Stephen Miller: Donald Trump and the Muslim Ban

One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, Stephen Miller (Senior Advisor to the President) leapt to the country’s attention when he appeared on numerous shows[1] defending President Trump’s executive order banning immigration (the “Muslim ban”). His comments ranged from unsubstantiated claims to downright scary and unconstitutional statements. In lambasting the judges who blocked the Muslim ban, he said, “In the end, the powers of the president of the United States will be re-affirmed.”[2] In his nationalist fervor, he declared, “One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country.” [3] With blind faith in Trump, he stated, “that the powers of the president to protect our country … will not be questioned,”[4] and that it was “judicial usurpation of the power. … We will fight it. And we will make sure that we take action to keep from happening in the future…”[5]

When I first heard those statements, I was overwhelmed with thoughts. Does he really expect President Trump to be above the law? Based on his responses that Sunday morning, he thinks so. Regardless of where you stand in the political arena, that attitude should bother you. Perhaps it should terrify you.

Miller as Senior Advisor to the President should know how the federal government was set up. I’m sure you remember from your government class that US Constitution set up three equally powerful branches for the federal government: Executive, Judicial and Legislative. Regarding the Judicial, US Constitution Article III states: “The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority.”[6]  In other words, the constitution states that the Judicial Branch is supposed to rule on every law, every treaty, and every controversy that effects a US citizen, a state or the country as a whole. The only exemption to this power is Impeachment and Trial, which is set out as a power of Congress.

An important member of the Executive Branch should not be telling the public that it the Judicial Branch is wrong when its Judges make rulings. That’s exactly what Judges are supposed to do. Their jobs are to review the actions of the Legislative and Executive branches. Federal Judges are supposed to eliminate rulings that are unconstitutional. That’s the job. We may not like the ruling, and it is obvious that Miller does not, but he has little recourse. Sure, he can go on television and complain about it, but unless he can find another federal judge to rule differently, [7]  he is just as stuck as those who fought against segregation were. [8]

Setting aside the discussion of his racist sentiments, Miller complained that an unelected federal judge in Seattle overstepped his power by stopping the president’s executive order that created the Muslim ban. It is true that federal judges do not run for election in the same way that local judges do. Federal judges are appointed by POTUS and confirmed by US Senate. They are appointed for life precisely so they are not limited by political elections or influenced by politics. Therefore, they remain in their positions until they die unless they resign or are impeached by Congress.

Looking at the specific Seattle ruling, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson brought the case to U.S. District Judge James Robart. Ferguson asked Robart to determine if the Executive Order was valid under the president’s national-security powers.[9]  Although immigration law is set by Executive and Legislative Branches, the Muslim Ban struck an unconstitutional cord.  In 1982, the US Supreme Court declared: “The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.”[10] Thus, when Trump signed the Executive Order banning Muslims, it clearly and specifically violated constitutional law.

Robart’s ruling was appealed to a higher court: the Justice Department (part of the Executive Branch) asked US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to review the case. The Appeals Court unanimously upheld Robart’s ruling.[11] They maintained the freeze on the immigration order.[12] When Miller said, “One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country,” he was wrong: one federal judge can do that, and three other federal judges agreed.

Judges protect our country too. Miller claimed on TV that Trump will protect the US — even writing that seems silly. It ignores the thousands of people who make up US military forces and many other people who work at airports, etc. But it ignores something more important. Protection is not only an external job; it is internal too.  I’m not talking about terror attacks on US soil. I’m referring to something much more important: the role of the federal judicial branch. As set up in the US Constitution, neither Congress (the legislative branch) nor the president (the executive branch) can alter a judicial ruling. To do so violates the separation of powers. Just to be clear: violating the separation of powers is unconstitutional.  If Stephen Miller ignores that, he turns himself into a flunky who arrogantly insists his side is right even when it means going against the constitutional power that he claims he wants to maintain.

— Footnotes —

[1] He spoke on most of the major networks (excepting CNN), appearing on “Meet the Press” (NBC), “Face the Nation” (CBS), “This Week” (ABC), and “Fox News Sunday.”

[2] David Jackson “Aide Stephen Miller takes vigorous Trump defense to TV Sunday shows” USA Today (2017) online at (2/23/2017).

[3] Aaron Blake “Stephen Miller’s authoritarian declaration: Trump’s national security actions ‘will not be questioned’” The Washington Post (2017) online at (2/23/2017).

[4] Aaron Blake “Stephen Miller’s authoritarian declaration: Trump’s national security actions ‘will not be questioned’” The Washington Post (2017) online at (2/23/2017).

[5] Aaron Blake “Stephen Miller’s authoritarian declaration: Trump’s national security actions ‘will not be questioned’” The Washington Post (2017) online at (2/23/2017).

[6] “US Constitution Article III Section 2” FindLaw online at (2/24/2017).

[7] Rulings of a federal judge can be appealed to a federal appeals panel. In addition, once a federal judge rules, it is possible for a different case to go to another federal judge and for that second judge to rule differently.  If that happened, the case would go to a higher level court for determination. The federal higher court is an appeal’s court. In this case, if the president did not like the appeals court ruling, Justice Department attorneys could ask SCOTUS to review it.

[8] Whether on the federal level or in local courts, people don’t always like the rulings. There is an appeals process in place (if a person can afford that). Many organizations such as ACLU or Anti-Defamation League work towards changing law by bringing new cases to court in attempts to overturn a previous ruling. For instance, during US segregation, cases went to federal judges and SCOTUS many times before segregation was finally overturned.

[9] Jim Brunner, Jessica Lee, and David Gutman “Judge in Seattle halts Trump’s immigration order nationwide; White House vows fight” The Seattle Times online at (2/24/2017).

[10] You can read “Larson v. Valente” at FindLaw (2017) online at (2/23/2017).

