Posts In "Politics"

Politics




Meet Five Celebrities Who Have Had Worse Tax Days Than Yours

In celebration of Tax Day today, we here at Law Law Land offer tribute to our favorite celebrity/IRS run-ins.  Now, lest you think this is just another list airing dirty celebrity tax laundry, think again.  This is a classy publication, as you well know, so if you’re looking for dirt on which celebrities owe what, look elsewhere. . . like here, or here, or here.  Instead, on this national day of tax collection, Law Law Land is pleased recognize five (or more) of our favorite celebrity tax stories of all time… so far.

Honorable Mention:  Timothy Geithner

In our Honorable Mention category of “Really, Are You Kidding Me?,” we recognize former Treasury Secretary (i.e., head of the U.S. Treasury, the folks you make that tax check out to) Timothy Geithner, who underpaid his personal federal income taxes from 2001 to 2004 by failing to report and pay social security and self-employment tax on income received from the International Monetary Fund.  Mr. Former Secretary subsequently amended his returns since he “should have been more careful.”  We imagine he regretted his “unintentional” decision not to report that income when appearing before the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearings to control the United States’ piggy bank.

Honorable Mention:  Nick Diaz

In our Honorable Mention category of “How Dumb Can You Be?,” the award goes to MMA fighter Nick Diaz, who recently announced during a post-match press conference that he has “never paid taxes in his life” and “is probably going to jail.”  Well, if Nick had only read about some of the other people on this list, then he definitely would have seen that coming! Continue reading the full story . . . »




Can You Be Forced to Get Your Halloween Scares From a Billboard?

My daughter has always been squeamish about eyeballs.

Ask her to name the scariest movie of all time?  Who Framed Roger Rabbit, of course.  She saw it once (and only once) at the age of four, and the scene near the end, in which the flattened Judge Doom re-inflates himself and reveals the malevolent Toon lurking beneath his popped-out prosthetic eyeballs, scarred her for life.  And so, our family will always fast-forward past the melting of Nazi agent Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark, decline to mourn the loss of Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part I, and just steer clear of the absolute abomination that is Large Marge in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

I mention all this so that you will understand the sense of abject horror and dread I experienced when, several weeks ago, I drove to work down Motor Avenue and found myself face to face with a giant, eerie nun, her face as white as alabaster, crying (or bleeding?) black liquid from alien-like eyes.  It was a (thoroughly disturbing) billboard for American Horror Story: Asylum looming over the entrance to Fox Studios.  Adjacent to our beloved dog park.  Big as the Times Square Jumbotron.  I knew my daughter would freak out, and freak she did.

She insisted that I call the studio and demand that the billboard be removed immediately, which gave us the perfect opportunity to discuss that little thing called the First Amendment.  Once I got going, she quickly went from billboard-ed to bored, and ultimately resolved to cover her eyes with a sweatshirt if I would simply shut up.  But the issue stuck with me.  As an attorney, I’m comfortable with the fact that First Amendment expression should not be unduly chilled by a ten-year-old with a (perhaps unreasonable) eye phobia.  But the mom in me took umbrage at this offensive (or at least unsettling) billboard content.  Should Fox have the right to upset my kid on a daily basis in its attempt to bring more “eyeballs” to its advertisers? Continue reading the full story . . . »




The Flame, the Fanfare, the… Filings for Infringement?

I am a complete sap when it comes to the Olympic Games, and have been since I was an uncoordinated, bespectacled suburban kid with bad depth perception and a penchant for getting injured at seemingly innocuous backyard games like badminton and kickball.  While I’m relatively indifferent when it comes to sports generally, there’s something about the nations of the world coming together, even for a brief moment, in a global spirit of cooperation…it’s uplifting, energizing even.  It makes me hopeful for the future of humanity, something of which I’m fairly skeptical most other weeks of the year.

And so, when the siren call of that infectious Olympic theme began to ring out during every NBC commercial break, I started trying to get my daughter psyched about the upcoming London games.  At first, she wasn’t that interested — her mind is too preoccupied with summer camp, our dog Olive’s latest attempt to eat the telephone, and getting past a streak of four in Plants vs. Zombies Vasebreaker Endless.  But she’s coming around.  Last week, she asked me what the Olympic rings symbolized.  We did some hard-hitting research and learned that the multicolored interlocking rings, designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin (the founder of the modern Olympic Games) in 1912, “represent the five parts of the world which now are won over to Olympism and willing to accept healthy competition.”

Hmm.  “Willing to accept healthy competition,” you say.  Really.

Well, I think somebody better clue in the United States Olympic Committee, and fast.  You see, in the same Google search that brought me the lofty ideals of Baron Pierre, I learned that last month, the USOC sent a cease and desist letter to Athens Voulgaridis, the owner of Philadelphia restaurant Olympic Gyro.  The USOC claimed that Mr. Voulgaridis infringed on the Committee’s exclusive rights in the word “Olympic,” and it demanded that he delete the word “Olympic” from the name of the eatery he opened nearly 30 years ago.

Don’t the modern Olympic Games derive from an ancient sporting event held in Olympia, Greece — one that preceded United States copyright and trademark law and indeed, the good ole U.S.A. itself, by thousands of years?  Shouldn’t Mr. Voulgaridis be able to name his Greek restaurant in honor of his home country?

