THE ACADEMY FLUNKS OUT

The dominant trend in modern American culture is identity politics: the obsession over one’s skin color, genitalia, or sexual orientation, and the belief that those immutable characteristics somehow determine one’s values and attitudes. 

One might expect Hollywood to defy that trend. After all, the entertainment industry encourages individual creativity and personal liberation. We know this to be true because every year, when Hollywood’s luminaries gather for the Oscar presentations, they tell us so.

In fact, Hollywood has always been more cowardly and conformist than confrontational. It will produce a Mulan but it will never again produce a Manchurian Candidate – at least not as long as the Chinese Communist Party controls the hugely lucrative Chinese market.

The latest affirmation of Hollywood’s conformity is the adoption by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of so-called “Inclusion Standards.” The Standards are lengthy and incredibly convoluted. But it pays to take the time to examine them because their very complexity reveals much about the politically correct bean-counting mindset impelling their creation.        

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CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

The Democratic Convention is over and the delegates have gone home. The Republican Convention is about to commence, as the delegates pack their bags.

Well, metaphorically anyway. In fact, few people are going anywhere in this time of Covid.

The Democrats can look back at their pioneering event with some pride and a lot of relief. This was the nation’s first virtual convention. Aside from some cringe-worthy moments (a “comic” routine by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Andrew Yang about mispronouncing Mike Pence’s name; an appearance by Bill Clinton on the same day that photos were published showing him receiving a neck massage from a 22-year old Jeffrey Epstein entourage member; a speech by Michael Bloomberg that featured a fly landing on his face), their convention went well.

Joe Biden gave a very good speech. It helped that the bar was set very low — any performance which did not result in him blabbering incoherently would have been scored as a success. But he did more than clear that bar. He gave what may have been the best speech of his career. He spoke more effectively than his running mate Kamala Harris; he spoke as well as Barack Obama, and almost as well as Michelle Obama.

BIDEN convention

So far, it appears that the Democratic Convention has not produced a bounce. In fact, Biden’s numbers are slightly down in the battleground states. That should concern the Party because it suggests that their ticket has reached its ceiling. And it has done so amid a staggeringly poor economy and a horrific pandemic. The situation between now and November is unlikely to get any worse. It may get better. Better would be bad news for the Democrats.

But the Democrats may face a graver threat than the lack of a bounce. With all the talk expended over the four days of the convention, the Democrats may come to rue their silence on certain issues.

They spent four days blaming Donald Trump for Covid but they were silent about another epidemic gripping the nation. They said nothing about the rising murder rate in most of our major cities. They were likewise silent about the campaign to defund the police, an issue directly related to that rising rate.

These are serious issues and the Democrats ignored them at their peril. Now the Republicans have the podium, and with it, the opportunity to present and define those issues. Continue reading

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A CAPITAL OFFENSE

The latest trend in woke journalism is the use of the capital letter “B” to refer to black people. This is in contrast to “white”, “brown”, “yellow”, and “red” – occasional descriptors of other racial groups. They all remain in lower case. The trend has been embraced by the New York Times, the Associated Press, USA Today, and several other pillars of American journalism. It is safe to say that it will soon become the norm – if it is not so already.

The mainly white-owned and operated organizations behind this trend believe that by doing so, they are showing respect to black America. They are wrong. Capitalizing “Black” does not show respect. It patronizes.

New York Times

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ASSESSING TEDDY ROOSEVELT

Future generations may look back at 2020 as the Year of Madness. In the name of racial justice, statues of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant – the two men most responsible for the eradication of American slavery – have been defaced. The destruction in Madison, Wisconsin of the monument to Hans Christian Heg may mark the nadir of the inanity. Heg, a Norwegian immigrant, devoted his life to the abolitionist cause, fought bravely in several Civil War battles, and died leading a charge against a numerically superior Confederate force. His statue was torn down, decapitated, and thrown into a lake.

The equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt at the entrance of the American Museum of Natural History is another target of our national Cultural Revolution. The monument features Roosevelt on horseback, with a Native American on one side and an African on the other, both on foot. According to James Earle Fraser, the sculptor, the two figures at Roosevelt’s side “are guides symbolizing the continents of Africa and America, and … stand for Roosevelt’s friendliness to all races.” According to John Russell Pope, the Museum architect, the three figures together comprise “a heroic group.”

