportionately less to the identification of problems and fashioning of options for their solution. Posted April 29, 2002.
"Why Aren't We Doing More to Curb Binge Drinking?" was published by the Iowa City Gazette April 16, 2002. In it Nicholas Johnson puts forward the consequences of alcohol abuse in our society (numbers of persons and the impact on public health, economic losses and crime), and asks "What will it take to get our attention? Will we only respond to deaths?" Posted April 16, 2002.
"Rethinking Terrorism" is the prepared text for Nicholas Johnson's presentation to the National Lawyers Guild Midwestern Regional Conference, March 2, 2002, at the UI College of Law in Iowa City. The conference theme was "A critical discussion of civil liberties . . . [and] the war on terrorism . . . in the wake of 911." "Rethinking Terrorism" focuses on the legal utility of a word such as "terrorism" and the wide range of issues and possible interpretations it raises. Photos of the conference are available, including the internationally acclaimed musical duo Charlie King and Karen Brandow who agreed to interrupt their U.S. concert tour to include this Iowa City event. (Their Web page is available at www.charlieking.org.") Posted March 4, 2002.
Boundaries and Bond Issues: One of the most significant issues before the District and its communities at this time (2002) is what to do about the potential overcrowding of some current school buildings resulting from both (1) a projected increase in the number of school children, and (2) a concentration of that increase in the northwest portion of the District. The current consensus is for a proposed $30-million-plus bond issue (or 20 percent sales tax increase) for new buildings and major renovations. Nicholas Johnson's first contribution to this dialogue is contained in a paper he presented about a year ago regarding elementary schools: "Educational Opportunities and Class Size Equity: A Proposal for the Iowa City Community School District Board," March 25, 2001. Although denominated a "proposal" it is less a single set of solutions than it is a proposed way of thinking about these challenges -- whether one wishes to propose no new construction or a lot of it, along with a great many options for educational innovations that can be included, or excluded, from the ultimate plan. Re-posted February 6, 2002.
The Board's final proposal is contained in the document "District-wide Boundaries and Educational Opportunity Proposal," February 19. 2002 (with its appendices as links from that site); posted here February 21, 2002.
A remaining issue is the extent to which the District Administration will respond to the Board's desire that the high schools' "educational opportunities" be fully explored before architectural plans for renovations are drawn up. To assist in that process, Nicholas Johnson has offered a think piece of options under the title "Improving High School Education While Reducing Costs and Space," dated February 25, 2002, and posted here March 6, 2002.
Nicholas Johnson presented that document to the ICCSD School Board at its regular meeting March 12, 2002. The exchange between Johnson and the Board on that occasion is contained in this transcript. The text of his prepared remarks are available as "Comments Regarding the Document 'Improving High School Education While Reducing Costs and Space'". There are also the official minutes of the meeting and a photo of the Board that evening.
A couple of draft op ed columns, columns that will in all probability never be either submitted or published, respond to the community uncertainty created by the 11th hour addition of extensive plans for the two local high schools that would drive the price from the low 30-millions of dollars to the high 70-millions.
At this point, Johnson argues, we have to "take it from the top" -- explain what we're teaching, and how, and why, and the ways in which that translates into present building configurations. Why are we rejecting educational innovations that others believe improve the quality of education while reducing costs and space? Presumably there are reasons. They need to be put forward. "School Building Proposal: Take It From the Top". Posted April 16, 2002.
Following a visit to the Hearst Castle in California, and the discovery that the relatively conservative Iowa Association of School Boards had published a piece making most of the same points he had been making, Johnson produced another draft op ed entitled, "Building 'A Little Something'". Posted April 30, 2002.Nicholas Johnson's Iowa City Press-Citizen columns dealing with K-12 education generally, and the Iowa City Community School District in particular, were published every other Tuesday during the course of his three-year term as a member of the ICCSD School Board. The first appeared October 12, 1998. The 79th, and last, in the series was published September 25, 2001, the day of his last Board meeting. A complete collection of the full text of the entire series is available.
"July 20, 2002, 50th Reunion & Other Matters Involving the Colossal Class of '52" [The University of Iowa's experimental school, University Elementary and High School, closed in 1972. However, the affection of those blessed with the outstanding education it provided remains undimmed. Thus, the U High Class of 1952 is now engaged in planning its 50th reunion. This link goes to a reunion page for that class created and maintained by Nicholas Johnson. Posted to this site March 6, 2002.]
"Johnson County Democrats 2002 Platform Committee [Economics Sub-Committee]" (This is an unofficial Web site of the Economics Sub-Committee of the Johnson County [Iowa] Democrats Platform Committee, of which Nicholas Johnson was co-chair with Steve Kanner. The site contains the Platform Committee-approved text from the Sub-Commitee and links to photos of the working sessions held on February 16 and 23, 2002. Posted here March 6, 2002.)
"Rethinking Terrorism" is the text prepared for Nicholas Johnson's presentation to the National Lawyers Guild Midwestern Regional Conference, March 2, 2002, at the UI College of Law in Iowa City. The conference theme was "A critical discussion of civil liberties . . . [and] the war on terrorism . . . in the wake of 911." "Rethinking Terrorism" focuses on the legal utility of a word such as "terrorism" and the wide range of issues and possible interpretations it raises. Photos of the conference are available, including the internationally acclaimed musical duo Charlie King and Karen Brandow who agreed to interrupt their U.S. concert tour to include this Iowa City event. (Their Web page is available at www.charlieking.org.") Posted March 4, 2002.
Richard W. Jencks, "Sumner Redstone, William S. Paley, and Other Diversions: Media Moguls, Then and Now" (When Richard W. Jencks was President, CBS/Broadcast Group, and Nicholas Johnson was an FCC Commissioner, they seldom agreed on broadcast public policy issues. Now, 30 years later, with no coordination or awareness of the other's concerns, the two seem to have come to a simultaneous agreement that there is a significant downside to accumulations of media by what Mr. Jencks calls "media moguls" and Mr. Johnson once called "the media barons." [ "The Media Barons and the Public Interest: An FCC Commissioner's Warning,"The Atlantic, June 1968; a "Flashbacks" feature on "The Atlantic Online."] Mr. Johnson's current concerns were expressed in an article in the January 7, 2002 issue of The Nation [ "Take This Media . . . Please!"] Mr. Jencks' concerns are contained in this January 15, 2002, talk to the CBS Alumni Club in New York City. His talk has been selected and uploaded here because of the public policy significance of this statement from a former major U.S. television executive. He addresses the creative and cultural consequences of today's growing media merger movement, currently unrestrained -- indeed, virtually unexamined -- by Congress, the FCC, or other government agencies. Posted January 30, 2002.)
"Why Do Iowa Republicans Oppose Third Parties?" (WSUI's Al Kern interviewed Iowa Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bob VanderPratts on the "Iowa Talks" radio program January 24, 2002. Nicholas Johnson put a question to the candidate regarding the two major parties' opposition to third parties. The question, and the non-answer, are available here. Posted January 24, 2002.)
The "David Vernon Memorial Web Page" now presents "David Vernon Memorial -- The Movie" (David Vernon was a much-beloved professor, and former dean, of the University of Iowa College of Law -- amongst a great many other accomplishments. He died November 5, 2001. One of the speakers at the law school's memorial service November 9th was a student of Professor Vernon's, Tim Hansen. Mr. Hansen's descriptions of Professor Vernon's teaching are such that a mere transcript of his remarks would not fully capture the presentation. So, with the contributions of Patty Ankrum's video tape of the proceedings, Gregory Johnson's magical dititizing, editing and uploading, and Apple Computer's contribution of Web hosting space, it is now available here in QuickTime format. Posted January 9, 2002.)
"Take This Media . . . Please!" (The January 7, 2002, issue of The Nation magazine presents a "Big Ten" chart of the largest multi-media conglomerates. A number of commentators were invited to submit reactions to the chart, including Al Franken, Ani DeFranco, Phil Donahue, Danny Goldberg, James Fallows, Nancy Kranich, Julianne Malveaux, Danny Schechter, Hussein Ibish -- and Nicholas Johnson. Johnson expands on four consequences of media concentration: fewer owners, profit pressures (dumbing down journalism), opportunities for manipulative hype, and the Supreme Court's view that such owners have a constitutional right to censor the speech of those with whom they disagree. Posted here, from The Nation's Web site, December 28, 2001.)
"Epaminondas and the Effectiveness of Domestic Security Efforts" (Nicholas Johnson explores the issues surrounding the standards that might be used to evaluate the effectiveness of our current efforts to improve our "domestic security." Are they actually reducing terrorist acts, or are they merely cosmetic placebos? What can we do, shy of Thomas Friedman's proposal that we all "Fly Naked"? These two comments were posted to the WBSI International Leadership Forum December 25 and 26, 2001, and to this site December 28, 2001.)
"Public Power is Worth Study" (An Iowa City, Iowa, group -- the Iowa City Public Power Initiative -- is proposing that the City Council undertake a study of the pros and cons of municipal ownership of the distribution of electric power now that the MidAmerica franchise is coming to an end. Nicholas Johnson writes that it's "hard to argue with the value of thinking," and goes on to explore private power's pricing designed to increase usage, and its "basic service charge" which he believes to be irrational and unfairly punitive of the poor. Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen December 15, 2001, the piece was posted here December 28, 2001.)
