It should be. It’s amazing to me that this issue has to take up the time of the Supreme Court, it’s so obvious.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review that case of Iancu v. Brunetti, and decide whether the Lanham’s Act’s ban on “immoral” and “scandalous” trademarks violates the First Amendment. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had refused to register a trademark for a line of clothing called “FUCT,” reasoning that “FUCT is the past tense” of a vulgar word and is “therefore scandalous,” a federal appeals court said. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had struck down the ban on scandalous and immoral trademarks in December 2017, but clothing designer and artist Erik Brunetti had agreed that the Supreme Court should hear the case even though he had won. The cert petitions are here and here.
The Supreme Court struck down another provision of the Lanham Act in June 2017, when it held that the ban on “disparaging” trademarks violated the First Amendment. The case, Matal v. Tam, was filed by an Asian-American rock band that wanted to trademark the name the Slants. The vote was 8-0 because Justice Neil M. Gorsuch did not participate in the decision. That decision also squashed efforts begun by Democrats and the Obama Administration to force the Washington Redskins to give up their “offensive” team nickname. The team’s trademarks had been cancelled in 2014 following complaints from “offended” non-football fans and a small minority of Native Americans. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the Court,”It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.” The opinion rejected the government’s argument that protected trademarks become a form of government, rather than private, speech. Continue reading →
Haven’t featured the Battle Hymn of the Republic for a while: it was the musical climax of my Dad’s funeral service at Arlington National Cemetary. My many performer friends sure came through that day. “Wow,” the chaplain exclaimed when the rousing three choruses were finished.
1. On Wisconsin. After a party flip in state governments, the party on the way out will occasionally try to pass lame duck legislation to try to hamstring the new majority. I’m pretty Ethics Alarms has covered other examples of this in the past; if not, it’s because the stunt is usually grandstanding for the base, or mere politics Such laws often fail to withstand judicial challenge. If a legislature can get away with it, then it’s in the ethics gray zone of politics.
On Monday, the GOP majority Wisconsin legislature will try to pass as much as it can of a huge bill with many dubious or controversial provisions, including some that would limit the new governor’s powers to control the state attorney general, and others that would constrict broad powers the same legislature gave to the defeated Republican governor, Scott Walker. As long as a legislature has power to act, one cannot logically criticize efforts to benefit that legislature’s majority party and its constituents until it has the power to do so no more. If the parties mutually agreed to informally ban such lame duck tricks, that would be wonderful.
As it would be if I could win an Olympic swimming medal.
1. The Jim Acosta Affair. I suppose my analysis of this hypocritical flap will surprise no one. No White House reporter who behaved as Jim Acosta did at the press conference yesterday would have been defended by his employers or other journalists. Dan Rather (with Nixon) and Sam Donaldson (with Reagan) were rude and confrontational (Funny how the only examples of journalists being disrespectful to Presidents involve Republicans–nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!), but nothing like Acosta was and has been. Imagine a journalist defying President Obama like that! It wouldn’t happen, but as with so much else, the rules are somehow different for President Trump. This news media’s reporters have decided, consistent with the attitude of progressives and the “resistance,” to withhold even minimum respect and deference to the Presidency as long as Donald Trump occupies the office.
Acosta was not asking questions, but arguing his position with the President. That’s not his job, or his privilege. When the President told him repeatedly “That’s enough,” Acosta did not stop. That, all by itself, justified pulling Acosta’s credentials. The White House was foolish to concentrate on Acosta pushing the intern away. He had crossed the line before that; indeed, he had crossed the line of what the White House should require from a journalist many times before.
If Acosta apologizes to the intern and the President, and promises not to abuse his opportunity to ask questions at press briefings and press conferences, to exhibit a minimal level of respect, then the White House should give him another chance.
