Wednesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Hump Day, as the wags say: October 14, 2020: National Dessert Day, and I ask you: what is a fine meal without a dessert? For those who like some protein in their dessert, it’s National Chocolate-Covered Insect Day. It’s also National Fossil Day, Emergency Nurses Day, and World Standards Day (International).

Finally, it’s National Bring Your Teddy Bear to Work and School Day. My Teddy, named Toasty, is as old as I am (he’s on MediBear), and he’s always here at work with me—like now:

A couple of old bears

News of the Day: The snoozeworthy Senate hearings on Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination continue, their contents predictable and their outcome inevitable. As everyone knew would happen, she simply asserts that she cannot predict how she’ll rule on crucial cases, but of course will be “guided by the law.” That’s the way nominees deal with all such questions. Unless some skeleton appears in her closet, which is most unlikely, this is all a charade, a chance for the GOP to lob softballs and the Democrats to bloviate.

Over at the New York Times, op-ed writer Jamelle Bouie argues that, should Democrats take both houses of Congress this fall, they should expand the Supreme Court—a Constitutionally legitimate act. His claim: if Republicans can do what’s legally permissible (i.e., nominate Amy Coney Barrett), then so should Democrats.  From his op-ed:

This may sound like it would lead to an ever-escalating arms race. But it doesn’t have to. The promise of retaliation can bring a new equilibrium. Expand the court, nullify the conservative advantage — show that all of the games and scheming were in vain — and you may create the space for an acceptable compromise around the scope and power of the judiciary.

If they take power in January, Democrats can take the so-called high road and choose not to subject the court to checks and balances. Judging from the relentless effort of the Republican Party to seize and maintain control of the courts, though, Democrats should know that to disarm in the face of provocations like the forestalling of Garland and the confirmation of Barrett is to invite further aggression. The only way to win this game is, in fact, to play it.

Given the nature of the political turmoil between the GOP and Democrats, though, I’m not at all sure that one instance of “court packing” will “bring a new equilibrium.” Why should it? The Republicans will strike back when they control the Presidency and Senate again, and this arms race will lead to dozens of Justices.

Yesterday’s poll on whether Holocaust denialism and anti-Semitism should be banned from Facebook gave the results below. A sizable plurality (over 43%) was in favor of banning neither, but 21% were in favor of banning both, with 29% in favor of banning some “hate speech,” depending on what was said. I am still disappointed that so few people vote. After all, it’s just for fun.

A Washington Post travel writer, Andrea Sachs, pens a sad lament for the interruption of her job by the pandemic. It’s a paean to the delights of travel and also a lament for those who, like me, feel unfulfilled without the ability to get on a plane or ship and head off to some exotic location. (Like me, Sachs was recently in Antarctica, an experience that really gives you the jones to travel more.)

According to the BBC, a man in Nevada was infected twice with coronavirus, both times with symptoms. Although multiple infections in single individuals still appear to be rare, this does mean that if you get the virus and recover, you’re not immune even for a few months. The man was infected in March and then in June. (h/t Jez)

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 215,781, a big increase of roughly 800 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll is 1,091,569, an increase of 5,500 over yesterday’s report.  

Stuff that happened on October 14 (and there was a lot!) includes:

  • 1322 – Robert the Bruce of Scotland defeats King Edward II of England at the Battle of Old Byland, forcing Edward to accept Scotland’s independence
  • 1586 – Mary, Queen of Scots, goes on trial for conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth I of England.
  • 1884 – George Eastman receives a U.S. Government patent on his new paper-strip photographic film.
  • 1888 – Louis Le Prince films the first motion picture, Roundhay Garden Scene.

Here’s the world’s first SURVIVING movie. not necessarily the first one made. It’s only a few seconds long, so you get to see it over and over again. The action:

The footage features Louis’s son Adolphe Le Prince, his mother-in-law Sarah Whitley (née Robinson, 1816 – 24 October 1888), his father-in-law Joseph Whitley (1817 – 12 January 1891) and Annie Hartley in the garden of Oakwood Grange, leisurely walking around the garden of the premises. Sarah is seen walking – or dancing – backwards as she turns around, and Joseph’s coat tails are seen flying as he also is turning.

  • 1908 – The Chicago Cubs defeat the Detroit Tigers, 2–0, clinching the 1908 World Series; this would be their last until winning the 2016 World Series.
  • 1912 – Former president Theodore Roosevelt is shot and mildly wounded by John Flammang Schrank. With the fresh wound in his chest, and the bullet still within it, Roosevelt delivers his scheduled speech.

