'Bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey' [Jozef Sowa / Shutterstock.com]
A bottle of whiskey or a chew toy for dogs? Unless you've had too much to drink from said bottle, it's admittedly difficult to confuse the two.
US distillery Jack Daniel's is suing a dog products maker, however, arguing that its plastic squeaky toy called Bad Spaniels, which resembles the famous black label whiskey bottle, is violating copyright law.''
It also takes issue with toilet humor on the label.
The case going in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday may have wider ramifications for how copyright law is applied in the United States as its nine judges weigh whether free speech trumps intellectual property rights.
In its suit against Arizona-based VIP Products, Jack Daniel's says that not only is the rectangle-shaped plastic bottle visually similar to its famous whiskey, but that Bad Spaniels is also hurting the reputation of Jack Daniel's with tasteless jokes.
While the label on the Tennessee whiskey advertises a 40 percent alcohol content, Bad Spaniels is described as containing "43 percent poo" that may end up on your "Tennessee carpet."
"To be sure, everyone likes a good joke," Jack Daniel's said in a legal filing to the Supreme Court. "But VIP's profit-motivated 'joke' confuses consumers by taking advantage of Jack Daniel's hard-earned goodwill."
'Freedom to mock'
The spirits maker, which is owned by Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp., took legal action in 2014, when the dog toy appeared on the market. After an initial court victory, Jack Daniel's lost on appeal.
As the case made its way to the Supreme Court, Jack Daniel's was backed by other big American corporations, such as food giant Campbell, whose soup cans were featured in Andy Warhol's famous paintings, and clothes makers Patagonia and Levi Strauss, who argued that such humor can hurt their reputations.
But VIP Products is unconvinced.
"Freedom of speech begins with freedom to mock," the company said in a legal filing. "Objects of mockery, satire, or parody—government officials, artists, celebrities, iconic brands—may bristle at negativity or loss of control over public discourse, but they are the price of fame."
The Supreme Court must issue a ruling in the case before June 30.
According to a former top adviser to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, the ex-president is bypassing the traditional fundraising apparatus at the state level and is using what they called a "Ponzi' scheme" to raise cash now that his legal bills have exploded due to his legal woes.
As the Daily Beast's Jake Lahut is reporting, Trump, who was slammed with a 7-count Federal indictment late Thursday, is skipping over paid organizers in multiple states and has set up a pyramid scheme that relies on unpaid volunteers who are expected to recruit ten contributors who are then expected to do the same and so forth.
"There’s a reason presidential campaigns tend to rely on paid talent for the most important organizing gigs. In 2016, Trump ponied up for those positions. While he personally shirked from the nitty-gritty of retail politicking in New Hampshire, his paid field organizers built an effective voter outreach operation that carried the campaign to a resounding victory," the report states.
This time around, he's cutting out the middle man and that has some GOP organizers at the local level fuming.
One former senior Trump adviser cast a jaundiced eye at how the former president is using people.
“It sounds like a Ponzi scheme. My guess is they’re using these people for optics while they spend money on legal bills… What a f--king s--tshow,” they complained.
During previous campaigns, local staffers were hired at rates like $15.75 an hour, but this time they have been cast aside for a volunteer army of supporters with limited fundraising skills.
One New Hampshire Republican complained, "Let’s be honest, other than the hardcore Trump people, the majority of people now wanna get paid,” before adding, "While we had followers, they were not the intensity that they are now. We had a lot of diversification. Now the Trump people are very hard Trump people with little tolerance for anybody else, so it’s gonna be a hard sell.”
Donald Trump has been indicted on seven federal felonies.
Most Americans view Donald Trump as an aberration, a one-off, the exception. He’s our first “criminal president” they think, the first to have committed crimes to get into office, while in office, or both.
Most Americans, in this regard, are wrong, and it’s a tragic statement about both the way we teach American history in our schools and the way our corporate media deals with past presidential crimes.
