Wednesday: Hili dialogue

October 28, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good Hump Day to you: it’s October 28, 2020: National Chocolate Day. Can you imagine a world without chocolate? And if it didn’t exist, you wouldn’t be able to imagine it. Now think of all the wonderful foods that don’t exist and you can’t imagine. It’s also Wild Foods Day, Plush Animal Lover’s Day (again, the apostrophe suggests just one lover is being feted), International Animation Day (ASIFA), and in Greece, Ohi Day, celebrating the day in 1940 when the Greek Prime Minister replied “όχι ” (“no”) to Mussolini’s demand to enter and occupy Greece).

Six days remain until I get gutted like a sturgeon.

News of the Day: If you’re into baseball (and I’m not much enthused), the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series last night, winning their fourth game, 3-1 over the Tampa Bay Rays. (The series ended 4 games to 2.) Given that the season was only 60 games instead of the normal 162, this can hardly be counted as a “regular” Series win.

After Trump walked out of his interview with CBS’s Lesley Stahl, and announced it via Twitter (later posting his own tape of the pre-interview chat, Stahl’s family received death threats. She now has full-time security. Reader Charles, who sent me the link, says “we will see a sharp increase in violence from these nuts after Trump loses.”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation has a full legal report on Amy Coney Barrett. It ain’t pretty, but you knew that.

Speaking of the new Justice, Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, proposes a litmus test for whether Barrett is a “political hack”.  That hinges on whether she recuses herself in a possible court re-do of a Pennsylvania case involving the counting of mail-in ballots. If she doesn’t she’s a hack, says Rubin, and adds this:

Should Barrett participate in an election case so obviously fraught with the appearance of conflict and bias, her rulings in other cases will be seen as suspect, and the court’s reputation, which Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has struggled to preserve, will be shattered. The one sure-fire way to fuel talk of expanding the court or stripping its appellate jurisdiction would be for her to participate in the case and rule in favor of Republicans’ vote-suppression agenda.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 226,681, a big increase of about 1,000 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,172,932, another big increase of about 7,700 over yesterday’s report. 

Stuff that happened on October 28 includes:

  • 1420 – Beijing is officially designated the capital of the Ming dynasty when the Forbidden City is completed.
  • 1492 – Christopher Columbus lands in Cuba on his first voyage to the New World.
  • 1636 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony votes to establish a theological college, which would later become Harvard University.
  • 1726 – The novel Gulliver’s Travels is published.

A first edition of this puppy will set you back about $167,000:


Apparently the dedication was done not at the statue, but from a boat. Both of my maternal grandparents passed that statue on the way to America from Eastern Europe:

And here’s the plaque honoring its status as a gift from the French people:

  • 1919 – The U.S. Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Wilson’s veto, paving the way for Prohibition to begin the following January.
  • 1922 – Italian fascists led by Benito Mussolini march on Rome and take over the Italian government.
  • 1948 – Paul Hermann Müller is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the insecticidal properties of DDT.
  • 1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis: Premier Nikita Khrushchev orders the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1903 – Evelyn Waugh, English journalist, author, and critic (d. 1966)
  • 1914 – Jonas Salk, American biologist and physician (d. 1995)

Note that when Edward R. Murrow asked Salk in 1955 who owned the patent on the polio vaccine, Salk responded, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” A lesson for those scientific entrepreneurs who develop a method or technique supported by taxpayer funding (e.g., NIH or NSF), and then patent it, so that Americans who use it have to pay twice. I believe CRISPR is one of the latter examples.


  • 1949 – Caitlyn Jenner, American decathlete and actress
  • 1951 – Peter Hitchens, English journalist and author
  • 1955 – Bill Gates, American businessman and philanthropist, co-founded Microsoft
  • 1964 – Peter Coyne, Australian rugby league player

I don’t know who he is, but maybe he’s a relative.

