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Friday, Nov 21, 2014
Tom Jackson Columns

Hail to the Redskins, Scott Walker and the Pope

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Tom Jackson's “The Right Stuff” blog updates throughout the week on TBO.com.

In its ruling Wednesday that it will no longer defend the Washington National Football League club's exclusive right to the term “Redskins,” the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office established a standard that is simultaneously striking and silly.

Citing the officially offended sensibilities of five — count 'em, five! — American Indians, the office canceled the team's protections against infringement, meaning others can produce non-licensed gear bearing the team's name. (Importantly, the team's logo was not affected by the ruling.)

We'll let others rehearse the details while noting these details:

First, the team will appeal the ruling in federal court, as it did the first time this came up. Meanwhile, it would be neither outrageous nor unexpected for a judge to issue a stay of the bureaucracy's ruling.

Second, even though the ruling was clearly within the PTO's jurisdiction to prohibit registered names that are disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable — and, plainly, the public's tolerance for “Redskins” is slipping — the notion that five individuals can force their view on a billion-dollar private-sector enterprise should give us pause.

Who's next? Baseball teams in Atlanta and Cleveland, obviously. Given the IRS' low regard — under the influence of former hotshot Lois Lerner, anyway — for the term “Patriots,” the New England NFL club better watch itself. “Cowboys,” too, suffered diminished esteem during the George W. Bush administration.

How about fans of teams from the Old South suffering all over again at the hands of the rich and oversupplied Yankees? And does anyone doubt we could round up five, seven or even a dozen descendants of survivors of 17th century pirates raids to decry “Buccaneers”?

The PTO has overreached, committing what National Review editor Rich Lowry calls “pettifogging absurdity in the service of rank politically correct bullying.” The proper adjudication of such offenses, if offenses they are, is in the marketplace, where regulation is swift, certain and brutal, and I have an old Devil Rays ball cap to prove it.

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You might know about allegations of a criminal conspiracy involving Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and certain outside groups that supported his successful campaign against opponents seeking his recall in 2012. These claims are not only wrong, partisan, unfounded and nonsensical, they were identified as such and rejected weeks ago by a federal judge who took an altogether dim view of the punitive “John Doe” investigation that produced them.

Indeed, the only thing new about any of the charges is that they were unsealed Thursday — without objection by the plaintiffs who prevailed in Judge Rudolph Randa's courtroom — and seized upon by media outlets that either didn't understand that they'd already been refuted, or knew and still published them as though they were fresh and viable. One course suggests laziness bordering on professional malpractice, the other a venomous agenda against one of America's most successful governors, one widely presumed to be considering a run for the White House in 2016.

Power Line founder John Hinderaker, an attorney with a deep understanding of the situation, presents his eye-popping rebuttal here, but this gritty conclusion comprises the gist of his complaint:

“The hysterical accusations against Scott Walker that the Associated Press, the Washington Post and others are now gleefully celebrating are simply the unfounded assertions that the prosecutors made in a failed effort to justify their partisan investigation. They are precisely the allegations that have been resoundingly rejected by the federal judge who has presided over the case and who has found the defendants' investigation to be a naked violation of the conservative groups' constitutional rights.

“So the reporters who are now trumpeting the discredited prosecutors' assertions either have no understanding of the case, or they are part of the partisan witch hunt that gave rise to the unconstitutional investigation in the first place.”

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Pope Francis, revolutionaryin his views on wealth redistribution, has a far more conservative take on recreational drug usage, including pot legalization: He's against it. NBC News has the scoop:

“Pope Francis came out strongly against the legalization of recreational drugs on Friday. The pontiff told members of a drug enforcement conference meeting in Rome that even limited attempts to legalize recreational drugs 'are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.' ”

CNN expands here:

“ 'Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,' he told participants at the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome.

“The Pope's call isn't shocking. Francis has spoken of the dangers of drug use before.

“But it lends his voice and the authority of the Catholic Church to the growing worldwide debate over legalizing or at least decriminalizing some recreational drugs, most notably marijuana.”

Not that his opinion will have much influence on Florida's medical marijuana referendum — the first step, if Colorado and Washington are reliable barometers, down the path to outright legalization. It's been years since American Catholics invited the church into the voting booth.

tjackson@tampatrib.com

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