"Support the Public Power Initiative" (An Iowa City, Iowa, group -- the Iowa City Public Power Initiative -- is proposing that the City Council undertake a study of the pros and cons of municipal ownership of the distribution of electric power now that the MidAmerica franchise is coming to an end. Nicholas Johnson writes that it's "hard to argue with the value of thinking," and goes on to explore private power's pricing designed to increase usage, and its "basic service charge" which he believes to be irrational and unfairly punitive of the poor. Published in The Daily Iowan December 12, 2001, the piece was posted here December 28, 2001.)
"From the Major Parties' Fear and Loathing to Welcome: Third Parties in Iowa" (Iowa law is relatively hostile to the creation, and continuation, of political third parties. Nicholas Johnson argues that this stance of the state's two major parties not only disserves all citizens, but the self interest of the two major parties as well. Originally drafted and sent to an Iowa State Senator in July 2001, it was posted to this site November 19, 2001.)
"Is the Word 'Violence' More Analytically Useful Than 'Terrorism'?" (Debates about what is and is not "terrorism" get caught up in emotional judgments that make rational analysis difficult. Perhaps the task is eased by looking at the range of violent acts and the factors we weigh when deciding whether a given violent act is "justified." Posted to the WBSI International Leadership Forum November 18, 2001, and to this site November 19, 2001.)
"David Vernon Memorial Web Page" (David Vernon was a much-beloved professor, and former dean, of the University of Iowa College of Law -- amongst a great many other accomplishments. He died November 5, 2001. Some of the outpouring of affection and respect for this extraordinary man is available here. Posted November 18, 2001.)
"Defining Terrorism" (Virtually all Americans, and most of the rest of the world's citizens as well, are unanimous in their opposition to "terrorism." Moreover, we're all agreed that what happened on September 11 meets anyone's definition of the term. Beyond that, however, it's a little difficult to come up with a definition of terrorism that will exclude what we've done to other countries while including what they've done to us. Defining terrorism isn't an impossible task, but it is a very difficult one -- and one that requires we acknowledge there's a little hypocracy on all sides, including ours. Posted to the WBSI International Leadership Forum November 11, 2001, and to this site November 12, 2001.)
"Homeland Security" (The continued bombing of Afghanistan, long after we've run out of targets, serves to further anger, radicalize, and increase the numbers of those militant Muslims who weren't crazy about the U.S. to begin with. If we are trying to reduce the likelihood of more terrorist acts in the U.S., "From my perspective, and that of the world's press I am reading," says Johnson, "it seems to me that my 'homeland security' is every day somewhat less than it was the day before." Posted to the WBSI International Leadership Forum October 27, 2001, and to this site November 1, 2001.)
"Teach Our Children Tolerant Ways" (In response to the barbaric attacks of September 11, even a declaration of martial law can't eliminate our vulnerability. And retaliation may just serve to increase terrorism. What can we do? Whether you prefer a military response or greater international understanding, education is an imperative beginning. It's hard to fight an enemy if you can't find his country on an outline map and can't speak the language once you do. Sputnik produced the National Defense Education Act. It's time for another. And "this time let's include social studies." This, the last of Nicholas Johnson's 79 newspaper op ed columns in an every-two-week series about K-12 education issues -- published during his term as ICCSD School Board member -- was published on the last day of his three-year term. Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 25, 2001.)
"Vote in School Board Election" ("Our under-10-percent turnouts in School Board elections are disgraceful. What kind of message does that send our teachers and students about the importance of democracy? What our School Board does, and how it does it, will have an impact not only on our children but all of us. Go vote." Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 11, 2001.)
"All Things Political" (On the September 10, 2001, "Iowa Talks" radio program on WSUI-AM 910 host Al Kern had University of Iowa political science professor Dr. Arthur Miller as his guest to explore a range of political issues. Nicholas Johnson posed questions regarding the low turnout in elections (as he put it, "What if we had an election and nobody came?") and the State of Iowa's hostility toward third parties. Their exchange was Web-posted September 21, 2001.]
"Smaller Schools Are Better" (Numerous foundations, academics, and government task force reports are concluding that, when it comes to improving the nation's high schools, "smaller is better." Better for safety, better for students' sense of belonging, better for academic achievement and extracurricular participation. They recommend schools of 400 to 600 students -- or, if the larger buildings already exist (as they do locally) -- the concept of "schools within schools." Now that the ICCSD is addressing the Urban Education Network's Redefining High School report, "every district stakeholder needs to participate in planning what will, hopefully, include the benefit of smaller schools." Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 28, 2001.)
"The Green Party in Iowa" (The August 17, 2001, "Iowa Talks" radio program on WSUI-AM 910 focused on the Green Party of Iowa. Here are the comments of Nicholas Johnson on that occasion regarding the win-win options for legislative reforms in Iowa that could favor both the major as well as the state's third parties. Posted to the Web August 27, 2001.)
"Make Better Use of Channel 11" (Video cameras, student video production, and full utilization of community access cable channels set aside for educational purposes can make a major contribution to any school district's mission. With TV stations selling in the millions, or even billions, of dollars the ICCSD's cable channel 11 is a woefully underutilized and wasting asset. The column describes current student video production projects and offers a range of programming ideas for the cable channel. Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 15, 2001.)
"Gay Students Deserve Protection" (Human Rights Watch report, Hatred in the Hallways, suggests that "of all the world's human rights abuses among the worst are the violations of the international treaty rights of the 2 million gay and lesbian students in our nation's schools. Apparently protection of their rights involves considerably more than advocacy by the 'politically correct.' School administrators simply have to be concerned." Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 31, 2001.)
"Epilogue" to the earlier paper, "Retroactive Moral Judgments and the Evolution of Ethics in Human Subjects Research: A Case Study in Context" ("What a Difference a Month Makes!" Within less than a month after the Human Subjects paper was posted to this Web site its concerns and predictions were already playing out. Seldom has an epilogue been required quite so soon after publication. First posted to this site July 31, 2001.)
"To Be 25 Again!" (Former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson, "present at the creation" of community video, and 1985 recipient of the George Stoney Award for Humanistic Communications, was asked to contribute a statement to the 25th anniversary issue of the Community Media Review Summer 2001 issue. This is his statement, posted here July 25, 2001.)
"Pre-Web Files: Nicholas Johnson Sample Writings" (Here, newly rediscovered, are 21 "Communications Watch" columns and 26 other illustrative, pre-1996 writings. They were first posted on the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility computer in California in the early 1990s. Once unavailable there they were thought to have been lost. Recently found in a backup on another computer, they are now available once again and were posted here on July 24, 2001.)
"Net Programs Aid Test Preparation" ("There will never be a substitute for a professional, caring teacher. But there can be supplements." Online programs enable individual education plans for every student, tailored to that student's "aptitudes, current interests, and most efficient methods of learning. What Skills Tutor does for standardized tests today other programs could do for an entire curriculum tomorrow." Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 17, 2001.)
"School Board Meeting Alternatives" (The ICCSD School Board feels a need to bring into better balance its desire to provide adequate time for the public input that informs its decisions while still leaving time for the Board to do the long range planning, formulating of "ends policies," and other aspects of its work. At the Board's request Nicholas Johnson put together this brief list of options as an aid to Board discussion of some alternatives. It was drafted July 8 and discussed by the Board at its regular meeting July 10, 2001, at which time no action was taken.)
"Home Schooling a Viable Option" ("There's a reason for public schools. They serve our nation, and most families, very well." But "college admissions officers are taking notice" of the rather extraordinary performance of home schooled students -- many of whom are a full four years ahead of their contemporaries. "Home schooling is a growing movement -- from 15,000 20 years ago to 2 million today -- with increasing opportunities for the few who choose it." Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 3, 2001.)
"Retroactive Moral Judgments and the Evolution of Ethics in Human Subjects Research: A Case Study in Context" (Nicholas Johnson, former co-director of the University of Iowa Institute for Health, Behavior and Environmental Policy, addresses the ethics of human subjects research in the post-World War II period in an exploration of the appropriate standards to be used in passing moral judgments retroactively on the ethical standards used in the first half of the 20th Century. The 2001 controversy surrounding a 1939 master's thesis study provides the case study. The piece was posted to the Web June 21, 2001 and has undergone revisions since, including the addition of notes and an Epilogue. Its contents may be used by others in teaching or future research and writing on the general topic, but it is not authorized for publication, quotation or attribution without permission.)
"District Needs an Ombuds" ("It's not enough that an institution's policies are wise. It must think about process." How does it go about implementing change, treat its stakeholders, and resolve conflicts? "One of the most common, popular and successful institutions for resolving conflicts is an 'ombuds.' Many progressive school districts have one in place." Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 19, 2001.)
"How Would We Know If We'd Ever Been Successful?" (This is Nicholas Johnson's attempt to relate general semantics, "the IFD disease" theory of depression, the impact of media on values, and the governance insights, teachings and standards John Carver proposes for school and other boards. Was Johnson "successful" in this attempt? Or is that the wrong question? Read it and judge. The piece is the text used in a talk before the Clinton, Iowa, "Partnership Way" organization where he was introduced by his daughter, Julie Johnson, and accompanied by his son, Gregory Johnson. The date was June 14, 2001.)
"Swiss Education Runs On Time" ("Swiss railroads are a metaphor for everything Swiss, including schools. This commitment to the rational, and attention to detail," has created an educational system that produces excellence in both academics and apprentices. "Virtually everyone not only has an educatiion and a job, but performs at high professional standards. The Swiss are on the right track. And not just with their trains." Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 5, 2001.)