Those who fell asleep on October 28 were few, and include:

  • 1818 – Abigail Adams, American writer and second First Lady of the United States (b. 1744)
  • 1998 – Ted Hughes, English poet and playwright (b. 1930)
  • 2007 – Porter Wagoner, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1927)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is upset that Szaron is on her blanket:

Hili: He is lying on my blanket.
A: You can both use it.
Hili: I will not use the blanket together with this cat.
In Polish:
Hili: On leży na moim kocu!
Ja: Możecie go razem używać.
Hili: Nie będę z tym kotem używała wspólnego koca.

Here’s baby Kulka on the move (she’s a lively little girl). Photograph by Paulia:

A meme from Bruce. By now you should be able to recognize this Faux Duck (there are actually two species here. . . )

Some lovely seasonal pies from Forever Fall and Halloween on Facebook:

A cartoon from Merilee:

A tweet from Elizabeth Warren about the new Supreme Court battle:

As reader Ken noted:”This man actually holds a seat in the United States House of Representatives. I don’t think you need a second guess as to which party caucus he belongs to.”

From Gethyn. We knew that medieval and Renaissance artists couldn’t draw domestic cats; now it appears they couldn’t draw wild ones, either:

From Simon, who likes Oded Rechavi’s academic-culture takes on videos:

Tweets from Matthew:  A girl teaches her beloved Indian runner duck (a breed of mallard) to swim. There’s some repetition in the video:

My explanation (which is mine): The creator has an inordinate fondness for ducks.

A girl named Faith has the Trump Talk with her parents. Sound up; it’s a good one:

What a great instrument! (Sound up.)

42 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. “Six days remain until I get gutted like a sturgeon” – and Trump, too hopefully. Though I don’t suppose too many WEIT readers will be hoping that he recovers and makes a quick return.

  2. Minor point of correction: The Tampa Bay baseball team exorcised the “Devil” from their name following the 2007 season. They are now just the “Rays”.

  3. “The Patent Act of 1952, which established the current structure of patent law, did not recognize a difference between inventions and discoveries. When that distinction came from the Supreme Court in 1980, the court made clear that “products of nature”—like the sun, as Salk might say—are not patentable. Isolating and purifying a product, however, may render it patentable under the right conditions.”

    It also appears a polio vaccine patent would have failed at the time, as ascertained – for whatever reason – by The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, so the patent application was abandoned – for whatever reason :

    “The decision not to patent the vaccine made perfect economic sense under the circumstances. “The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was a nonprofit, centralized research and development operation,” says Robert Cook-Deegan, who studies intellectual property and genomics at Duke University. “They didn’t need an incentive structure.”“

    The article below argues that not all vaccines or conditions are equal, and, therefore, not subject to all the same incentives :


  4. What happens at the Supreme Court was discussed earlier this week in the WP. It is pretty much up to Roberts how it goes. Either he brings this court back from it’s far right stone age thinking or risk the addition of a few more justices to accomplish it for him.

    1. Problem is, Chief Justice Roberts is no longer SCOTUS’s swing vote; with Barrett’s confirmation, there are now five votes — a Court majority — solidly to his right.

      In cases where those right-wing justices vote as a block, there’s nothing Roberts can do to stop them.

      1. I believe the idea in the article was that Roberts is the Chief Justice. The leader if there is one. Of course if he is a leader in the Trump mold, it is an empty shell. So if the court goes off in it’s radical ways, there are ways to stop it. All I hear at the site regarding the court is mostly gloom and doom. Kind of like a couple of years ago regarding the democrat’s chances.

      2. The Roberts Court is going down in infamy. The edifice he worked so diligently to build (is crashing down on around him.

  5. “Salk in 1955 who owned the patent to the polio vaccine, Salk responded, “

    … I am confused – I thought at that time the vaccine was not patented, for reasons suggested in my other comment above –

    “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

    the counter question would be “do vaccines grow on trees?”

    1. It is a sign of Dr Salk’s high character that he would refuse to apply for a patent for the vaccine even if it was available for him. His kind of ethics makes him a saint of sorts, if such a thing were possible.

