Are you kidding?

The “President” tweeted this today:

All religions? Who is he kidding? Graham was an anti-Semite, and why would the Jews miss him? Given that he thought all non-Christians—and those Christians who didn’t accept Jesus Christ as their savior—would go to hell, why would any non-Christian miss him?  Trump could have been laudatory without that ridiculous statement.

Gorgeous sea slugs from southeast Asia

Reader Brian called my attention to a beautiful collection of sea slugs (nudibranchs, or shell-less marine gastropods) at EarthTouch News Network. It’s likely, but not certain, that the striking appearance of many species, as you see here,  are aposematic: they advertise the fact that they’re toxic, distasteful, or dangerous (stinging cells) with their easily-recognized patterns and colors.

These marine jewels all come from one small area. As the site notes:

Take a dive in the waters surrounding Pulau Hantu, a small island off the west coast of Singapore, and you may reemerge feeling unimpressed. Visibility around the island rarely tops three to four metres, and plentiful algae tints the water a vivid green. For macro photographers like Katherine Lu, however, Hantu is a hidden gem. The island harbours a little-known reef that’s teeming with tiny marine life – and among its most remarkable inhabitants are the local sea slugs.

All photos are by Lu; captions are from the website:

A nudibranch in the genus Stilliger. Image: Katherine Lu/WetPixel


Bornella anguilla. Image: Katherine Lu/WetPixel


Sakuraeolis kirembosa. Image: Katherine Lu/WetPixel

This little creature can photosynthesize in its body:

“Shaun the sheep” Costasiella sp. Measuring just two to three millimetres, this tiny sea slug has the ability to absorb chloroplasts from the algae it feeds on. This allows photosynthesis to occur in the animal’s body. Image: Katherine Lu/WetPixel

For more of Lu’s fantastic photography, go here.



Jeff Tayler interviews Lubna Ahmed (and writes a memoriam for his dad)

Over at Quillette, Jeff Tayler has a nice interview with a Muslim apostate who’s new to most of us: Lubna Ahmed. She’s an engineer from Baghdad, and, after going on the Rubin Report via Skype 3 years ago, and proclaiming her atheism and dislike of Islam, she became a pariah in Iraq. She was attacked and got death threats. Ahmed had little choice but to move, and came to the U.S. with the help of the Richard Dawkins Foundation and the Center for Inquiry. Now fairly safe, she speaks freely about Islam.

It’s a far-reaching conversation, and will of course not only be deemed “Islamophobic”, even though it’s about the religion and not the people, but will also make Ahmed an endangered person. For nearly all ex-Muslims in America, or at least those who are vocal about the problems with the faith, are endangered. Some, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, need bodyguards. Remember when you hear that “all religions are the same” or “Islam is no more dangerous than any other faith,” that apostate Christians, Jews, or Hindus don’t risk murder when they declare their atheism and begin criticizing their former religion. Only Islam motivates people to become fatwa-following killers.

Ahmed’s quiet demeanor contrasts starkly with her strong words. (She’s only 26!) I’ll let you have the pleasure—if that’s the right word—of reading Jeff’s interview for yourself. Here’s just one excerpt (with both Ahmed and Tayler’s words) to give you a taste, but the whole thing is sufficiently short that even those who are attention-deprived can read it. Ahmed covers the story of her growing unbelief, the misogyny of Iraq, the hijab, Western reaction to Islam, and so on.

During our talk Ahmed repeatedly returned to the misogyny of Islam, and made it clear that this is what most angered her about the faith.

“In my country I saw a lot of women, a lot of children, treated in a very bad way because of that religion. Look at what happened in Mosul and what ISIS did there. ISIS reflects the true identity of Islam. Islam treats women as trash, as, I’m sorry, not even animals. Women are just objects in Islamic countries, in Islam.”

One who hopes to argue with Ahmed here will find that the faith denies women rights to a degree no enlightened observer could justify. It values their testimony in court as half that of a man; sanctions the barbarous savagery of female genital mutilation; deprives women of half their inheritance in favor of male heirs; demands that they submit to their husbands (even abusive husbands, whom they may be compelled to share with as many as three other wives); and, as mentioned above, allows men to seize them as sex slaves in jihad. Backed up by the Hadith, the Quran devotes no small number of surahs to condoning slavery, including sex-slavery.

In view of all that, it should come as no surprise that the World Economic Forum has consistently found that nineteen of the twenty worst countries for women on earth are Muslim-majority. Regarding personal freedoms in general, Muslim countries have, year after year, ranked overwhelmingly as “not free.”

And then comes the matter of veiling. By chance we happened to speak on “World Hijab Day” – a vile slap in the face of the brave women of Iran protesting against the Islamic regime for the freedom not to wear it, yet, out of mistaken notions of solidarity, celebrated in the West by at least some morally oblivious, regressive leftist simpletons. It was not hard to imagine what Ahmed thought of the Islamic headscarf, yet I asked.

“Islam wants all women to wear the hijab – it’s a sign that women are slaves, not human beings. Whether you’re eight years old or an adult woman, you don’t have the right to choose for yourself. Islam has to control you [if you’re a female]. Menshould control your whole life as a woman. . . . Islam was created by men to control women, to be slaves, to use and abuse them, sexually, physically, mentally, and treat them like trash, as if they were nothing.”

Heres’s Ahmed with Dave Rubin last year, now able to have a live conversation:

I’d also like to call your attention to Jeff’s essay on his father’s death, published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, called “The chiming bells of mortality.” Traveling to a Greek island, he limns his father’s death (and reflects on his own mortality) with ancient Greek poetry. I found it very moving.


Macy’s sells hijabs; Linda Sarsour and Masih Alinejad debate the garment

In the article below, CNN reports on Macy’s (a department store’s) decision to sell fashionable hijabs. I don’t care whether they do or not, though it’s a bit incongruous (and oxymoronic) to talk of “modest, fashionable clothing.” As a veiled Muslim women, you’re not supposed to call attention to yourself, and a spiffy hijab (or makeup) will do just that, defeating the religious purpose of the veil—the “modesty” part. But Macy’s has a chance to cash in on Muslim women’s desire to look good, so why not?

Click on the screenshot to go to the piece.

What’s more interesting in this article is the debate it gives: a back-and-forth between Linda Sarsour, co-head of the Women’s March, professional victim, and rapaciously ambitious grifter, and Masih Alinejad, Iranian activist and founder of the admirable #MyStealthyFreedom campaign, which displays Iranian women illegally removing their hijabs.

I can’t quite make out what’s going on in the discussion, for it sounds as if Sarsour and Alinejad are talking past each other. Sarsour constantly wants to emphasize that her hijab is her personal choice, and she’s been the victim of “Islamophobia” for wearing it. In contrast, Alinejad calls attention back to the plight of women in Iran (and other countries) where veiling is not a choice.

Of course I’m biased in favor of Alinjad, and so my take may be colored by that, but it seems to me that Sarsour is, as she so often does, wallowing in her personal victimhood. In reality, Sarsour, while she may be vilified, is vilified more for her views on Islam, and her polarizing ideology—including favoring sharia law—than for being a Muslim.

That, at least, is what I get out of these exchanges, in which Sarsour reluctantly seems to decry oppression in the Middle East:

MA: I don’t see any Muslim communities in the West being loud and condemning compulsory hijab, especially you, when people of Iran are putting themselves in danger and risking their lives. I was loud enough to condemn both the burkini ban and travel ban, but I never saw the feminists in the West condemning compulsory hijab when they go to my country… They go to Iran and they obey it … All I see is double standards and hypocrisy.

LS: I will say on a personal level that I’ve been very vocal in support of Iranian women. For me, hijab is only a form of oppression when a government forces it on people, when a father forces it on his daughter or when a husband forces it on his wife. For me, as a woman who chooses to wear hijab, it is not a form of oppression and I will not be pushed into a position by anyone to say that hijab is a form of oppression.