Commentators calling Acosta’s punishment a First Amendment violation should be ridiculed for the hypocrites they are. Ann Althouse points out that journalists were up in arms when Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery for grabbing Michelle Fields, a reporter. The level of contact in the two cases is similar. “Either both instances of battery matter or neither does. Pick one,” says Ann. But there’s a problem that Ann somehow doesn’t see. She writes, “I found myself thinking that Trump and Acosta are both in control and choosing to do this theater of mutual hate.” Acosta and Trump are not equals, however. Acosta is obligated to give due respect to the President of the United States, but the converse does not apply. Continue reading →
The cognitive dissonance scale will come in handy today:
1 Cultural incompetence. “First Man,” about the first landing on the Moon, is a bust at the box office, and that result should have been completely predictable to anyone who has any sense at all about U.S. culture. Maybe if Hollywood loses enough money, it will figure out that its role is to celebrate and contribute to U.S. culture and values, not to trash them. The decision to omit the planting of the flag on the moon may have been rationalized as an artistic choice, but it resonated as a tone-deaf (at best) or obnoxious political one. That blurry, stiffened flag on the Moon is certainly one of my most vivid memories of the event—why would any film excise it, unless it was trying to make an anti-patriotic statement? Writes lonely Hollywood conservative critic Christian Toto:
Why did it matter? That moon walk represented a monumental U.S. victory. The moment gave the U.S. a decisive space race blow against the Soviets. Armstrong’s heroism completed President John F. Kennedy’s vow to reach the moon by decade’s end. The flag mattered.
Well, of course. The real question is, how estranged from their own nation and history must the filmmakers be not to know this? The American flag, American achievements, American pride, and patriotism are all high on the CD scale for most citizens and movie-goers except for the most estranged and anti-democratic of our education system’s victims. Openly opposing them drives the messenger down the scale.
(The film’s British co-star, Claire Foy, calling President Trump “the penis of America” in an interview probably didn’t help either.)
2. Translation: “We are really, really stupid, shameless and desperate!” PETA has launched an anti-milk campaign attempting to link the beverage to white supremacy, tweeting “Cows’ milk has long been a symbol used by white supremacists. One more reason to #DitchDairy” and blogging,
“Aside from ‘lactose-tolerant’ white supremacists, cow’s milk really is the perfect drink of choice for all (even unwitting) supremacists, since the dairy industry inflicts extreme violence on other living beings. PETA is trying to wake people up to the implications of choosing this white beverage and suggesting that they choose something else pronto.”
Of course, this is just Cognitive Dissonance Scale gaming 101. Democrats and the left-biased news media have tried to use the white supremacy smear to attack President Trump and conservatives, but the scale didn’t get used the way they hoped. Instead of linking the President to racism and dragging his scale ranking down, they linked themselves to dishonest race-baiting and unscrupulous name-calling, both very low on the scale, and dragged themselves down the scale.
3. Did Republicans recruit the migrant mob? If they didn’t, they might as well have. A hoard of South Americans openly intending to defy U.S. law and force their way across the boarder, looking for all the world like one of the deadly “herds” of zombies that periodically menace the heroes of “The Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead” …
could not provide a better illustration of why the progressive position on illegal immigration is nuts, and thus indefensible. It is amusing watching the mainstream media trying to spin the unspinnable: these are people openly planning on defying U.S. sovereignty and law, and they think they can get away with it because of the irresponsible rhetoric of Democrats and shills like David Hogg, who told a college audience that the U.S. is “stolen land” and thus illegal immigration is justified.
Cognitive dissonance scale analysis: Hoards of non-citizens trying to force themselves across our boarders are low on the scale, in deep negative numbers, like zombies. Those who rationalize, justify or support them will be pulled lower on the scale by associating themselves with them. Continue reading →
1. Still angry... Here are some prime comments from Ann Althouse’s blog (she posted on DeNiro before 6 AM, beating me to it.) I should have posted last night; it might have let me get some sleep:
I think the Democrats have just found their 2020 Presidential Candidate…and his campaign slogan. Speaking as a Republican I am quaking in my boots…
Well, no more Robert DeNiro movies or shows for us then. The magic of the screen, the verisimilitude, is shattered. You can no longer look at the actor playing a character and forget that he HATES you in real life. He has no longer any status as Actor since he decided to play on the Political Stage. Why can’t they just STFU? Are you an entertainer [actor/singer] or are you a Politician? Pick one. Choose wisely.