"A View of Switzerland: Schools, Government and Railroads" (Nicholas Johnson and his wife visited Switzerland in May 2001 to study the International Telecommunications Union and Swiss innovations in primary and secondary education. This site contains some photos from that trip. (An Iowa City Press-Citizen column, "Swiss Education Runs On Time," was published June 5. See above.) This photo essay was first posted May 25, 2001.)
"Learn from Alternative Schools" ("The best alternative high schools are among America's most exciting educational success stories. What can traditional high schools borrow from them to the benefit of all?" Here's a start at the list. Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 22, 2001.)
"Special Ed Has Its Special Issues" (Our nation's special education programs "represent humanity at its finest." But they "put severe economic and other strains on school districts. Frustrations for administrators, special ed teachers and associates, classroom teachers and parents. Each disabled student is a valued person. Each deserving of the best our society is willing to afford. One of the toughest challenges confronting any civilization is calculating how much that is." Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 8, 2001.)
"Special Education Controversy" (ICCSD Board President Matt Goodlaxson's April 10 expression of concerns about the District's special education program produced quite a backlash from teachers -- and a special agenda item at the Board's April 24 meeting. Here are some of Nicholas Johnson's comments on the issues. April 24, 2001.)
"Outcome With Scouts is Unclear" (On April 10 the ICCSD Board held a community forum to discuss the legal and other implications of the Boy Scouts' homophobic policy in light of the school district's anti-discrimination policy, which includes "sexual orientation." "Debates elsewhere about issues of no greater divisiveness can and do lead to decades-long civil wars. Democracy's potential has been powerfully demonstrated in our community once again" by the civility of the discussion of these emotionally-charged issues. Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 24, 2001.)
"We Need Alternative High School" ("Some students are said to be 'at risk.' But it is we who are equally at risk if we continue to ignore what they are telling us with their words and actions. Our district needs a good alternative high school. It's a need that increases with time." Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 10, 2001.)
"Opinion of the ICCSD Board in Response to a Petition Regarding the Resignation of the City High Principal" (District stakeholders petitioned the School Board on March 27, 2001, itemized their complaints regarding the Superintendent's handling of the resignation of a local high school principal and offered suggestions for improvements in the Board's monitoring of his performance. This response was drafted by the Board and adopted and released at its next regular meeting, April 10, 2001.)
"Focus: Defining the Land of the Fourth Estate," Global Issues: Media and Ethics, an Electronic Journal of the U.S. Department of State, April 2001, vol. 6, no. 1, U.S. Department of State, International Information Programs.
Links to Global Issues: Media and Ethics editions' tables of contents, with links to the article, in the following languages:
Arabic http://usinfo.org/usia/usinfo.state.gov/journals/itgic/0401/ijga/ijga0401.htm"Give Back: Serve on School Board" ("It's a blessing to serve on a school board. And now is the time to decide who will serve. Unwilling to serve? That just increases your obligation to find other folks who will. We're all in this together. We all need to give back to our community. There's no more satisfying way to do that than with school board service." Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 27, 2001.)
English http://usinfo.org/usia/usinfo.state.gov/journals/itgic/0401/ijge/ijge0401.htmdirect link to article in English http://usinfo.org/usia/usinfo.state.gov/journals/itgic/0401/ijge/gj01.htmFrench http://usinfo.org/usia/usinfo.state.gov/journals/itgic/0401/ijgf/ijgf0401.htm
Vietnamese U.S. Embassy Vietnam, Public Affairs Section, Information Resource Center, Alert Jun 2001, http://vietnam.usembassy.gov/wwwhaa0106.htmldirect links to article in Vietnamesehttp://usembassy.state.gov/vietnam/wwwhta56_2.html or
"Educational Opportunities and Class Size Equity: A Proposal for the Iowa City Community School District Board, March 25, 2001" (The board, superintendent, boundaries committee, community and local media have considered a number of components as "options" that might go into an overall plan for dealing with overcrowded school buildings, inequity in size of classrooms, long range planning, and related issues and opportunities. But there are not, yet, any specific, integrated plans. Nicholas Johnson has attempted to pull some of these ideas into a single, integrated proposal in this discussion document designed to help move the board, and community, from options to conclusion.)
"Principal Concern for Education" (National attention is coming to be focused on K-12 administration. Not just the shortage of principals, but their role. If it's instructional leadership that we need perhaps we should be looking for "principal teachers" rather than building managers. As Blackman and Fenwick put it, "The challenge districts face is to encourage the able to be the willing." As Johnson concludes regarding the ICCSD and its search for principals, "No one doubts we have the able."Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 13, 2001.)
"Reality: We Just Can't Have It All" ("Overcrowded classrooms" can be solved with basic math. Have kindergarten students register by district, not by building, and assign them to identically-sized classes. "Because if you're going to have a cat you're going to have scratches. And if you're going to let students show up willy-nilly at elementary schools you're going to have grossly disparate class sizes." Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 27, 2001.)
"Galloping Global Multi-Media Merger Mania: A Former FCC Commissioner's Perspective" (Text for Nicholas Johnson's presentation to the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Peoples Unitarian-Universalist Church, February 18, 2001. The piece develops how 11 causes and consequences of mergers of mass media are threatening America's democratic self-governing and diversity within the nation's creative community -- among other things.)
"Snow Day Solution" ("Snow day stress is not inevitable. Abandon the 100-year-old Agricultural Age school schedule. Try year round schools." Iowa City Gazette, February 18, 2001.)
"More Needed on Iowa Child" ("Iowa Child's IMAX theaters, teacher training and hotels come and go like a desert mirage. It's hard to imagine any Iowa City banker loaning $300, let alone $300 million, for such an unfinished proposal. 'The devil is in the details.' But at this point in time the question about Iowa Child is: Where the devil are those details?" Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 13, 2001.)
"School Board Service" (Want to join the fun? Why not run for School Board? The next election is September 11, 2001. Nothing's more rewarding. Posted to Web February 2, 2001.)
"New Secretary Does What Works" (Rod Paige, Secretary of Education in the Bush Administration, has been superintendent "in a textbook district. He's not only read the books, he wrote the plan. His genius has been the ability to get the diverse sprawl called Houston to go along." Within the limits imposed on any U.S. secretary of education "Dr. Roderick Paige brings the potential of great promise." Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 30, 2001.)
"Whose Child is This?" (Transcript of Nicholas Johnson's Extemporaneous Remarks on the Occasion of "A Public Forum on Opposing Iowa Child," Organized by Stop a Vast Error (SAVE). Organizers and Presenters: Caroline Dieterle, Carol DeProsse and Clara Oleson. Iowa City, Iowa, Public Library, January 22, 2001.)
"'Iowa Child' Concerns" (Nicholas Johnson raises some significant questions and concerns about a project its promoters call "Iowa Child" -- perhaps something of a misnomer for a combination 600-room hotel and rain forest in the middle of the Iowa prairie. The piece was written and Web posted January 22, 2001, on the occasion of a community meeting to discuss the project.)
"We Have a 'New World Disorder'" ("What are the educational implications of the Internet? No one knows what the Internet is now, let alone what it will become. Except that 'school' now seems to be a verb." Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 16, 2001.)
"Open Meeting Clarification of May 9, 2000, Statement Regarding District Standards of Honesty" (These are the individual comments of ICCSD School Board member Nicholas Johnson on the occasion of the board's open public deliberations on January 9, 2001. The deliberations involved a statement issued by the Board on May 9, 2000. The January 9 deliberations were held in response to the recommendations of the Johnson County Attorney and his interpretations of the Iowa Open Meetings law and the May 9 meeting. Johnson said, "The Board has taken no action regarding the coach. It has not recommended action be taken by others. In fact, to this day it has never even been informed what action, if any, was taken by the City High Athletic Director, Principal or Superintendent. Neither the statement, nor the closed session, were in my judgment a violation of the Open Meetings law.")
"'Shrub' Offers a Look at Bush" ("If you haven't lived amongst Texans, Ivins and Dubose provide the next best insight I know into Texas in general and George W. Bush in particular, and it is his education record that is of greatest interest to this column. Those insights alone are well worth the $8.99 price of the book." Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 2, 2001.)
"Music Could Lead Us Into Future" ("While a few still voice objections to the merits of magnet schools, we are living in what is, for all practical purposes, a magnet school district. What's our core competency? Music is one way of thinking about our future." Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 19, 2000.)
"Channel One: A Sense of the Board Statement" (At its regular meeting December 12, 2000, the ICCSD School Board issued a statement regarding the controversial role of Channel One in the District, earlier discussed at its meetings of November 14 and 28. The Board chose to take no action at this time, for a number of reasons detailed in the statement. It also summarizes "The Case for Channel One" and the "Concerns" that have been raised nationally and locally about the propriety of television advertising directed at students while in school.)
"Children Targeted by Advertising" ("What we call 'our children' others call 'a $500 billion market.'" In our schools "we can go for even more corporate revenue. Or we can try to create a more commercial-free environment for our students. It's our choice." Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 5, 2000.)
"Be Thankful for What We Have" (Thanksgiving is an appropriate time to remind ourselves that "clearly we are the rich relations of the human family." Whether it's the quality of our educational system or other aspects of life within our school district "measured against the realities of human life on Earth we have much more to be thankful for than first imagined." Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 21, 2000.)
"Dems, Cease Your Slander: Nader is Not Your Problem" (When national Democrats decided to solicit, and serve, the corporations that support both political parties with multi-million-dollar soft money contributions they, necessarily, had to abandon their natural base of constituents -- the poor, working class, trade union members and their progressive wing. The strategy was successful in raising their share of the $3 billion spent on this election. It was not successful in attracting voters. They've thereby created a serious problem for themselves. It's disasterously self-defeating for Democrats to think that their problem is Ralph Nader -- or that the problem can be solved by further alienating Nader and his supporters. Iowa City Gazette, November 19, 2000.)
"Democracy is an Everyday Task" (Millions of dollars in soft money and 22,000 lobbyists in Washington aren't the only forces rotting our democracy from the core. There are also the "sub-governments." We need citizen empowerment. "Campaigns, and classrooms, should focus on process, not promises. Without processes that are full all promises are empty." Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 7, 2000.)
"Bush and Gore: What Difference?" (When it comes to the issues that affect the bottom line of their corporate backers -- often the very same corporations -- it is not surprising that there is little or no difference between Bush and Gore. Some differences on other issues? Sure. But not when it comes to a choice between corporate America's bottom line and consumer or worker protection. Fifth in a "Common Sense 2000" series, Internet distributed and Web posted November 5, 2000.)
"Understanding Washington: An Insider's Perspective" (A transcript of extemporaneous remarks at a Clinton, Iowa gathering, November 3, 2000. Sub-heads include: "Money and Politics; Money and Policy," "The Similarities in the Gore and Bush Support of a Corporate Agenda," "Campaign Finance Reform: Failure of Lobbying and the Need for Political (Third Party) Action," "The 'Risk' of a Bush Election Pales by Comparison to Former Political Risks," and "Power in Your Hands.")
"Only Gore Costs Gore Election" (Democrats and Gore supporters have only themselves to blame if Gore loses this election. But since they are continuing to say "Nader can cost Gore the election" here's a rational, decision-tree analysis that can be used now, or after the election, to calculate the truth of that charge. Fourth in a "Common Sense 2000" series, Internet distributed and Web posted November 2, 2000.)
"Freedom Ain't Free" (Attacking evils, such as British big business control of the colonies or slavery, have always involved risks -- such as the Revolutionary War and 600,000 Civil War dead. So it is today with the evil of the big business takeover of politics and the government and the risk of a Bush presidency. Reasonable people can differ about that risk -- as they could, and did, about the risks from fighting for independence and against slavery. I think the risk is worth it. The third in a "Common Sense 2000" series, Internet distributed and Web posted November 1, 2000.)
"College Football: Regulation or Restructure?" an exchange with UI President Mary Sue Coleman, Guest, and Julie Englander, Host, on "Iowa Talks" (Subject: Knight Commission/College Athletics Abuses) WSUI-AM, Iowa City, Iowa, October 31, 2000, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
"Bush's Supreme Court Appointments: A Halloween Fright?" (The shrill hysteria regarding the possibility of George W. Bush making appointments to the Supreme Court "is at best a gross exaggeration, reflecting either a lack of understanding of the Court and appointment process or a deliberate use of scare tactics." The second in a "Common Sense 2000" series, Internet distributed and Web posted October 30, 2000.)
"How Nader Helps Democrats" (It's not the responsibility of the Green Party to help Democrats, but in fact it does whether its members want to or not. The first in a "Common Sense 2000" series, Internet distributed and Web posted October 29, 2000.)
"Nicholas Johnson Introduction of Ralph Nader" at Nader's presentation for the UI Students 4 Nader and Iowa Green Party-sponsored event, October 27, 2000, University of Iowa Memorial Union, to an overflow crowd of 2000.
"Nicholas Johnson KCJJ Interview" on "The Big Show" with Captain Steve Bridges and Anthony Weller, KCJJ 1560 AM, 1630 AM Stereo, Iowa City, Iowa, October 27, 2000 (discussion of the third party movement as seemingly the only strategy, historically and today, for reducing the corporate control of the two major parties.)
"Take Schools Survey Seriously" ("There's one thing more important than any other: parental involvement." So take the parent-teacher partnership survey and take it seriously. Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 24, 2000.)
* "GUEST OPINION: Celebrate America's Heritage . . . Reject Big-Buck Politics" (The U.S. in general, and Iowa in particular, have a great tradition of supporting third parties to bring about reform whenever either of the two major parties are dominated by corporate and big money influence. Now is such a time once again. Nader is the logical choice. The Daily Iowan, October 20, 2000, p. 8A.)
"Opinion of ICCSD Board in Response to Appeal from Superintendent's Busing Decision, Golfview Parents," granted and decided September 26, 2000, opinion released October 10, 2000. (This is the Board's opinion in the second case to arise under the Board's policy appeal process. Parents contested the Superintendent's decision denying busing for their elementary school children. The Board interpreted its use of the word "unsafe" in its executive limitations and held the only available walking/biking trail for students to be "unsafe.")
"Middle Schools Could Help Here" (Middle schools: one more innovation that might simultaneously improve the quality of education for our school district while also eliminating the problem of overcrowded schools. Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 10, 2000.)
"We Can Direct Coming Changes" (Whether overcrowded schools create a "boundaries problem" or "opportunities without boundaries" is up to us. Cedar Rapids' openness to change provides illustrations of the latter. Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 26, 2000.)
"Nicholas Johnson: Money Rules/3rd Parties Are Answer to Special Interests" (Today, as historically, when big business and the wealthy take over either major party, citizens have found the remedy in third parties. Quad-City Times, September 26, 2000.)
"Why Iowa Democrats Support Ralph Nader" (Text of remarks to Ralph Nader for President benefit held at Gabe's in Iowa City, Iowa, September 25, 2000, sponsored by University of Iowa Students for Nader and the Iowa City Green Party.)
"Today is School Board Election Day" (School districts like ours don't just happen. Everyone plays a part. School Board members too. "And that's where you come in. Because you pick 'em." Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 12, 2000.)
Interview/exchange during Chris Lydon's network radio program, "The Connection." The topic was "Decoding Hollywood Politics and Interests in Campaign 2000" September 12, 2000. There is a transcript of Nicholas Johnson's remarks, and the program is also available in Real Audio streaming audio. (Click on "Listen Now." Nicholas Johnson's remarks start at 36 minutes 35 seconds into the hour-long program and end at 44 minutes 45 seconds. Real Audio provides a sliding control for selecting start times.) Guests on the show included Peter Bart, Editor-in-Chief Variety; Martin Kaplan, Director, Norman Lear Center at USC; Steven Brill, Brill's Content; Bernard Weinraub, writer for the New York Times; Ken Auletta, New Yorker Media Columnist.
Nicholas Johnson Exchange with David Cobb, Guest, and Al Kern, Host, on "Iowa Talks" (Subject: Ralph Nader for President Campaign, WSUI-AM, Iowa City, Iowa, September 11, 2000, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.)
"Schools Must Teach Democracy" ("'It is difficult to teach democracy in an authoritarian manner.' Our students need some democracy lab time." Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 29, 2000.)
"Don't Waste Your Vote on Gore or Bush: Help Fix America by Supporting Ralph Nader" (Transcript of remarks to the University of Iowa Students for Nader, Iowa Memorial Union, August 28, 2000; posted September 12, 2000.)
Nicholas Johnson Exchange with Drs. Lane Plugge and Trudy Day, Guests, and Gayane Torosyan, Host, on "Iowa Talks" (Subject: Education and Iowa City Schools, WSUI-AM, Iowa City, Iowa, August 25, 2000, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.)
"A Millenarian View of Artists and Audiences," Chapter 18 ("Epilogue") from Michael Suman and Gabriel Rossman, Advocacy Groups and the Entertainment Industry (Westport: Praeger, 2000) (posted August 23, 2000).
"Georgia's Media Future: Options and Opportunities for the Third Millennium," Chapter 17 in Laura Lengel, ed., Culture @nd Technology in the New Europe: Civic Discourse in Transformation in Post-Communist Nations (Stamford: Ablex Publishing 2000) (posted August 22, 2000).
"Technological Determinism" (an archeological find from Nicholas Johnson's 1955 writings as a college student; posted August 22, 2000).
"Charter Schools Offer Options" ("Charter schools offer choice. And our first choice is whether they reach this school district at all." Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 15, 2000.)
"How Should We Use Computers?" ("Technology" -- black boxes, screens and cables -- is not the answer to America's educational needs. But teachers' creative use of these electronic teaching assistants just may be. Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 1, 2000.)
Running for School Board" ("No community service could be more rewarding."
The filing deadline is August 3, 2000. "What
are you waiting for? Do it. Get those nomination papers today." Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 18, 2000.)
"Life Before Death in the Corporate State" (A streaming audio version of a recently uncovered reel-to-reel tape of the November 5, 1970, University of California speech as FCC Commissioner that was an early draft of what ultimately became the Bantam book, Test Pattern for Living, posted July 13, 2000.)
"Lawn Mowing" (A recently uncovered June 30, 1998, effort at creative writing; of primary interest for information about growing up in Iowa City during the 1930s and 1940s; posted July 12, 2000.)
"A Mann to Remember This 4th" (Educational reformer Horace Mann confronted many of the same challenges that are still with us today. Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 4, 2000.)
"Iowa Schools Facing Severe Problems" (The Iowa State Education Association proposes that "recruitment, retention and respect" are the "3 Rs" that can help Iowa obtain and keep the teachers the state will need to replace the 40 percent soon eligible to retire. Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 20, 2000.)
"Schools Good but Could be Better" ("Why are we so resistant to educational innovations? It's a mystery." Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 6, 2000.)
"We Get What We Want -- Sports" ("Benefits from school sports? Of course. Worth the cost? Don't ask." Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 23, 2000.)
"ICCSD Board of Directors Ends Policies, Revisions and Status as of May 23, 2000" (This is the set of drafts following the May 23 regular meeting approval of the prologue, and first reading of policies 2a and 2b. For prior drafts see the Governance Web page.)
"Magnets Offer Real Choice" ("Choice can take the form of the vouchers that will weaken public education . . . [or] the magnet schools that will strengthen it." With them "our overcrowding problem vanishes like the morning dew." Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 9, 2000.)
"ICCSD School Board Academic Ends Policy (Literacy)" now contains the May 7 and 8 revisions, and the Board's May 2, 2000, additions to the April 25/29 revision of the original April 7 draft document. It is scheduled for additional discussion at the Board's meeting May 9, 2000. (Both the original, April 7 prior draft, as well as the April 25/29 revised document that was the basis for the May 2 Board discussion are available for comparison.)
"Consistency Works in Education" (The Pentagon's schools are producing remarkable results -- especially when it comes to closing "the achievement gap." What can we learn from them? For starters, "districts that 'give up and blame the environment' don't do as well as those with the attitude, 'We can teach anybody to learn.'" Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 25, 2000.)
"Opinion of the Board In re: Superintendent's Tennis Lights Decision," petition denied, April 25, 2000, opinion released May 2, 2000, is the Board's first opinion applying its March 28, 2000, Board Policy Appeals Process (see below). A controversy surrounding local citizens' complaints about the intrusive nature of the tennis court lights at a local high school has been brewing since November 1998. The Board's opinion deals with each of the Petitioner's alleged policy concerns in turn, and contains as appendices each of the relevant documents.
"Board is Different, Better" (A conversation between "Roger and me" about school board governance, decision making, and citizen appeals. "Roger, what I think is that you haven't heard a word I said." Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 11, 2000.)
"ICCSD School Board Response to Staff Concerns Regarding Sample Academic Ends Policies" was adopted by the Board April 4, 2000. (It contains links to the original proposals and quotes from Dr. H. D. Hoover's presentation.)
"ICCSD Board Policy Appeals Process" was adopted by the Board March 28, 2000. (This policy is designed to distinguish the Board's responsibility for policy from the Superintendent's responsibility for administration. Although any and all concerns still may be presented to the Board by anyone, the Board will only resolve those involving policy issues.)
"New Ideas Benefit Schools" (Demands of the "Information Age" call for K-12 changes. The American School Board Journal has awarded 23 school districts its Magna Awards for innovation, described in this column. "Are we capable of putting others' tested, award-winning innovations in place? Of course. Will we? That remains to be seen." Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 28, 2000.)
"H. D. Hoover and 'Ends Policies'" (Dr. H. D. Hoover heads the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills program at the University of Iowa. He spoke March 21, 2000, to the Iowa City Community School District Board on the subject of the relationship to test scores in general, and ITBS scores in particular, to the Board's proposed academic "ends policies" for the District. This document is an effort to organize, and present highlights and quotes, from that 1-1/2-hour presentation and question and answer session.)
"Let's Celebrate All Our Successes" (Public education -- nationally and locally -- has a lot of accomplishments of which to be proud. It's not just our local schools' national and state awards, it's also thousands of unrecognized actions every day. Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 14, 2000.)
"A Good Model for Education" (We can't "copy" the German educational system, but it has a good many lessons for us from free school pre-schools, to abolition of school boards, and an integration of academics and apprenticeships that produces for Germany both global competitiveness and some of the highest academic achievement in the world. Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 29, 2000.)
"'No Standards' is No Option" (Measurable goals, standards and tests -- including the school board's "ends policies" -- can be hazardous, but "they're far less serious than the dangers of operating our schools without them. Besides, it's the law" -- now that Iowa, "the 50th state to fall in line" in the standards movement, requires them of school districts. This Iowa City Press-Citizen column was published February 15, 2000.)
Free Speech, Profitable Speech and the Future of the Internet (Text of presentation during Nicholas Johnson's week as Regents’ Lecturer, University of California San Diego, at a Breakfast Symposium with San Diego Business Leaders, UCSD Faculty Club, February 3, 2000. Comments on his remarks were provided by panelists Neil Derrough, former President, NBC Channel 7/39, President, N.E.D. Enterprises; Robert Bingham, founder, Simple Network Communications; Guylyn Remmenga Cummins, Gray, Cary, Ware & Freiderich; Professor Robert Horwitz, UCSD Department of Communication. This event was videotaped for broadcast during March 2000, following which a tape will be available for transcription.)
General Semantics and Departments of Communication (Advance text of remarks presented at a University of California San Diego Faculty Club Reception for general semanticist Dr. Sanford Berman, February 2, 2000.)
Media Regulation in the Age of the Internet (A rough outline of notes used by Nicholas Johnson for his primary public lecture as Regents’ Lecturer, University of California San Diego, presented in the UCSD Copley Auditorium, February 1, 2000. It includes material that, for lack of time, was not in fact presented. An audio tape was made, but is not yet available. It will in time be received and transcribed.)
UCSD Highlights (Nicholas Johnson served as University of California Regents Lecturer January 29-February 5, 2000. While on the campus of the University of California San Diego under the sponsorship of its Department of Communication he made a number of public appearances. This Web page will be expanded over time to include transcripts of more of the events. It was first created February 7, 2000.)
"An Explanation . . . Maybe a Little Late" (This is Nicholas Johnson's column about his Iowa City Press-Citizen every-other-Tuesday K-12 education columns. "This is a column. It is only a column. . . . I provide the sand, you produce the pearls. Their value is for others to judge." It was published February 1, 2000.)
"Opportunity to Look at Education" (This January 18, 2000, Iowa City Press-Citizen op-ed urges Iowans' attendance at the January 24 precinct caucuses, evaluates the presidential candidates' education proposals, and asks, "Is Bush too liberal to get elected to our school board?")
"Sample Academic Ends Policy" (Illustrative "ends policies" -- John Carver's term -- were produced at the School Board's January 15, 2000, retreat and posted here, and on the District's official site, January 18, 2000.)
"Questions They Never Get Asked" (a July 12, 1987, op-ed column in the Washington Post during an earlier Presidential campaign was found, scanned and Web-posted January 9, 2000, for its continuing relevance during the Year 2000 presidential Iowa caucuses and primaries -- when these essential questions are still not getting asked.)
"The Marad Management Information Reporting System," is a 1965 U.S. Maritime Administration publication first posted here January 7, 2000. It describes then-Maritime Administrator Nicholas Johnson's management style at that time. It was discovered, scanned, and posted here as one of a number of models of how the ICCSD School Board may choose to tie its "ends policies" to data, monitoring, and the appearance of charts and graphs.
"Should School Boards be Abolished?" (transcript of Nicholas Johnson's remarks during Roy Justice interviews of Russell Edwards, author of How Boards of Education Are Failing Your Children, and Nicholas Johnson, KXIC-AM 800, Iowa City, Iowa, January 5, 2000.)
"Commercialism Attacks Schools" ("It is a bit ironic that this all began with a Paul Revere pizza sign. . . . Now it is the corporations that are coming, right into our schools. In fact, they're already here." Iowa City Press-Citizen op ed column January 4, 2000.)
"Communications Passport," January 4, 2000, is revised draft text, and possible color layout, for a School District brochure explaining the most effective ways for stakeholders to become informed about, and communicate with, the ICCSD and its school board.
"The Communication Process and General Semantic Principles" (Web-posted December 23, 1999, as the newest addition to the Wendell Johnson Memorial Web Page, is this 1948 paper that provides one of the best good, short overviews of general semantics.)
"What Values Are We Promoting?" ("If commercialism has even infested religious holidays, what about schools? School districts are of many minds." Iowa City Press-Citizen op ed of December 21, 1999 -- just in time for the HollyDaze.)
"Let's Focus Efforts and Resources" ("We can't afford two 'shopping mall' high schools. We need focus. Let's make our school district the nation's preeminent writing school district." Iowa City Press-Citizen op ed column December 7, 1999.)
(Draft Only) "Resolving Disputes and Communication with the School District" (First, working draft of "how to" brochure for District's stakeholders, December 7, 1999.)
"Crowding in the Schools? It Calls for Creative Solutions" (A December 1, 1999, Iowa City Gazette opinion column by Mary Vasey and Nicholas Johnson responding to Gazette reporter Nathan Hill's article about crowding at Iowa City's two high schools, City and West.)
"Quick Fixes Are Too Disruptive" (Crowded classrooms are putting pressure on the school board to come up with solutions. It's characterized as a problem of redrawing "boundaries" (around elementary schools). But long-term solutions offer possibilities for educational innovation. And "ironically, the less the community is willing to innovate the greater will be the pain from the changes we will have to make." A November 23, 1999, Iowa City Press-Citizen op-ed column.)
"The Case for Independent Funding of Public Broadcasting" (Remarks of Nicholas Johnson at the kick-off news conference of Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting, Washington, D.C., November 16, 1999. Johnson is a member of the board of directors of CIPB. His remarks relate to the importance of an alternative to commercial broadcasting and the threat of the creeping commercialism in public broadcasting.)
"School Board Reinventing Itself" (This November 9, 1999, Iowa City Press-Citizen op-ed column describes a recent ICCSD Board retreat process and product. "School board members headed off with two books. They returned with a new set of governance policies." The books were John Carver's, including Reinventing Your Board.)
"We Have Little Time for Thinking, Planning" ("When any organization's employees are up to their hips in alligators there best be someone, somewhere, functioning as the institutional cerebral cortex." An Iowa City Press-Citizen op-ed column published October 26, 1999.)