[11] Matt Zapotosky “Federal appeals court rules 3 to 0 against Trump on travel ban” The Washington Post online at (2/24/17).

[12]  If you want to read more about their ruling, I suggest Matt Zapotosky’s  “7 key take-aways from the court’s ruling on Trump’s immigration order” The Washington Post online at (2/24/17).

Posted in Media Thoughts, Politics, Society and Civilization | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

President Trump and Conflict of Interest Laws

President Trump has claimed that conflict of interest laws do not apply to him, and many of his followers have repeated that claim. I got so tired of hearing that he is exempted from conflict of interest laws simply because he is President that I did some research and wrote this blog. I am not an attorney, but I know how to investigate what attorneys have written and courts have ruled. Although the rules are not the same as those that pertain to other government employees, the president does have to obey conflict of interest laws.

President Trump, as every US President does, swore the public Oath of Office to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and … to … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The US Constitution lists the powers and responsibilities of the president. Under Article 2, Section 3, one of those responsibilities is to make sure that the laws are faithfully executed. In other words, the president must follow the laws. Regardless of his personal opinions, he swore an oath to do that.  It doesn’t matter if he agrees with the law or not. If the president does not faithfully execute the laws, he can be removed from office. That would be impeachment under “High crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Of course, the rules applying to a president are a complicated mess of laws. Lawyers and politicians have argued the ethics that apply to the president. The Office of Government Ethics, as specified under 5 CFR 2635.702,  states that “an employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.” That seems straightforward — and it should be.

However, sadly, various government employees are exempted from that rule.  Under 18 USC 202,  Congress wrote: “except as otherwise provided in such sections, the terms “officer” and “employee” in sections 203, 205, 207 through 209, and 218 of this title shall not include the President, the Vice President, a Member of Congress, or a Federal judge.” There it is: that’s what Trump meant when he claimed he did not have to worry about conflicts of interest. Isn’t he lucky that Congress exempted itself, and the President, from such a worrisome law?

Once again, it is not that simple. In 1983, the Office of Government Ethics wrote with the support of the Department of Justice that the president should follow the conflict of interest law. Specifically, although the president and vice president were exempt from the conflict of interest law due to 18 USC 202, both of them should “conduct themselves as if they were so bound.”[1] That legal opinion specifically referred to Ronald Reagan, but it continues as government policy and thus, government law.

All contemporary US Presidents prior to Donald Trump removed themselves from direct control of or indirect interest in their businesses so that they would not be tainted by ethical problems. After all, the president is supposed to uphold the constitution. That’s his job. A President who is concerned about his/her personal finances and one who worries about his/her personal businesses could be seen as not doing that job. At the least it could be considered a distraction from that job; at the worst, it could be viewed as a crime. A crime might lead to impeachment. Most Presidents didn’t want to take the chance.

To further complicate the law, US Constitution Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 states that a person holding any position cannot accept any kind of present, emolument, office, or title from any foreign state. This is called the “Emoluments Clause.”[2] Emolument means any profit or fees received due to holding an office.[3]  In a recent interview, “George Washington law professor Steven Schooner said that Trump could have an ‘impeachment issue because you have foreign states basically paying money to the Trump Organization by using their hotels.’”[4]

Let’s consider that statement. One of Donald Trump’s businesses is the Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida. The president turned over the company, Trump Organization, to his two sons and said he has put his assets into some kind of trust — we don’t know the type of trust because it has not been made public. But the president travels there regularly and calls it the Winter Whitehouse. Inside the resort, the presidential links continue with his photograph on the walls, the family crest, and the name branded on everything. When Trump took office, the fees to join Mar-a-Lago increased to $200,000 plus a yearly membership fee of $14,000. That seems like an obvious profiting from his presidency. In addition, there is the elephant in the living room question. If his children prosper from Mar-a-Lago, does their father also make money from those visits?

In the first month that President Trump was in office, he spent three weekends at Mar-a-Lago. In fact, he entertained Japanese Prime Minister Abe there. Although a press release said that Abe’s stay was a personal gift from Trump, Mar-a-Lago certainly got a lot of publicity from the stay and more news coverage from their public dinner (with its huge potential for breach of security).[5] Publicity is considered a form of remuneration. Ignoring the potential security issue, that publicity highlights an ethics problem.

What if a foreign official stays at one of Trump’s US hotels? What if a foreign government leases a floor at one? Does that influence Trump’s policies? It would be difficult to think it would not. Especially at Mar-a-Lago, with the $214,000 fee just to have the privilege of reserving a night’s stay (or ordering dinner); it seems unlikely that money would not become a consideration. And that fee might offer a chance to talk to the president, his wife, or his cabinet members.

Things get even more confusing when we consider that Trump continues to maintain hotel assets in other countries. In addition, his US hotels involve foreign investors and have active agreements with foreign governments. As Norman Eisen, the man President Obama consulted about ethics, said “we’ve never had a president who seems to insist on breaking the precedent set by every previous president for at least four decades of doing a true blind trust or its equivalent.”[6]

Let’s consider another law, USC 502 the Ethics Reform Act of 1989. USC 502 states that an officer or employee cannot “receive compensation for affiliating with or being employed by a firm, partnership, association, corporation” nor “serve for compensation as an officer or member of the board of any association, corporation, or other entity.”[7] It prohibits the use of an official’s name on any organization. The US Office of Government Ethics ruling forbids the use of the official’s name in law firms, real estate agencies, and consulting. That seems straight-forward: the name “Trump” could no longer be licensed to a corporation, and if it were to continue as the brand, the president would not be allowed to receive compensation for the branding.[8]  This ruling was tested when another famous wealthy Republican, Nelson Rockefeller (think of Rockefeller Center in New York City), took over the office of Vice President. At that time, both the Justice Department and Congress upheld that the ruling covered the offices of vice president and president.

