The Washington Post's Dana Milbank points out that what could be seen as portents seem to be gathering in a run-up to the Republican National Convention. There's the Sea of Galilee dip (last year, but we're just finding out now), what Todd Akin claims was a "lip slip," and what we hope is an Isaac Tampa, Florida "nip" rather than a full-fledged hurricane (hurricanes are nasty). Will some Republicans, Mr. Milbank asks, who seem willing to see signs and symbols when they consider that Dems have messed up, be equally eager to acknowledge omens in these recent, current, and future events? More here.
On her April 8th State of the Union show, Candy Crowley asked both Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo), and Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition, whether a "nonbeliever" could run (I assume she meant a realistic campaign) and even be elected to national office (President or Senator). Mr. Cleaver responded that he didn't think a "respectable atheist" would walk around with anything labeled "In God We Trust" in his pocket, a comment I don't understand. Is he saying that atheists don't or shouldn't use our national currency? The "In God We Trust" on the currency issue has been litigated, unsuccessfully. But he also said, if I understand him correctly that people who have the media's attention need to speak out about discrimination against nonbelievers. Mr. Reed responded that he thought it would be possible, and that he's optimistic about the electability of nonbelievers. Link to the segment here.
Here, for the Wall Street Journal. I like the analysis, but I'd point out that politicians generally cause more havoc than magicians, and while politicians and magicians can be equally entertaining, many of the former tend to be a heck of a lot more expensive. And with magicians, the expense is voluntary.
We've read the story that former First Lady Nancy Reagan regularly consulted an astrologer, and that Cherie Blair, wife of former British PM Tony Blair, used to follow some New Age practices (it's not entirely clear which ones, or how factual the stories were). But how many people knew at the time, or know now that William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister of Canada during some of its most difficult years (especially during the Second World War), took spiritualism seriously, attended seances in order to communicate with dead members of his families, and confided his spiritualist beliefs to his diary, apparently he thought that if the public, or his political adversaries, found out that he was a Spiritualist, his political career would be over? He was probably right about that. More here from Libraries and Archives Canada.
Over at Blackstone Weekly, my friend Jessie Allen, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, has a post titled "Theater of the Invisible" and devoted to Blackstone (that's Edward, not Harry Senior or Junior), which discusses how the right to property descends from generation to generation. Blackstone, she says, conceives of the right to property as
imaginary objects passed down through the generations. Each invisible right-object produces a distinctive form of wealth or power catalogued here: advowsons, tithes, commons, ways, offices, dignities, franchises, corodies, annuities and rents. Of course Blackstone did not invent these customary forms. He is the Josiah Wedgewood of property theory; the Commentaries are a prose factory producing traditional rights in a distinctive pattern. All of this seems so quintessentially a matter of old-fashioned English property law that I was surprised when it helped me figure out what I found so troubling about the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Read more of her provocative and thoughtful essay here.
Salum Khalfan Barwany, the first albino elected to Tanzania's Parliament, says he is afraid he might become a victim of the belief that human albino body parts can be used in witchcraft. Mr. Barwany says he has received information that certain individuals have been tracking him since his election. He notes that he doesn't know whether their objectives are political or tied to the practice of witchcraft, which has led to the deaths of nearly sixty persons with albino characteristics. More here from The Guardian.
CNN's Jeannie Moos has this "bewitching" montage about Christine O'Donnell's "I am not a witch" comment. If you have to deny you're a witch, sweetie, you've lost the battle. The question is, are you a good witch or a baaaad witch? Meanwhile, a political opponent has no doubts about Nancy Pelosi. He's depicting her as The Wicked Witch of the West.
Now, what I think is really interesting is the gender of the people who are getting tagged with the "witch" appellation. Notice that they're not men. And they're not of one political party. They run the gamut, but they're all perceived as powerful in some way and they've done something unacceptable in the eyes of some part of the electorate. They've stepped out of the shadows and dared to assert themselves. They've taken a stand. Apparently this behavior is considered unfeminine, so they are tagged with the word that rhymes with another word that assertive women are often called. What do some opponents do when these women seem to be too powerful? They label them "witches." They claim, or at least intimate, slyly, that they have supernatural, unnatural powers. Whether they believe this claim, or expect us to believe it, I think this suggestion is ugly and mean.
If we don't like what Christine O'Donnell, or Sarah Palin, or Nancy Pelosi stands for, let's confront their platforms and their work on a rational basis. Let's leave the name calling on the playground, with the little kids. They still haven't outgrown it. But one would think they have time on their side. We are adults. Let's act like it. (Or I'll just have to get out my eye of newt and come after some of you).
Brazilian entertainer Francisco Oliveira, whose professional name is Tiririca, has been elected to the national legislature using the slogan "It couldn't get any worse. Vote for me." He's a clown, not a magician, but I think his success is at least partly due to political magic. After all, he seems to have been perfectly honest with the electorate. He admitted he was a clown. Political opponents tried to derail his campaign by saying he was illiterate, but a judge tossed the lawsuit. More here from USA Today, which notes that Mr. Oliveira's clown name means "Grumpy" in Portuguese (at least colloquially in Brazilian Portuguese; see here). Otherwise, it translates as nutsedge, a perennial (as in perennials that grow in gardens, not perennials who get elected to Congress, or perennially grumpy individuals, or perennially grumpy individuals who get elected to Congress).
By the way, I cannot find any evidence to support the idea that a professional clown's makeup and persona are protected by intellectual property law. Rather, professional norms--the idea that clowns do not copy one another's work--protects individual clown makeup and costumes. Professional clowns can register their makeup on a goose egg, either in the U.K. or the U.S. These registries serve as repositories for clowns to check out the work of other artists as well as a way to register their own property. Check out more about the world of professional clowns at the Clowns International website. Here's an address for the Department of Clown Registry in the U.S.
Department of Clown Registry/P.O.Box 12/Buchanan/Virginia/24066
Update: A colleague, Professor Lee Ann Lockridge, found this record for "Chuckles clown face" copyrighted in 2007. So, there you are. One can copyright clown makeup in the U.S.
Delaware Republican Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell's new ad begins "I am not a witch." Somehow I think that's an unfortunate way to start a political ad. It reminds me of the late President Richard Nixon's "The American people need to know if their president is a crook, well I'm not a crook." Ms. O'Donnell's ad ends with "I'm you." Saying it doesn't make it so. I also think she doesn't have that kind of magic.
Update: Comment here from Lawcom's Legal Blog Watch.
A Wiccan priestess is countering Delaware Republican Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell's comments about witchcraft. CNN reports that the Reverend Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, says about Ms. O'Donnell's unfortunate linking of wiccan beliefs and Satanism,
“It’s an opportunity to get some correct information out there. That’s how I see it. There’s comedy about it, hot debate about it, lots of pundits weighing in. But one of the things that really hasn’t gotten through is how ridicule and defamation can harm people."
Um, that would be group defamation. And yes, it can harm people, especially those who didn't think they were in the line of fire, but were just sort of ambling by, minding their own business.
For those interested, Mt. Horeb was until last year also the site of the National Mustard Museum, founded by lawyer Barry Levenson. It moved to Middleton, Wisconsin in search of more room for mustard. Mr. Levenson (not the actor/director) is also the author of the food/law book Habeas Codfish (University of Wisconsin Press). (As I do all too often, I digress).