Apparently, the United States Congress is unmoved by such incisive Socratic reasoning. Continue reading the full story . . . »




“No SOPA For You!” Why SOPA Led to Such an Acrimonious Fight and What We Can Learn From It

If you read the paper, watch TV, listen to the radio or use the Internet, it’s been tough to avoid SOPA recently.  (If you don’t, well, you’re probably hand-writing angry missives in a cabin and not reading this.)  What we’ve seen thus far are two widely-popular, well-funded industries passionately going toe-to-toe with one another, with one widely-unpopular but well funded group of politicians playing referee.  After some low blows, eye gouging and hair pulling, the anti-SOPA team has prevailed, at least temporarily.

Unfortunately, after listening to both sides of the debate, I’m convinced the vast majority of the debaters and their audience lacked a strong understanding of exactly what SOPA says and what its true implications would be.  Because we’re dealing with powerful industries with enormous soap boxes, the majority of the “discussions” presented to the public have been severely slanted by the presenter’s personal stake in the contest.  As with most heated political topics, this is great for sound-bites and overbroad, black-and-white ways of looking at things, but not so great if you actually want to understand the proposed legislation.  So as any good humanitarian should do, I’m going to attempt to sum it up from a relatively-neutral legal perspective.  Even if SOPA itself is no longer on the table (for now), the fight it started can give us insight into the sides’ respective concerns and the future skirmishes we’re likely to see. Continue reading the full story . . . »




My Twitter Has a Second Name, it’s W-E-I-N-E-R

What do you get when you mix a racy photo, alleged computer hacking, Twitter, and a Congressman named Weiner? (Besides Jon Stewart’s debut as an R&B producer.) That’s right, faithful readers, you get a smorgasbord of 21st century legal issues, and an example of why privacy is harder to keep than ever. You also get a great reason to think twice about what you save on your computer. And you get the joy of what is undoubtedly the best name for a scandal since “DickiLeaks.”

You’ve probably heard about Congressman Anthony Weiner, and the tough week he’s had. To recap, Weiner’s hard drive was “hacked” and a bulging photo (labeled “package.jpg”!) was sent to a college student from his Twitter account. Then the interwebs started chirping and the politician non-denial denials started (“I can’t say with certitude” [that it isn’t my bulging crotch making the Internet rounds]). Then the conservative bloggers found some absurd photos of Weiner showing off his pecs in front of framed photos of his family. And before you know it, we’ve got tearful televised confessions (“The picture was of me, I sent it”), and voila, a new word is seared into the American collective consciousness: Weinergate! It’s hard not to feel both bad for and perplexed by Weiner, even if he isn’t exactly the first New York Congressman to get caught sending racy pics this year. But I can also only feel so bad about any situation that results in one of my coworkers walking into a department meeting and announcing, “I can’t get enough Weiner!”

Of course, at this point, we all know that Weiner’s initial explanation for the sudden proliferation of his groinal region on the Internet — that his Twitter account was “hacked” — was as bogus as it sounded. But what if we lived in a magical world where a politician’s initial explanation for a totally inexplicable scandal was actually true? Let’s look at what anti-hacking laws say Weiner could have done. (Besides resigning, hiding out for a year, then taking a cushy job on cable news).

(Note: not covered here are potential claims for copyright infringement based on the unauthorized distribution of the photo itself, a favorite theory in the ever-popular celebrity-trying-to-block-a-sex-tape segment.) Continue reading the full story . . . »




Trump for President? The Equal Time Rule and Reality TV

Ever since the calendar flipped into 2011, we the people have been flooded with half-headlines about Republican candidates-in-waiting who may or may not be running for president in 2012. And now that Barack Obama has (surprise!) announced his intention to run for re-election, people are more interested than ever to learn who might be opposing him.

Because no one necessarily wants to be the first out of the gate — and therefore, perhaps, the first subject to stringent regulations governing candidates for federal office — the statements have been comically non-committal, if not borderline impossible to parse. Last month, Newt Gingrich declared that he was “excited about exploring whether there is sufficient support for my potential candidacy for president of this exceptional country.” (Super.) A couple weeks ago Tim Pawlenty boldly declared on Piers Morgan Tonight, “I’m running for president!” — after which his spokesman announced that no decision had been made, and that Pawlenty’s people had “expressed our displeasure” with CNN for “report[ing] the full quote out of context.” (Thanks for clearing that up.) Obviously, we can assume that any presidential announcement is “not intended to be a factual statement.”

But no one has played the game of am-I-or-aren’t-I-running better than Donald Trump, whose presidential ambitions have been the subject of rampant speculation since last fall. Trump has made many comments about his potential Presidential bid, and has even been endorsed by Gary Busey (umm…good for him?). Last Friday, Trump’s spokesman made the following announcement:

On the May 22 season finale of Celebrity Apprentice, Mr. Trump may announce the time and place of a press conference at which time he will make a statement as to whether or not he will run for president of the United States.

In other words, on April 15, Trump announced that, on May 22, he may announce the future time and date at which he may announce that he’s running for president (in an election that’s taking place 19 months from now). It was an announcement of a potential announcement about another announcement. I’m not certain, but this may have ripped a hole in the space-time-logic continuum.

But this is an entertainment law blog, not a political blog. So I won’t use this blog post to poke fun at Donald Trump Republicans our political system (Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do suchgood job already). Instead I’m going to talk about how The Donald’s candidacy would affect his hit reality TV show, The [optional: Celebrity] Apprentice. (The same issue would have arisen with Sarah Palin’s Alaska had that show not been — *emo tear* —canceled after its first season in January. And people say Americans have no taste in television.) Continue reading the full story . . . »




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