Trump said it would be too complicated to set up blind trusts during his presidency.  It is likely to be more than complicated if he continues as the head of corporations that are affected by his job as US President. Nelson Rockefeller managed to put his vast assets into blind trusts, and he managed to release his financial documents too.[9] Perhaps Donald Trump could too. Then we would know that he truly wants to uphold the laws as he swore to do.

As previously mentioned, regardless of the loophole arranged by Congress, the Office of Government Ethics expects a president to follow the standards of the conflict of interest laws. That expectation applies to his family too. Since the Emoluments Clause rejects payments, maintaining an interest in hotels brings the appearance of Trump receiving payments for services; depending on the type of trust (and ignoring the potential problems based on the fact that his sons are running the businesses), those potential payments might be actual ones. In addition, USC 502 forbids the use of a president’s name to obtain money. Sure, Congress could repeal the name ban, but the Emoluments Clause in the US Constitution would still stand.

The law seems clear, and Trump seems to be violating it. He should follow the precedent of previous presidents and divest from his businesses.  If he does not, Congress could impeach him. Yes, I wrote “could” because they don’t have to. Since Republicans control both Senate and House, whether they will is another question.


— Footnotes —

[1]  The transcript of the official letter can be read here:  (2/14/2017).

[2] The Emolument Clause is separate from the laws regarding bribery although they certainly overlap. Simple put, anything considered a bribe can be reason for impeachment.

[3] “Emolument” online at  (2/14/2017).

[4]  Rachel Stockman  “Trump is Right, Conflict-of-Interest Rules Don’t Apply to Him” Law Newz: Opinion  online at (2/14/2017).

[5]  “The Ethics Of Trump Hosting Japan’s Shinzo Abe At Mar-A-Lago” NPR Morning Edition online at (2/14/2017).

[6] Julie Bykowicz and Mark Sherman, “Why conflict of interest rules apply differently to the president” PBS Newshour: The Rundown (2016)  online at (2/14/2017).

[7] “USC 503 Limitations on outside employment Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute online at—-000-.html  (2/14/20107).

[8] Andrew Stark “Can a President Trump Keep His Business Intact?”  The Atlantic (2016) online at  (2/14/2017).

[9] Lily Rothman “Actually, Nelson Rockefeller’s Fortune Was Scrutinized Too” Time (2017) online at


Posted in Politics, Society and Civilization | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gorsuch: Conservative is Not the Word I Would Use

When Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court, he stated that he had picked him as someone who would be a conservative similar to former Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia was considered a proponent of originalism. Unfortunately, that is the least of the problems with Gorsuch as a justice.


Typically, constitutional attorneys consider the US Constitution to be changeable document; in other words, it is not static but permits changes in its interpretation. For example, for decades SCOTUS upheld segregation under “equal but separate” opinions. Those who believe the Constitution is a living document, those who do not follow originalism, see that underscored by changes implemented by many anti-segregation rulings. However, lawyers and justices who follow originalism would arbitrate changes on how they view the original document as written by the authors. “Justice Scalia’s opponents stress that by interpreting the Constitution in its original form, any progressive law would be declared unconstitutional because it doesn’t adhere to the original intent of the founders.” [1]  Scalia used originalism to vote against Affordable Care Act, to support an anti-sodomy law, and to vote George W Bush into office to end the 2000 Presidential election.  In fact, his view of originalism incorporated support for what he called moral legislation, that is, laws that uphold certain Christian beliefs under the guise of Constitutional liberties.

Personally, I am not a fan of originalism nor do I see any reason to return to a society that views white men who are landowners as citizens and everyone else not. I surmise that many minorities, women, LBGTQ people, reformists, historians, liberals, progressives, and Democrats (as well as many others) would have a problem with returning to the culture in effect at the time of the writing of the US Constitution, especially if it comes with an overlay of right-wing Christian condemnatory beliefs.

Assuming that Gorsuch is a legitimate proponent of originalism, which is not really confirmed, that stand would be reason enough to dislike his viewpoints. However, Gorsuch has other attitudes that cause me concern.

Views on Religious Freedom

In 2013, Gorsuch sided with Hobby Lobby’s refusal to provide birth control as part of its insurance for employees. In fact, he stated that any individual should be allowed “to challenge the government’s rules for employer-sponsored health insurance plans.”[2]  He extended his religious rulings to permit prisoners to attend sweat lodges — a ruling that I support. However, I am concerned that Gorsuch will further erode the separation between church and state on which the US Constitution was based. Please see Amendment 1, if you doubt the veracity of that separation. Please see Amendment 1, if you doubt the veracity of that separation.

Views on Birth Control

Under the concept of religious freedom, Gorsuch has consistently sided against access to contraception. Please realize he was not simply against abortion; he sided against any method of birth control. The privilege of safe contraception was a long hard battle in the US. Beginning in the late 1800s, women fought to obtain legal and safe birth control, and no, I’m not talking about abortion. Nurses and doctors went to jail for prescribing birth control devices such as diaphragms or simply talking about methods like how to use condoms. In 1965, SCOTUS ruled that it was illegal to prevent married couples from using birth control. Please note the year: 1965! Prior to 1965, any type of birth control device or pill was illegal. If nothing about this man concerns you, his stand against insurance coverage of birth control should.

Views on Fascism

While there have been posts about Gorsuch founding a fascism club in high school, claims it was not true. Apparently, we are to believe it was a joke. Gorsuch wrote it for his yearbook biography “to poke fun at liberal peers.” [3]  Now, I recognize that high school students do dumb things, but I have never known a student who thought that fascism was a joke (especially one who had read Anne Frank or studied WWII). So, we are left with a choice: we can believe that he thought calling himself a fascist was funny or we can believe that he thinks lying about his activities is okay (or that it was acceptable to do so in high school) — or we can believe both.

