Little Feet

[A valuable summer repeat from November 26, 2017]  When I was about 10 years old, I pestered my father to let me drive the family car.  Sooooo. . . . one Sunday, my dad let me drive home from Church.  Not all the way – but the last mile or so — on a road that was pretty vacant and ran in part along a corn field. I’d sit there peering over the steering wheel – my father with one hand on the wheel, one hand on the ignition and one hand on the gear shift.  From then on, I was the “Chuber” driver (“CHurch UBER“) on Sundays.  

Sometimes, my dad would take me to an empty parking lot and let me drive.  Round and round.  So I “learned” to drive at a pretty early age. When Lauren was about 12, I let her “drive” on occasional Saturday afternoons in our Church parking lot.  

My father had a lot of wisdom to impart to me in my formative years (which – Donna comments – are still in progress).  My dad always told me when driving to keep my “eyes moving.”  Watching.  Left.  Right.  Check the mirrors.  And he always told me to watch for “little feet.”  As I drive along a street, I was told to glance forward — under the cars parked along the street.  Why?  Because you can see if there are little feet — on the other side — below the car.  And you can slow down.  It’s easy to see an adult standing by a car.  But there’s no way to see a child unless you see the “little feet” under the car you are approaching. 

I’m always watching for “little feet.”  Try it next time you’re driving.  Keep an eye out for little feet. . . . .

Sure Enough. . . .

Hours after I posted on “Intellectual Property,” the Biden Administration announced exactly what I wrote about — the hijacking of American patents relating to the Covid vaccine. That’s just great.

Moderna invested 10 years and hundreds of millions of dollars – developing the original mRNA technology. In the last few weeks Moderna turned its first profit. Now the pharmaceutical industry achieves a miracle in the space of one year and what happens? As the Wall Street Journal said: “In one fell swoop [Biden] has destroyed tens of billions of dollars in U.S. intellectual property, set a destructive precedent that will reduce pharmaceutical investment, and surrendered America’s advantage in biotech. . . .”

Angela Merkel has roundly criticized the decision to rip off the patents of pharma companies – “The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future.” Other European governments feel the same way. But not America. . . .

Kimberly Strassel reported that “. . . the precedent of willy-nilly canceling patents will prove cataclysmic for drug innovation and health.” As I said in my earlier post – when a dreaded disease comes knocking on your door, where’s the incentive to help? The pharmaceutical companies will shrug their shoulders and say “why bother. . . .”

I am deeply concerned by this ransacking of intellectual property. And a lot of other things. You should be too.

Intellectual Property

A family member has a dreaded disease. The clock is winding down. Pain. Agony. Prayers. At the bedside. And then [name your drug company] comes up with a cure. A medicine that not only treats but remediates the illness of your family member. They take the medicine. And slowly – with tears of joy – they begin to improve. And they heal.

Let’s say that the miracle medicine costs all of $10.00 to produce. And yet the cost to you – or your insurance company – is $200.00. Fair? Let’s say the drug company invested $257,000,000 on research for this drug. And they have a series of patents on all aspects of the drug. And by charging $200.00 per dosage, they are recouping their investment – and making a modest profit. Fair? In 2019, pharmaceutical companies spent 186 billion dollars on research.

Today – some political groups seek to nullify patents. Regulate profits. Commandeer rights in a company’s investment in research, development – and healing. A few countries already do this.

To me, one of the most important words in the English language is – “incentive” (please see post of May 6, 2018). We have incentive to obey traffic lights. To work. Take the dog out. To go to our doctors. To attend a church or synagogue. Recycle. To contribute to charity. To be kind to others. And to develop healing remedies that will help humanity.

As an intellectual property lawyer (now retired), I have respect for the intellectual property of individuals and businesses. And for investments made by corporate America – to come up with knowledge, ideas, technology and medicines to cure disease. I understand that businesses need to be fair in recouping their investments. Most are. But the inclination to deny reimbursement for expenditures, deny profits for shareholders or nullify patents – is shortsighted.

When your family member has a dreaded disease. The clock is winding down. Pain. Agony. Prayers. At the bedside. And [the drug company of your choice] decides it is no longer worth it to invest in research – just remember. That when you stifle incentive, lots of things disappear . . . . .

There is this Girl. . . .

[A repeat from July 10, 2016] There is this girl. Her name is Lisa.  She is captivating and I’ve admired her for a long time. Donna is vaguely aware of my interest in Lisa but she let’s it go.  I have gone on websites to read about Lisa.  And there was one occasion some years ago when our paths actually crossed.  It was in Paris.  There she was.  And I stood. Watching her.  For quite a while.  From about thirty feet away.  Lisa’s last name is Gherardini.

I guess I’m not the only guy in the world who has had a special interest in Lisa.  You see Lisa Gherardini is — the Mona Lisa.  

Lisa – the young wife of Francesco del Gioconda – was painted by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) between 1503 and 1506.  However Leonardo – who claimed he “never completed a single work” – continued to refine Lisa after he moved to France.  He may have applied the final touches of paint in 1516 or 1517.

After Leonardo’s death, the painting was purchased by Francis I of France.  Louis XIV moved Lisa to the Palace of Versailles – and after the Revolution, Lisa was placed in the Louvre.  In 1911, Lisa was stolen by a Louvre employee – Vincenzo Peruggia – who felt that Lisa should be returned to Italy.  Peruggia’s theft was discovered two years later when he tried to sell Lisa to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  There have been several attempts to deface Lisa – but she continues smiling seductively – behind layers of bulletproof glass.

The aesthetics of da Vinci’s painting are nuanced.  Lisa is sitting upright with hands folded in a reserved attitude.  There is an imaginary landscape behind Lisa which introduces for the first time an “aerial perspective.”  Lisa is considered the most famous painting in the world.  And the most valuable – with an estimated worth of $782,000,000.   I can’t wait to cross paths with Lisa again. . . . .   

Charlie Russell

[A repeat from November 16, 2017] If anyone has received a greeting card or letter from me – it may have included a hand-drawn cartoon.   You can thank Charlie Russell for the artistic addition. 

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) was an American artist who painted iconic scenes of the Old West.  Charlie was born in St. Louis and moved to Montana when he was 16 years old where he got a job working on a sheep ranch.  Charlie chronicled the bitter winter of 1886-7 in a series of watercolor paintings.  While working on the O-H Ranch in the Judith Basin of Montana, the foreman received a letter from the ranch owner — asking how his cattle had fared during the winter.  Instead of writing back, the foreman sent the owner a postcard-sized watercolor painted by Charlie.  The image was that of a gaunt steer surrounded by wolves – on a gray winter day.  The owner showed the drawing to friends and displayed it in a shop window in Helena.  And Charlie began to get work — as an artist.

In 1897, Charlie and his new bride moved to Great Falls, MT where he remained for the duration.  Charlie was a prolific painter – with over 4,000 works (oil, watercolor, drawings and occasional sculptures) to his credit.  Today, the works of Charlie Russell go for big bucks — like “The Hold Up” which sold for $5.2 million in 2008.

Four decades ago, while visiting Charlie’s studio in Great Falls, I learned that he had adorned many of his letters with drawings.  And I got a bright idea. . . . .

If you want to see some of Charlie’s artistic letters, check out   

Letter to a Friend

We have an email group. A couple of friends have sent around “political” emails that offend some in the group. Frankly – everyone is offended these days. I sure am – by certain people. Politicians. Groups. Anyway – I responded with comments of my own.

I’m not a fan of some of the demeaning emails that are sent around – but I brush them aside.  Why?  In part because each one of us comes from a different place.  Different education.  Different life experience.  Different upbringing.  Different filters.  You are not always “right” in your opinions.  Or assessments.  Or conclusions.

Neither am I. . . .

As to forgiveness?  I’d leave doors open. All we see today in politics is closed doors.  That’s just ducky. I am exhausted by the fact that everyone is offended by something.   I am and you obviously are too.  We all are.  That’s the sadness.  You feel you are right.  But so do I.  So do our friends.

As Jonathan Haidt said in his book – everyone has a Righteous Mind. . . . . And that leaves no room for considering alternative opinions.  The door is closed.  Anger boils.  I could go on but it would not be productive.  That’s why I believe issues can be more uniting than political labels. And to me – friendship can and should trump (I do NOT like that word) political disparity.  It’s all the more reason to be civil in our discourse. And it’s all the more reason to be generous in forgiveness. That said – hopefully we will cross paths one of these days soon.  And if we talk about politics – we will agree to engage in civil discourse.  And I will forgive you for your opinions. 

And you will forgive me for mine. . . .

The N.R.A.

[Another timely repeat – from February 22, 2018] When I was a kid, my father sent me down to the local creek to shoot rats.  Big Norway rats.  I used a BB gun or a single shot .22 loaded with CB shorts.  When I was 14, I was on staff at a Boy Scout camp in Wisconsin.  I got on the school bus for the ride up north with my knapsack and my Stevens Model 416 .22 caliber bolt action target rifle.  Plus two boxes of ammunition.  Art T. brought pistols to camp since he was on a pistol team back home.  Since we arrived on Sunday, we put our guns under our bunks and on Monday checked them in to the rifle range for the duration of the summer.  No one ever thought of doing something violent or hurtful to another person.  Many of the boys were junior members of the NRA.  I was for a couple years.  But never since. 

I believe that folks who want guns for hunting, target shooting or protection should have them.  But I oppose semi-automatic weapons, bump stocks, massive clips or military-style weapons.  They are not necessary.  Nor are they contemplated by the Second Amendment.  The NRA is no more.  It is not the National Rifle Association.  It is now the National Assault Rifle Association.  Maybe the National Bump Stock Association.  The current NRA seems to ignore the gun violence that suffocates our nation.  Instead, they preach the same sermon that most weapons should be legal.  With little limitation.  Easy on the background checks.  As we all know, some NRA members crave automatic weapons.  And bazookas.  And RPG’s.  “Pry my cold dead fingers. . . . .”   