If previous Republican presidents had been held to account for their crimes the way it appears Trump is about to be, Trump may well have not been as brazen in everything from his violations of the Hatch Act to the Espionage Act to his explicitly asking Vladimir Putin to intervene in the 2016 election.
Everybody knows that Richard Nixon got caught orchestrating and then covering up a break-in at the DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex, and that he avoided going to prison by resigning his office. Yet it’s no secret that Nixon committed a far more serious crime — naked treason — just to get into office in the first place.
When the LBJ White House tapes were released in 2013, the world learned that Johnson had negotiated a secret deal with the Vietnamese to end the war in the late fall of the election year of 1968.
Nixon got wind of it and, through a campaign aide during a meeting in his New York apartment, reached out to the South Vietnamese ambassador offering inducements to pull out of the peace talks and scuttle the deal, which they then abandoned just as it was about to be signed.
The FBI was bugging the Vietnamese ambassador and conveyed the plot to President Johnson, who then called Everett Dirksen, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, to ask for help in stopping Nixon (you can listen to the entire conversation here):
President Johnson: “Some of our folks, including some of the old China lobby, are going to the Vietnamese embassy and saying please notify the [South Vietnamese] president that if he’ll hold out ’til November 2nd they could get a better deal. Now, I’m reading their hand. I don’t want to get this in the campaign. And they oughtn’t to be doin’ this, Everett. This is treason.” Sen. Dirksen: “I know.”
Polling showed that Vice President Humphrey was going to easily win the election so LBJ chose not to disrupt the process by publicly accusing Nixon of treason; knowledge of the crime went with Johnson, Humphrey, and Dirksen to their graves after Nixon won the election in an unexpected upset.
But we’ve now known about Nixon’s double-dealing for a full decade. We’ve known that Nixon’s treason led to the death of an additional 22,000 Americans and more than a million Vietnamese. All entirely unnecessary and the fruit of a monstrous crime just to seize the White House.
Imagine what Republicans would be saying to this day if it was proven that JFK, for example, had committed treason to beat Nixon in 1960. Everybody in America would be able to recite chapter-and-verse of the story. (Republicans are still so committed to the idea that Chicago’s Mayor Daley stole that election for JFK that the New York Times saw fit to publish a review debunking a 2022 book re-asserting that claim.)
If Nixon’s crime was at least frequently referenced by the media and Democratic politicians, Trump may have thought twice about all his campaign’s secret meetings with Russians and his open solicitation of their help. Or of hiring a Putin agent to run his campaign.
Similarly, just three months ago the world learned for sure what the former Iranian President had been trying to tell us since 2013: that Reagan committed a similar treason to win the White House in 1980.
During the Carter/Reagan election battle of that year, then-President Carter had reached a deal with newly-elected Iranian President Abdolhassan Bani-Sadr to release the fifty-two hostages held by students at the American Embassy in Tehran.
“I openly opposed the hostage-taking throughout the election campaign…. I won the election with over 76 percent of the vote…. Other candidates also were openly against hostage-taking, and overall, 96 percent of votes in that election were given to candidates who were against it [hostage-taking].”
Carter was confident that with Bani-Sadr’s help he could end the embarrassing hostage crisis that had been a thorn in his political side ever since it began in November of 1979. Reagan’s campaign surrogates had been ridiculing Carter, calling him weak and ineffective.
But behind Carter’s back, the Reagan campaign worked out a deal with the leader of Iran’s radical faction — Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini — to keep the hostages in captivity until after the 1980 presidential election. Khomeini needed spare parts for American weapons systems the Shah had purchased for Iran, and the Reagan campaign was happy to promise them.
The Reagan campaign’s secret negotiations with Khomeini — the so-called 1980 “Iran-Contra October Surprise” — sabotaged President Carter’s and Iranian President Bani-Sadr’s attempts to free the hostages. As President Bani-Sadr told The Christian Science Monitor in March of 2013:
“After arriving in France [in 1981], I told a BBC reporter that I had left Iran to expose the symbiotic relationship between Khomeinism and Reaganism.
“Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the ‘October Surprise,’ which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.”
The Iran hostage crisis continued and torpedoed Jimmy Carter’s re-election hopes. And the same day Reagan took the oath of office — to the minute, as Reagan put his hand on the Bible — by way of Iran’s acknowledging the deal, the Ayatollah released the American hostages.
Keeping his side of the deal, Reagan began selling the Iranian regime weapons and spare parts in 1981 and continued until he was busted for it in 1986, producing the so-called “Iran Contra” scandal.
The New York Times confirmed the crime in March of this year, when former Republican Speaker of the Texas House and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes — the guy who got George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard to keep him out of Vietnam as a favor to then-Congressman George HW Bush — laid out the story.
He’d known about it because he was on the trip with former Texas Governor John Connally to France where the deal was cut.
“History needs to know that this happened,” Barnes, now 85, told the Times. “I think it’s so significant and I guess knowing that the end is near for President Carter put it on my mind more and more and more. I just feel like we’ve got to get it down some way.”
Or sending Rand Paul on a private mission to hand-deliver still-unknown secret documents to Putin’s people in Moscow in 2017.
Similarly, if Nixon and Reagan had been prosecuted — or at least outed — Jared Kushner may have been less enthusiastic about sharing top-secret information with MBS that helped him stage a palace coup and take over Saudi Arabia, an apparent crime for which MBS appears to have rewarded both Kushner and Trump with billions of dollars.
“Kushner, who is the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, and the crown prince had a late October meeting in Riyadh.
“A week later, Mohammed began what he called an ‘anti-corruption crackdown.’ The Saudi government arrested and jailed dozens of members of the Saudi royal family in a Riyadh hotel – among them Saudi figures named in a daily classified brief read by the president and his closest advisers that Kushner read avidly…. “According to the report, Mohammed told confidants that he and Kushner discussed Saudis identified in the classified brief as disloyal to Mohammed.”
The day before, both CBS and The Intercept quoted MBS as gloating that Kushner was “in his pocket.”
“Recently ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster expressed early concern that Kushner was freelancing U.S. foreign policy and might make naive mistakes, according to people familiar with their reactions.
“… [National Security Advisor] McMaster was concerned there were no official records kept of what was said on the calls. “Tillerson was even more aggrieved, they said, once remarking to staff: ‘Who is secretary of state here?’”
Weirdly, our media is so invested in “both sides” narratives that unless they can point to a crime by a Democratic president, they seem to have no interest in reporting on Republican presidential crimes. The result is that Trump thought he could get away with whatever he did in office and afterwards.
As Donald Trump faces the music for a small slice of the crimes he committed against our nation and our democracy, let’s not forget that he’s not the first. He didn’t do this alone.
He was simply carrying on a Republican tradition that stretches all the way back to 1968.
Male supremacist and racist Michael Cernovich was desperately triggered by the news, saying that it was like "the JFK assassination all over again." He later explained that it was the "deep state" that killed JFK and they did it with bullets. The Justice Department is doing it in the case with the law.
White nationalist Stephen Miller appeared on the Fox network to say that the most important thing that must take place is that every Republican must rally around the former president. It's not know yet how opponents of Trump's in the 2024 race will respond to that.
\u201cMiller: I sure hope that the whole of the Republican party, the whole of the conservative movement, the whole of the country that cares about the rule of law coalesces around President Trump\u201d
Her comments come fewer than five months after she and Trump were forced to pay nearly $938,000 in penalties for a "frivolous lawsuit" against Hillary Clinton and 30 other defendants. The judge in the case said the lawsuits were "drafted to advance a political narrative" and should "never have been brought."
\u201cHabba: I'm embarrassed to be a lawyer at this moment. Honestly I'm ashamed to be a lawyer.\u201d