In any case, I ask you to consider if this man should be seated on the Supreme Court as judge of highest law in US and permitted to influence our society for the rest of his life. If you think he should, I invite your comments below. If you think that he should not, I invite you to send postcards to your senators and representatives, President Trump, and to other senators and representatives. Of course, if you agree with me that there has to be a better choice for justice, you can comment below too.



[1]. “Antonin Scalia Biography”  BIO (A&E Television Networks, LLC) (2016)  online at (2/13/2017).

[2].  Steve Vladeck “Hobby Lobby and executive power: Gorsuch’s key rulings”  CNN Politics (2017)  online at (2/13/2017).

[3]    D’Angelo Gore , “Neil Gorsuch Didn’t Start Fascism Club.” (2017)  online at (2/13/2017).

Posted in Medicine & Health, Politics, Society and Civilization, Spirituality & Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Media Ownership

Recently several friends have mentioned that they watch news on many different stations. By doing that, they think they are getting a well-rounded view of the situation. But are they? Probably not. Most of our TV networks (and radio stations) are owned by giant corporate conglomerates.  It’s been about five years since I looked into media ownership so I did some research.  What follows is a list of owners, stockholders, associated companies, important people and their politic viewpoints.  If you don’t want to read all of this — I’d really like you to read the whole thing because you should know where your news comes from, but I realize it is a lot to ask — you can skip to the section called “Fair and Balanced News” at the end.


ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Company, the second largest media conglomerate in the world. Major shareholders of Walt Disney include the Disney management, but it is partially owned by Vanguard and four other investment companies (and public shareholders). Disney also owns (fully or partially) a lot of other media companies including ESPN, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Touchstone Pictures, Marvel Comics, and A&E.

Of the companies holding major news networks, Walt Disney Company is probably the most supportive of Democratic incumbents. In the last eighteen years, Disney lobbyists focused on copyright laws, regulation of toxic substances, and lawsuits against public figures.[1] However, as listed below, that does not mean Disney is clean and tidy in its dealings with other media conglomerates.


NBC and MSNBC are owned by Comcast. Comcast is owned by Liberty Media Corporation.  Comcast also owns DreamWorks Animation studio, The Weather Channel, Universal Studios, Telemundo, [2] and Liberty Media holds many other media stations and the Atlanta Braves.

If you think NBC or MSNBC will give you an opposing viewpoint for Fox News, you would be wrong. John Malone controls Liberty Media and so he has power over NBC/MSNBC. Although Malone calls himself a Libertarian, he is an avid Trump supporter and a foe of the open internet. He’s also the biggest individual US land-owner. [1]  Malone seems to do his lobbying efforts through social events, philanthropy, and other private donations.  Therefore, they are fairly surreptitious.


CBS is owned by Viacom, and the majority owner of Viacom is National Amusements, which is controlled by Sumner Redstone. Viacom also owns Paramount, Comedy Central, United International Pictures, and Nickelodeon. It previously sold DreamWorks Animation to NBC Universal.

Recently the mental competency of Sumner Redstone was contested; despite some strange testimony from Redstone, the case was dismissed by the court. [3] I surmise the dismissal was based less on testimony and more on the wildness of Redstone’s reputation. He has been known as a cantankerous, opinionated, rough-speaking, philanderer who could act impulsively.

In any case, between 1998 and 2004, Viacom lobbied for the TV/movie industry with actions on behalf of GE (partial owner of NBC, MSNBC, and Universal Studios), Time Warner (owns CNN), Walt Disney Company (owns ABC), Liberty Media (owns NBC/MSNBC and through the latest merger, CNN), ABC, Fox Theater (yes, it’s owned by 21st Century Fox), News Corp (Fox), itself, and many others. [4] It’s starting to look like Celtic knotwork!


CNN is owned by Turner Broadcasting System which is owned by Time Warner. Time Warner also owns Home Box Office (HBO), and Warner Brothers Studio.

Time Warner used to own Time Warner Cable, but the cable division was split off in 2009. Legally they are two separate companies. However, the separation was achieved by a dividend distribution to current stockholders where Time Warner stockholders received a certain number of shares of Time Warner Cable stock based upon how many shares they owned of Time Warner common stock. Because of that distribution, over 300 million shares of Time Warner Cable stock were handed to people who owned stock in Time Warner, effectively giving the same people interests in both companies.[10]

To further complicate things, Time Warner Cable just merged with Comcast, Charter Communications, and Bright House Networks to create Charter Spectrum. Although the other companies still exist, it looks like the new conglomerate is controlled by Charter Communications. According to Nasdaq, the owners of Charter Communications include Liberty Media Corporation, Liberty Broadband, and five investment companies including Vanguard (and public shareholders).

Once again, as head of both Liberty Media Corporation and Liberty Broadband, John Malone ends up at the top of the pyramid that leads down to CNN. Malone personally owns about 25% of Charter Communications,[5] and he spent $67,000,000,000 (that’s 67 billion) to have Charter Communications buy Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.[6] This is the same Malone that controls NBC/MSNBC. He’s a Trump supporter who advocates tax reductions for the rich and for corporations, deregulation, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country as long as they continue to be “hard working people.” [7]


Fox is owned by Fox Entertainment Group; it is a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, which was previously called News Corp. News Corp owns the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and other print and TV media. News Corp was started by Rupert Murdoch who quit his chairman post due to international phone hacking indictments. After that, News Corp was split into two corporations, but both are still operated by Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan Murdoch, who seem to be following in their father’s footsteps.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns 6% of 21st Century Fox and part of News Corp. That sounds small, but he is the biggest non-family investor in 21st Century Fox. Since he has maintained shares for more than fifteen years, Talal must consider his money well spent at the conservative pundit’s network. Despite Talal’s public rebuke of Trump’s behavior, he contributed money towards Trump’s presidential election. To be fair, Talal also has (fewer) shares in Disney, Citibank, and Apple.