Roosevelt’s life may have been saved as his speech manuscript was in his coat pocket, and the bullet had to pass through it. The shirt he wore while giving the talk is shown below. Schrank was institutionalized until his death in 1943.

Read about this escape, and the horrors of the camp at the link. About 300 prisoners escaped, and 58 of these survived till the end of the war.

  • 1946 – Craig Venter, American biologist, geneticist, and academic
  • 1947 – Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to exceed the speed of sound.

Here’s a short documentary video of Yeager’s achievement, reproduced by Sam Shephard in the movie “The Right Stuff”:

  • 1956 – Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, leader of India’s Untouchable caste, converts to Buddhism along with 385,000 of his followers (see Neo-Buddhism).
  • 1962 – The Cuban Missile Crisis begins when an American reconnaissance aircraft takes photographs of Soviet ballistic missiles being installed in Cuba.

A free article in the new New Yorker (I resubscribed for a short while, just to see), describes how close we actually came to a nuclear war, and how hamhandedly the whole thing was dealt with. A Soviet sub almost fired a nuclear torpedo.

  • 1964 – Martin Luther King Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence.

King gets his prize, a worthy recipient:

  • 1968 – The first live TV broadcast by American astronauts in orbit is performed by the Apollo 7 crew.

Here’s the 17-minute broadcast, though the quality isn’t so hot:

  • 1968 – Jim Hines becomes the first man ever to break the so-called “ten-second barrier” in the 100-meter sprint with a time of 9.95 seconds.

Here’s Hines breaking the barrier. The record is now 9.58 seconds, set of course by Usain Bolt. There must be a limit to how fast it can be run, because of course nobody could run it in one second. Therefore, between a few seconds and 9.58 seconds there must be a limit that cannot be broken.

  • 1991 – Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 1994 – Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres receive the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in the establishment of the Oslo Accords and the framing of future Palestinian self government.
  • 2003 – The Steve Bartman Incident takes place at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.

I remember this well, as it was a scandal in Chicago. Bartman, a fan in the outfield, reached over the field and deflected a fly ball that might have been caught by outfielder Moisés Alou. It was a crucial act, occurring in the eighth inning. and the umps rule it a foul ball. Had Alou been able to catch it without Bartman’s interference, it would have been an out. The Cubs lost the game when the Marlins went on to score 8 runs in the inning; that may well have cost them the pennant. Bartman was demonized (he was a Cubs fan), and the ball was later purchased and deliberately blown up. It sure looks like interference to me!

  • 2012 – Felix Baumgartner successfully jumps to Earth from a balloon in the stratosphere.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1644 – William Penn, English businessman who founded Pennsylvania (d. 1718)
  • 1882 – Éamon de Valera, American-Irish rebel and politician, 3rd President of Ireland (d. 1975)
  • 1892 – Sumner Welles, American politician and diplomat, 11th Under Secretary of State (d. 1961)
  • 1893 – Lillian Gish, American actress (d. 1993)
  • 1894 – E. E. Cummings, American poet and playwright (d. 1962)

Here’s E. E. Cummings. Bonus points if you know what the initials stand for:

  • 1911 – Lê Đức Thọ, Vietnamese general and politician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1990)
  • 1938 – John Dean, American lawyer and author, 13th White House Counsel
  • 1946 – Craig Venter, American biologist, geneticist, and academic

Those who began resting in peace on October 14 include:

  • 1944 – Erwin Rommel, German field marshal (b. 1891)
  • 1965 – Randall Jarrell, American poet and author (b. 1914)
  • 1977 – Bing Crosby, American singer-songwriter and actor (b. 1903)
  • 1990 – Leonard Bernstein, American pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1918)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has Big Plans:

Hili: I will lie here a moment and then I will go.
A: Where to?
Hili: To another place to lie down.
In Polish:
Hili: Chwilę tu poleżę i pójdę.
Ja: Dokąd?
Hili: Poleżeć w innym miejscu.

Here’s little Kulka on the windowsill:

From Charles, who says, “It’s ships all the way down.” And it is! (See here to read about the Blue Marlin, the ship that ships shipping ships—and even aircraft carriers!)

From Nicole:

Speaking of pareidolia, this is from Jesus of the Day:

Yes, as Titania notes, Gal Gadot is facing opprobrium for playing Cleopatra. After all, she’s Israeli and can’t play somebody who was a not an Egyptian but a Macedonian Greek. We clearly need a Macedonian Greek actress, for crying out loud. More on that later today.