I’ve been around people in the arts, including actors, most of my life, and there are two things I’ve found that are true about them: (1) except for their craft and whatever arts they’re involved in, they tend to be fairly uneducated, and woefully ignorant about history and economics; and (2), although they see themselves as free spirits and rebels, they’re usually brainwashed tools of the “liberal” Hive, and fall in lockstep like so many Eloi when the Hive calls. The whole evening, from what I saw, was one big anti-Trump rally. Strangest to me were the Gays who were reacting as if Trump were loading them onto box cars and shipping them off to death camps. And yet as members of the Hive, almost certainly falling into line with the Hive’s goal of a bigger and more powerful State. Bad news, artistes: if you think you can have full freedom of expression where the State is omnipotent, think again. Maybe actually open a history book every once in a while.
On my way down to NYC today with my wife. I thought we might try to see a play if I can get some cheap tickets. Last night she was watching the Tonys in our hotel room. I was reading about the history of disease but could not avoid seeing/hearing some of it. I was reminded why THEATRE!!! has no interest at all for me. What a bunch of pretentious dreck. I’ve always liked Robert DeNiro as an actor. But FUCK HIM!!! as a person.
In 1936, the New Yorker ran a cartoon about some old rich white people. We know they’re elites because there is a butler hovering in the background. The caption: “Come along. We’re going to the Trans-Lux to hiss Roosevelt.” Our betters didn’t use the f-word so often in those days.
I’m calling my shot: Trump wins 40 states. My liberal friends seem resigned to the fact that he will get reelected, that is unless, how did one guy put it, “overwhelming evidence is presented.” They take it for granted that Trump must be guilty of something. He simply has to be. Trump’s ascendance to the presidency is an offense against their worldview. Its rather amusing because Trump isn’t really all that conservative. Hell, Bernie Sanders campaigned on controlling illegal immigration and reworking trade agreements in order to improve job prospects for Americans. I don’t bring that up with my liberal friends though. I just ignore their comments about Trump and change the subject. They probably think I can’t refute them, but I just don’t want to piss them off.
Life imitates “A Fish Called Wanda”:
Archie: You are a vulgarian, aren’t you?
Otto: You’re the vulgarian, you fuck!
Then he pumped both fists in the air, as a large contingent of the crowd of Broadway glitterati at Radio City Music Hall stood and gave him a standing ovation, endorsing the gutter insult.
I believe such un-American conduct creates an ethical obligation on the part of fair and reasonable American to demonstrate their contempt and opposition, in as strong and decisive a manner possible.
What that means is beyond my ability to suggest right now. I don’t like to write when I am angry, and I am angry. But this must not stand.
Yesterday, commenting on the unethical Tony Awards scheduling of De Niro, who has used other appearances to make vulgar, hateful, ad hominem attacks on the President, I wrote in part,
“If you invite Robert De Niro, you are deliberately announcing that your event is going to be politically divisive and include an attack, probably uncivil, on the President—and while he will be engaged in crucial international negotiations. The President has nothing to do with the Tonys, nor does politics—the main contenders for top musicals are “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls,” for heaven’s sakes—nor does De Niro, who is just one more movie star being used by Broadway to attract a larger TV audience.”
Naturally, CBS allowed this to go forward, because it was in search of ratings for the perpetually viewer-starved awards show. The network either knew or should have known that this meant that it would be broadcasting some kind of ugly episode. The network was accused of conspiring with Janet Jackson to flash her breast during the supposedly family-friendly Super Bowl half-time show—you know, back in those halcyon days when games didn’t include NFL players symbolically calling the US. racist as a prelude?—and swore that it had no idea anything inappropriate was going to happen. Well, it can’t make that claim now about De Niro. De Niro’s outburst is like the breast-bearing if Jackson had been flashing at every public appearance. CBS knew he was going to insult the President. It wanted him to insult the President. Continue reading →
—-Albuquerque City Council member Pat Davis,in a TV ad promoting his candidacy for Congress in the upcoming Democratic Party primary.
That’s what we really need more of in the government: more incivility, vulgarity, cretinous rhetoric, and hate-mongering. Go Pat!