Note Sarsour’s transition from saying that the hijab is often a form of oppression to asserting that she “will not say the hijab is a form of oppression.” That’s a movement from the personal to the general.

There’s this, too:

CNN: What are your thoughts on the current protests against compulsory hijab in Iran?

MA: Twenty-nine women who practiced civil disobedience, who peacefully took off their hijab, they are in prison. It’s a global issue and we should all condemn it. We shouldn’t let any feminists in the West downplay our cause and say this is a small issue, it’s not.

LS: Sister, I think I think the issue here is not whether or not we think it’s important … the issue is the narrative. In the United States, we as Muslim woman are attacked saying that we are upholding a system of oppression by wearing hijab. So we have a narrative we have to fight by saying we stand with women who choose not to wear hijab, and I will unequivocally say here that I stand with the brave courageous woman in Iran who are standing against compulsory hijab, but they also need us to create a narrative that says you also stand with my right as a Muslim woman in America who is having to endure Islamophobia.

Note that to Sarsour “the issue is the narrative,” not what counts as real and important oppression. Sarsour would rather maintain a “narrative” that gives lip service to the women in the countries of the Middle East (including the country of her parents’ origin, Palestine) but to always keep the narrative on Islamophobia, which of course Sarsour claims to be a victim of. That is what gives her credibility among feminists, even though Islam itself is one of the most anti-feminist ideologies I can think of.

There’s more, but I’ll add just one more exchange:

CNN: Why do you think hijab has become so politicized?

MA: I’m coming from a country where for four decades the Islamic Republic of Iran wrote its ideology message on our bodies. We won’t be able to get an education from the age of seven if we don’t wear it. We won’t be able to live in our own country.

LS: Hijab is solely a spiritual practice, but unfortunately there have been people who have taken it, including governments, to control women’s bodies. I hope we end this conversation by saying that you and I are actually a lot closer in what we believe that we think we are.

“Solely a spiritual practice”? I think Sarsour has it backwards. She wants it to be a spiritual practice, as that divorces the garment from its misogynistic origin, developed in post-Qur’anic Islamic theology. Every school of Islam, so far as I know, endorses the wearing of the hijab as a garment of modesty, so its wearing didn’t spread as a “spiritual practice.”

If wearing hijab was a “spiritual” practice by Muslims, then in the 1960s and 1970s, Muslim women in Iran, and Afghanistan would have been largely covered. But they weren’t, and protested when the theocracies made the hijab compulsory.  It has always been a “garment of modesty”, with some women choosing to abjure that modesty for choice and modernity. (Yes, I’ll admit that some Muslim women wear it not out of modesty considerations, but as a sign of their faith. But those motivations are deeply entwined.)

It is by wearing the hijab that Sarsour can claim victimhood. Yes, there have been cases in which bigots have ripped off hijabs or mocked their wearers to their faces. I find those actions shameful. Although that hasn’t happened to Sarsour, she claims the victimhood narrative of others, which she hopes to use as a crane to hoist her to Congress; and she’ll cry “Islamophobia” at every opportunity. Wearing the hijab is the best overt signal of your victimhood. In Iran it’s an unwanted one, but for Sarsour it’s a signal she embraces.


Gun legislation turned down by Florida legislature; Dinesh D’Souza mocks students lobbying to get it passed

Over the past two days, the evening news has featured distraught, angry, and determined Florida students marching on the state legislature, stunned about the 17 students shot by Nikolas Cruz, but bent on ensuring that it won’t happen again. Many of the lobbyists were classmates of the slain students.  I thought to myself, “If anybody can change this country’s attitudes towards guns, it’ll be the young people who were the targets of those guns.” I hoped mightily that Florida, and then the country, would at last begin to respond. Dare I hope that this might be the turning point in the struggle against America’s senseless proliferation of weapons—especially assault weapons?

No chance. As I predicted, we’ll have a brief flurry of anger and calls for new gun laws, and then it’ll be business as usual. Far too many Americans see student lives as collateral damage to the necessary production and ownership of guns. That’s just sick.

Of course Florida turned a deaf ear to those students. As ABC 10 reports, just one day after the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School went to Tallahassee, Florida to lobby for gun control at the state capitol, the House voted down a motion to ban assault weapons like the AR-15 used by Cruz. The vote wasn’t even close: 36-71.  And it’s ASSAULT WEAPONS!  There is no reason to allow these even if you think that the Second Amendment should permit personal possession of weapons for self defense.

The students were devastated, as they should be, watching a bunch of Republicans vote down sensible restrictions on the very gun that had shattered the bodies of their friends. They watched and wept:

And Dinesh D’Souza, odious human being that he is (he’s supposed to be a pious Christian), brutally and cruelly mocked these students on Twitter:

How lame a human being must you be to say things like this? Reader Pliny the in Between adds a comment:


h/t: Grania, Hempenstein

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ gender identity

Today’s Jesus and Mo, called “self,” is a wry comment on Islamic misogyny using tropes from transexualism. Now Mo can claim double victim status!

Billy Graham died

In all honesty (but I’m always honest, of course), I didn’t know Billy Graham was still alive. It turns out he was 99, and died today at his home in North Carolina.  He was known as the “Pastor to Presidents”, and was there for every American President from Harry Truman through Barack Obama. One of the first televangelists, he was a Southern Baptist estimated to have preached to more humans than anyone in the history of Christianity.  Through his “crusades” (400 of them in 185 countries), he’s said to have persuaded over 3 million people to “accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior.”

What a waste of a life—preaching fiction and delusion to the masses. My sympathies go to his family and friends, but at least one of his sons is continuing the charade.


Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have reader Tony Eales’s photos from Australia, featuring insect and spider mimicry. His notes are indented.

Some more camouflage and mimicry. First I can’t stop photographing these ant-mimicking Jumping Spiders. This photo at least gives a bit of scale for how small these little arachnids are. It’s a Myrmarachne cf luctuosa. These are relatively common, but there’s a lot of slightly different forms—some of which are probably undescribed species.

Next is a tephritid fruit fly that mimics jumping spiders probably for protection. This species is Oedaspis goodenia but there are several species with similar patterns. The patterns on the wings when held out look like a head-on silhouette of a Jumping Spider and they will make movements of the wings that increase the resemblance and mimic spider to spider threat displays of a jumping spider. Here’s one paper that looks at the phenomenon.

This next photo is an interesting colour form of Stephanopis sp, the Knobbly Crab Spider. It’s larger than the average Stephanopis. And its colouration perfectly mimics the common lichen found on the tree bark.

JAC: Here’s another photo of an S. antifrons, mimicking bark, from Brisbane Insects:

Lastly yet another Lycid Beetle mimic (boy, Lycid beetles must taste awful!). I sent a collection of Lycid mimics once before. The mimic in this case is a species of Belid Weevil, the Red Belid Weevil (Rhinotia haemoptera)which I only had a blurry photo of before. For reference I have included a shot I took of what I think is the model, the Red-shouldered Lycid Beetle, Trichalus ampliatus.


Putative model if this is a case of Batesian mimicy:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on a wettish Wednesday, February 21, 2018. It’s Pancake Day, even though it’s not Shrove Tuesday, the traditional day to honor Our Lord by eating flapjacks. (Shrove Tuesday was eight days ago.) It’s also International Mother Language Day, a UNESCO holiday honoring multilingualism.

On February 21, 1613, the Romanov dynasty of Imperial Russia kicked off when Mikhail I was elected Tsar by the national assembly. In 1804, the world’s first self-propelled steam locomotive chugged out of the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales. On this day in 1848, Marx and Engels published The Communist Manifesto. Exactly 30 years later, the first telephone directory was published in New Haven, Connecticut. On this day in 1885, the newly built Washington Monument (555 feet high) was dedicated.  And in France, the Battle of Verdun began on February 21, 1916. It lasted ten months and the number of casualties could have been as high as a million.

It’s a sad day for biologists, for on this day in 1918, the very last Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo.  The species was once widespread east of the Rockies, and represented the only indigenous American parrot in the region. That makes today the 100th anniversary of the species’ demise. The last bird had occupied the same cage earlier used by Martha, the very last passenger pigeon. The last parakeet’s name was Incas; his mate, Lady Jane, had expired a year earlier. Here’s a picture of a mounted specimen from Chicago’s Field Museum.


The “peace symbol” or “CND symbol” (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), was created on this day in 1958 by Gerald Holton working for the Direction Action Committee and protesting against the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. Surely you know what it looks like, right? I used to wear one around my neck (on a leather thong) in the Sixties.

On this day in 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. And exactly a decade later, Attorney General John Mitchell and White House aides H. R. Haldeman and John Erlichman were sentenced to prison for their roles in the Watergate affair.

Notables born on this day include Rebecca Nurse (1621, hanged in Salem as a witch in 1692), John Henry Newman (1801),  Anaïs Nin (1903), W. H. Auden (1907), John Rawls (1921), Sam Peckinpah (1925), Kelsey Grammer (1955), David Foster Wallace (1962), Charlotte Church (1986) and Ellen Page (1987). Those who expired on this day, besides Incas (see above) include Baruch Spinoza (1677), Frederick Banning (1941), Eric “Muscular Christian” Liddell (1945), Malcolm X (1965; see above), Howard Florey (1968), Tim Horton (1974; his donuts remain with us), and Mikhail Sholokov (1984).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili wonders what time it is. To be sure I understood this, I asked Malgorzata, who replied, “For Hili the time is always right (to get something scrumptious). There is no other reason to know what time it is.”

Cyrus: What’s the time?
Hili: The right one.
In Polish:
Cyrus: Która godzina?
Hili: Właściwa.

And. . . . it’s Gusiversary! Gus is (roughly) 4 today, and here’s his story from staff Taskin:

Our previous cat, the all black Spook, had died in November and we decided we would not get another cat for a while. However, I have friends who work at a rural vet clinic and they often get stray cats coming in. The winter of 2014 was exceptionally cold, and a white cat was brought into the clinic after getting caught in a trap someone had set and not checked. He had pretty bad frostbite and was lucky to lose only his ears and skin on his paws. After fixing him up, my friends decided that since I had an all black cat before, I now needed an all white cat. They posted a picture of him on my Facebook page and several seconds later, I was adopting a new cat and naming him Gus!

Gus was estimated to have been about ten months old when he was rescued.

Here’s Taskin’s video of the lad, called “The mind of a cat”, with original music by the staff:

Here’s his staff’s favorite picture of Gus:

And a happy Gus from yesterday:

A tweet from  Heather Hastie: Are these kittens imitating rabbit hops, or just pouncing?

From Grania: Leapfrog the cat! I’m not sure I believe the explanation.

What beautiful markings!

Cat hockey!

From Matthew:

A true science geek picks a nit about a movie:

And a science tweet:

Finally, Aussie frogs are on the move:


Daily chorus of farm cats

Let’s end the day with some cat cacophony. You’re either going to like this video and its attendant cat chorus, or find it grating. So be it. Here’s the story from Paws Planet:

Farmer Corey Karmann has a pack of twelve kitties in his farm. The gang does a good job keeping the rats at bay. And there’s no abusing here, Corey takes excellent care of all of them and every evening when he returns from work the cats are on the porch waiting ‘patiently’ for their evening meal and that’s when the chorus starts!

Corey decided to film the hungry cats, and later the video captured a lot of attention from the Internet. People thought the kitties are absolutely adorable and would be pleased to feed them everyday.

“These are my farm cats, not stray in any way. They live a happy life outside keeping mice out of my house and barns. Yes, they were fed more than that, I just didn’t see any reason to tape their entire meal. I decided to record this because I thought this little ritual was funny and might bring a smile to a few people faces”, said Corey.

If this sends you to YouTube, go there by clicking on the video or this link: