Wednesday: Hili dialogue

August 9, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to a Hump Day (วันโคก in Thai), Wednesday, August 9, 2023, and National Rice Pudding Day.  Below is, or rather was, the world’s best rice pudding, the huge crock once served at the bistro L’Ami Jean in Paris. Back in the Good Old Days, you’d get the huge bowl and could eat as much as you wanted of this heavenly concoction, topping it with various garnishes (a few shown below). Sadly, the largesse of the big à volonté crock has vanished; now you get a smallish individual portion topped with one or two garnishes. I will not be going to that restaurant any more, because the main draw (and the cooking was good) was this dessert. I would have at least three helpings back then. 

It’s Book Lovers Day, National Polka Day, National Hand Holding Day, and a UN holiday: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the August 9 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Carlos Lozada, an op-ed writer for the NYT, sums up the essence of both Trump and Biden in one word each: “again” for Trump and “still” for Biden.


Yet there is another Biden line — a single word, really — that also stands out, and it comes up whenever this president reflects on that American soul, on what the country is and what it might become. It is still.

“We have to show the world America is still a beacon of light,” Biden wrote in that same post-Charlottesville essay.

“We have to prove democracy still works — that our government still works and we can deliver for our people,” he said in a speech to a joint session of Congress in April 2021.

“We are still an America that believes in honesty and decency and respect for others, patriotism, liberty, justice for all, hope, possibilities,” the president said in a speech in September at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where he asserted that the foundations of the Republic were under assault by MAGA forces. “We are still, at our core, a democracy.”

There is an insistent quality, almost a stubbornness, to Biden’s “still.” Its implicit assumption is that many Americans may no longer believe in the nation’s professed virtues or trust that they will last much longer, that we must be persuaded of either their value or their endurance. To say that America is a democracy is to issue a statement of belief. To say that we are still a democracy is to engage in an argument, to acknowledge — and push back against — mounting concerns to the contrary.


The contrast between Biden saying America is still a democracy and Trump vowing to make it great again is more than a quirk of speechwriting. What presidents say — especially what they grow comfortable repeating — can reveal their underlying beliefs and basic impulses, shaping their administrations in ways that are concrete, not just rhetorical. Biden’s “still” stresses durability; Trump’s “again” revels in discontinuity. “Still” is about holding on to something good that may be slipping away; “again” is about bringing back something better that was wrested away. Both candidates, now in a dead heat in the 2024 presidential race, look to the nation’s past but through divergent lenses. It’s the difference between America as an ideal worth preserving and an illusion worth summoning.

It goes on like this, and I don’t disagree with the points, but I get the feeling that Lozada was casting about for a “hook” for his column, and hit on this semantic divergence.  If you asked a person in the street which candidate was associated with which word, I doubt you’d get a clear bifurcation.

*Investigations by the U.S. State Department’s Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group reveals that Russians have subjected captured Ukrainian citizens to both torture and sexual abuse.

Russia’s pitiless assault on Ukraine is a land grab, an imperial fever dream and an unjustified war of aggression, but it is something more than that. It is also a relentless campaign of criminality aimed at eradicating Ukraine’s national identity, spirit and resolve — often by means of murder, rape and torture.

The victims of that effort are Ukrainian civilians caught behind Russia’s lines. In the suburban town of Bucha, outside Kyiv, and elsewhere, they have been randomly shot and subjected to sexual violence. Ukrainian children have been kidnapped from their parents and sent to Russia to be brainwashed, a genocidal undertaking. Last weekend, a Russian bomb struck a Ukrainian blood transfusion center, killing two people and wounding several others.

In the Ukrainian city of Kherson, whose prewar population was about 280,000, Russian forces subjected ordinary citizens to extraordinary abuse during the eight months they occupied it last year. That is underscored in new findings by the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group, an initiative established by the United States, Britain and the European Union to gather evidence of war crimes on behalf of Ukrainian prosecutors.