Until recently, Fox News was headed by Roger Ailes, who used to run MSNBC. Ailes left NBC/MSNBC due to problems with his prejudicial comments. Perhaps it should not be a shock that he left Fox due to his comments and actions that led to sexual harassment charges.

Rupert Murdoch is an anti-tax conservative who supports deregulation, ridicules climate change and global warming, scorns scientific reason, and supports military expansion into the Middle East. He has influenced Australia, Britain and US policy with full-time lobbyists who report directly to him.  Since 1998, lobbying under auspices of 21st Century Fox included actions on behalf of Time Warner (owns CNN), National Amusements (owns CBS), Walt Disney Company (owns ABC), Sirius Radio (owned by Liberty Media), the Weather Channel (owned by NBC), and many others.[8]  What a delightful mess this is!

Fair and Balanced News

Getting back to the topic at hand, if people watch several news networks, will they get balanced and unbiased news? Simply put, it seems unlikely, but it could depend on which news sources you select.

The major news networks do business with each other, buy and sell divisions to each other, and lobby for each other; therefore, watching several major news networks may not help. US media is an oligopoly, that is, a few companies control the supply of a commodity, in this case, the supply of the news. Because of the oligopoly, you may not get the truth or even the entire news story.  In fact, GE, News Corp (21st Century Fox), Disney, Viacom, Time Warner (now merged with Charter Communications), and CBS own 90% of US news media.[9] Since the major companies have divided up the markets, we don’t really have competition. Therefore the viewer can be fooled into thinking they are getting balanced news from competing news sources when they are not.

Fair and balanced news? I think not.



Update on 2/8/2017: thank you, Kurt Hohmann, for bringing to my attention errors in the original blog. I have updated the information concerning Time Warner and Time Warner Cable for clarification. In addition, I included a correction about Comcast. Originally I wrote that Comcast was part of the merger completed in Summer 2016, but Comcast was not a partner to that merger.


— Footnotes —

[1] “Walt Disney Co.” Center for Responsive Politics  (2016)  (accessed 2/5/2017)

[2] Madeline Johnson “Your Complete Guide to Everything Owned by Comcast” Nasdaq (2016) (accessed 2/5/2017).

[3] Maria Bustillos “Sumnerdämmerung” New Yorker (2016)  (accessed 2/5/2017).

[4] “ Viacom, Inc.” Center for Responsive Politics  (2016)  (accessed 2/5/2017).

[5] Cynthia Littleton “John Malone Talks TV Biz, Presidential Politics and His TCI Regret in Candid Q&A” Variety  (accessed 2/5/2017).

[6] Cynthia Littleton “John Malone: ‘Cable Cowboy’ Faces the Test in Rounding Up the Right Mix of Assets” Variety  (2016)  (accessed 2/5/2017).

[7] Liberty Media Chairman John Malone On Donald Trump, AT&T-Time Warner, Media  CNBC (2016) (accessed 2/5/2017).

[8] “21st Century Fox” Center for Responsive Politics  (2016) (accessed 2/5/2017).

[9] Ashley Lutz “These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America” Business Insider  (2012) (accessed 2/5/2017).

[10]  It was a 1-for-3 reverse stock split. For more information, please refer to Time Warner’s website at (2/8/2017).

Posted in Media Thoughts, Politics, Society and Civilization | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

In Honor of Imbolc: Brighid from the Past

Brighid has also been known as Brigit, Lady Bride, Bridget, Brighde, Ffraid, Breda, Bree, Breeshey, Brigdu, Brigantia, and Braganca.

Long ago, the culture we now call the Celts worshiped this goddess. In fact, history records the worship of her as early as 16th century BCE. Linguists state that Brigit means “the Exalted One,” and for centuries she was. Not only did the ancient peoples known as Picts and Brigantes consider her their divine guardian, but her followers ranged in lands as diverse as Ireland, Austria, Iceland, Portugal, and Italy. Over the centuries, people of disparate professions worshiped her. She was the patron deity of blacksmiths and craftsmen, poets and artists, healers and midwives. In fact, She touched all aspects of life beginning with the celebration of the newborn and ending with the mourning of the dead.

While Christianity gradually encroached on the British Islands, goddess worshipers knew her as Fire of Inspiration, Forge of the Forest or She Who Kindles the Hearth, while churchgoers called her the Irish Mary, Our Lady of Peace, or Bridget of the Cows. By the late Eighth Century, she was canonized as Saint Bride or Saint Bridget. Yes, the Roman Catholic Church sainted Brighid, but the story isn’t that simple. Was the sainted woman a high priestess of the goddess Brighid or the goddess herself? Was she the charitable daughter of a chief in Fifth Century Ireland? Was she the foster-mother of Jesus, Mary’s midwife or a powerful Catholic Abbess? At one time or another, scholarly works have supported all of these theories. In fact, there are at least five disparate but official church biographies of this saint’s life.[1]

Thousands of years of worship meant that mythology shifted as stories were passed down through the generations, creating regional transformations. Yet, the memory of the  legendary exploits of this goddess could not be ignored. As an example,  the life of the first Abbess of Kildare, called Brigid of Ireland, was as legendary as the tales handed down about the goddess. “She had the power to increase the milk-yield and to help with butter-making, to change water to ale and stone to salt, and was called ‘the All-Giving.’ . . . There seems good reason to believe that here we have scattered traces of a once-powerful goddess, whose cult was important for the community as a whole.”[2]  Moreover, this Abbess was considered as much a miracle-worker as the goddess Brighid. “Some say that by simply stepping into her shadow you would be instantly healed.”[3]  Seems to me that goddess mythology was rewritten so the lady could fly undercover.

