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.
*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.
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.
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
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):
— Really American 🇺🇸 (@ReallyAmerican1) August 4, 2023
From David. Only one dwarf!
Welcome to some of the first images from Disney’s live action remake of Snow White and her DEI Dwarfs. Snow White is played by a Hispanic actress and there’s only one dwarf and 6 full gown adults. Disney says it’s taking the casting of the film in a “new direction” to “avoid… pic.twitter.com/sqiRHkyf97
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) July 14, 2023
I found this one. How much does the kitty cost?
— Why you should have a cat (@ShouldHaveCat) August 7, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial: 2.,000 Jews per day gassed for a period of three weeks:
9 August 1944 | The Germans began final deportation of Jews from the #Litzmannstadt ghetto to #Auschwitz. Within 3 weeks, 67,000 people – men, women & children – were transported the camp. Some 45,000 of them were murdered in gas chambers.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 9, 2023
Tweets from Mattthew. First, one of the marvelous products of sexual selection. Sound on.
▶️ Endangered ◀️
1⃣Cabot's tragopan (Tragopan caboti) is a pheasant found in south-east China. Cabot's tragopan is endemic to mountain ranges in southeastern China where it is present in the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, Jiangxi and Zhejiang.
— World birds (@worldbirds32) August 8, 2023
Once again, the world’s oldest known cat door:
This 14th-century door located at Exeter Cathedral in the UK is believed to be the earliest known example of a cat flap. Historical records from the medieval period reveal that cats had significant roles within various cathedrals, as they were tasked with keeping the premises… pic.twitter.com/XvrLOPm0zb
— Historic Vids (@historyinmemes) August 8, 2023
Flight paths of flies!
Crowded air. Around 8 seconds of fly trajectories slowed down 4x. A ridiculously complex set of aerial interactions that we often barely notice. pic.twitter.com/4s24QY22ye
— Sam Fabian (@samueltfabian) July 25, 2023