      But the overall complaint here – that people should not be able to patent inventions like vaccines because some of them received government funding is a dangerous idea. Take the example away from the loaded field of vaccine development and consider all of the technology that came out of the US space program. The list is huge and all of it was funded, at least in part, by the US taxpayer. The companies which developed those technologies would not have done so if they could not ensure a return on their investments.

      One of the purposes of government research is to foster innovation. If you remove the ability to recoup investment in research and development many of the products and therapies we have would never have been developed. This last bit -development- is often overlooked when people complain about private entities claiming rights to things initially developed by the government. Development of the invention – say running clinical trials on a new vaccine- very often dwarfs the costs of the discovery/invention itself.

      One approach often ignored by those who complain about private companies making money off government research programs, especially in biomedical research, are programs like CRADA (Cooperative Research And Development Agreement) wherein the companies developing inventions derived from government labs share in the rights to products. The DoD has similar programs.

      There are bad actors and bad agreements from time to time, but IMO one of the few true successes of the US government over the past century has been the open pursuit of government research intended to be leveraged by private groups. It arguably has brought us the modern world, for good or ill.

      1. Agreed. In fact, we need a lot more of it. Though I do believe our patent system could be improved in a number of ways. Companies still get patents for ridiculous things, IMHO. For one thing, patents should be reviewed and commented on by the community before being granted.

          1. Yes, the public. But the most likely commenters are people in the industry that know the subject matter. If we had such a law and the public abused it, or the sheer volume of comments was unwieldy, the set of reviewers might have to be limited in some way. The importance here is that the community most directly affected by the issuance of the patent get to comment on prior art, related patents, ownership disputes, priority claims, overly broad patents, etc. As things are now, these issues can only be resolved after issuance which makes for a large legal burden for any potential complainant.

            1. Well, there already is a way for the public to comment on patent application but (IIANM) that is restricted to opinions about prior invention. There are fewer people less qualified to decide if a patent is warranted than the public at large. This not a dig on our collective intelligence – most of us are not “skilled in the field”, as the patent office calls it. Only those people should have input into whether a patent is warranted. Just as you say above.

              But one thing for sure is that I would not want the public to have input into whether or not a patent is actually granted. That would be disastrous.

              1. The patent process would not be required to take every public comment seriously. Next you’ll be telling me that we shouldn’t allow everyone to vote for President as many of them are so-called “low information” voters. Hey, that’s not a bad idea! 😉

  6. Actually, the evidence is for an inordinate fondness for geese, rather than ducks; they are Brent Geese on this side of the pond, Brants on yours.

    1. an inordinate fondness

      Yeah … given PCCE’s predilections, is the fondness inordinate because they’re not cats, or because they’re not Drosophila?

  7. The assertion that Barrett should recuse herself from the Penna case makes no sense, and it is purely political posturing (as is the call from Never Trumpers that she be impeached if she doesn’t recuse herself). She has been legally confirmed as a justice, and there are no existing standards that I know of or have seen advanced that say that she shouldn’t begin participating in court decisions right away. Likewise, no one has brought forth any reason for a recusal in this particular case, other than that it potentially affects the future of the person who appointed her to the court. Jennifer Rubin’s litmus test might as well be broadened to state that if Barrett participates in any case that the Democrats feel strongly about, then she is a hack. Yet another effort to degrade the language, and undermine our institutions. Don’t worry about it, though, just like you shouldn’t worry about calls to abolish the Constitution. We all know what’s right, so arbitrary government is just what we need.

    1. I don’t see much chance of degrading or undermining our institutions any further than they already are, thanks to Moscow Mitch McConnell. You could even throw his wife in that picture if you want.

    2. no one has brought forth any reason for a recusal in this particular case, other than that it potentially affects the future of the person who appointed her to the court

      Nobody has brought forth any reason for recusal other than this one really good reason. Of course, that reason also applies to two other justices. All three should recuse themselves.

      1. The one thing that might make ACB more qualified for recusal than those two other Trump judges is Trump’s saying out loud that he wants her on the court before the election so she can rule on his attempts to force the outcome in his favor. It gives the appearance of a quid pro quo arrangement.

    3. Model Rule of Judicial Conduct 2.11(A) provides that a “judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned[.]” Given the statements made by Donald Trump and congressional Republicans that the reason for the celerity with which Barrett’s appointment was rammed through the confirmation process was so that she could provide the deciding vote in matters pertaining to this election, it would be unseemly for her to cast the fifth vote to rehear a case in which the Court has already declined to reverse the Pennsylvania Supreme Court prior to her appointment. Moreover, the United States Supreme Court’s jurisdiction is limited to matters of federal law; it has no business mucking about in state voting procedures decided solely on the basis of state constitutional law, as was the case in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision.

      Donald Trump views appointments to the highest court in the land as patronage positions, the same way that the bosses in the days of Tammany Hall viewed appointments to municipal judgeships: You appoint ’em, you own ’em, and they owe you their votes on the bench. This was the system Trump was indoctrinated into by his political and legal mentor, Roy Cohn (whose own father was one of those New York patronage-job trial judges).

      Indeed, this is Donald Trump’s view of the entire federal government. This is why he speaks of his generals and his federal law-enforcement officers, and why has utter disregard for the traditional independence afforded departments and agencies like DoJ and the FBI. And anybody who doesn’t go along with the flow is, in his view, simply some kind of “deep state” Democrat hellbent to undermine his make-glorious administration.

      Hell, Trump’s White House has already announced that, should he be reelected, Trump plans to fire FBI director Christopher Wray, director of Central Intelligence Gina Haspel, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper (who’s already known around the Pentagon of “Yesper” due to his willingness to bend to Trump’s will) so he can replace them with more compliant appointees.

      Heaven forfend that Donald Trump should get “his” Supreme Court, newly stocked with “his” three appointees, to invalidate enough ballots in swing states for him to steal this election. Our democracy will no longer be recognizable as such after four more years of such blatant subversion.

      1. It seems like Roberts, as staunch defender of the court, would have strong feelings about this. Is it considered good form for him to try to convince ACB to recuse on cases involving the election?

        1. The communications between and among SCOTUS justices tend to be closely held secrets — no one but the nine justices themselves, for example, attends the post-oral-argument conferences where the justices take the preliminary votes regarding the outcomes of cases — albeit subject to much speculation and rumor-mongering among court followers and personnel.

          That said, I am almost certain Roberts wouldn’t offer any unsolicited advice, and I doubt Barrett would come to him seeking any. SCOTUS justices tend to keep their own counsel — particularly unless and until they’ve formed close alliances with each other over the years.

          Expect the worst.

  8. Yes, I see, but the confusion is whether Salk owned the … the *patent*… at that time — because Salk’s quote claims “there is no patent.”… did Salk or the foundation own the *vaccine*?… I am becoming more confused obviously…

    It looks like there are patents *now*, but that’s another issue.

  9. Stahl’s family received death threats –

    In Michigan a conservative judge overruled the democratic secretary of state to permit carrying weapons at polling places. This does not sound good.

    1. I voted yesterday. Among the official signs at the entrance to the voting place was the notice, “No Concealed Guns Allowed.” (paraphrased)

      1. According to an item (NY Times?), that policy has been revoked. Count yourself lucky to get in and out before it came down.

  10. 1726 – The novel Gulliver’s Travels is published.

    Those in Beeb-land might still be able to get the 3-hour adaptation from Radio Wales, which was put out on one of the Radio-4s over the last few weeks. I was listening to it a few days ago. I think it’s a repeat from a few years back, but it’s a fair production nonetheless.

      1. Oh yeah, I was forgetting that iTunes … no, what was it called (the Beeb’s online service, forgotten the name, whatever) had been replaced by this Sounds thing. Must remember to try it one day.

  11. The Bayh–Dole Act allowed universities and professors to profit from their own discoveries via patents. It keeps a lot of professors in academia and many people credit it for the strength of American research.

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