By the way, another holy Catholic martyr, Saint Blaze, was named for this goddess. In a few regions, people considered Saint Blaze a female, which has caused more uncertainty with cataloging the stories into a neat and tidy history.

Today, the enigma remains. Is she a Pagan goddess or a Christian saint?  Catholicism definitely borrowed a popular ancient holy day when it created Candlemas, ostensibly honoring the presentation of baby Jesus at the temple. The holiday has many similarities to the Pagan sabbat of Imbolc, most notably the blessing of candles. Yet, Brighid is not that easily limited to one day a year. Especially in Catholic regions of Ireland, church services also incorporate ceremonies commemorating Brigid in Spring and at Winter Solstice, just as their non-Christian ancestors might have. The Catholic Prayer to St. Brigid is a common supplement to the service.[5]

Prayer to St. Brigid (excerpt)

May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious, and may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world. …Brigid, you were a voice for the wounded and the weary, strengthen what is weak within us. Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens. May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.

Of course, with a feast day on February 2, we can’t ignore the secular event of Groundhog’s Day.  This popular day evolved from the custom of predicting weather during Candlemas (which you recall arose from Imbolc). An old traditional English song, of which several versions exist, seems an obvious precursor to the modern practice.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again. (Anonymous)

In spite of the confusion about her past, St. Brigid remains one of the most popular saints worldwide. According to the Catholic Forum, in current times, she is the patron saint of people as diverse as nuns and fugitives, poets and sailors, dairy workers and travelers.[4] Certainly, many non-Christians happily continue to honor their lady Brighid, especially at Imbolc.


—- Footnotes —-


[1] Grattan-Flood, William. “St. Brigid of Ireland.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. (Robert Appleton Company, 1907) online at New Advent (accessed August 3, 2008).

[2] Davidson, Hilda Roderick Ellis. The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe (Routledge, 1993) pg 112-113.

[3] Soror Ashera. The Peace Beads “Our Lady of Peace St. Brighid (Irish Catholic)” online at (accessed December 1, 2008).

Posted in General Musings, Spirituality & Religion, Stories from long ago | Tagged , | Leave a comment

US Presidential Impeachment

Lately social media posts have been bouncing around the idea of impeaching the new president. Petitions state various reasons ranging from Trump’s narcissism to his signing of unpopular executive orders (I’ll probably write more on that topic later). Unfortunately, by themselves, none of these reasons are useful for an impeachment. US Constitution states “the President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”[1] Under the same clause, federal judges can be impeached too.

Treason and bribery are obvious offenses. However, “high crimes and misdemeanors” is an archaic legal term relating to the power of an official in the federal government. It simply means the individual did something that was politically wrong. That is, the crime must be based on the terms of the oath of office and constitution. Think of someone who steals money from the country and the public official who covers up such a crime. In addition, a crime committed against the federal separation of powers or actions against constitutional laws would be valid reasons for impeachment.

But, impeachment does not mean the politician will leave office. Impeachment is similar to an indictment in other courts. It does not mean the person is guilty, just that they could have committed a crime. The official would need to be convicted; then they would be removed from office.

How hard is it to impeach and convict a President? To understand, we must look at the three previous presidential impeachments.

William (Bill) Clinton

Bill Clinton was impeached but acquitted. In plain terms, that means that Congress investigated and charged him on two allegations that he obstructed justice through perjury (that he lied under oath). For those of you who don’t remember the incident, the charges were related to an affair he had with an intern. Although the president publicly denied the affair, the investigation continued and determined it had happened. Impeachment charges went to trial in the Senate. The charges were not due to his affair; they were based on the fact that he lied about it. After much testimony and debate, the Senate acquitted him.[2]  Bill Clinton remained in office and is now ranked as the eighth best US President in history.[3]

Richard Nixon

Nixon’s impeachment was perhaps the most notorious since it encompassed the infamous break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices, numerous political shenanigans, the ensuing Watergate hearings, the Vietnam War protests, and the first unelected US President. In the impeachment, Nixon was charged with three enormous crimes. First, obstruction of justice with charges including violating his constitutional duties, interfering with justice, lying to the Department of Justice, misuse of CIA, and multiple counts of bribery. Second, he was charged with abuse of power including misuse of FBI and Secret Service, disregard of the rule of law, and impeding justice. Third, he was charged with contempt of Congress, including forswearing his oath of office and refusing to provide evidence to Congress.[4]

Previously, Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had resigned due to federal income tax evasion.[5] Due to that, Nixon had nominated Gerald Ford as VP and he was approved by the House and Senate. A year later, impeachment charges were brought. When Nixon realized he was likely to be convicted, he resigned.[6] Gerald Ford became the first (and only) US President who had not been elected to the office. President Ford gave Nixon a full pardon for any crimes he might have committed. However, 25 government officials (including Nixon’s attorney) were indicted and many were imprisoned for crimes.[7]  Because of the resignation and pardon, Nixon was never tried and never convicted (but he did retain his pension). In the next presidential election, Ford lost, and many historians believe the pardon cost Ford the election. In 1976, after two years as a recluse, Nixon traveled to China, beginning a time of post-presidential influence that continued until his death in 1994.

Andrew Johnson

Way back in 1865, Andrew Johnson became president following Lincoln’s assassination. He also became the first president to be impeached. During his impeachment, Congress charged Johnson with forswearing his oath of office in eleven articles of impeachment.[8] Actually, the charges stemmed from a battle between President Johnson and Congress over the Tenure of Office Act, a law enacted to restrict the president from firing certain executive officials.[9]  The Senate did not convict Johnson. Reactions to that situation caused a grass roots movement to amend the Constitution to abolish the presidency — as we know, that failed.  For good or bad, Johnson continued as president until 1869. Many contemporary historians consider him to have been both incompetent and a racist who mishandled the reunification. Eventually, US Supreme Court ruled against the Tenure of Office Act and Congress repealed it in 1887.

Back to the Present

What kind of action might be considered an impeachable offense? Hypothetically, I’ll offer a few fictional possibilities. Let me repeat: these are totally fictional. If Trump were to overstep the boundaries of the executive branch, perhaps by bypassing the power of the Senate and the House to create and pass laws, that would threaten the separation of power. Since he was elected as a businessman, another potential issue would be if Trump implemented a conventional business practice: in business, it is common to give someone a monetary incentive, but in government, under US Constitution, that is considered a bribe. Another example would be if it were discovered that Trump gave secret information to Putin. Any of those, if true, would be impeachable crimes.

Now we come to the main question. Is it possible that the current movement to impeach Trump can make headway?

Since the US House must bring an impeachment charge, and the US Senate must implement the hearing and convict the individual, it is unlikely they will do so. Both US Senate and US House majority are Republicans, and they like having power in both the executive and legislative branches. Sure, their attitudes could change. Only time will tell.

—- Footnotes —-

[1] Constitution, Article II, Section 4 (capitalization and punctuation from the original).

[2] “1998 President Clinton Impeached” This Day in History online at (accessed 1/28/2017).

[3] James Lindgren, “Ranking Our Presidents: How did 78 scholars decided [sic] how to rank the presidents from Washington to Clinton?” Wall Street Journal, online at (accessed 1/28/2017).

[4] “Richard Nixon: 37th U.S. President” The History Place: Presidential Impeachment Proceedings online at (accessed 1/28/2017).

[5] “1973: Vice President Agnew resigns” This Day in History online at (accessed 1/28/2017).

[6] This website presents an excellent timeline: “The Nixon Administration and Watergate: Legal Repercussions” History Commons online at (accessed 1/28/2017).

[7] “Watergate Casualties and Convictions” Watergate.Info online at (accessed 1/28/2017).

[8]  “Proceedings of the Senate Sitting for the Trial of Andrew Johnson President of the United States” online at (accessed 1/28/2017).

[9] “The Tenure of Office Act” Famous American Trails online at (accessed 1/28/2017).

Posted in General Musings, Media Thoughts, Politics, Society and Civilization | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello World~!

Anyone who has been online, turned on a radio or TV (or left their house) knows that US citizens are divided over the presidential election. Disunity and emotional reactions have become the typical responses. I’ve been finding myself reading social media posts, discussing current events over dinner, and yelling at the television. Lately, politics have interrupted way too many social events. My facebook feed is filled with pro-Trump and anti-Trump comments and memes.

Rather than spend inordinate amounts of time posting responses (and at the suggestion of several close friends), I’ve returned to blogging as a way to explain my positions. More importantly, I’m going to attempt to spread a bit of logic in the midst of political and social confusion and attempt to shine a light on the truth.

As Leonard Cohen said:

The birds they sang at the break of day
“Start again” I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what has passed away
or what is yet to be.
… There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
– “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen

I plan to write about US society, politics, and civilization. I will offer sources (and yes, that means footnotes). Rants may ensue. You’ve been warned.

Thanks for reading.  See you soon.

Walk in Beauty!


Posted in General Musings, Media Thoughts, Politics, Society and Civilization, Spirituality & Religion | Leave a comment

News, Presidential Candidates, and Truth

This blog is my attempt to impart a bit of rationality into the US Presidential discussion — and I use the word “discussion” as a less-than-truthful descriptor.  Although I do not always follow the logical path, I want to dig into this topic.

Please set aside emotions for a minute and think logically about this topic. Ask yourself why you are so angry about the Presidential race.  Is it some underlying gut-level reaction to the very large problems of our society? Or are you reacting without thinking to newscast statements that are meant as emotional triggers?

How you learn about the presidential candidates? If you answer that you listen to news on cable TV, I’m here to tell you that you are not learning much from that.  What you are hearing is most likely a few actual facts mixed with rumor, tainted information, and downright prejudicial comments.

Please fact check what you hear about the candidates regardless of the source. I don’t care if the information came from the news report that you love to watch; check the facts.  There are many cases of misrepresentation, one-upmanship, and downright lies flying over the airwaves.

Fact: news in this country is owned by 5 corporations: Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany and Viacom.  (See URL listed at the end of this blog for source.) That uniformity includes the major online news sources. Of the big newspapers, there are few that are not owned by the conglomerates. Summary: you can’t just change the channel to find a new viewpoint.

Fact: US news reports do not have to be neutral. The FCC’s Fairness Doctrine required news reports to present all sides of a controversial issue. In June 2011, the House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders requested the FCC to remove the Fairness Doctrine, and in August, 2011, the FCC repealed it. Thus, it is no longer a rule that news agencies must provide well-rounded coverage. Now, the consumer must investigate news from many sources.

Fact: US new reports about candidates do not have to be true. There are two contributing legal rulings. First, any story about public people (including politicians) must meet the Malice Standard set forth in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964). This ruling weighed First Amendment rights against libel laws to determine whether a politician can sue over a news article. The law gave credit to the possibility that what was published (or reported) might be a misunderstanding, but if it was not, the individual needed to establish that with proof. That is, the insulted politician must prove that the false news story was maliciously intended and either published as an intentional lie or that the publication purposely disregarded the truth.  This means that one report can publish a falsehood under the protection that the campaign source believed it to be true rather than if the story was actually true.

Fact: SCOTUS ruled 5 to 4 (in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) that corporations had free speech. That means corporations could spend copious money to try to persuade people to vote for the corporation’s candidate. After that ruling, organizations called super PACs were formed to collect amazing sums of money and create advertisements, films, and other electioneering communications to sway voting towards or away from certain candidates.