From cesar. More proof that Nikole Hannah-Jones can’t take criticism (nor can her employer):

From Barry we get a form of protection completely new to me:   Note: this tweet, which showed a crab with an upside-down live jellyfish affixed to its carapace as protection, seems to have disappeared.  You can see the video on Facebook here.

From Simon. Mayor Pete continues to dismember Fox News and Trump at the same time:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a really great insect photo:

And bird photos. . . from New York City’s Central Park! In fact, 230 species are found in the wooded area of the park known as The Ramble.

Budgie basketball! Greens vs. yellows! Matthew says, “Not sure what’s giong on here, but I guess they have been separately trained to put the ball through the hoop and were then let loose.”

And this is now the world record for known nonstop flight in any bird.  Moreover, it navigated that distance over the Pacific with almost no landmarks. Birds have truly amazing direction-finding skills.


  1. phoffman56
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    “…the 100-meter sprint ,,, there must be a limit that cannot be broken.”

    The following has nothing really to do with running.

    The quote follows, in a trivial way, from the empirical fact that the human species won’t last forever, plus a few other facts to eliminate ridiculous cases.

    Anyway the word “limit” needs the adjective ‘non-zero’, says the smartass.

    But the argument given there could be phonily falsified, assuming we did last forever, and if there were an infinite sequence of better and better accuracies in measuring the time–1 part in a billion, 1 in 10 billion, …100 billion….etc, and the record was measured more and more accurately. That’s merely that there are infinitely many real, even rational, numbers between any two of them.

    That argument itself probably falls apart from quantum theory and that the human runner consists of particles, unless it’s ‘turtles all the way down’ in particle theory (not cosmology).

    So there’s a limit in principle, but will it ever be reached exactly? Does the last word mean anything? If answers are respectively no and yes, would we ever know the record limit?
    Surely not. But then believing in the limit is a special case of accepting the existence of facts that humans never can know. What is science? Some ‘platonic’ list of never known to us facts? Or just the list of what we think we know at any given time?

    Oops, I’ve got too much time on my hands!

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    1911 – Lê Đức Thọ, Vietnamese general and politician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1990)

    Mr. Thọ had the good taste to refuse his share of the 1973 Nobel Peace prize on the commonsense ground that no peace had been established in Vietnam through the Paris Treaty that permitted the United States to end its participation in the conflict — unlike his co-recipient, noted war criminal Henry Kissinger.

  3. jezgrove
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    “[H]e’s on MediBear” – very good!

    • openidname
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      Hear, hear!

  4. Linda Calhoun
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I have read a few proposals regarding restoring balance to the Supreme Court that don’t involve just escalating the number of justices endlessly.

    One is to limit terms of justices, and have a rotating roster of nine to hear cases. The proposal didn’t say how many justices there should be altogether.

    Another proposal I read would be to have fifteen justices, five each from the political parties, and five selected by the other ten, their recommendations to the Senate having to be unanimous.

    So, there are ways to address the issue that don’t involve an endless power struggle.


    • Posted October 14, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Very good. There is a similar proposal where a congressional committee represented by the major parties select a long term list of judges, and the selections must be unanimously agreed on. The idea here is that for that to happen the judges would have to be moderates – no extreme left or right.
      When it comes time for a new SC judge, the president must choose from that list.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      The “fix” for the Supreme Court doesn’t have to do with justices, it has to do with the Constitution. If the voters want something allowed/disallowed according to the Constitution, the answer is an amendment. If the seekers of different outcomes can’t get an amendment through than that should be the answer. Trying to game the system so that a specific point of view is dominant is a horrible idea.

      • Posted October 14, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        I think the problem is that the Constitution doesn’t stipulate the number of Supreme Court justices or how they are chosen, except to say that it is up to Congress.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted October 14, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          Please forgive me my ignorance, but if it is up to Congress how they are chosen, how is it possible the Senate alone (and by simple majority at that) gets to decide? Why isn’t the House involved?

          • Posted October 14, 2020 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

            There’s two different things here:

            1. Congress determines the composition of the Supreme Court, which is currently set at 9 justices and each appointment is for life or until the justice chooses to resign. I presume that changing these rules would just be a matter of passing a law in the normal way where it has to pass both houses and be signed by the president.

            2. Appointment of a new justice. This is currently something that only the Senate can do. I think this IS specified in the Constitution rather than the rules in #1. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong here.