"Board Looks to be More Efficient" (Among the school district's 1500 volunteers are three departing board members, due thanks from the community. The new board wants to clarify the relative roles of the board and superintendent, and more efficiently free itself to focus on the policies, long-range forecasts and measurable goals that it views as a school board's primary responsibility; but such substantial changes will require patience, support and breathing room from the community. This op-ed column appeared in the October 12, 1999, Iowa City Press-Citizen.)
"Much is Accomplished with Little" (Nicholas Johnson visited Bulgaria September 10-19, 1999, at the invitation of the United States Information Agency to speak at conferences and consult with officials and journalists about the ground rules for Bulgarian media's coverage of the country's forthcoming local elections. While there, however, he and his wife, Mary Vasey, also visited schools and education officials to exchange views regarding K-12 education. This September 28, 1999, Iowa City Press-Citizen op-ed column is his effort to share with the Iowa City community some of their insights about Bulgarian education that might be useful locally.)
"Elections Reporting in the U.S. and Bulgaria" (transcript of extemporaneous remarks presented to the "Regulatory Issues of Elections Reporting Conference," The American Center, Sofia, Bulgaria, September 14, 1999.)
"Get Out to the Polls, Vote Today" (a September 14, 1999, Iowa City Press-Citizen op-ed column about the history of school boards, choices in the Iowa City Community School District election that day, problems associated with limiting the number of polling places, and urging a large voter turnout. For the election results, see the page of Johnson County, Iowa, Auditor, Tom Slockett.)
"Election Reporting in the U.S. and Bulgaria: Talking Points" (an outline/handout used during Nicholas Johnson's USIA/USIS-sponsored presentations in Varna [Elections Reporting Workshop, Lotos Hotel, Varna-Riviera, Bulgaria, September 11, 1999] and Sofia [The American Center, Sofia, Bulgaria, September 14, 1999] during his visit September 10-19, 1999, with Bulgarian journalists and officials. See also the full Bulgarian Web site created following this trip, and the transcript of remarks expanding on this handout.)
"The Viacom-CBS Merger" (Chris Lydon's "The Connection" program focused on the recently-announced Viacom-CBS merger on September 8, 1999, in an hour-long discussion with Nicholas Johnson, Mark Crispin Miller (NYU media studies)and Jon Katz (Rolling Stone contributing editor). The program originates from WBUR-FM 90.9 in Boston, but is carried by public radio stations including WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City, Iowa. The link is to a page from which the entire hour may be heard.)
"What's Been Accomplished? Little" (Iowa City School Board member Nicholas Johnson offers an apology in this "annual report" detailing his failure to accomplish more during the first year of his three-year term. The column was published in the August 31, 1999 Iowa City Press-Citizen.)
"Complaints Help Solve Problems" (This is the second of a two-part exploration of the role of "customer relations" (or, more properly, "stakeholder relations") for public -- as distinguished from for-profit -- institutions, in this case the Iowa City Community School District. Published in the August 17, 1999, Iowa City Press-Citizen the column makes reference to the suggestions contained in National Performance Review, Serving the American People: Best Practices in Resolving Customer Complaints (1996).)
"Customer Relations Are a Priority" (This is the first of a two-part exploration of the role of "customer relations" (or, more properly, "stakeholder relations") for public -- as distinguished from for-profit -- institutions, in this case the Iowa City Community School District. It appeared as an op ed column in the August 3, 1999 Iowa City Press-Citizen with some examples of situations not handled as well as they might have been.)
"We Should All Work Together" (This Letter to the Editor of the Iowa City Press-Citizen was published August 2, 1999. It calls upon the community to welcome the new Superintendent, Lane Plugge, with "our understanding that problems long in brewing cannot be solved immediately by anyone.")
"Everything We Say, Do is a Lesson" (The concept of a "learning community" is usually applied to much smaller organizations than an entire city. This July 20, 1999 Iowa City Press-Citizen op ed column proposes the adoption of this "new paradigm" way of thinking about the education of our children -- and ourselves -- with examples.)
"Kindergarten is Simply Too Late" (This July 6, 1999 Iowa City Press-Citizen op ed column is the second of two columns to put the case for increased emphasis on early childhood development, with examples of what is now being done in Johnson County, Iowa, and what could be done.)
"Give Our Kids and Schools a Fair Chance" (This June 22, 1999 Iowa City Press-Citizen op ed column puts the case for increased emphasis on early childhood development as "much more humane, effective, fair -- and efficient" than remedial programs in K-12 schools. Most of what's needed is simple and virtually free; such public expense as is required returns $7.00 later for every $1.00 invested now. Part one of a two-part presentation.)
"Board Needs Creative Questions" (This op ed outlines the schedule for reviewing applicants for the school district's superintendent position, the applicants' need for confidentiality, and alternative ways to involve the community in the selection process. It notes "there's nothing to prevent everyone in the community who wants to from submitting proposed interview questions," and urges those questions be "creative" because applicants are likely "to come equipped with well-rehursed answers to most of the conventional questions." Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 8, 1999.)
"Homicide Shouldn't be Our Top Concern" (No, this op-ed piece does not argue we shouldn't care when our kids are murdered -- the creative headline writer's choice notwithstanding. It's an effort to put in perspective all the threats to children's safety, citing a wide range of troubling statistics to make the point that "in-school homicide is the least of our worries." [emphasis added] (For example, there are 50 percent more homicides of young people every day than occurred in Littleton, Colorado, April 20.) It concludes: "Want a safe place for your kids? Put them in school." Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 25, 1999.)
"Do We Need a Superintendent?" (The National School Boards Foundation study, Leadership Matters, supports a chorus of school reformers' complaints about school boards: "a growing body of research on governance indicates that improving the effectiveness of boards can have a beneficial effect on public education." And, no, the creative headline writer's title aside, the piece does not argue for the abolition of superintendents! Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 11, 1999.)
"Offer Your Thoughts on Schools" (The Iowa City Community School District's superintendent search firm, The Bickert Group, offers the community "a little noticed sleeper they call a 'community audit.' . . . It's an opportunity for every person in this community to contribute to an impartial evaluation of the district's issues or concerns . . . to present the board itself with a thorough and candid report card from the community." Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 27, 1999.)
"Board Must Think First, Act Later" (The rush to have a new superintendent in place by September (the last search took a year) prevents the board from walking through the necessary preliminaries: "What are we trying to accomplish -- educationally? What organizational structure best does that? What qualities does it require in a superintendent?" Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 13, 1999.)
"Change Offers School District Opportunities" (With two of the District's top administrators leaving, it offers the Board and community the opportunity to think through possible changes in District governance -- and the qualities it wants in its educational leaders. Here are some examples of the range of management models potentially available. This op ed piece was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen March 30, 1999.)
"School Board Process Was Encouraging" (This op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, published March 16, 1999, compares two examples of the school board's decision making process. Cuts in math support were made with "little in the way of program details, district data or others' research findings." By contrast, the decision to extend all-day kindergarten district wide utilized research findings and community dialogue. It involved rational analysis and choices both as to the substance and the equity arguments.)
"All-Day Kindergarten: Sorting Through the Pros and Cons" (On March 9, 1999, the Iowa City Community School District considered a proposal to extend all-day kindergarten to all elementary schools. (Some still have half-day programs.) This document is not a "brief" for or against the proposal. It is, rather, an effort to marshall the community's arguments pro and con as a contribution to the debate -- and an explanation of why this school board member is leaning toward voting the way he is.)
"Board Looks at Goal-Setting, Long-Range Planning" ("This evening the school board is beginning its process of goal setting and long range planning. . . . What's most important? What's the most appropriate way to measure and report it? What goals, what measures of improvement, can we realistically hope to attain?" This op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizenwas published March 2, 1999)
"Epilogue: A Millenarian View of Artist and Audience" (This document has been prepared as the last chapter of a forthcoming book about public interest media reform advocates -- and the resistance of the entertainment and journalism industries to their participation. It considers the impact of 21st Century technology and proposes a new approach to the dilemma of balancing the interests of artists and audience. This is the February 22, 1999 draft.)
"School Board Budget Cuts: How I Am Voting and Why" (a statement prepared for a February 16, 1999, School Board budget "working session" -- and any member of the interested public -- including four sections headed "Why I Have Written This Statement," "How This Budget-Cutting Process Could Have Been Avoided," "Why I Cannot Support Many of the Proposed Cuts," and "How I Propose to Reduce the Budget.")
"We Can Provide Better, Cheaper Education" (With declining enrollment and annual budget-cutting sessions, one option is to go on doing what's comfortable -- but with less and less money every year -- and the other is to rethink ways of providing "better education at radically cheaper cost." "Will we . . . 'dream of things that never were and ask "Why not"?' Or will we freeze in place, terrorized at the prospect of change and the unknown . . ..?" This op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen was published February 16, 1999)
"Schools Must Have Priorities and Goals" (Getting the program horse before the budget cart: "No one can make rational budget decisions without some sense of focus, priorities, and measurable goals . . .. Meanwhile, talking about 'budget cuts' is at best irrational, and at worst irresponsible." This op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen calls for the creation of priorities and goals before deciding on budget cuts. February 2, 1999)
"It Always Comes Down to Personnel Costs" (School finance: "We contract out $5 million . . . buy $3.5 million worth of supplies . . . Grant Wood AEA . . . gets $2.7 million of . . . state flow-through funds we can't control. . . . But it all (almost) comes down to personnel costs." This op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen continues the discussion of school finance and its impact on the Iowa City Community School District. January 19, 1999)
"State Law Limits School District Funding" (School finance: "We have some options for increasing income, but not by much." This op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen is Part II of a two-part introduction to Iowa's system of school finance and its impact on the Iowa City Community School District. January 5, 1999)
"The 'Easy' Explanation of School Finances" (School finance: If it's true that "we can't print money and we can't run deficits," just where does our money come from? This op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen is Part I of a two-part introduction to the topic. December 22, 1998)
"Why Impeachment Was Wrong -- And Summary Judgment Now is Right" (originally entered on the "Johnson County News" list as a pre-impeachment modification of an e-mail sent to Representative Jim Leach, this December 20, 1998, modest revision is intended as, and hopefully will be perceived to be, a serious effort at analysis rather than a partisan polemic regarding the House impeachment of President Clinton December 19, 1998 -- an historic action that has only occurred once before in American history)
"Board Decisions Need to Reflect Research" (this op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen describes the Internet generally, and argues "Our school board's decisions need to reflect research. . . . Today's Internet just may be the cheapest, fastest and most thorough way to do that. At least that's what a fifth-grader told me. And we've begun to take her advice." December 8, 1998)
"Remember to Keep Schools in Perspective" (this Thanksgiving op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen suggests "as the lawsuits, budget choices, divisiveness and expulsion hearings swirl around the school board . . . I didn't think it would weaken any of us too much to pause and give thanks for the good news about our local schools . . .." November 24, 1998)
"Children's Television Programming" (Nicholas Johnson's comments on the adverse effects of children engaged in the act of watching television (regardless of content) during a National Public Radio network "Talk of the Nation" program with host Ray Suarez, Children's Television Workshop's Alice Cahn, and Nickelodean's Cyma Zarghami (broadcast in Iowa City over WSUI-AM). November 16, 1998. Audio of entire program available from the NPR "Talk of the Nation" archives.)
"Let's Decide What We Want Schools to Do" (this op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen combines a mini-book review of Francis Schrag's Back to Basics, and an exploration of the relationship of "Mac" Bundy's failure to understand Vietnamese culture to the outcome of the war, into an exploration of the question, "Just what are our School District's goals anyway?" November 10, 1998)
"Simulation Could Help Us Find Solutions" (this op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen proposes "Sim School District," a spreadsheet requiring program advocates to work with actual budget numbers to find available resources for their proposals, as an alternative to "the board sitting on the same conveyor belt, heading for the same buzz saw that cut them up into little pieces last year." October 27, 1998)
"Commercialism in Schools" (Nicholas Johnson's position paper on proposed ICCSD Board policies on commercialism in the schools, recommending an inventory of current District practices and presence of commercialism, research into the consequences of commercialism and other districts' practices, the lack of standards in the proposed policies, and offering "a superficial overview of others' concerns" drawn from Internet-posted material; October 13, 1998)
"Impact of Decisions Should be Considered" (an op ed piece for the Iowa City Press-Citizen proposing "educational impact statements" from the School Board and other local governmental bodies, along with a joint-governmental management information reporting system; October 12, 1998)
"Board Functions" (Nicholas Johnson speaks out on Iowa City Community School District Board Functions -- research-based decision making, Board-administration roles, assessment and management information reporting systems, the need for an ombudsperson, and the Board's decision making process. A paper prepared for an ICCSD Board "retreat," October 12, 1998)
"Should the President be Impeached?" (an interview with Nicholas Johnson on New Zealand radio, conducted by Kim Hill, on the day of the broadcast of President Clinton's videotaped grand jury testimony, September 21, 1998)
"On-Line Commerce Issues and Information Age Technologies: Opportunity or Pitfall" (a transcript of Nicholas Johnson's extemporaneous address to the University of Iowa College of Law Continuing Legal Education program, "Legal Issues Affecting Entrepreneurs and Start Up Businesses," at the UI Memorial Union, Iowa City, Iowa, September 11, 1998)
"Lawn Mowing" (One of Nicholas Johnson's few stabs at creative writing; no one was killed. Of some interest for its description of growing up in Iowa City, Iowa, during the 1930s and 1940s.)
"Clark Blaise and Nicholas Johnson 'Conversations With Books'" (transcript of an hour-and-a-half, wide-ranging conversation between Clark Blaise and Nicholas Johnson during a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Public Library-sponsored "Conversations With Books" program. Clark Blaise is the author of 11 books, most recently, I Had A Father, the primary subject of the evening, and until recently served as Director of the University of Iowa's International Writers Project; June 24, 1998)
"Twenty-Five Years of Award-Winning Public Access," (the advance text of Nicholas Johnson's keynote address on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Austin [Texas] Community Access Center, June 5 and 6, 1998; includes an analysis of the contributions of public access community cable television programming as measured by the purposes of the First Amendment)
"Focus wrong to attack alcohol problem," (an op-ed column for the "Opinion" section of the Iowa City Press-Citizen newspaper, May 5, 1998, putting the case that alcohol is the nation's, and Iowa City's, "number one hard drug problem," and that the community's "Stepping Up" proposals for reducing "binge drinking" don't, so far, seem adequate to the task)
"Media, Capitalism and Politics" (an Q and A exchange between Nicholas Johnson and Peter Coyote, actor, activist and author, most recently of Sleeping Where I Fall, during a "Live from Prairie Lights" event in Iowa City, Iowa, broadcast over WSUI-AM; April 30, 1998)
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, "Child Labor and Human Rights," April 24, 1998 (lecture) and April 27, 1998 (WSUI-AM broadcast) (a single question and answer exchange with Nicholas Johnson following Senator Harkin's lecture)
"So You Want to Be a Lawyer: A Play in Four Acts," April 22, 1998, with subsequent updates (advice to a newly-admitted law student in the form of a dialogue with a kindly curmudgeon of a law professor)
Nicholas Johnson on Pirate Radio (Kathleen Hughes, "News: ICFR vs. FCC," icon, March 26, 1998, p. 2, report on the FCC's efforts to close down Iowa City Free Radio contains substantial direct and indirect quotes from Nicholas Johnson on the subject.)
of Nicholas Johnson on The Proposed Creation of a Public Broadcasting System
for Georgia" was first presented on March 24, 1998, and is to be translated
into Georgian by ABA/CEELI.
|Humor Break: No Pun in Ten Did|
"Comments of Nicholas Johnson on The Law of Georgia on Broadcasting, Proposed Law of the Parliament of Georgia" was first presented on March 23, 1998, and is to be translated into Georgian by ABA/CEELI. (The law itself will be, but is not yet, available from this site.)
"Comments of Nicholas Johnson on the Freedom of Information Proposed Law of the Parliament of Georgia" was first presented March 17, 1998, and is to be translated into Georgian by ABA/CEELI. (The law itself, "Georgia 'On Freedom of Information'" is also available from this site.)
Media Future: A Personal View of Options and Opportunities" (a personal
report of Nicholas Johnson to the Parliament of Georgia and other interested
individuals (unrelated to the ABA/CEELI project comments on specific legislative
drafts), March 12, 1998)
|Humor Break: Divert Course|
"Weekly News in English" (transcript of interview with Nicholas Johnson on TV7, Tbilisi, Georgia, March 1, 1998, regarding proposed changes in Georgia broadcast law)
"A Hasty History of U.S. Broadcast Regulation" (transcript of Nicholas Johnson's extemporaneous remarks to the "Seminar on Proposed Broadcast Regulation," Republican Hearing Room, Parliament of Georgia, Tbilisi, Georgia, February 27, 1998)
"Georgia (Formerly Republic of Georgia) . . . its evolving media law and policy" (this new, evolving, Web site will contain a variety of information about the nation of Georgia, its existing and proposed media policy and legislation, and a record of Nicholas Johnson's visit there February 24-March 3, 1998 at the invitation of the Georgia Parliament and the American Bar Association/Central and East European Law Initiative (ABA/CEELI))
"Evie: A Life to Celebrate" (Evelyn Margaret Sherman Chapman lived from May 28, 1908, to February 3, 1998; selected both of my wives; and was one of the brightest and liveliest spirits it has been my pleasure to know. These are my remarks about the life of this remarkable woman, prepared for, and delivered at, a memorial service at the Cedar Memorial Chapel in Cedar Rapids, February 7, 1998)
Talking Points" (modeled on the old story about the stand-up comics'
convention at which jokes were told by number, Nicholas Johnson came to
Institute Communication and Society Program's Working Group on Digital
Broadcasting and the Public Interest with this list of numbered comments
as "a concession to the shortness of life" and the number of participants
present, January 25-27, 1998)
|Humor Break: Political Insights|
"Sailing Shark-Infested Waters: A Map for Media Literacy" (a featured article by Nicholas Johnson in the December 1997 issue of Smart TV [Winter 1997] regarding the impact of the media on our lives and culture, and suggestions as to what we can do about it, with a sidebar of "Media Literacy Resources")
Unititled (a reprinted quotation from Nicholas Johnson appearing in the December 1997 issue of Reader's Digest)
I Think Poland Should be Cautious About Everything" (an interview of
Nicholas Johnson by Christopher Serres, emphasizing Polish telecommunications
policy, appearing in the November 10-16, 1997, Warsaw Business Journal)
|Humor Break: Microsoft's Ones and Zeros|
"ELSI in a Tangled Web" (a lecture text regarding the "ethical, legal and social issues" (ELSI) -- borrowing the concept from the Human Genome Project -- involved in the "tangled web" that is the Internet; prepared for delivery to "The Club," Iowa City, Iowa, October 23, 1997)
"Report of the Warsaw Journalism Center's Journalist in Cyberspace Conference" (this online Conference report, prepared by Nicholas Johnson, contains all the available advance texts of presentations, relatively detailed notes from two days of Conference deliberations, an appendix of presenters' names and addresses (with "MailTo" e-mail addresses when available), photographs from the Conference, and information about the co-organizers and co-sponsors of the Conference; the Conference was held in Warsaw, Poland, October 11 and 12, 1997)
the Cyber-Journalist" (advance text of Nicholas Johnson's presentation
prepared for the Warsaw Journalism Center's Journalist in Cyberspace Conference,
Warsaw, Poland, October 11 and 12, 1997)
"Public Broadcasting and Globalization: Discussion Questions, Issues and Topics" (prepared for the Commission on Radio and Television Policy: Central and East Europe Public Broadcasting and Globalization Conference, Vienna, Austria, September 19 and 20, 1997)
Autonomous Media" (a republication, on the occasion of two European
conferences -- the Vienna Conference, September 19 and 20, 1997, and the
Journalist in Cyberspace: A Warsaw Journalism Center International Conference,
Warsaw, Poland, October 11 and 12, 1997 -- of a paper prepared for a prior
Commission on Radio and Television Policy conference to describe the U.S.
media system to journalists and executives from Former Soviet Union republics)
|Humor Break: Church Bulletin Bloopers|
"Concepts, Perspectives and Goals" (introductory mini-essays on the Information Age, prepared as introductory material for the Law of Electronic Media class at the University of Iowa College of Law, Fall 1997; August 26, 1997)
"Schools for the New Millennium" (text of the August 20, 1997, keynote address to the Iowa City Community School District Preschool Workshop of teachers and administrators prior to the opening of the District's 1997-1998 school year; auditorium, City High School, Iowa City, Iowa)
Circle: General Semantics and the Law" (the lead article for the Summer
1997 [July 1, 1997] issue of ETC: A Review of General Semantics,
the quarterly journal of the International
Society for General Semantics, introducing two articles about general
semantics and the law: Randall P. Bezanson, "The 'Meaning' of First Amendment
Speech," and Wendell Johnson, "Reducing Misunderstandings in Trying to
|Humor Break: Why Did the Chicken?|
"Frequency giveaway dwarfs Teapot Dome" (an op-ed column for the "Opinion" section of the Iowa City Press-Citizen newspaper, June 9, 1997, commenting on special interest influence generally in Washington and bemoaning the Congress and FCC giveaway of $50 billion worth of frequencies to the broadcasting industry -- supposedly for "HDTV")
"Mary Swander, 'Live from Prairie Lights'" (transcript of the responses to a question from Nicholas Johnson regarding "mulch" on the occasion of an event featuring readings by Mary Swander from her new book Bloom and Blossom, a collection of contributions from a number of authors, including two who were there: Barbara Moss and Carl Klaus, as a part of the "Live from Prairie Lights" series of live presentations from Iowa City's Prairie Lights Bookstore, broadcast by WSUI-AM, Iowa City, Iowa, June 9, 1997)
"Respect for the 'boob tube'? Not yet" (an op-ed guest column for the "Opinion" section of The Cedar Rapids Gazette newspaper, Sunday, June 8, 1997, responding to the prior week's columnists and drawing insights from comic strips regarding the state of "journalism" in most of today's newspapers and local TV newscasts; and reprinted, Humanists of Iowa, July 1997, p. 4)
Chris Lydon's "The Connection" (transcript of an exchange between Nicholas Johnson, Chris Lydon, and Paul ("Red") Fay, Jr., on the occasion of what would have been the week of former President John F. Kennedy's 80th birthday on Chris Lydon's "The Connection," a National Public Radio program produced at WBUR, Boston, and carried on WSUI, Iowa City, May 26, 1997)
Johnson: A Multi-Media Web Page for a Multi-Faceted Man" (text of remarks
on the occasion of the dedication of the Wendell
Johnson Memorial Web Page at the University
of Iowa Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology and Wendell Johnson
Speech and Hearing Clinic Auditorium, Iowa City, Iowa, April 16, 1997 (what
would have been his 91st birthday); including a textual footnote describing,
and quoting, a letter from Dad to Dean Williams in January 1935 thanking
him for a Christmas gift of chickens)
|Humor Break: Mega Moron Awards|
"Liz Mathis' Media Law & Ethics Class" (transcript of an hour-long Iowa Communications Network video conference involving a presentation by, and interview of, Nicholas Johnson by Liz Mathis and her Media Law & Ethics class at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, April 9, 1997. The topics touched on range from broadcast history, through censorship, copyright and cyberlaw, the Fairness Doctrine, liquor advertising, the declining role of geography -- and the nation-state, and the role of "sub-governments" in understanding power in Washington -- for starters.)
"Governing America: 'What do you mean?' and 'How do you know?'" (text of the April 3, 1997, keynote address to a Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-sponsored conference of eastern Iowa high school students; a Kettering Foundation "National Issues Forum" with the Grant Wood Area Education Agency; at the Hoover Library in West Branch, Iowa)
Sedaris, 'Live from Prairie Lights'" (transcript of a Q and A exchange
between Nicholas Johnson and David Sedaris following the author's reading
from his latest book, Naked, as a part of the "Live from Prairie
Lights" series of live presentations broadcast by WSUI-AM, Iowa City, Iowa,
March 28, 1997)
|Humor Break: Interview Techniques|
and Technology" (transcript of an extemporaneous presentation to the
Iowa City Community School District Curriculum Review Group, Iowa City,
Iowa, March 19, 1997)
"Technology: Good, Bad, Inevitable" (a front page column in the March 1, 1997, Iowa City Press-Citizen, introducing a six-part special supplement, "Progress: Connecting with the Future," containing stories about the impact of technology on the school, health, work, market, home and leisure)
"TV Program Ratings" (Producer Gayane Torossian, WSUI-AM/KSUI-FM, Iowa City, Iowa, interviewed Johnson regarding Congressional hearings on the TV industry's proposed program ratings system. This is a transcript of that interview, including its presentation February 26 and 27, 1997)
"Can Australia Learn from the US Experience?" (an article in the December/January 1996-97 issue of Australian Communications evaluating the significance of the aftermath of the AT&T breakup, and Telecommunications Act of 1996, for Australia's venture into telecom privatization).
Ratings System" (Producer Mary Hartnett, WSUI-AM/KSUI-FM, Iowa City,
Iowa, interviewed Johnson regarding the TV industry's newly-proposed program
ratings system. This is a transcript of that interview, containing both
Johnson's reactions to the proposals and his suggestions for parents. The
program aired December 23, 1996)
|Humor Break: McDonnell Douglas Warranty Card|
"Democracia, Censura e Internet: Una Visión Desde el Norte" (a chapter in "Internet para periodistas," Cuadernos de Información: Estudios, Investigaciones y Ensayos, No. 11, p. 58 (December 1996), an annual, slick paper, book-length, quality production of the Escuela de Periodismo, Universidad Católica de Chile [Jaime Guzmán 3.300, Santiago, Chile; email@example.com; http://www.per.puc.cl])
"Free and Open Mass Media: How to Maintain National Cultural Identity in an Era of Global Communications" (talking points and handout for presentations in SE Asia November 23-December 15, 1996)
"General Semantics: The Next Generation" (an article in the [ Institute of General Semantics ] General Semantics Bulletin, Number 63, November 1996)
"City's Plan Ignores Vital Piece of Puzzle" and "Why Aren't More Tech Jobs in Iowa City?" (a two-part series in the October 25 and 26, 1996, Iowa City Press-Citizen responding to a City publication, "Beyond 2000," and offering a way of thinking about economic development and jobs for a small college town in the Information Age)
"Iowa Libraries: Thinking Outside the Box" (a transcript of a question-and-answer session following Johnson's keynote address to the Iowa Library Association's Annual Convention, October 10, 1996, dealing with libraries' response to Information Age technology)
"Kubby Cares About Those She Represents" (a critique of those who think it perfectly routine for elected officials to tip off the wealthy and powerful, but somehow "inappropriate" for officials to help organize citizens to represent their interests -- possibly prompted by my memories of receiving similar criticism as an FCC Commissioner. This "Letter to the Editor" of the Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 3, 1996, was in response to the paper's editorial criticism of actions by City Councilperson Karen Kubby -- an able and nationally recognized progressive public official.)
"Efectos de la TV Son Más Negativos que Positivos" (Paulo Ramírez's Spanish-language interview with Nicholas Johnson, appearing in El Mercurio [El Mercurio, Casilla 13-D, Santiago, Chile], August 25, 1996, during Johnson's USIS-sponsored lecture tour and visit to Santiago, Chile, August 15-22, 1996)
"Campaigns: You Pay $4 or $4000" (an op-ed column in the Des Moines Register, July 21, 1996, exploring the sources of what has become, in the aftermath of the last election, the embarrassments faced by Democrats and Republicans alike once again over campaign financing and its growing erosion of the democratic process)
And three pieces about cable television
abuses in general, those of TCI in particular, and proposals for what cities
and individuals can do about it: "Mad
as hell and I can't take anymore," a Letter to the Editor in the Iowa
City Press-Citizen, April 13, 1996, "Cable
Television Costs Are Way Too High," an op-ed column in the Iowa
City Press-Citizen, May 11, 1996, and "What's
Up With Local Cable Rates?", Jim Jacobson's interview with Nicholas
Johnson, appearing in the Iowa City Icon,
July 11, 1996.