Fact: not all major news networks report true facts. Actually, most do not. Recently, PunditFact released a review of three of the top news networks based on fact checking their news stories.  Fox News scored the lowest in reporting truthful news; Fox scored false 60% of the time.  Second place went to NBC/MSNBC with 40% of the stories listed as false. CBS scored better with CNN hitting the highest on the PunditFact truth scale.  For a neutral story, you might have to change the channel to an independent station, typically one that does not accept advertising. Still, that station could purposely bias news stories too. I’ve found more neutral reporting on public broadcasting network, such as PBS, or an international news station.

However, you might not want to listen to an in-depth investigative news report.  If you don’t, I suggest that you listen to stations from both ends of the political spectrum and see where the middle ground lies. Next, do your own inquiries. As the old platitude states: if something seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t. By the same token, if somethings seems crazy, even if you want it to be true, it may just be crazy. Do your own investigations and check out claims of news agencies.

I haven’t touched on the facts censorship or common logical fallacies committed in political campaigns. Discussing those topics would make this blog too long. I realize presidential campaigns are based on getting people to react emotionally about the candidates, especially in this age of ratings wars over news coverage. But how we vote should be constructed from accurate information. Voting choices should be more than an emotional reaction to an advertisement. As citizens, we have the task to research the candidates and base our voting decisions on truth, in order to discover — as Paul Harvey (a conservative radio commentator) used to say — the rest of the story.


Sources for this blog:

To read more about media ownership: (accessed 10/17/2016).

Wikipedia actually has a well-research article on the history of the Fairness Doctrine here: (accessed 10/17/2016).

You can read more about the Malice Standard here: (accessed 10/20/2016).

Read everything in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and the January 2010 ruling here: (accessed 10/22/2016).

The opinion in Citizens United is here: (accessed 10/22/2016).

Here’s the portal to the PunditFact scorecards: (accessed 10/22/2016).




Posted in Media Thoughts, Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What Did We Learn From the Iowa Caucuses?

Frankly, I don’t really understand how the Iowa Caucuses work, and I don’t want to spend the time to research the process. However, there are a few things we now know. Let’s review the frontrunners.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton: who really won?  The results are statistically a tie with Clinton at 49.8% and Sanders at 49.6%. In fact, in six precincts, following state law, the winner was decided by a coin toss. Since Clinton won all of the tosses, she must be lucky.  And we know that Iowans believe in divination. In addition, we know that Sanders did unexpectedly well. Perhaps the most obvious thing learned on the Democrat side was that Iowans like both Sanders and Clinton. Does this mean the Democratic candidate will come down to a choice between a Progressive Democrat and a Democratic Socialist? If so, that is exciting news. It means that the voters are willing to participate in the race, to focus on issues, and to back the candidate that holds a certain view.

On the Republican side, Cruz, the declared winner, had 28%; Trump pulled 24%, and Rubio grabbed 23%. I’m not sure why 28% is considered winning – other than he got the biggest slice of the pie – but this is politics, and politicians can spin anything. The good news now is we might have a chance to hear from candidates other than Trump.

The race for the Republican candidate has barely started and these three people are tied.  The choice is with the voters. What does it mean for the future?  Whether Republicans pick reality TV star Trump (who hates everyone he’s ever met) or one of two Cuban-American candidates, the Republican Party has made a huge step. No longer is the Republican choice delineated by skin color or European ancestry.  Can we hope this is movement away from the racism of the past?

Perhaps this change will build upon the Democratic Presidency of Barack Obama (that Republics so deride, but which, in itself, broke barriers) in order to become a country with equal opportunity regardless of race, gender or creed. We could be progressing towards the day when candidates are judged on the basis of their qualities, characters, and abilities instead of their social status, ancestry or physical traits. We can work towards that, can’t we?


Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Keep on Complaining

This is an open letter to those of you who are younger than me — and to my generation too.

My generation was filled with complainers. Mirroring the Rolling Stones’ song, we weren’t satisfied.

We complained about women not being able to buy houses and cars in their own names. Now they can.

We questioned the status quo, especially when it came to gender roles, not just for women, but also for men. We complained about limited roles for men, and said that men should be able to stay home and take care of their children if they wanted to. Contemporary society no longer frowns on men who want to be active in parenting.

We complained about women who had no safe way to prevent pregnancy, and complained about those who did not have the funds to prevent pregnancy. In particular, we complained that old fundamentalist men wanted to tell us when or if or how to have a child. Thousands of women from several generations marched together. We now have birth control and abortion — whether you want to use them or not, women now have those options.

We complained about segregated advertising for employment, and that became illegal, opening the way for women to enter new professions.

We complained about school money focused only on boys’ after-school activities and sports. Now we have Title IX. We decided that homophobia was stupid, and now we have gay marriage.

Yelling “Peace Now” and other slogans, we protested the Vietnam War.  Although we didn’t end all wars, we brought that one to an end.

We complained about racism. Laws were passed desegregating society and creating affirmative action.

We complained about a lot of things and followed up with activity. We marched and protested and picketed and kept on complaining. We were thorns in the side of society.

We didn’t always succeed, but we pushed onward. No, we didn’t do it in a few years, and no, we didn’t do it by ourselves. No, we didn’t solve all of the problems of the world, but we did something. Yes, I know war and racism still exist. Perhaps we got tired. Perhaps we gave up before we should have. Maybe the media just stopped noticing when we complained.

Most of you reading this are probably members of younger generations. It’s your turn to join us complainers. Please do. Become a complainer. Let’s see what else we can do together.

Posted in Feminism, General Musings, Media Thoughts, Philosophy, Politics, Society and Civilization | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment