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Nicholas Johnson is best known for his tumultuous seven-year term as a Federal Communications Commission commissioner (1966-1973), while publishing How to Talk Back to Your Television Set, 400 separate FCC opinions, and appearing on a Rolling Stone Cover.
He's also served as a law professor; public interest advocate; administrator, manager and corporate representative; author, columnist, public lecturer, TV and radio performer; politician; and lawyer -- with experience in public health, media, computer and telecommunications policy.
A native Iowan, Johnson holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas, Austin. Following law school, where he was Order of the Coif and articles editor of the Texas Law Review, he clerked for both Judge John R. Brown, US Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, and Justice Hugo L. Black, United States Supreme Court. His first professorship was at the University of California Law School, Berkeley (Boalt Hall). He later was an associate at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington & Burling, from which he was appointed U.S. Maritime Administrator by President Lyndon B. Johnson (no relation).
Following his FCC term, he served President Jimmy Carter as a presidential advisor for the White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services. He has also been a candidate for Congress in an Iowa Democratic primary, chair of a Washington-based media reform group, host of his PBS TV program, author of a nationally syndicated column, consultant to numerous countries on media matters, and appeared at hundreds of colleges as a public lecturer.
In 1981 he returned to Iowa City, served as Co-director of the University of Iowa's Institute for Health, Behavior and Environmental Policy, a member of the school board of the Iowa City Community School District, and accepted a position at the University of Iowa College of Law where he taught media and cyberlaw from 1981 until retiring from teaching in 2015 but still retains his office.
In 2009, Nicholas Johnson was selected as one of roughly 700 individuals described by Yale University Press as "leading figures in the history of American law, from the colonial era to the present day" in The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law.
He is the author of 8 books, and maintains an active Web page and blog.
Trump's 'Just Politics' Defense
What's the relationship between the Alt-Right, Russia, and Trump? When historians look back on the Trump Phenomenon decades from now, with its damage to American democracy and government, and democratic movements around the world, the answer to that question may well be seen as far more significant than the answer to "who on the Trump Team talked to whom in the Russian government, when, and about what?".
Tuesday, May 30, 2017(16 comments)
Kushner's Back-Channel Multiple Tragedies
Much attention has been focused on what Jared Kushner did in trying to set up a "back-channel" with Russia that would keep our government from knowing what the Trump Team was saying to the Kremlin. What's received much less attention is the harm done by Trump's willingness to ruin the reputations of those he brings out to try to defend the family's mistakes.
Monday, May 22, 2017(6 comments)
Why Net Neutrality is Your Friend
Trump's Federal Communications Commission is hell bent on depriving Americans of Net Neutrality's consumer protection from monopolists' profit-maximizing and control of content. Net Neutrality's our friend, and we should protect our friends from bullies.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017(10 comments)
What Trump Needs to Know About Libel
President Donald Trump wants to "open" our libel laws to enable him to sue media organizations. He needs to consider this brief analysis of defamation law before trying to do so. If you're following this story you might enjoy reading it, too.
Thursday, April 27, 2017(6 comments)
A Millionaire by Age 30? Here's How
Like weight loss, there's a difference between wanting to reach a goal and following through on the steps to get there. This millennial was a millionaire by 30. Would you do what he did for a million $$?
Monday, April 24, 2017(4 comments)
Some Airline Issues
The airlines have had a tough couple of weeks -- their passengers even more so. There are a number of issues they, and we, need to address.
Friday, April 7, 2017(17 comments)
Of Missiles and Teachers
As we launch one more escalation of our Middle East wars it may be a good time to reflect upon the opportunity cost for Americans of our "leaders" preference for perpetual war.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017(13 comments)
Collusion, Treason, Trump and Putin
The media and Congress have been focusing on possible collaboration between the Putin and Trump teams. What ought to have been their focus has received far less attention.
Monday, March 20, 2017(3 comments)
How to Fund Research Universities
States' legislatures have been cutting way back on their financial support of "state" universities. Research universities have found neither begging nor bragging very effective in turning them around. The link takes you to one political approach that just might work.
Friday, November 18, 2016(1 comments)
"Tracking Trump" is a continuing effort to report and comment on transition and policy issues from the election to inauguration.This piece lays out a skeleton of the policy issue categories "Tracking Trump" addresses.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016(1 comments)
Democratic Party's Past -- and Future
Here are excerpts from something written last July -- questioning the wisdom of the Democrats' selection of Hillary Clinton as their presidential nominee. It is equally applicable today as Democrats begin the process of refashioning their party.
Tuesday, November 1, 2016(12 comments)
Hillary's New Emails: A Solution for FBI Director Comey
FBI Director Comey threw a kind of IED into the presidential campaign the week before Election Day -- suggesting there might be more Hillary emails. What's the best he can do to minimize the impact of this mistake? Here are a few suggestions.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016(2 comments)
An Outrageous Merger
AT&T, with its distribution system, and the world's largest telecom company, wants to acquire the content of Time Warner. Commentators, and most lawyers, see it as an antitrust issue. They are missing its strangulation of media content.
Thursday, October 13, 2016(5 comments)
What's a Republican to Do?
Much is written about Trump and Clinton. This op ed focuses on the dilemma confronting Republican officials. What's in their best interest, that of their party, and the American people -- from an Iowa perspective.
Sunday, October 2, 2016(7 comments)
Law, Social Norms and Trump
There are many valid categories of reasons to not vote for Trump. But a new one is evolving that may help save us from future Trump-like candidates and campaigns: social and political norms for acceptable, and unacceptable speech. That's what this column, and its fuller blog version, explores.
Monday, September 26, 2016(1 comments)
Donald Trump's Barrel of Squirrels
Donald Trump. Who is this guy? What is he doing? Why is he doing it? How come so many Americans are supporting him? Are there any explanations?
In fact, there are an increasing number of theories as to how Donald Trump seems to have single-handedly bent what was once the American democratic process to his own ends.
Saturday, September 17, 2016(4 comments)
NFL: Really 'Sports' or Just a TV Series?
I can understand someone being a fan of high school football. Students know the players sitting with them in class. Parents come to the games. It's a community thing; a neighborly thing. Sometimes fans' enthusiasm gets a little out of hand, but mostly it falls short of physical violence and destruction of property. But NFL football? What is that all about?
Sunday, September 11, 2016(4 comments)
First Thoughts on 911 -- 15 Years Later
As a school board member, 1998-2001, I wrote a column on K-12 issues. The final one was influenced by 9/11 and published Sept. 25, 2001. Rereading it, I was struck with how little the truths have changed during our multi-trillion-dollar 15 years of "war on terror." You may be, too.
Sunday, September 4, 2016(2 comments)
Labor Day for All 2016
Take a moment tomorrow to thank those wonderful folks who brought you the weekend, the minimum wage, the end to child labor, the 40-hour week, a safer workplace, the decades-long fight for healthcare, and Social Security in your old age -- among a great many other things.
Friday, September 2, 2016(21 comments)
Our Revolution: Yes; But First Some Questions
Senator Bernie Sanders made an enormous contribution to American democracy and this year's presidential campaign conversation. Some who were feeling the Bern look at Our Revolution and ask, "Are we getting more Bern, or just getting burned?" Johnson says "Yes" to Our Revolution, but still has a lot of unanswered questions -- and suggestions.
Monday, August 29, 2016(9 comments)
Donald Trump says we don't understand him ("these politicians, they don't know me. They don't understand me"). He's right. Politicians, reporters, and voters have had little to go on beyond speculation about his motives. Here's a possible approach to understanding the guy.