Upcoming Chicago SlutWalk bans “Zionist displays” (but not pro-Palestinian or Iranian ones)

Not too long ago, some Jewish lesbians who were carrying a “Jewish pride” flag—the gay flag with a Star of David on it—were kicked out of Chicago’s Dyke March. When questioned, the organizers couldn’t get their story straight: one said that the booting was in response to Jews’ chanting “no walls anywhere” in response to the marchers’ chant “No walls from Mexico to Palestine.”  (See my posts here and here). Now the Dyke March, which got really bad publicity (even from the New York Times) over this apparently anti-Semitic act, is claiming that the flag-wavers were promulgating an explicitly “Zionist agenda”, though it’s not clear how they were doing that.

What’s clear is that the Dyke March had an explicitly anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian ideology (they said so), and so they allowed Palestinian flags to be flown at the same time they prohibited Jewish Pride flags. Here’s a photo of the Dyke March:

A Palestinian flag flies at Chicago’s 2017 Dyke March, where Jewish participants were excluded. Photo: Screenshot.

One other development: Gretchen Rachel Hammond, the reporter who broke this story for Chicago’s LGBT paper the Windy City Times, has been removed from her reporting job and assigned to the sales department. This seems like retribution, but the paper won’t comment.

JTA adds this, noting that the Dyke March has used anti-Semitic language:

Hammond, who is Jewish, told JTA that in the wake of her article, she received dozens of threatening anonymous phone calls. She said one caller called her a “kike,” while others told her she should lose her job or said she “betrayed” the LGBT community.

“One of them said, ‘I’m going to get your bitch ass fired,’” Hammond told JTA of calls and text messages she received. “It was vicious. It wasn’t even a request for dialogue. It was, ‘You f**ked with us. We’re going to f**k with you.’ They pretty much blamed me for the whole thing blowing up at them.”

The Dyke March itself has fielded criticism for using an anti-Semitic slur, tweeting on July 13 that “Zio tears replenish my electrolytes.” White supremacists, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, have used the term “Zio,” derived from Zionist, as a slur for Jews.

On July 14, the Dyke March deleted the tweet and apologized, saying it “didn’t know the violent history of the term.”

And Hammond sent out this tweet, implying her reassignment (she wants a reporting job) was retributive:

But back to the SlutWalk, scheduled for August 12 in Chicago. The Algemeiner reports (and it’s verified by other sources, as well as by the SlutWalk organizers themselves), that they’ve banned all “Zionist displays” from their own march: 

After the scandal involving the ejection of Jewish women carrying Star of David pride flags at Chicago’s Dyke March on June 28, a sister organization in the city has announced that it will follow suit by banning “Zionist displays” from its upcoming protest against sexual violence and “rape culture.”

The ban was announced this week on social media by the organizers of SlutWalk Chicago — part of an international protest movement that “fights rape culture, victim blaming, and slut shaming.” The Chicago event is set to take place on August 12.

“We still stand behind Dyke March Chicago’s decision to remove the Zionist contingent from their event, & we won’t allow Zionist displays at ours,” the organizers tweeted last Sunday — beginning several days of exchanges with other users over the policy. These were distinguished by the organizers’ continued insistence that anti-Zionism is a legitimate progressive belief, and that any linkage with antisemitism should be dismissed as a discrediting tactic.

In one exchange defending the Dyke March decision to exclude the Jewish women, the SlutWalk organizers aggressively justified the action, declaring: “They were kicked out after a discussion where they made their Zionist beliefs known and refused to back down.”

The Star of David flag was banned, they continued, “because its connections to the oppression enacted by Israel is too strong for it to be neutral & IN CONTEXT it was used as a Zionist symbol.”

Yet they say they’ll allow the Star of David to be displayed. But what “context” would allow that, since the SlutWalk organizers are apparently pro-Palestinan and anti-Zionist? Here are two of their tweets:

I predict that anyone carrying the Jewish Pride flag will be kicked out, even if they keep their mouths shut. But maybe not, since the Dyke March came off looking pretty dreadful after its anti-Semitic machinations and unconvincing explanations for expelling the gay Jews.

What’s sad about all this is that here again American gays align themselves with repressive Muslim states that would kill or imprison them if they tried to have a SlutWalk or Dyke March there. Can you imagine a Dyke March in Gaza? In contrast, Israel is full of gays, all having full rights, and there are regular gay pride parades. (Regressives, who have to somehow comport this with their defense of homophobic Islam, say that it’s Israeli “pinkwashing” and that gay rights are given and proclaimed only to whitewash Israel’s supposed “apartheid” policies.)

Regardless, the SlutWalk and Dyke March would do well to remember that all ten nations where homosexuality can be punished by death are Muslim-majority countries, and that homosexuality is illegal in most Muslim-majority lands:

It’s ineffably sad that LGBT organizations like the Dyke March and SlutWalk still support Islamic countries—the enforcers of some of the most homophobic laws in the world. But of course Muslims are considered people of color, and that trumps any laws or dictates that allow gays to be hanged or thrown from buildings. How dare they say they abhor discrimination and oppression when they say nothing about (or even extol) Islamic countries that would kill them or throw them in jail?

And I haven’t even mentioned Islamic oppression of women.

Two comments: “injustice” is one word. More important, no, they don’t abhor discrimination and oppression—not when it’s practiced by Muslims.

Andrew Sullivan on the gender-and-sex morass—and the persistence of Obamacare

I have to admit that I haven’t read much from Andrew Sullivan since he left The Dish and ultimately wound up writing for New York Magazine. And perhaps that’s my loss, for at least his recent column, “The triumph of Obama’s long game,” shows an intelligence and thoughtfulness that I should have followed. Back in the old days, I was critical of Sullivan’s Catholicism, and of his adherence to the Church despite its retrograde stand on gays (Sullivan is of course gay). We had our contretemps, most notably when he cursed at me for claiming that many people (including those in the Vatican) took the Adam and Eve story literally. That story was, he said, clearly metaphorical, and Catholics had always seen it that way. Wrong, wrong, wrong!  But I haven’t wavered in my respect for the man.

Or is Sullivan a man? In his Friday column, he takes up the convoluted issue of sex, gender, and their connection to biology. I’ve always been willing to accept gender as a “social construct”, since people can, without changing their DNA, assume the identity and phenotype of a man if they were born a woman, or vice versa, or assume one or the other if they were one of those rare individuals born with intermediate sexual characteristics.

But I’ve never agreed that “sex”, as some Leftists maintain, is a social construct as well. Yes, there are individuals born as intersexuals, but that doesn’t mean that biological sex is a continuous “spectrum” having no discernible modes. It is in fact bimodal, with the vast majority of people born as men or women, identifiable by their appearance, chromosomal constitution (XX or XY) and the gametes they produce—with a few people in the middle. If you plot indices of sex versus frequency of individuals, you get a U-shaped curve with two big modes at “woman” and “man”, and a deep valley between those peaks. So it is with humans, and so it is with virtually all animals (yes, I know there are hermaphroditic species). After all, the very concept of “transgender” people assumes that there are identifiable modes between which people can transition.

In his latest column (there are actually three topics discussed), Sullivan agrees. I’ll give some excerpts from his take and then a few from another issue he discusses: the failure of Republicans to dismantle Obamacare. Sullivan’s comments seem eminently sensible, though they’ll anger those misguided people who think that in our species the concepts of “male” and “female” are purely subjective social constructs. This bit follows his discussion (see below) of how the Republican failure to pass a healthcare bill is a triumph of reality—inexorable moral progress—over ideology:

Speaking of ideology versus reality, there is, it seems to me, a parallel on the left. That is the current attempt to deny the profound natural differences between men and women, and to assert, with a straight and usually angry face, that gender is in no way rooted in sex, and that sex is in no way rooted in biology. This unscientific product of misandrist feminism and confused transgenderism is striding through the culture, and close to no one in the elite is prepared to resist it.