Teddy Roosevelt Statue

The statue will be removed because some object to the fact that Roosevelt occupies a position of prominence, seated in the center on horseback while his Indian and African guides stand on either side. The configuration, socially conscious critics insist, signifies that the Indian and African are inferior.

Of course there is another, less contentious explanation for Roosevelt’s central placement:  the statue was erected to honor him. Roosevelt was a devoted conservationist and the author of many books on natural history. As President, he placed some 230 million acres of land under protection. His father was a co-founder of the Museum, which has enjoyed a long association with the Roosevelt family. He occupies the central position for the same reason a newly wedded couple occupies the center of a family photograph. It doesn’t signify that the family members off to the sides are inferior; it simply means that they are not the main subject of the photograph.

The fact that removal has been ordained by the Museum Board itself, rather than by a mob, should fool no one. The Board acted under the same pressure animating the rest of our Cultural Revolution.

Rather than organize counter-mobs to protect such statues, perhaps the best response may be to use these events to educate the public.  As the destruction of the Hans Christian Heg statue demonstrates, much of the current madness arises from plain ignorance. The best cure for ignorance is knowledge. Continue reading

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WINSTON CHURCHILL’S LIFE MATTERED

In the wake of the George Floyd killing, protests have erupted around the world. Now Winston Churchill has been caught up in the maelstrom.

His monument in London’s Parliament Square has been boarded up after protesters daubed “was a racist” in red paint on it. His granddaughter Emma Soames told the BBC that the statue may have to be placed in a museum for its own protection.

The Churchill monument is by no means alone in attracting controversy. Confederate statues have been removed or covered with graffiti all over the South. Statues of Columbus have been toppled or vandalized in Miami, Richmond, and St. Paul. Those actions, whatever one might believe about their propriety, are at least understandable. It is hard to make sense of some of the other statue protests. In Boston, a memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first black volunteer infantry unit in the Civil War, was defaced, and a petition to take down a statue of Abraham Lincoln has attracted 7,000 signatures. In Leicester, England,  a petition to remove a statue of Churchill’s erstwhile foe Mahatma Gandhi has received nearly 5,000 signatures.

One can only say, with Mark Antony: “Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt.”

But is the assault on Churchill’s monument mere mischief? Or was he in fact a racist?

In these times of upheaval and uncertainty, an answer of absolute conviction is due. So the only proper response to that question is an adamant: “Yes, but.”

Churchill Monument

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THE PROP 209 LOCKDOWN CAMPAIGN

“Never allow a crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, former Chief of Staff to President Obama, said in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. He repeated the quip last March, in the wake of the coronavirus economic meltdown. In both cases, Emanuel saw these disasters as opportunities to advance the progressive agenda.

The same opportunistic spirit has surfaced in Sacramento, where, in the midsts of the Covid crisis,  a group of Democratic legislators have introduced ACA 5, a bill to repeal Prop 209, the California measure which outlawed racial and gender-based preferential treatment in public education and contracting.

California State Capitol

Prop 209 was added to the California constitution by a ballot initiative in 1996. It won by a decisive 54.6 to 45.4% majority, despite the fact that nearly every major corporation, institution, and celebrity in the state lined up against it. Even the Republican Party kept its distance, which turned out to be a tactical error: Bob Dole garnered only 38% of the state popular vote that year, meaning that Prop 209 was almost 17 points more popular than the GOP ticket.

Why did Prop 209 pass? The simple answer is that most people, regardless of race, agreed with its fundamental message. A poll conducted on the eve of the election by the UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies found that majorities of all four major racial groups – 69 percent of whites, 64 percent of Asians, 63 percent of Latinos and 59 percent of blacks – preferred that job advancement and college admissions be based solely on merit rather than on a system considering race and gender.

Of course, those numbers did not reflect how the members of those racial groups actually voted. Some people probably voted against Prop 209 because they saw government-sponsored racial and gender-based preferential treatment as a necessary and temporary evil. Discrimination designed to help the poor or socially disadvantaged is one thing. But the poll numbers confirm that discrimination on the basis of race or gender has never been popular, whether that discrimination is used to help or hinder a particular group.