            So, assuming the Dems capture both houses of Congress and the presidency, they could pass a new law specifying the makeup of the Supreme Court. And, because the Senate has the power to approve justices appointed by the president to fill empty seats, a President Biden could rebalance the court or even give it a Dem majority. Probably not a good idea though as the Republicans would just add more the next time they are in power.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        That might be a good idea in a fantasy world in which all Supreme Court Justices always make decisions unbiased by politics or other ideology, and are not selected by a powerful and unscrupulous party for how beholden they are, by how likely they are to make judgements based on whether or not they will support the powerful party’s interest or not.

        But our reality right now, today, is not remotely like that.

      • Linda Calhoun
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        The procedure for amending the Constitution, and the supermajorities required to get amendments passed represent too high a bar and too long a process.

        If you’re looking at 2/3 and 3/4 for approval, you run into the same problem that we have now with the Electoral College, namely that rural areas have more say than much more greatly populated urban areas. If, for example, 59% of the population wants a particular law passed, that’s a pretty hefty majority, but still not enough to pass a Constitutional amendment.

        republicans are fine with minoritarian rule, as long as they are the rulers. I seem to recall Trump heavily criticizing the EC before it benefitted him personally. If an election ever installed a Democrat who did not win the popular vote, the republicans would all be screaming like stuck pigs.


        • Philip Taterczynski
          Posted October 14, 2020 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

          As I recall, Republicans floated the idea of an amendment to do away with the “natural born citizen” requirement for the sole purpose of giving then-California Governor Schwarzenegger a shot at running for president.

  5. Historian
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    The Bartman incident did not result in a home run for the batter. The ball was clearly in foul territory.

    • Posted October 14, 2020 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      I think if a foul ball is caught the batter is still ‘out’.

    • Posted October 14, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Indeed, I erred, but the batter still would have been out.

      • phoffman56
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        And would not that half-inning have been over? Or have I mis-remembered?

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Those budgie hoopsters sure like to run the fast break, almost as much as they like to travel and dunk.

    Now, if someone would train them to run the Princeton offense — picks, passing, and backdoor cuts — that would be impressive.

    • Kelvin Britton
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      By the way, they are lovebirds, not budgies.

  7. Historian
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Republicans do not shy away from giving “friendly” advice to Democrats as with the possibility that should the Democrats win the presidency and the Senate, it would be unseemly and against the norms for them to pack the Court. Of course, the Merrick Garland incident and the Barrett nomination are perfectly fine, what’s the big deal? This situation is illustrative as to why Republicans for the past 40 years have been better politicians than Democrats. They have been willing to play dirty politics, without qualms or apologies. As a minority party in terms of popular support, they have found voter suppression a particularly effective tactic to maintain power. For reasons I cannot explain, Democrats have been reluctant to play hard ball politics out of a fear that they would offend constituencies that they would have little chance to win over under any circumstances.

    Packing the Court, that is increasing its membership, is clearly constitutional. Other proposals to limit far right dominance of the Court need also to be considered. Changing the number of justices has been done before. Should the Democrats pack the Court, there will be great political risks and another norm will be broken. However, I believe the political risk would be greater not to do it. In addition, and most importantly, the social stability of the country will be jeopardized if it is not done. Far right opinions by the Court in such matters as health care, abortion, and voting rights will further erode public support for the Court, thus continuing the loss of faith in government by the citizens as representing the will of the people. Faith in democracy will continue to decline. If the Democrats, come January 2021, have the power to remedy the Court’s far right dominance and fail to do so, they will once again set themselves up for losing power in the next election. Worse than this, they may have lost the last opportunity for democracy to revive in this country.

    • Posted October 14, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      The reason the Republicans have held outsized power for so long is the gift the founders delivered to the agrarian states. North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana have roughly 1% of the population and 8% of the power in The Senate. California is similarly affected in the other direction. There are 4 million people (D.C. and Puerto Rico, more than in the four states above) with Democratic leanings without representation in the senate at all. Admit these two as states and make the senate look and feel like what America actually is made of. Now the Republican Party will have to evolve to stay relevant and maybe become inclusive and not divisive, a party of ideas not a cult of personality, or lack there of.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        Even regardless of ‘Senate balance’, I think it is unconscionable not to give Puerto Rico and DC proper representation. I think statehood for these two might get broad support and might be eminently and easily achievable.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Yeah, and I’m not so sure how realistic are our host’s concerns that “The Republicans will strike back when they control the Presidency and Senate again, and this arms race will lead to dozens of Justices.”

      First of all, I’m not certain that the Republican Party, as we’ve known it since 1860, will survive Donald Trump intact. And to the extent it does, I’m not sure it can remain a national power, particularly given the nation’s shifting demographics. In less than three weeks, the GOP will have lost the popular vote in the seventh of the last eight presidential elections (the only exception being Dubya’s win in 2004, while he was riding the last of the crest of his post-9/11 popularity, before the wave broke on the reef of his misbegotten military adventurism in Iraq). The GOP also appears on the brink of losing its advantage in the electoral college (should that anachronistic institution manage to survive much longer), given that red states such as Georgia and Texas appear to be teetering on the brink of tipping blue, as Virginia and Nevada did not long ago, and as Arizona and North Carolina are in the process of doing right now.

      I also think the the Republicans will have some difficulty regaining a majority in the House of Representatives, particularly if the current ruthless gerrymandering system unfairly favoring Republicans can be unscrewed. (The GOP — or whatever rightwing party arises from its ashes — will remain viable in the US Senate, of course, do to its inherently undemocratic nature in which reliably red states where cattle outnumber human beings get equal representation with the blue states where the majority of Americans live).

      • rickflick
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        Your crystal ball grins widely like a smiley emoji.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      The increase in justices on the court would be a real benefit. It would help buffer the effects of a single party dominating it. Where’s the down side? 13 would be a great number, not only by adding balance, but it is warmly associated with donuts and bakers’ generosity.

      • jezgrove
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        I think it was fear of being punished, and so erring on the side of caution, rather than generosity that led to the bakers’ dozen.

    • Posted October 14, 2020 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Sounds like you want Democrats to play “dirty politics” just like the Republicans. That will just result in a race to the bottom. The Democrats just need to be more aggressive. IN particular, they need to fight against the Republicans’ claim that we should have as little government as possible because government is incompetent. This is a ridiculous self-defeating meme that needs to be killed. This is the perfect time to do it because the pandemic has shown what happens when good government goes missing.

      Another Republican meme that the Dems need to kill is that Republicans are the “good economy” party. It turns out that since WWII, the economy has grown much more under Dem administrations than GOP ones. I know there is actually only a vague connection between the ruling party and the economy but it isn’t false and, at a minimum, it would go a long way toward killing the meme.

      In general, the Republicans have been much better at branding than the Democrats. This is partly a natural result of the Republicans uniting behind power and the Dems representing a variety of interests. Still, they could do a much better job without resorting to dirty politics.

      • Historian
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        By dirty politics I mean actions that are legal, but violate traditional norms of how a democratic society should operate. Thus gerrymandering, voter suppression (in many cases done legally), and the current Supreme Court kerfuffle are examples of dirty politics – legal, but not healthy. By virtue that the Democratic Party is the majority party in terms of public support, yet are in a minority in terms of governmental power, indicates to me that your ideas are currently accepted by most citizens, yet cannot be implemented because the minority (Republicans) has manipulated the system to its favor. So, the Democrats must use all legal means (as distasteful as some may be) to rectify the situation. Otherwise, we will see perpetual minority rule, which is the worst outcome of all.

        • Posted October 14, 2020 at 11:20 am | Permalink

          I agree with you, though I wouldn’t call it dirty politics. Of course, the dirtiness is a continuum. I believe the Dems should still try to govern the entire country and “reach across the aisle” to any Republicans who want to practice good government but be ready to dump on any that practice Trump-style hyper-partisanship.

    • Curtis
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      It’s not as simple as the Republicans started it. Both parties have been abrogating judicial appointment norms since the Bork nomination. The Democrats really blew it by ending the judicial filibuster.

      “In November 2013, Senate Democrats led by Harry Reid used the nuclear option to eliminate the 60-vote rule on executive branch nominations and federal judicial appointments, but not for the Supreme Court. In April 2017, Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell extended the nuclear option to Supreme Court nominations in order to end debate on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch”

      Having said that, if the Democrats win the Senate and presidency, I think they should pack the court. If there are no norms, there is no reason to act as if there are.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        I think SC justices should be approved by 2/3rds of Senators. If one would apply that rule: No Justices Barrett, no Kavanaugh, no Gorsuch, no Kagan, no Alito, no Thomas (long before Mr Reid).
        The only extant Justices approved by a 2/3rds majority are Sotomayor, Roberts and Breyer.
        (as illustration: RBG 96-3, Scalia 97-0, Kennedy 98-0).

        A different question: how is it possible that one man, Mr McConnell, elected by 807.000 votes in Kentucky (<0.6% of the US voters), can dictate which SC Candidate can be heard or not? How can he prevent the Senate from exercising their constitutional duty? I mean the Senate hears and decides upon a candidate, that is their duty, or am I missing something?

        • Posted October 14, 2020 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          I believe the Constitution says that the leader is to be elected by the Senate itself. In our two-party system, that means the party with the most seats gets to pick their leader. That leader gets to determine what laws actually get discussed and voted on. It seems reasonable if the leader is motivated to get laws passed and appointments approved. As with everything else, it is now a partisan thing, especially under the Republicans and Mitch McConnell.

        • Curtis
          Posted October 14, 2020 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          It’s not one man. It is 53 senators who elected McConnell to represent them.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        You think the contentiousness regarding SCOTUS justices all started with Robert Bork, really?

        Strom Thurmond filibustered LBJ’s nomination of Thurgood Marshall, and rightwingers undertook efforts to impeach Earl Warren, Abe Fortas, and William O. Douglas.

    • Steve Gerrard
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      A big difference today is that the Citizens United decision allows big money to play a big role in our government. Barrett is very much a Koch selected and approved justice, who will make decisions that the Kochs want. It’s kind of gross, and not the way it’s supposed to be, but we seem to be stuck with it for now.

      • Posted October 14, 2020 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        We don’t really know how she’ll vote. We might imagine that Trump and/or the Federalist Society have grilled her and made her promise to vote their way. I’m not so sure they really do this though. Even if they do, I suspect that judge who wants to be on the Supreme Court will tell them what they want to hear regardless of how they really feel. Since it’s an appointment for life, once they are on the court they can vote however they like. Their own morals and thoughts about their legacy are way more important than making whoever appointed them happy.

        Also, cases very rarely directly address the issue that voters care about. The case usually involve their judgement on points of law, not whether they are for or against abortion, say.

  8. Posted October 14, 2020 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to exceed the speed of sound…

    … in controlled level flight.

    • openidname
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

      Who exceeded it in uncontrolled and/or unlevel flight? That would have the potential to be quite a story!

      • Posted October 15, 2020 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        In the latter stages of WW2, it was possible to reach at least transonic speeds in aircraft in steep dives. Not being designed for it, the aircraft would usually not survive.

  9. Jim batterson
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    The book, “the kennedy tapes: inside the white house during the cuban missile crisis” (harvard u press 1997), gives an excellent account of the thinking and discussion regarding how to deal with the missiles and the russians during those two weeks in october 1962. Authors ernest may and philip zelikow were able to transcribe (much of) real-time tape recordings of the meetings held in the cabinet room and oval office (i believe) and tied those recordings to participants from written records of who was present at each meeting. The book provides a wonderful insight into jfk’s decision making process..and yes, how close we were to bringing disaster.

  10. Richard Jones
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    1066 and all that! Without William of Normandy’s victory at the Battle of Hastings we would be writing in a different language.

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      No, we’d still be writing English (we’d spell it “Englisc”), but it’s English that would be different, with less Latinate influence (via the Norman French) and grammar features more in line with other Germanic languages (e.g., four cases, declention of adjectives, three numbers and all those pesky inflections).

      • revelator60
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Thank goodness for the Normans!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      It’d be Beowulf all the way down.

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    The ACB hearings should be a snooze. Until Robert Bork and John Tower the assumption was that a President could pick his people, and, assuming there was no obvious disqualification, appointees receiving perfunctory scrutiny. Given that ACB just went through hearings three years ago, when most of the Senators were in office, this should be a non-event. The problem is that the Democrats are desperate for a court to support their policies when the voters don’t.

    • pablo
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      The voters elected Hillary Clinton in 2016.

      • Curtis
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        My preferred outcome in the election is that Biden wins the electoral college and Trump wins the popular vote. I am sure you will be saying that the voters elected Trump and Biden is illegitimate.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted October 14, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          According to 538 the probability of that happening is <1%.

          And yes, if Mr Trump won a majority of the popular vote without cheating and Mr Biden the EC, I would have serious doubts about Mr Biden's legitimacy.

      • Curtis
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

        As I am sure you are aware, the voters do not and never have elected the president. The argument that Clinton somehow won is nonsense on stilts.

        It is what sore losers resort to when their candidate was fairly beaten because Trump was smart enough to understand the rules (constitution) while Clinton’s hubris did not allow her to assess the actual situation. She spent the last week campaigning in Arizona, NC and Ohio where she had no chance instead of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where she lost by a whisker.

        This type of incompetence is not what I want in a president. Trump has tons of incompetence but his staff understood how to count to 270.

    • Linda Calhoun
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      The problem is that the Democrats are “desperate for a court to support their policies when the voters don’t.”

      That sounds to me more like what the Republicans want.

      The public does not support reversal of Roe v. Wade. The public does not support removal of the ACA. The public does not support attempts to block vote count and install Trump by the Supreme Court. Yet, all of these are on the table in the coming weeks.


      • Curtis
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        Be honest, it’s what both parties want wh en things don’t go there way.

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        DrBrydon is clueless. Your three examples are good, and I’d like to add the majority of Americans also want reasonable gun control, want marriage equality, want higher taxes on the rich and corporations, want a smaller, less expensive military, want environmental protections and action on climate change, want better work protections, want police and prison reform, and want an immigration system that doesn’t abuse immigrants, asylum seekers and their families. Lastly, the majority of voters don’t want RBG’s seat filled in the middle of an election by a right-wing hack. In short, the majority of Americans are ignored by the GOP and their court.

        • Mark R.
          Posted October 14, 2020 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          I should have said “clueless on this issue”. Sorry DrBrydon, it sounded too harsh and general when I reread it.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      The voters want the winner of the elections to nominate the new SC candidate.
      The 535 Republican Senators represent a minority of American voters.
      Mr Trump represents a minority of American voters.
      So positively no, there is no reasonable argument whatsoever, to state that voters do not want Democrats to decide upon a new SC justice, on the contrary.
      Whether any SC would support their policies is moot. But your contention there is pure projection. If one thing has become clear over the last 4-5 years it is that the GOP went out of it’s way, breaking norms and precedent -and blatantly lying in the process-, to shape the court in a way it would support their policies.
      The Democrats supposedly want, the Republicans actually did.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        535 Republican Senators, read: 53% Republican Senators represent a minority.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      … the Democrats are desperate for a court to support their policies when the voters don’t.

      Of the last 19 SCOTUS appointees, made over the past half century, 15 have been by Republican presidents, just 4 by Democrats.

      It has been Republicans who’ve been desperate to have the Court invalidate laws democratically enacted by congress and state legislatures — the Affordable Care Act (in toto, as well as to both the individual mandate and birth control coverage), campaign-finance statutes, gun-control laws, and the preclearance provisions of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, to name a few.

  12. Blue
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Instead of and in contrast to those
    soooo snoozeworthy Senate SCOTUS hearings
    and in h o n o r of my soooo SENSIBLE shoes,
    Sound up.


  13. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    The answer to most problems of the supreme court would be to have a congress that works. We have nothing.

    • Curtis
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      This is the real answer. Congress was supposed to be dominant branch of our government. Congress allowed the president to usurp power and then partisanship prevented laws from being passed.

      Executive orders and court decisions are a poor substitute for legislating.

  14. rickflick
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    The Barrett Supreme Court nomination is predictable, but there is one interesting benefit. Democrats get to articulate some of the deep policy differences between the parties. They get to highlight the hypocrisy of the GOP in pushing through a nomination vs the Garland debacle. They are going through the damage that would occur without the ACA, etc. All old news, but skillfully rehearsed for those voters who may tune in now that we are getting close to the election.

  15. busterggi
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    “Here’s the world’s first SURVIVING movie”

    This is why double features was invented.

  16. Posted October 14, 2020 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Odd that more people would censor holocaust denial than antisemitism. Small numbers, of course.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      Darwinwins, I found that very odd too. (I voted anti-semitism).

  17. pablo
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    RE: Gal Gadot controversy
    Cleopatra was greek. Ancient Egyptians weren’t sub-Saharan Africans. This is more mainstreaming of Afro-centtic pseudohistory.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      I thought the question was whether a Jew would be allowed to play a Greek. I gather that in those days there was quite some antagonism. 🙂
      IMMO: yes, a Jew -and certainly one as fitting as Ms Gadot- should be allowed to play a Greek. And it would not make the movie ridiculous, like Justin Bieber as Shaka Zulu, Beyonce as Churchill or Anthony Quinn as an eskimo would.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 14, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        The most famous cinematic Cleopatra of all, Liz Taylor, was also Jewish. She converted when she married crooner Eddie Fisher in 1959.

        • Doug
          Posted October 14, 2020 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

          Theda Bara [an anagram of “Arab Death”], who played Cleopatra in a silent movie, was also Jewish. Her birth name was Theodosia Goodman, daughter of a Jewish tailor [although the studio claimed she was the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French woman].

          Yes, I saw a post on another website a few days ago “explaining” that the Greeks rewrote history to take credit for Cleopatra and Ptolemy [general to Alexander the Great, and ancestor to Cleopatra]. Sneaky people, those Greeks.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 15, 2020 at 9:23 am | Permalink

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 15, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

            Wrong vid above.

            This is the one about the Greeks:

  18. Posted October 14, 2020 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    There are wonderful photos on the Wildlife Photo Awards page Jerry linked to. One of the winners was Jaime Culebras for photos of frogs on our EcoMinga Foundation’s Manduriacu Reserve. I’ll try to persuade him to work on Jerry’s frog (Atelopus coynei) next.

  19. rickflick
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Chuck Yeager is an amazing guy who has had an amazing career in aviation. He’s still going strong at the age of 97. His autobiography is a very good read.

  20. Mobius
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    How many ship can a ship ship ship if a ship ship could ship ships?

    • Taz
      Posted October 14, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      More than what’s pictured. Apparently the same company has an even bigger ship shipping ship, with 70% more deck space.

  21. Anastasia Cheetham
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    The initials in Cummings’ name stand for Edward Estlin. I’ve been a fan if his since I was forced to take 20th Century Poetry in college, because nothing else fit in my schedule :-). I don’t remember any of the other poets, but Cummings stuck with me.

  22. Steve
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Edward Estlin Cummings!

  23. Curtis
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    First of all, Jim Hines was a great athlete who deserves all his accolades. His world record stood for 15 years.

    The 100 meter race has a very odd recent history and we do not really know what the best legitimate time is. The top 30 times are either by Usain Bolt or by someone connected to steroids or drug irregularities (Tyson Gay, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell, Justin Gatlin, Ben Johnson, etc.)

    I really hope Bolt is legit and he has a unique body which makes its possible.

  24. Joseph McClain
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    My wife has a friend who also serves as staff to a MediBear recipient and so I shared this episode featuring Toasty. Carol’s bear is named Maynard and accompanies her to all sorts of events. Carol is a physician and the state medical director for the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Her work today, on National Bring Your Teddy Bear to Work and School Day, includes meeting with Dr. Fauci. I don’t know if it’s in-person or zoom, but my wife sent along this episode of the Hili Dialogues to Carol and I hope Maynard and a camera are in the room.

  25. revelator60
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    “…this arms race will lead to dozens of Justices.”

    So be it. I will be amused if we eventually end up with more Supremes than Congressmen.
    In an age of hyper-polarization the Supreme Coiurt no longer functions as an impartial arbiter, and even that role was a creation of the Warren Court, whose like will never come again. For most of its history the Supreme Court has been a source of reactionary rulings. Today it’s at the risk of reverting to the norm.

  26. Posted October 14, 2020 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    ‘Pete Buttigieg really went on Fox News and asked “why an evangelical Christian like Mike Pence wants to be on a ticket with a president caught with a porn star.”‘
    Answer: Because MP wants to live vicariously.

  27. Hempenstein
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Godwit; Nowhere to stop off for a drink, either!

  28. openidname
    Posted October 14, 2020 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    I can’t find any reliable information about the significance of a single person (or a handful of people) recontracting COVID.

    Apparently they’re sure this man recontracted it (rather than reactivating symptoms of an infection that never went away) because it was a genetically different strain. Did the genetic difference change an antigen? If so, how often does that happen?

    And how many people recontract measles? Zero? A handful? Is that something that can happen just because you have a wonky immune system?

    The reporting on this is shoddy. But then, so is most of the COVID reporting.

    • Mike
      Posted October 15, 2020 at 4:42 am | Permalink

      The second infection can be detected by any genetic differences wrt the strain that caused the first infection. A change to an antigen is not necessary to document a new infection. Mutations do happen within the host so it’s possible that second strain of virus could be detected after just one infection. This is common with HIV infections. But coronaviruses do not mutate nearly as fast as HIV, so it’s unlikely that tests would detect a second strain that arose by a mutation within the same host. Detecting a second strain in the same host is, for these viruses, good evidence of a second infection.

  29. Posted October 15, 2020 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    Irritating, thin skinned Hannah-Jones snarling at Bret Stephens (whom I’m no big fan of but agree with here).
    The “that’s racist b/c you disagree” school of “debate” really pisses me off.

    You have to ask the question from the other direction:
    “Dear Ms. H-J, What would it look like if somebody wanted to legitimately criticize your IDEAS? HOW does one even do that? Can one? Or is ANY criticism of what you say by definition racist?”
    D.A. NYC

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