. . . we have constant admonitions against those who actually conform, as most human beings always have, to the general gender rule. Boys who behave like boys have always behaved are suddenly displaying “toxic masculinity” and must be reprogrammed from the get-go. Girls who like pink and play with Barbies are somehow not fully female until they’ve seen the recent Wonder Woman movie or absorbed the stunning and brave decision to make Doctor Who a woman. We have gone from rightly defending the minority to wrongly problematizing the majority. It should surprise no one that, at some point, the majority will find all of this, as Josh Barro recently explained, “annoying.”

I say this as someone happily in the minority — and who believes strongly in the right to subvert or adapt traditional gender roles. It’s a free country, after all. But you can’t subvert something that you simultaneously argue doesn’t exist. And this strikes me as the core contradiction of ideological transgenderism. By severing the link between sex and gender completely, it abolishes the core natural framework without which the transgender experience makes no sense at all. It’s also a subtle, if unintentional, attack on homosexuality. Most homosexuals are strongly attached to their own gender and attracted to traditional, natural expressions of it. That’s what makes us gay, for heaven’s sake. And that’s one reason the entire notion of a common “LGBT” identity is so misleading. How can a single identity comprise both the abolition of gender and at the same time its celebration?

Exceptions, in other words, need a rule to exist. Abolish gender’s roots in biology and sex — and you abolish gay people and transgender people as well. Yes, there’s a range of gender expression among those of the same sex. But it’s still tethered among most to the forces of chromosomes and hormones that make us irreducibly male and female. Nature can be interpreted; it can even be played with; but it cannot be abolished. After all, how can you be “queer” if there is no such thing as “normal”?

Transgender people exist and should be treated with absolutely the same human respect, decency, and civil equality as anyone else. But they don’t disprove traditional notions of gender as such — which have existed in all times, places, and cultures in human history and prehistory, and are rooted deeply in evolutionary biology and reproductive strategy. Intersex people exist and, in my view, should not be genitally altered or “fixed” without their adult consent. But they do not somehow negate the overwhelming majority who have no such gender or sexual ambiguity. Gay people exist and should not be coerced into behaving in ways they find alien to their being. But the entire society does not need to be overhauled in order to make gay or trans experience central to it. Inclusion, yes. Revolution, no.

Before Sullivan discusses this, which as a biologist I found the most interesting bit, he argues why the failure of Republicans to deep-six Obamacare is a triumph for morality, and, Sullivan thinks, for conservatism, as he considers conservatism to be the victory of reality over ideology. In this case, though he doesn’t say it explicitly, reality is the kind of irreversible moral progress limned by Steve Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature: a ratcheted improvement of society from which there’s no return. Calling Trump a “monstrous, ridiculous fool”, Sullivan lambastes the Republicans for Trumpcare and celebrates its demise:

And if universal coverage was unstoppable, the most conservative response to that change was … something very much like Obamacare. It was an incremental reform, it kept the private insurance market, and it attempted to create as big a risk pool as possible. No one argued it was perfect. But it adapted ideas from left and right into a plausible, workable synthesis. And yet the GOP — still fixated on abstract ideology — pretended none of this had happened. Caught in the vortex of their own talk-radio fantasies, they opted to repeal and replace 21st-century reality. And — surprise! — reality won.

Maybe if they’d made a case that this was essential unless we wanted the country to go bankrupt, they might have had a chance. But when they combined it with massive tax cuts for the rich, they were never going to win, except by diktat. So they tried diktat. They lied about their bill; they attempted to ram it through quickly; they suppressed public hearings and any semblance of a deliberative process; they all but ended senatorial debate; they made no compelling public case for the bill (because there was none); they passed it in the House before even scoring it; they tried to force it through by a reconciliation process that was never designed for such a thing.

They tried everything, in other words — led by one of the wiliest Senate Majority Leaders in modern times, and a president with a cultlike hold on his own voters. They controlled the House and Senate and had a chief executive willing to sign literally anything he could call a victory. And they still failed. Rejoice!

Amen, brother.

h/t: Simon

800 to go!

I have to admit to being a bit excited as the number of subscribers here approaches the 50,000 mark—the size of a respectable American town. We’re nearly there, and perhaps by fall we’ll reach the mark that will make me a happy man:

Readers’ wildlife photos (and video)

Reader Jonathan Wallace sent some swell cicada photos from France, and included a short video. His notes are indented;

These are Cicada orni, a common cicada from the Mediterranean region. Like other cicadas they spend most of their life cycle underground as nymphs, where they feed on tree roots (several years for this species).

I have included a couple of photograph of ‘teneral’ adults that have just moulted after emerging from the ground (the insects are both placed next to the exuviae or cast off exoskeletons from the moult) a couple of pictures of exuviae and a photograph of an adult whose wings have dried and hardened and assumed their final cryptic colouring.

Dried-off adult:

Teneral cicada with exuvia (next two photos):

Cicada exuvia:

Cicada exuvia (dorsal view):

I have also included a short video clip, shot on my phone, of a male singing. They start singing as soon as the temperature gets high enough (i am not sure what the threshold is), and collectively can achieve an astonishing volume. The sometimes deafening sound of cicadas is the archetypical soundtrack to the Mediterranean summer. These pictures were taken in southern France in the Aude and Bouches du Rhone Departments.

Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Sunday, July 23, 2017, and National Vanilla Ice Cream Day. It’s Revolution Day in Egypt, commemorating the 1953 coup that eventually deposed King Farouk. And it’s kind of a boring, vanilla-like day, for not much happened on this date in history (I’m sure readers will correct me).

On July 23, 1903, the Ford Motor Company sold its first car. The lucky buyer of that Model A was a Chicago dentist, Ernest Pfennig.  On this day in 1942, the Holocaust took another step on as the Treblinka concentration camp opened in Poland. Between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews and 2000 Romanis were killed there—more than in any other camp save Auschwitz. And on this day in 1962, the satellite Telstar (remember the eponymous rock song of the same year?) relayed the first public television program to cross the Atlantic; it featured Walter Cronkite.

Notables born on this day include Raymond Chandler (1888), Haile Selassie (1892), Vera Rubin (1928), Justice Anthony Kennedy (1936) and Alison Krauss (1971). Here’s Krauss with her band, Union Station, playing a traditional American folk song that will be familiar to many of you:

Those who died on this day include Ulysses S. Grant (1885), Donald Barthelme (1989), Eudora Welty (2001), Daniel Schorr (2010), Amy Winehouse (2011) and Sally Ride (2012). Reader Simon and I are great fans of Amy, and here’s one of my favorites (be sure to watch “Back to Black” from the same set).

Hili didn’t have much truck with the two children who visited this week, and Andrzej got only one picture of them interacting. Here’s Hania, sporting a tabby-cat tee shirt, communing with The Princess:
Hania: Between us girls I will tell you something.
Hili: What?
Hania: I like you very much.
Hili: I like you too.
In Polish:
Hania: Między nami dziewczynami, coś ci powiem.
Hili: Co?
Hania: Bardzo cię lubię.
Hili: Ja ciebie też.

Ken Ham the Weasel

As you might have heard, Ken Ham is trying desperately to avoid paying a new city-mandated 50¢-per-ticket city “safety fee” for visitors to the Ark Park, which would provide $700,000 per year for fire and police protection. Ham doesn’t want to pay that, as it would involve either raising ticket prices or giving up some of his profits. Among Ham’s ploys, which you can read about at The Friendly Atheist (link above) is to claim that the Ark Park is a “religious ministry”, and to do that they sold the for-profit attraction to Answers in Genesis for the munificent sum of ten dollars, all to turn it into a part of Ham’s non-profit ministry. What a cheap creep!

Here’s a cartoon about it from reader Pliny the in Between (click to enlarge):

Journal Hypatia’s editors resign, and directors suspend associate editors over their apology for the “transracialism” article

Reader Robert called my attention to an article in the Daily Nous about the “transracialism” article that started a big kerfuffle in the social science/justice community.

As you might remember, it all started recently when Rebecca Tuvel, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, published an article called “In defense of transracialism” in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy. Tuvel compared the situation of a transgender person, Caitlyn Jenner, with that of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who tried to pass for black. She found no substantive philosophical reason to celebrate Jenner but demonize Dolezal, which in fact was what the Regressive Left had done. If you can feel that you’re a woman when born a man, Tuvel asked, why can’t you feel that you’re black when you’re born white?