But one should at least understand the NRA’s position since there are those on the other side who believe that by confiscating all weapons, violence will come to an end.  But then there are some [probably the same folks] who proclaim that even those who are mentally ill and prone to violence (as we have seen in the recent mass shootings) cannot be forced to take meds or have institutional treatment unless the individual agrees.  That’s just ducky.   Toxic attitudes. Toxic agendas.  Toxic results.

With such extreme positions – competing for legitimacy – it is tough to find common ground.  And common sense.  We need to do something.  But sanity and compromise seem to have gone out the window.  

The Sikhs

[A repeat from August 8, 2012, with relevance today]  The terrible shooting last weekend at the Sikh Temple in Milwaukee [now Indianapolis] prompts me to offer a few words on the Sikh religion.  First of all — Sikhs are not Muslim . . . . .  

The Sikh religion began in the early 1600’s  and today is found mainly in the Punjab area of India.  The three tenets of the religion are:  equality of humankind; universal brotherhood of man; and one supreme God (though there is belief in the teachings of 10 gurus or teachers).   All Sikh men have the name “Singh” and all Sikh women are named “Kaur.”   There is a belief in reincarnation and there is an emphasis on ethics, morality and values.  Sikhs abstain from alcohol, drugs and tobacco and they do not believe in “miracles.”   During WWI and WWII, Sikh regiments served bravely in the British Army – suffering more than 200,000 casualties.   

Generally, Sikhism has had cordial relations with other religions though there has been strife in India with Muslims (after the partition of India in 1947) and Hindus (over possible creation of a Punjabi state).   There are 5 exemplars of faith which all begin with the letter “K”:  Kesh – uncut hair that is wrapped in a turban; Kanga – a wooden comb; Katchera –  cotton underwear worn to remind one of purity; Kara – an iron bracelet symbolizing eternity; and Kirpan – a curved sword of varying lengths.   It’s the Kesh (and turban) that gets Sikhs confused with Muslims among the uneducated.  

The Hindu greeting in Hindi is namaste (recognizing divinity in the other person).  In the Punjabi language – and among Sikhs – one says sat sri akal (“God is the ultimate Truth“).   Both phrases are offered with hands together.  Sounds pretty ecumenical to me . . . .


[A repeat from July 12, 2013] My father used to go bowling when I was a kid.  Gunnell’s Bowling Alley in Mt. Prospect. Sometimes he’d take me along.  He’d want me to watch and learn – but I always brought a supply of dimes to play the pinball machines over by the exit.  Ready to make a fast getaway.    My dad’s team members all wore the same color short-sleeved gray shirt with the team name and their names stitched in pink“Pete” “Dave” “Carl” “Al” and so on.  I still have my father’s bowling shirt in the closet.  Or attic.  Somewhere.  

Does anyone “bowl” anymore?  And if so, for what purpose?   You throw a big heavy ball — trying to knock down “pins.”  You spend time in the alley.  And then you’re in the gutter.   You do well and you get a “strike.”  But that’s what unions do — which is always bad.  Three strikes and you have a “turkey.”  Next best is a “spare.”  Like a spare tire.  Which you want to avoid around your midsection.  And if you do poorly, and don’t knock any pins down, people avoid looking at you (like this dude is really bad. . . . .).

I haven’t bowled in years.  I may never again.  The last attempt was a neighborhood gathering 35 years ago (“Let’s all go bowling“).  Donna looked at me and said “oh let’s go” so I smiled, drove to the bowling alley, rented the shoes (have you ever smelled the shoes they rent at bowling alleys?) and then didn’t bowl.  I drank some Dos Equis beer and looked at the pinball machines.  But I had the shoes on.  And a Hawaiian shirt.  I guess I looked like a bowler.  But my feet haven’t been the same since.  I can’t understand.  You try to aim a big, heavy black ball.  And then roll it.  Trying to hit some far off target.  Makes no sense whatsoever.  I’m gonna go golfing. . . . .

Motion to Kiss My .. . .

As a lawyer, I have been on the receiving end of more than a few lawyer jokes. And have laughed at them. I’ve actually posted a few on my blog due to the high demand, broad appeal and grudging accuracy of some.

I’ve seen my share of weird things in and out of court but I thought I would let you know that not all humor is inspired by lawyers. Some is initiated by litigants. For example. . . .

Washington v. Alaimo, 934 F.Supp.1395 (S.D. GA 1996) featured an angry plaintiff in federal court who filed a motion titled “Motion to Kiss My ***” True

U.S. ex. rel Mayo v. Satan & his Staff 54 F.R.D. 282 (1971) a prisoner filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against the devil “and his staff.” Yep.

A really good one – that won the Criminal Lawyers Award Contest – involved a Charlotte, NC lawyer who bought 24 rare and expensive cigars, insured them against fire, smoked them and submitted a claim against the insurance company. It gets better. Spend 2-1/2 minutes and watch