22 humpback whale breaches

What a treat to have seen these breaches!

I’ve put the YouTube notes on this video below. The coolest thing, which you can see in the video’s screenshot, and then twice in the film, is a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) jumping completely out of the water. I haven’t see a breach like that before.

And yes, some weigh 80,000 pounds.

It was a rare clear, crisp, cold, winter day offshore Mbotyi in Pondoland, Eastern Cape province, South Africa (formerly Transkei).

The seas were unusually calm that day on the Indian Ocean. That wouldn’t last long, soon returning to howling winds, whitecap waves, and giant swells! Did I mention it was cold – on land, at sea, and in the water?!

We are four SCUBA divers in a small “rubber duck” inflatable boat with two powerful 110 hp four stroke outboard motors. Clive is captain, Carlos is divemaster, and Levi is deckhand.

We are hunting for sardines. It is the annual world famous “South African Sardine Run”, a mass migration of pilchard fish up the east coast of Africa.

Actually, we are not interested in the sardines but rather the predators they attract. Hungry bottlenose and common dolphins herd the long line of small sardines into compact groups called “bait balls”. Once a ball is formed, a feeding frenzy ensues. Dolphins, sharks, and birds feast on the dense pack of small fish.

An ultralight airplane is overhead, looking for the action. Sightings are radioed to us and off we go at breakneck speed, hoping to record some real action.

Sadly, our six or seven hours daily on the water entail mostly waiting, waiting, and waiting a little longer until we find the elusive sardine bait ball.

Entertaining us while we wait are migrating humpback whales. Some are a mothers with calves. Some are males traveling in small groups.

This day, there were few sardine sightings but the whales seemed to be everywhere! An unexpected bonus!

This video shows a humpback whale mother cow swimming with a calf. It shows an adult 40 ton whale on its back, slapping both its left and right fins on the water, then leaping entirely out of the water!

It seems that never before has a recording been made of an adult humpback whale leaping entirely out of the water! A very rare event, indeed.

Dolphins and even Great White Sharks have been seen flying out of the water, but this is a first for an adult humpback whale!

Note: I sometimes have to remind my northern hemisphere friends that although it is summer in July and blisteringly hot and dry in parts of America and Europe, in South Africa it is exactly the opposite! It is dark, cold, winter now! Did I mention that it is cold?

Turkish government-owned television begins broadcasting anti-Semitic drama

MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, reproduces and translates politically “sensitive” (i.e. anti-Semitic, extremist Islamist, etc.) clips from Middle Eastern media, bringing them to the attention of those who wouldn’t normally see them. And because of this, it’s been closed several times by YouTube (and then reinstated), with the explanation always “violation of copyright or of community standards.” I suspect it’s the latter, because short clips wouldn’t anger Muslim stations unless they showed something unpalatable to the West. In other words, it’s likely that MEMRI’s clips (which have never been faulted for accuracy) were banned by YouTube for “hate speech”, but it was the hate speech of the countries producing the videos, not MEMRI! Besides, if it really were the violation of copyright, why would the clips be reinstated? Appeals to reason by MEMRI have gotten their YouTube site repeatedly reinstated.

But these days, because of the hassle and new climate of “hate speech” accusations, MEMRI publishes a few videos on its channel, reserving many for its own site, which makes it even harder for Westerners to see them. That’s the case for this one: a series of vile, lying, and antisemitic television broadcasts from one of my favorite countries.

It was only a matter of time before my beloved country of Turkey, now in the grips of a theocratic government, started going the way of less secular Middle Eastern states and using state media to broadcast hatred of the Jews. In this case it’s a television drama that depicts Theodor Herzl, the prime mover of the creation of a Jewish state (now Israel), as a conspiratorial, conniving, and money-grubbing Jew. As MEMRI’s post notes:

The Turkish television drama series Payitaht: Abdülhamid (roughly, “Sultan Abdulhamid”)  began airing on February 24, 2017, on the Turkish state-owned TRT 1 television channel. The series comprised 17 episodes; the final episode aired June 23. According to the TRT 1 website, the series, which is set in the period from 1896 to 1909, aims to show “within the framework of the events of the last 13 years of the period of Sultan Abdülhamid II, while the Western states seek to design a ‘new century’ for themselves… the story of the valiant man [i.e. the sultan himself] who stands against them.”[1] One alleged plot against the sultan that is depicted in the series is that of Theodor Herzl, and of Jews in general, is their pursuit of the establishment of the state of Israel, and their scheming, deception, and cruelty in attempting to achieve this end. In the series, a ruthless Christian priest-turned-assassin, Hiram, helps Herzl stir up revolt in Istanbul, and British spies pose as Arabs in an attempted false-flag attack against Jews, planned by Herzl.

