Friday, December 23, 2016

The Supreme Court giveth but do they also take away?

As 2016 comes to an end and the presidency of Donald J. Trump about to begin, a lot of liberals I know are very worried about what the Supreme Court will do once President Trump appoints a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. They should not be too worried.

Why not? First, the two obvious choices for next Supreme Court justice are both awesome. Appointing either of us to the Supreme Court will rectify the eight-year injustice that we like to call President Obama’s inexplicable failure to name us to the federal bench.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

As I was saying...

So we have been running this series on people who will never be President.  For the most part, we have been spot on.  But this post will need to get walked back at some point.  I can't speak for Mr. Torvik but I promise to share some thoughts on the election before the end of the week.

Update:  Given that it is now December 23, I clearly broke my promise.  My thoughts on the election will remain in the vault.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

One (or two, depending on how you count) moment of sanity does not change the fact that judicial elections are a bad idea.

I strongly believe that electing judges is a very bad idea. See e.g., here and hereOver at Slate, Robert J. Smith has an article about how two justices on the Kansas Supreme Court survived an attempt by death penalty proponents (including the Sam Brownback the Governor of Kansas and a dark money group called Kansans for Justice) angered by the Kansas Supreme Court's overturning of the death sentences of two men who committed a series of grisly crimes in Wichita, Kansas. Mr. Smith's main point in his article is that the election results show that people in Kansas do not fully support the death penalty.  But if one look at the election results, one sees that the justices barely won and the vote was much closer than typical Kansas Supreme Court retention elections. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

48 years ago today (most likely)

Moderately reliable sources on the Internet, i.e. Wikipedia, say that on this date in 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. He was, of course, the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. His appointment, like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Fair Housing Act, and the creation of Medicaid and Medicare, is one of the reasons we should he happy that Lyndon Johnson was President.  But I digress.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Nailed it.

It's usually wrong to brag and it is usually wrong to take pleasure in the suffering of others.  But is it wrong to point out that we called this back in July before anyone even knew Donald Trump running for president would be a thing?  In any event, the New York Times reports that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is ending his presidential campaign.  Perhaps he has decided to get back to the hard work of wrecking the state of Wisconsin.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Some genealogy and some bad analogies.

My maternal great-grandfather was Samuel Visnow.  Samuel was born in Quebec in 1847. I do not know exactly how they ended up there but by 1860, Samuel, his mother Matilda, and his sister Lydia were living in Black River Falls, Wisconsin where Matilda worked as a cook in a lumber camp.  In 1864, Samuel enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 17 and was assigned to Company G of the Fifth Wisconsin Infantry. It's not specified in his war record, but family lore is that Samuel was a color bearer. During the Civil War, this meant carrying the flag in front of one's company as the company was charging the enemy. Soldiers were instructed to follow the colors so that they knew where to go in a battle. Of course, the side being charged knew that soldiers followed color bearers, so the color bearer was a popular target of soldiers on the defense because a fallen color bearer would slow a charge as someone else would have to pick up the flag and get going.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The copyright of law and misuse of terrorism analogies

Everyone knows that ignorance of the law is no excuse. A natural corollary of this, one would think, would be a right to know what the law is. For instance, you'd think that we here at the Gillette-Torvik blog could publish the text of laws without fear of official reprisal.

But that might be wrong.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right.

According to Wikipedia, F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story "The Rich Boy" contains the following: "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me."  I always thought that the quote was "The rich are different from you and I" but when Wikipedia says I am wrong, I don't question it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Brat War

I'm going to keep the Border Battle going, just a little bit, with a story. When I moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota, one of the biggest culture shocks I experienced had to do with bratwursts.

In Wisconsin, ancestral home of the bratwurst (in America, at least), a brat is a brat. A coarse, pork-ish sausage, preferably manufactured by either Johnsonville or Klement. 

In Minnesota, a "brat" is a big hot dog stuffed with cheese, or some shit. I can't tell you how many times I went to a barbecue promised brats only to be presented with these abominations. 

Wisconsin 1, Minnesota 0.

I thought of this because the brat companies mentioned above are suing each other in a trademark battle over the mark BACKYARD BRATWURST. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has the story:
Since 2009, Klement Sausage Co. Inc. has held a trademark on the phrase "Backyard Bratwurst." But now, the Milwaukee firm alleges in a federal lawsuit, Johnsonville Sausage LLC is stepping on Klement's intellectual property rights by touting the "Backyard Grilled Brat."
This, Klement says, will not do.
Having used "Backyard Bratwurst" to promote its products since January 2008, the company said in its complaint, the phrase has become linked to Klement in customers' minds. 
Johnsonville's "improper use" of the trademark "has caused and will continue to cause confusion, mistake, or deception among the public," the complaint says. It asks the judge to find that Johnsonville has infringed on the "Backyard Bratwurst" trademark, and bar the company from using any trademarks that are "confusingly similar to it."
I know a bit about trademark law, and I was surprised that Klement had been able to register a trademark for BACKYARD BRATWURST, given that the mark seems to be merely descriptive of the product -- a brat you presumably enjoy in the backyard. And, indeed, a search of relevant records showed that the application had originally been rejected on precisely that basis. 

But then Mr. Klement himself (apparently he did not deign to hire an attorney in the trademark application) wrote a letter to the trademark office:

Somewhat mysteriously, the application was thereafter allowed to proceed, and Klement was awarded a registration for BACKYARD BRATWURST.

Which raises the question: who owns the mark for FRONT PORCH BRATWURST? Mr. Gillette, should we give up our dreams of becoming federal judges and start a business to dominate the other half of the bratwurst market? 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Another poor performance by Wisconsin.

In my recent post about how Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will never be elected president, I mentioned several ways that Minnesota outperforms Wisconsin economically despite Minnesota having fewer people than Wisconsin. Maybe because I am not as big a sports fan as Mr. Torvik, I neglected to mention that Minnesota is apparently also historically better at college football than Wisconsin.