I suppose Davis is taking his cues from potty mouth DNC chair Tom Perez and putative Presidential candidate and California Senator Kamala Harris, both of whom have decided to jettison dignity and professionalism in pursuit of the rapidly devolving progressive base. These people are all ethics corrupters. I don’t care who they say to fuck, or what. If this their idea of leadership, they are a disgrace to the nation and whatever office they seek.
Of course Davis’s message is idiotic, regardless of his terminology. He says that the NRA’s ” pro-gun policies have resulted in dead children, dead mothers and dead fathers.” If politicians like Davis want to repeal the right of citizens to own guns, then let them have the honesty and integrity to say so. Blaming the organization that is an advocate for the Second Amendment for crimes committed by those who abuse the right is intentionally dishonest as well as cowardly, like blaming the ACLU for the proliferation of lowest common denominator demagogues who think “Fuck the NRA” is responsible political discourse and not merely the equivalent of a primal scream.
An Ethics Alarms commenter with the evocative screen name of Fuck you, who is a bit behind on his surfing, or perhaps a really, really slow reader, was moved to author today’s Comment of the Day on a post from seven years ago regarding the tactics used by Mississippi law enforcement to foil a legal demonstration by Fred Phelps’ merry band of homophobes.
Why is this a Comment of the Day? It perfectly embodies the rudimentary, lizard-brain level of ethical analysis that predominates in the public, in much of the media, and among our elected officials. It is helpful, to me at least, to read such comments, for this is exactly the find of gut-level, emotion-based, legally and ethically ignorant reaction that my work exists to overcome. I’ll have more to say after the Fuck You has his say.
As an aside, it was nostalgic reading the names of the commenters on the original post. There, for example, fighting as usual, were liberal logic-cop tgt and uber-conservative Stephen Mark Pilling. Ah, those were the days…
Fuck you for this comparison. I know I’m coming in years later with this and I hope that others have already expressed a similar sentiment. I also understand the point you are trying to make. But still FUCK YOU. I sincerely hope that if you ever lose someone dear to you, these fucking hatemongers show up and protest that person’s funeral. FUCK YOU. Yes they have a right to protest but this type of shit should definitely qualify as a reasonable restriction, like yelling fire in a crowed theater.
FUCK YOU. This comparison is not only an insult to the Marine in question but also to the civil rights activists from decades ago that you just compared to the fucking WBC. FUCK YOU.
Once again Fuck you, you goddamn scum ass mother fucker. Oh, and FUCK YOU.
Well! I returned from my seminar to find an excellent discussion underway regarding this Morning’s Ethics Warm-up, wholly devoted to the Virginia girls softball team that was hammered mercilessly for the raised middle fingers of six teammates to send off their vanquished foes in the semi-finals. Here are some further thoughts after reading the comments:
1. There is no question that the conduct of the girls concerned the game, the sport, and the League. They were in uniform. The message directed the “up yours” gesture to the other team. This is not a case where personal expression via social media was punished by an outside authority. Ethics Alarms has been profuse in its rejections of efforts by schools to punish students for their language, ideas or other expression on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat. Those are clearly, in my view, abuses of power, parental authority and free expression. This is not like such cases in any way. If a cheerleader squad, wearing the uniforms, colors and emblems of a school, behaved like these girls, punishment by the school would be appropriate, right up to the “death sentence” of dissolving the squad.
2. Would the reaction to the photo be different if it were a boy’s team? I just don’t think so.
3. The comparison has been made to the earlier post about Matt Joyce, a major league player, being suspended by the league for a comment made to one fan during a game in a heated exchange. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what anyone would think is similar about the two episodes, the primary difference being the fact that in one case, an adult was disciplined for professional misconduct on the field of play, and in the other, children were disciplined for breaching conduct their sport and organization exists in part to teach, reinforce and convey. The punishment of the player was $60,000 in lost income for a single word, not broadcast via social media. The team was not punished except to have to play without his services for two games, but then it was not colorably a team offense by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t even want to think about what an MLB team would do to six players who, in uniform, made the same gesture the girls did to “our fans.” They might all get released. Continue reading →