You can see the clips for yourself, but I’ll put the six of them up with links to MEMRI’s videos. Note that every single incident or allegation made in these clips is demonstrably false. It’s like a television “Protocol of the Elders of Zion” for Turks. I’ll add the notes for one of them. Remember, everything here is a lie: it’s all made up to demonize Jews for the audience:

Theodor Herzl Kidnaps His Father, Locks Him In A Dungeon, And Details A Plot To Transfer Jews to Palestine

Theodor Herzl Calculates Jewish Gold As Part Of His Schemes  In this clip, from Episode 2, Herzl meets with a Jewish femme fatale named Sara and calculates that the wealth of four rich Jewish families “equals half of the world’s riches.” Sara encourages his plans.

Herzl Rises To Power, States Goal: A Jewish State From The Nile To The Euphrates

Herzl Conspires With Christian Priest To Assassinate Notables And Incite Population

Herzl Sends British Spies To Kidnap And Kill Jews In Jerusalem In Order To Drum Up Support For His Zionist Agenda

Herzl Celebrates Purim In Istanbul, Gets Mugged, And Learns A Lesson In Jewish Scheming From Co-Conspirator Emanuel Carasso

MEMRI and other organizations (not US or UK mainstream media!) have long documented the hatred not just of Israel, but of Jews themselves, spewed on the airwaves by public and private stations in the Middle East. Palestine does this all the time, but it’s never mentioned by the Regressive Left. Why, do you suppose? Israel doesn’t do this, but of course gets no kudos for that. Once again we see the “racism” of low expectations. I’d love to hear someone like Reza Aslan or Linda Sarsour explain the Palestinian clips (and cartoons in state-owned newspapers).

Here are some screenshots from the “rich Jewish conspiracy” clip, a classic anti-Semitic trope. As far as I know, neither the DuPonts nor the Morgans were even Jewish!

Woe to Turkey and to the secular Turks! They are now subject to these kinds of lies. The show has been seen as factual by the Turkish Press, and I find no indication of a disclaimer that “these characterizations of Herzl are fiction.”  And even if they said that, it would still be inexcusable hate-mongering.

Reza Aslan: There’s no divide between Islam and American culture—it’s people, not religion

If you’re willing to be a bit mendacious, there are two guaranteed ways to make a lot of dosh in America. The first is to pretend that you’ve had a near-death experience and have temporarily visited Heaven, seeing God, Jesus, and your long-dead relatives and friends. This reassures Christians that all will be well after death. An example of someone enriching himself in this way is neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, who, though his book Proof of Heaven has been thoroughly debunked, continues to rake in oodles of cash thanks to credulous Christians.

The second is to pretend that religion is a uniformly good phenomenon—that nothing bad comes from it. Anything like the terrors of Islamist extremism, or the Troubles of Northern Ireland, comes from culture, not faith. Were there not religion, these apologists aver, something else would take its place, causing precisely equal amounts of evil.

Although Mariam Sobh made an odious video claiming that ex-Muslims (read: Ayaan Hirsi Ali) were motivated to leave the faith by the prospect of gaining fame and money by criticizing Islam, there’s a big downside to that: fear of death. A vociferous ex-Muslim is a threatened ex-Muslim, and that’s why Hirsi Ali has bodyguards. It’s much safer and easier to extol religion, and these days the big money and fame is in extolling Islam. Guilt-ridden liberals lap that stuff up like cats at a bowl of cream.

The prime examples of those who gain renown from defending religion against all comers are Karen Armstrong and Reza Aslan. Today we’re discussing Aslan, who, unchastened by the failure of his CNN “spiritual adventure show” Believer, is back in the pages of Foreign Policy magazine with his piece “Reza Aslan argues: There is no divide between Islam and American culture.

This claim is problematic for reasons that you already know. First of all, many of the values imparted by Islam, and embraced by many (but not all) of its adherents, are truly in conflict with “American values”, at least as limned by progressives. Islam devalues women: in dress, in property rights, in giving them a role of temptresses, and so on; it is not a big fan of freedom of religion, especially for atheists; and it’s not a big promoter of gay rights or gay marriage. Further, at least as expressed by Linda Sarsour in her recent “jihad” speech, many Muslims, like Orthodox Jews and some extreme sects of Mormons and fundamentalist Christians, prefer to maintain semi-closed communities held together by identity politics. But unlike Orthodox Jews, the goal of some Muslims is to make their faith into a principle of government, for that’s what sharia law is. Here’s what Sarsour said:

Our number one and top priority is to protect and defend our community. It is not to assimilate and to please any other people in authority. Our obligation is to our young people, is to our women, to make sure our women are protected in our community, and our top priority, even higher than all those priorities, is to please Allah and only Allah.

Now of course many Muslim-Americans fervently desire to integrate into U.S. culture. Still, one can’t deny that certain values instilled by Islam, like those instilled by Orthodox Judaism and extremist Mormonism, are at odds with values of the wider society. That’s why the hyper-Orthodox and polygamous Mormons segregate themselves in enclaves where they can live their faith without being tainted by secular American culture.

Reza Aslan, of course, denies such a clash, but his reasons are deeply dubious:

There is no clash between Islam and American culture. In fact, there is no clash between any religion and any culture because religions are inextricably linked to culture.

Think of it this way: Culture is like a vessel, and religion is like water — it simply takes the shape of whatever vessel you pour it into. And this is why the prosperity gospel — the notion that what Jesus really wants for you is to drive a Bentley — can exist in the United States, and why the liberation gospel — the notion that Jesus was a warrior who fought oppression and poverty — exists in El Salvador. Both versions of Christianity are equally valid. They’re just dependent on the culture of the community to which they belong.

When you look at Islam in the United States what you see is an overwhelmingly moderate version of Islam, but more interestingly what you see is a highly individualistic form of the religion. Islam is a religion that often advantages the community over the individual, but in the United States, where the culture is rooted in radical individualism, you see a radically individualistic Islam forming.

The last paragraph itself notes the possibility of a clash between Islam and American culture, and yes, not all Muslims in the U.S. become “radical individualists.” But the first paragraph is just nonsense. When a minority religious group inhabits a society of a different faith, or no faith, their values not only are often derived from religion, but clash with values of the society in which they’re embedded. When those values deal with things like human “rights”, it can cause trouble. One cannot, for instance, sensibly say that there’s no clash between Islam and European culture, for that clash is painfully evident. (Again, I’m talking about religious values here, not the desire of Muslims to assimilate into Western culture.) It’s better in America, but my own observation of organizations like CAIR and Students for Justice in Palestine convince me that attitudes like Sarsour’s aren’t uncommon.

Because Islam, like Orthodox Judaism, is both a religion and a culture, in the sense of dictating ways of living throughout the day and not just at worship, Aslan can get away with saying that “it’s all culture.” But if large parts of that culture are drawn from religious scripture or dogma, then his statement is tautological and meaningless.

And if religions are inextricably linked to culture, why do you find people of nearly identical cultures, but of different faiths, in clashes that are sometimes deadly. In what respect do Shia and Sunni Muslims have different cultures if you leave out the disparate religious dogma that divides them? In what respect to Muslim men and women, or gays and straights, have different “cultures”? In what respect did Irish Catholics and Protestants have different “cultures”—if you leave out religion? Aslan would argue that these are cultural and not religious differences; but since he sees them as the same thing, that’s simply a ploy to exculpate religion, which is what he gets paid to do.

As the article goes on, Aslan even exculpates culture, saying “it’s just different people” who cause the supposed clashes. But here he slips up, because he then admits that these people are reflecting different “ideologies”, and ideology can include religion:

So he says this:

The clashes we see are created by people, not by culture or religion. When people say Islam doesn’t fit in with American culture, what they really mean is that it does not fit with their sense of self and their conception of themselves as Americans. It does not jibe with how they understand what Islam means. But they are doing what most people do when they try to define themselves, which is that they are defining themselves in opposition to an other. And for a great many Americans, that other is Islam. They know nothing about Muslims. They know nothing about the religion or its history. It’s just that Islam becomes a byword for whatever is not American.

But that contradicts this, which he states in the previous paragraph:

When people talk about the clash between religion and culture, it mostly stems from ideological reasons. Ideologies are predicated on certain absolutes, which provide a certain confidence about people’s identities and where they belong in the world. It’s how people construct their very understanding of the universe. Ideologies can include religion, but they can include nationalism, culture, and race. People who tend to fall back on ideologies are trying to create a sense of stability about who they are and how they see themselves in the world.

What this means is that the “people” who are said to clash with American culture, and here I’m referring to Muslims, are doing so because their ideology (read: Islam) gives them a sense of identity that is not the same as the “identity” of Americans. Yes, Americans have ideologies, too, but the clash I’m worried about is not between Christian ideology and Muslim ideology. I have no patience with Christians who demonize Muslims because they’re not down with Jesus as a prophet. What I do worry about, and what Aslan brushes off, is the feeling that Islam fosters values inimical to those that many Americans embrace, especially the values of democracy above theocracy and the notion of equal rights for all, regardless of sex, religion, or sexual orientation. This is not a clash between two religions. It’s a clash between religious values and Enlightenment values. I would not want to live in a country whose values and institutions reflect the ideas of Linda Sarsour.

Sarsour and Aslan are both dangerous because they want us to avert our eyes from a theology that is explicitly anti-democratic, and because that theology motivates terrible oppression against both Muslims and non-Muslims. Remember, outside the U.S (and even to some degree within it, Islam oppresses half of its own adherents: the women.

As far as I know (I don’t check), the only other person who blocks me on Twitter is P. Z. Myers.

Did HuffPo use a racist metaphor?

Over the years, HuffPo has consistently used the term “bamboo ceiling” to refer to the barriers that, it says, are faced by Asian-Americans trying to advance in their careers. The first article below actually had the term “bamboo ceiling” in the big headline, but since yesterday it’s been relegated to the subheading. Click on the screenshots to go to the articles:

From 2013:

From 2014:

From 2016:


After all, the term “glass ceiling” as applied to women doesn’t carry any sexist connotations.

Granted, some of these pieces (there are more, but I got tired of looking them up) were written by Asians, but doesn’t the use of “bamboo ceiling” perpetuate a cultural stereotype? Do all Asian-Americans have something to do with bamboo? If HuffPo were writing about barriers to Jewish advancement, would they say “gefilte fish ceiling?”  If it were Mexicans, would they say “cactus ceiling?”

Now I don’t care at all about this, but believe me, the Regressive mindset of the HuffPo would call this out in a second if they thought about it. And Everyday Feminism would write an article about it: “Five ways that we stereotype Asians’ search for the American Dream.”


Readers’ wildlife photos (spider mimics frog!)

We have only two photos today, both from Lou Jost, who’s been busy in the rain forests of Ecuador. But they’re great pictures, and one apparently shows a form of mimicry new to me: an insect mimicking a frog. Lou sent this yesterday:

In honor of your mimicry post today, here are two more mimics for your delectation, found this month during a visit by a group of Stanford University students. The first is a crab spider that imitates a frog! It was found by students Dylan Moore and Natalia Espinoza in EcoMimga’s Rio Zunac Reserve.

The EcoMinga page adds this:

 At first they [Moore and Espinoza] thought it was a frog. It holds its forelegs in a position reminiscent of the hind legs of a frog, and its abdomen mimics a frog head, complete with eyes. I imagine that small birds or insects that would catch a spider might not want to waste energy or risk their lives trying to catch a frog.This spider seems to be related to the famous “bird poop spiders” but I don’t really know. If an arachnologist reads this, perhaps he or she could add some information about this?

The next day,when we went to EcoMinga’s Rio Anzu Reserve, I spotted this leaf-mimic katydid only because it moved its two antennae together to act more like an inanimate leaf. It was confident in its disguise and did not move when disturbed.

You do see it, right?

The frog mimic a frog raised two questions, which I sent to Lou. Is this the first described case of a spider mimicking a frog? And what could be a selective advantage to the spider of this kind of mimicry?  Lou responded:

Jerry, I hadn’t ever heard of a frog-mimic spider like this, but the internet does reveal one other alleged example here [JAC: here’s the photo at the link]:

But I think that one might be imitating a snake head.

As to why a spider might mimic a frog, I don’t really know. Maybe insects that would eat spiders might be afraid of frogs? Or maybe birds that would eat spiders are not going to bother to chase a frog, which is more agile and which might be toxic?

It’s unlikely that the imitation is to help the spider sneak up on prey, as it seems that most prey that would be eaten by a spider would also be eaten by a frog. Also, the spider’s color is not an “aposematic” warning color, which most toxic frogs have, like this one:

Oophaga pumilio, the “strawberry poison dart frog”. It’s extremely variable in color and pattern; this one is the “blue jeans” morph.

That, I think, rules out the toxicity hypothesis, though not the agility hypothesis.

Thursday: Hili dialogue

Good morning: it’s July 27, 2017, and also Thursday, which means I have to hie over to the hospital (5 min walk) to get physical therapy on my shoulder to help it heal. This will be a first for me, but I’m not getting any younger. I suppose it could be worse! It’s National Scotch Day, and although I’m not much of a Scotch drinker, I favor the smoky malts like Talisker and Ardbeg, though my absolute favorite is a Campbeltown brew: Springbank single malt. I once had the 21-year-old version at a Harvard Junior Fellows dinner when I was invited as a guest; it was liquid paradise! (At dinner I also sat next to the world-famous philosopher W.V. Quine, who must have been about ninety at the time, and I had no idea who he was. Quine was laconic, and may have been on the downhill slide, but, to be fair, I’m not a philosopher.)

Today’s political news, which Matthew posted yesterday: Trump is acting up again (or should I say “as usual”?). The sick thing is that he almost certainly doesn’t believe in God; he may be the first atheist President. He does, however, believe in Trump.

And be sure to read Heather Hastie’s new takedown of Donald Trump’s extremely unwise ban of transgender soldiers in the American military. It was mean-spirited, reprehensible, and counterproductive.

On July 27, 1794, Maximilien Robespierre was arrested after having thousands of others arrested and killed during the “Reign of Terror”. Trying to shoot himself before arrest, he succeeded only in badly shattering his jaw, and bled throughout the night, only to be guillotined the next day. On this day in 1866, the first transatlantic telephone cable was completed, extending from Valentia Island in Ireland to Heart’s Content, Newfoundland. Imagine what a feat that was for the time! On July 1890, Vincent van Gogh shot himself, lingering two days and then dying. He was only 37, and I consider him one of the five best artists in the history of the world. What painting he would have made had he not been depressed and suicidal. On this day in 1940, the short cartoon A Wild Hare was released (full cartoon below), introducing the wily and snide character of Bugs Bunny.  Bugs appears for the first time at 2:24, and it’s clear that he changed appearance over the years. Back then his head was narrower and his nose pointier. Like Mickey Mouse, he underwent artistic neoteny:

On this day in 1953, fighting ended in the Korean war as China, the U.S., and North Korea signed an armistice. South Korea didn’t sign, and as far as I know we’re still technically at war with the DPRK, though there’s a “truce.” Finally, on July 27, 1974, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted to recommend an article of impeachment—for obstruction of justice—against Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon. He of course resigned before impeachment, and was pardoned in advance by Gerald Ford.

Notables born on this day include Charlotte Corday (who killed Marat, 1768), Alexandre Dumas (fils, 1824), photographer William Eggleston (1939), and Peggy Fleming (1948). Here’s one of Eggleston’s photos of America:

Those who died on this day included the highly overrated Gertrude Stein (1946; I never liked anything she wrote), James Mason (1984), and Bob Hope (2003). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is contemplating the meager cherry harvest. But there will be enough for my pies! Who cares whether there’s enough for a cat who doesn’t like fruit?

Hili: Craziness!
A: About what?
Hili: About these cherries. No cat would put one into its mouth.
In Polish:
Hili: Szaleństwo!
Ja: Z czym?
Hili: Z tymi wiśniami, żaden kot by tego do pyszczka nie wziął.

Here’s a cat tw**t sent by reader Barry; I understand neither the device nor why the cat likes it. If you’re familiar with this thing, weigh in below (be sure to watch the video):

Remind me, what does the First Amendment say again?

[JAC: Matthew sent me this tw**t, and I responded, “You post it!” So he did.]

It’s National Moth Week!

The first tw**t (I added others when I saw where this came from) is from naturalist and photographer Gil Wizen, who, like me, is a fan of mimicry. He’s given me permission to reproduce some of his stories and photos (like this amazing account of sexually-selected flies), and I’ll soon get around to that. In the meantime, he’s been posting mimicry photos on his Twitter page as well as photos for National Moth Week, and here’s a good one showing a mimic and a moth in one creature:

He doesn’t give the species, but perhaps Lou Jost can help us out here. If you like insects and great photography, you could do worse than follow Gil.

Oh hell, I’ll show some more great moths, and if you like these, go look at the #2017NationalMothWeek Twitter site.

Be sure to play the video on this one:

Another mimic, which I think is a hawk moth:

Iranian chador-wearing newscaster outed in Switzerland—unveiled and drinking beer

Never forget: social media is forever, and even if you remove something embarrassing you posted in an unwise or inebriated moment, somebody will have taken a screenshot. Or if you’re in public doing something you don’t want publicized, remember that everyone has a camera with a cellphone. That’s what happened here. It’s been reported by the BBC, so the woman has already been publicly “outed.”

Her name is Azadeh Namdari, whom the Beeb identifies as a “conservative Iranian television host”. They also report this:

Namdari is known in Iran as a proponent of the Islamic dress code.

A photo of her in full hijab was once published in the conservative Iranian newspaper Vatan-e Emruz under the headline: “Thank God, I wear the veil”.

Those who know Arabic can translate, at least the white text. She wears not just the headscarf, but the chador, a full-length garment that is held closed in the front and is common (but not required) in Iran. Wearing the hijab, or headscarf, however, is required. Thus Namdari goes beyond government requirements, and praises her covering. Here’s the photo and text in that newspaper:

The kicker, however, is that a video emerged of Namdari on holiday in Switzerland, not wearing her headscarf and guzzling a beer. Going unveiled is a crime in Iran, as is drinking. And drinking is also considered un-Islamic in general. Here’s one shot from the video.

And one from a tweet:

Of course Namdari had an excuse, but it’s not credible (my emphasis below):

In response to the revelations, Namdari published another video of herself in which she offered reasons for not wearing a hijab.

The two-minute long video was published by the hardline Young Journalists’ Club(YJC) news agency under the headline “Azadeh Namdari’s reaction to the publication of scandalous photos in cyberspace”.

This time wearing a hijab, she explained she was sitting with family members and “maharem” – close relatives among whom a woman does not need to wear a hijab – in a park. She said her scarf fell suddenly and the video was taken at that instant by an unknown person.

She gave no explanation about drinking beer in the video.

The explanation brought further criticism from social media users, citing Namdari’s “hypocrisy” and “dual-behaviour,” and using her name as the Persian hashtag#Azadeh_Namdari.

Since the initial video emerged on 24 July the hashtag has been used over 11,000 times.

The claim that her scarf fell suddenly doesn’t wash because she’s clearly wearing sunglasses atop her head, which she couldn’t have done under a hijab. It’s all a lie.

But I really feel sorry for her. This is how many Iranian women would dress and behave were they not coerced by their oppressive and theocratic government. And it’s how many Iranian women did dress and behave before the 1979 revolution, when they were forced, even after mass protests, to wear the hijab. And I suspect Namdari will lose her job, or at the least be reviled when she returns to Iran—if she can return to Iran.

The only thing I don’t like about her behavior was her thanking Allah that she covers herself. She didn’t have to say that. But again, let’s cut her a break because she’s simply going along with the theocracy, and has an important job to keep.

Who should be vilified in this incident is not Namdari, but those bearded imams who make it necessary for her to pretend she likes covering herself, when all she really wants to do is kick back, take off those hot garments, and enjoy a nice brewski.

Talk to Siri now

If you have Siri enabled, say “I see a little silhouetto of a man.”

Then listen to the response.