According to a “mobile justice team” of international lawyers and investigators working under the group’s auspices, Russian security services including the FSB, the successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, established several dozen detention centers in and around Kherson before the southern city was liberated by Ukrainian forces last fall. The report spells out the chilling details of torture that took place in at least 20 of the sites.

Among the detainees were teachers, community activists, medical workers, law enforcement personnel and soldiers. Evidence gathered by the researchers suggests that many detainees were subjected to electrocution, often including shocks administered to their genitals. There were also reports of rape, threats of rape, beatings and waterboarding.

Of 320 detainees’ cases at more than 35 detention centers identified by the findings in Kherson, at least 43 percent cited torture, and many said they had been sexually assaulted by Russian guards.

Such torture is, of course, a war crime: a violation of the Geneva Convention and other declarations.  I’m wondering if there will ever be war crimes trials of Russians involved in this and other illegal behaviors, like deliberately killing civilians or destroying civilian infrastructure.

*In the FIFA Women’s World Cup yesterday, England beat Nigeria on penalty kicks, scoring 4-2 after a 0-0 tied game, and Australia beat Denmark 2-0. In today’s games, already over, France crushed Morocco 4-0 and Colombia, my favorite, beat Jamaica 1-0.  From the NYT emailed Cup summary:

Those [Colombian] players also had a consistent message. They already have made history. They know that, and they are rightly and joyously proud of it. Colombia has never before reached the quarterfinals of a Women’s World Cup. Now it has, thanks to a narrow but composed win against Jamaica. But that does not mean it is finished. One bit of history is not enough.
A logic will take hold in the next couple of days that fate has smiled on England. The European champion thought it had lost Keira Walsh to long-term injury, but it had not. It saw Lauren James, its best player in this tournament, sent off against Nigeria, and then it squeezed through on penalties anyway. Now it finds itself against Colombia, the last of the outsiders standing.
That is all true, but it does somewhat ignore the overall timbre of this tournament. “We have seen in this World Cup that surprises happen,” said Jorelyn Carabalí, the Colombia defender. “Teams that are very important have gone home. The games have all been … different.”
England is, as Linda Caicedo noted, a “world power,” in other words, but this does not appear to be a great tournament at which to be a world power. Perhaps the natural order will reassert itself now that the World Cup is in its final thrashings. Nobody who has been paying attention would put the house on it.

The same sense of uncertainty pervades the other quarterfinals, too. There is little to choose between Spain — a great symphony when inspiration descends, but capable of finding a couple of bum notes — and the Netherlands, rather less captivating but no less effective.

Here’s a highlight summary of the Colombia/Jamaica game, with Colombia’s goal at 2:04:

and France versus Morocco. The series of passes leading to the second French goal (1:17) are spectacular

*Speaking of soccer, Trump taunted the U.S. women’s team after it was sent home from the World Cup after losing to Sweden.

When the United States lost to Sweden in the Women’s World Cup on Sunday, many American viewers saw it as a painful collapse on the grandest stage — the sort of agonizing moment that happens in sports.

For former President Donald J. Trump, it was a sign of national decline.

The loss was “fully emblematic of what is happening to the our once great Nation under Crooked Joe Biden,” Mr. Trump wrote on his social media platform.

“Many of our players were openly hostile to America — No other country behaved in such a manner, or even close,” he added. “WOKE EQUALS FAILURE. Nice shot Megan, the USA is going to Hell!!! MAGA.”

The taunt was an extension of a longstanding feud between Mr. Trump and Megan Rapinoe, the retiring soccer star who once refused to visit the Trump White House, and whose missed penalty kick contributed to the team’s loss. (After the game, Ms. Rapinoe summed up the miss as a sort of “sick joke.”)

But it was also a striking example of the unforgiving moment in right-wing politics, when a former president will taunt an American team competing on the international stage and relish the agony of its defeat.

Among his deficiencies, the man has neither compassion nor grace, only grudges and retribution.

*Reason Magazine describes a camp in Utah where kids caught watching pornography, or who are gay, are tortured to try to expunge their behaviors. (h/t: Leo)

These camps say they can change teens’ lives by helping them overcome severe mental and behavioral issues. STAR Guides claims the camp “provides a specialized ‘unplugged’ environment to reset and re-balance the physical, mental and spiritual health of youth…under the guidance of highly trained therapists and professionals, we provide a setting where youth can feel safe and supported when working through sensitive pornography or sexual issues along with trauma, free of fear, embarrassment or shame.” And some parents and teens testify that STAR Guides was a positive experience. “You gave me my daughter back, and helped her how she needed,” one parent said in an exit interview. A teen said the program was “extremely helpful and life-changing”; another said, “I found myself.”

Others offer a much less rosy view of wilderness therapy. At STAR Guides and similar programs, according to Breaking Code Silence, a nonprofit that documents abuse in troubled teen programs, “the abuse we continuously uncover in this industry is beyond just a few programs. These abusive practices are reported across the board and are ingrained in the pervasive culture of the Troubled Teen Industry.”

.  . When Cameron [a gay boy] went to bed that night, he was terrified. For the first five nights, he reports, “they do what’s called tarping and alarming you.” An alarm was placed on the zipper of the sleeping bag. If he tried to unzip it, the staff was notified. Then he would be rolled into a tarp, and a staff member would sleep on part of the tarp to ensure he didn’t try to escape. “They’re like, ‘The reason that we do that is because we can’t have you running away,'” he says. “That alone tells me they know that what they’re doing is fucked up.” All the STAR Guides teens Reason spoke with corroborate the “tarp and alarm” protocol, as do Utah Department of Human Services reports and posts on the subreddit r/troubledteens.

One former STAR Guides client alleges that a staff member wouldn’t let her use the bathroom because they claimed she was being manipulative. She ended up urinating on herself and was then forbidden from changing clothes. “She told me I should ‘sit in my mistakes for a while,’ so I sat in my own urine for at minimum an hour,” the girl wrote on Reddit.

According to reports from Utah’s Department of Health and Human Services on troubled teen camps, kids have been held in miserable and abusive conditions. According to a department inspection report of STAR Guides from April 11, 2023, “multiple interviews disclosed that a staff member acted outside of the provider’s policy and procedure and Utah Administrative Rule. The staff initiated a pain compliance technique on a client that was not an immediate danger to themselves or others; the client was being argumentative. The restraint resulted in undue physical discomfort and pain to the client. This was a repeat rule noncompliance.”

Two points. This kind of “therapy,” as one might expect, doesn’t work. Further, the “wildernes therapy” is held on government land, land controlled by the Bureau of Land management.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the cats are plagued by Andrzej and his camera (reflected in the window):

Szaron: Hili, be careful, he is taking pictures again.
Hili: He can get lost
In Polish:
Szaron: Hili, uważaj, on znowu robi zdjęcie.
Hili: Niech się wypcha.


From D. J. Grothe: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

From Barry. The disappearing religions of Scandinavia.  To me, this means that a. people don’t need religion to have a good, moral society, and b. people don’t need to fill disappearing religion with some other numinous activity.

From Divy, who often is subject to this form of therapy:

And, from Science Blogs, the meme of the month!

This was going to happen in Australia long before “Barbie” crossed the billion-dollar mark.


From Malcolm: Tim Minchin on confirmation bias:

From Simon (I may have published this before):

From David.  Only one dwarf!

I found this one. How much does the kitty cost?

From the Auschwitz Memorial: 2.,000 Jews per day gassed for a period of three weeks:

Tweets from Mattthew. First, one of the marvelous products of sexual selection. Sound on.

Once again, the world’s oldest known cat door:

Flight paths of flies!


22 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. I believe everyone can take a breath and stop worrying about the republicans or Trump regarding the next election. If you noticed yet again, in Ohio the democrats showed up to stomp the life out of their sneaky vote in August for this junk and we will all be saved from that awful abortion business. This item alone insures a democratic victory in the next vote. Thank you Supreme Court.

    1. Trump’s attack on the women’s soccer team is echoed by right-wing media in general. Their argument, as ludicrous as it is, seems to be that because some of the players support Woke causes that is they why the team lost and that it represents, somehow, a demeaning of the country. Actually, there are much more mundane reasons for the loss as explained here.

      I see this attack as a sign of desperation by the right-wing. The Republican strategy for electoral success has been to incessantly emphasize the culture wars. This may be remembered as one of the greatest political blunders in American history. What cultural issue dwarfs all others? Abortion, of course. Liberated to run amok by the Dobbs decisions, Republican controlled legislatures throughout the country have effectively attempted to ban abortion in almost all instances. This effort may have several political ramifications as revealed yesterday in Ohio, a red state. On that state’s ballot in November is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would enshrine abortion and other rights. In Ohio, for an amendment to pass requires 50% plus 1 of the voters to approve it. The possible passage of the amendment has scared the crap out of the Republicans. To prevent its passage, they thought they had the brilliant idea to defeat its passage by raising the percentage needed for any amendment to pass (not just the proposed abortion one) to 60% + 1. They thought that by having the referendum on this proposal in August, low turnout would help them. The Republicans were wrong and got crushed! By a 57% to 43% vote, Ohio voters rejected the right-wing proposal to raise the percentage. This means that the pro-abortion amendment has an excellent chance of passing in November. Yesterday’s results were extraordinarily great news for Democrats.

      The NYT discusses yesterday’s vote:

      Here is the text of the proposed pro-abortion amendment in Ohio. It protects other rights as well, such as contraception. It is no wonder that the right-wing religious fanatics are in panic mode.

        1. And that request is perfectly consistent with the Roolz as stated:

          If your comment is longer than, say, 600 words, it is too long.

          If a comment has more than 600 words, then it is too long; but it does not say that 600 is an upper bound. Therefore, the bound could well be something like 300, which would make Historian’s comment of approximately 350 words too long 🙂

      1. I think the Vox article is right on the money. The USA was lacking key players through injury. There were questionable coaching decisions and, possibly most importantly, everybody else is getting better.

        Until the 2000’s there was only one professional women’s club side in England: the Arsenal ladies and they predictably won everything. Their dominance began to wane as soon as other clubs made their sides professional. The same is happening at international level.

      2. “I see this attack as a sign of desperation by the right-wing.”

        Almost everything the right does is a sign of desperation. They are loosing their support and are flailing wildly. I just wish they would hurry up and die.

      3. Right-wing organizations in America are losing $millions$ trying to stop abortion where ever they can. Please, keep wasting your money.

    2. I heard from some NPR omniscient soul words to the effect that the “sneaky vote in August” was due to people having their minds on other things in August. (How does he possibly know that?) I wonder during what month of the year they most have their minds on things electoral and political.

      1. Ohio Republicans banned August elections earlier this year because they were deemed overly expensive, have low voter turnout and aren’t worth the trouble. People go on vacation, have fun enjoying the outdoors, not paying attention to things electoral and political (like you, I don’t know if this is true). But just earlier this month, the same legislature scheduled this August election, because they’re desperately trying to ban abortion in the state this November. I don’t know what month is politically favorable, but that’s not the point. The point is this reveals more blatant Republican hypocrisy and bolsters my motto for contemporary Rebulicans: “If you can’t win, cheat!”

  2. Among his [Trump’s] deficiencies, the man has neither compassion nor grace, only grudges and retribution.

    Trump’s gloating over the loss by the US women’s soccer team is the first time to my knowledge in which a US president has done anything but root 100% for any US national team in any international sports competition.

    Given Trump’s unfounded, vicious personal attacks on anyone who dares criticize him, his utter disregard for the norms and traditions of the office he once held, and, as you say, his lack of compassion and grace (and magnanimity and decency), Trump behaves as though he were raised by wolves.

    1. If it had been the men’s team that lost, I wonder if he would have attacked them so viciously. Trump’s misogyny is well known.

    2. Listening to Trump’s speeches, he proudly exhorts “I’m being persecuted for you ”
      and “you’ll never be free without me”, etc etc. No doubt the Jesus lovers get the
      message: I am your saviour, get me into power and I will be your retribution of the wicked.

  3. Russia: In the Aug 3 Reporting from Ukraine, he says @ 2:50 that 27 Russian recruitment centers were attacked domestically over a window of just a few days, so internal discontent seems to be growing.

    Worrisome sidebar: This guy has posted daily, without fail, but there have been none since Aug 4. At the end of that one he said that he would not be posting for a few days because he was sick “as you can tell from my voice” and could not work in the heat, but I detected nothing unusual in his voice and AFAIK the weather in Ukraine has not been abnormally hot.

  4. This has nothing to do with Biden and nothing to do with Trump, but the US has been going down the drain for a long time. Back in 2017, the New York Times published an article titled “The Most Expensive Mile of Subway Track on Earth”. The fantastic cost of rebuilding the Tappan Zee bridge (roughly 2010) should be mentioned in this context as should the HSR failure in California. China has 25,000+ miles of HSR. The US has none. China actually builds subways (compare New York City and Beijing). The US does not. Should I mention schools? China’s PISA scores are far better than the USA. Of course, China only runs the PISA test in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (elite cities). Can anyone doubt the Beijing would run rings around New York or DC?

    In the 1960s, the US put men on the Moon and China suffered through the (now despised) “Cultural Revolution”. Times change. China has abolished “struggle sessions”, the US has adopted them.

    1. I pin the beginning of America’s decline on the Reagan Revolution. We’ve been going downhill ever since…well, everyone but the rich. At least Biden understands that trickle-down economics and union busting is/was incredibly bad policy and is trying to reverse it.

      1. Reagan is responsible for the failure of the HSR project in California, obviously. Reagan is responsible for the absurd cost of subways in New York City, obviously. Reagan is responsible for 2 + 2 + white racism, obviously. Reagan is responsible for ‘merit’ being a bad word that PNAS does not allow, obviously.

  5. For war crimes to be prosecuted against national leaders, the side seeking to do the prosecuting has to gain military control of the national territory of the perpetrators so its agents can find them and arrest them, and then either deal with them summarily in an ad hoc Court or render them to the International Court in The Hague. The Russian government is not going to cough up Putin to the Ukrainians or to anyone else unless they depose him internally themselves.

    Ukraine has not the military capacity nor the international permission to invade and occupy Russia. So barring a coup that Putin survives into captivity, no, there is not the slightest chance that he or his henchmen will be called to answer for war crimes in Ukraine, neither ad bellum nor in belli.

  6. On this day:
    1173 – Construction of the campanile of the Cathedral of Pisa (now known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa) begins; it will take two centuries to complete.

    1892 – Thomas Edison receives a patent for a two-way telegraph.

    1897 – The first International Congress of Mathematicians is held in Zürich, Switzerland.

    1936 – Summer Olympics: Jesse Owens wins his fourth gold medal at the games.

    1944 – The United States Forest Service and the Wartime Advertising Council release posters featuring Smokey Bear for the first time.

    1945 – World War II: Nagasaki is devastated when an atomic bomb, Fat Man, is dropped by the United States B-29 Bockscar. Thirty-five thousand people are killed outright, including 23,200–28,200 Japanese war workers, 2,000 Korean forced workers, and 150 Japanese soldiers.

    1945 – The Red Army invades Japanese-occupied Manchuria.

    1965 – Singapore is expelled from Malaysia and becomes the only country to date to gain independence unwillingly.

    1969 – Tate–LaBianca murders: Followers of Charles Manson murder pregnant actress Sharon Tate (wife of Roman Polanski), coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Polish actor Wojciech Frykowski, men’s hairstylist Jay Sebring and recent high-school graduate Steven Parent.

    1971 – The Troubles: In Northern Ireland, the British authorities launch Operation Demetrius. The operation involves the mass arrest and internment without trial of individuals suspected of being affiliated with the Irish Republican Army (PIRA). Mass riots follow, and thousands of people flee or are forced out of their homes.

    1974 – As a direct result of the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon becomes the first President of the United States to resign from office. Vice President Gerald Ford becomes president.

    1991 – The Italian prosecuting magistrate Antonino Scopelliti is murdered by the ‘Ndrangheta on behalf of the Sicilian Mafia while preparing the government’s case in the final appeal of the Maxi Trial.

    1993 – The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan loses a 38-year hold on national leadership.

    2006 – At least 21 suspected terrorists are arrested in the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot that happened in the United Kingdom. The arrests are made in London, Birmingham, and High Wycombe in an overnight operation.

    2014 – Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American male in Ferguson, Missouri, is shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer after reportedly assaulting the officer and attempting to steal his weapon, sparking protests and unrest in the city.

    1537 – Francesco Barozzi, Italian mathematician and astronomer (d. 1604).

    1726 – Francesco Cetti, Italian priest, zoologist, and mathematician (d. 1778).

    1757 – Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, American humanitarian; wife of Alexander Hamilton (d. 1854).

    1757 – Thomas Telford, Scottish architect and engineer, designed the Menai Suspension Bridge (d. 1834).

    1776 – Amedeo Avogadro, Italian physicist and chemist (d. 1856).

    1861 – Dorothea Klumpke, American astronomer and academic (d. 1942).

    1867 – Evelina Haverfield, Scottish nurse and activist (d. 1920).

    1878 – Eileen Gray, Irish architect and furniture designer (d. 1976).

    1896 – Jean Piaget, Swiss psychologist and philosopher (d. 1980).

    1899 – P. L. Travers, Australian-English author and actress (d. 1996).

    1909 – Willa Beatrice Player, American educator, first Black woman college president (d. 2003).

    1914 – Tove Jansson, Finnish author and illustrator (d. 2001).

    1922 – Philip Larkin, English poet and novelist (d. 1985).

    1927 – Robert Shaw, English actor and screenwriter (d. 1978).

    1932 – Tam Dalyell, Scottish academic and politician (d. 2017). [Posed the “West Lothian question” about Scottish devolution.]

    1945 – Posy Simmonds, English author and illustrator.

    1951 – James Naughtie, Scottish journalist and radio host.

    1963 – Whitney Houston, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress (d. 2012).

    1968 – Gillian Anderson, American-British actress, activist and writer.

    Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:
    1516 – Hieronymus Bosch, Early Netherlandish painter (b. circa 1450).

    1932 – John Charles Fields, Canadian mathematician, founder of the Fields Medal (b. 1863).

    1962 – Hermann Hesse, German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1877).

    1967 – Joe Orton, English author and playwright (b. 1933).

    1969 – Sharon Tate, American model and actress (b. 1943).

    1980 – Jacqueline Cochran, American pilot (b. 1906).

    1995 – Jerry Garcia, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1942).

    1996 – Frank Whittle, English soldier and engineer, invented the jet engine (b. 1907).

    2002 – Paul Samson, English guitarist (b. 1953).

    2006 – James Van Allen, American physicist and academic (b. 1914).

    2010 – Calvin “Fuzz” Jones, American singer and bass player (b. 1926). [Worked with many blues musicians, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, the Legendary Blues Band, Mississippi Heat, James Cotton, Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson, Little Walter and Elmore James.]

    2015 – David Nobbs, English author and screenwriter (b. 1935). [Best known for writing the 1970s television series The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, adapted from his own novels.

  7. Thanks for the Minchin clip. I always enjoy his humor of the rational, a very talented guy. He sort of reminds me of a Hitchens who does stand-up comedy.

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