Following the passage of Prop 209, opponents predicted that minority representation at California’s university system would plummet. The actual results, however, have been very different. Continue reading

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Winston Churchill Versus Winston Churchill: The True Story of a Trademark Coexistence Agreement

Although perhaps best known to history as the man who stood up to Hitler, Winston Churchill, an English journalist, warrior, and statesman, also made great contributions to American trademark law. Indeed, Churchill was a pioneer and one of the first proponents of trademark coexistence agreements.

A short primer on trademark coexistence agreements is in order. Trademark coexistence agreements are peace treaties under which the owners of similar marks agree to forgo war and to divide the marketplace instead. The division may relate to goods, with one owner, for example, using its mark on raisins while the other uses its similar mark on oranges. The boundary may be geographic, allowing one party to market products on the West Coast while the other markets on the East Coast. Or the division may involve incorporating subtle distinctions in the marks themselves.

In the case of Churchill—while certainly more modest than saving civilization from Nazi conquest—his major contribution to trademark law involved a trademark dear to his heart: his own name.

Young Winston Churchill

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HER FINEST HOUR

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, known by her professional name Queen Elizabeth II, spoke to the world about the Covid-19 pandemic Sunday night. Her speech demonstrated why modern skeptics – including small-d democrats and small-r republicans — still find themselves awestruck by the ancient institution of monarchy.

Of course, Queen Elizabeth is not just any monarch. She carries with her person the aura of lengthy history. When she first addressed her realm she was a 14-year old Princess. World War II was in its early stages, Winston Churchill had been Prime Minister for only 5 months, the United States was neutral, and Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Nazi Germany were cooperative partners in a non-aggression pact. Her speech was designed to comfort evacuated British children who had been sent to the Commonwealth nations and the United States for safety. The broadcast was Churchill’s idea. He thought to use the young Princess to charm America into entering the war on Britain’s side.

On her 21st birthday, when she addressed her people again, she spoke as a confident young woman, who was nobody’s tool. She said: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Her life has certainly been long. She is almost 94 years old. She has ruled Great Britain and the Commonwealth for 68 years, longer than any other British monarch: 20 years longer than her namesake Queen Elizabeth I, and 5 years longer than her paternal great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

Her reign has had its share of successes and scandals, of family heroism and squalor. Just a few months ago, before anyone had heard of Covid-19, the press was full of stories about Prince William, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry: where they were living, who was talking to whom, and other such delectable irrelevancies. None of that seems to matter now. On Sunday night, the Queen spoke as if her long and eventful life had been a preparation for the moment.

Queen Elizabeth

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SOCIALIST OR DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST: DOES IT MATTER?

The highway of Democratic Party presidential contenders has converged into a two-lane road, and Bernie Sanders seems consigned to the slow lane. That may be the result of public unease with his socialist economic views. Perhaps sensing the danger, the Sanders campaign has studiously avoided using the term “socialist” by itself. Instead, it always pairs it with “democratic.”

Is Bernie Sanders a democratic socialist instead of a regular, run-of-the-mill socialist? And is there any meaningful difference?

Socialist Sanders

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THE TRUMP IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: WILL THE JUDICIARY BE COLLATERAL DAMAGE?

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section 4.

By the time you read this post, the impeachment proceedings against President Trump may have wound down to their inevitable conclusion. This was only the third such trial in our nation’s 230-year history, which renders such occasions as rare as Halley’s Comet. Like the Comet, they are worth careful observation.

Much of the debate has centered on the nature of impeachable offenses. Are such offenses limited to criminal conduct?  Or may non-criminal conduct – such as abuse of power – qualify? Both sides have recognized that this issue affects not only President Trump but also future presidents.

Very little has been written or said, however, about another group of public officials affected by this question: federal judges.

constitution

We have all heard repeatedly that Article II, Section 4 provides for removal from office only after “Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” But we rarely hear the words preceding it: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States.” Federal judges are civil officers of the United States, so whatever precedents may be created by the trial of President Trump, they will apply to judges as well. Continue reading

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