In response to Tuvel’s ideological impurity, a bunch of academics wrote a letter to the journal calling for the article’s retraction, and some of the journal’s associate editors apologized for the “harms imposed by the article on trans people and people of color,” asserting that the article should not have been published. (That apology, on Hypatia’s Facebook page, has now disappeared, but you can find my screenshot of it here.) I thought Tuvel’s article was a decent one (see also here), and that there was certainly no reason to reject what seemed a perfectly legitimate and socially relevant philosophical analysis. I hope Tuvel doesn’t suffer professionally from writing her piece.

If you want a comprehensive account of the affair and its sequelae, Wikipedia now has a big article on the “Hypatia Transracialism Controversy.

Now, according to Hypatia’s website, the board of directors seems to have realized what an embarrassment the actions of the associate editors really produced. The main editor of the journal, Sally Scholz, and book review editor Shelley Wilcox, have both resigned for reasons for that aren’t clear (it may have to do with them disagreeing with the associate editors). And the journal’s board of directors has suspended all actions of the associate editors, so they can’t handle any papers, until a new committee restructures the journal.

From the site (my emphasis):

It is with disappointment and regret that the Board of Directors of Hypatia has received the news that Sally Scholz and Shelley Wilcox are resigning from their roles as editors of Hypatia. Throughout their tenure with the journal, they have stood by fundamental principles of publication ethics, which call upon all who are involved in the governance of a journal to respect the integrity of the peer-review process and to support authors published by the journal (with rare exceptions such as plagiarism and fraud). The Board is also committed to these principles and fully supports Scholz and Wilcox in their commitment to and execution of them.

Unfortunately, the Associate Editors’ public apology for the publication of an article failed to respect these principles. Their action, appearing to speak for the journal rather than as individuals, invited confusion over who speaks for Hypatia. It also damaged the reputations of both the journal and its Editors, Scholz and Wilcox, and has made it impossible for the Editors to maintain the public credibility and trust that peer reviewed academic journal editorship requires.

We wish to reiterate that neither Hypatia, nor the journal’s Editors, have apologized for or retracted the article in question. We also wish to reaffirm that the Associate Editors did not in any way speak for the journal, nor do they have authority to do so.

As the board ultimately responsible for the well-being of the journal, we find it necessary at this time to take emergency measures to restore the academic integrity of the journal and shepherd it through a transition period to a new editorial team. Thus, we have temporarily suspended the authority of the Associate Editorial Board.

Well that’s a slap in the face, and good for Hypatia! It was a really awful idea to first accept a paper and then, after public outcry from the Purity Crowd, have the associate editors (who handle all the papers) declare that the paper should never have been published. Maybe there’s hope yet for academic feminism—at least in this journal.

My Voice of America discussion of science versus religion

The Voice of America World Service interviewed me last week about the compatibility of religion and science as part of a 30-minute program in the “Press Conference USA” series. My take, of course, is that they’re incompatible. I use the first 15 minutes to explain why, and then we hear from a Catholic scientist who feels the opposite way.

Here are the VOA program notes:

From Galileo’s run-in with the Catholic Church in the 17th century to more recent controversies over the teaching of creationism in public schools, the relationship between science and religion has been the subject of ongoing debate. Host Rick Pantaleo speaks with Jerry Coyne, the author of “Faith vs. Fact” and Stephen Barr, President of the Society of Catholic Scientists  [JAC: he’s also a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware] about whether science and religion are compatible or mutually exclusive.

Barr (whose segment begins at 15:55) espouses many of the familiar arguments: many famous scientists were religious; many scientists are still religious; Catholic priests like Mendel were scientists (he was a monk); religion “answers some questions that science doesn’t” (e.g., why are we here, how we should live), and so on. He claims that, unlike science, religion can explain why there is a Universe and why it’s orderly and obeys physical laws that can be expressed with mathematics. His answer, of course, is that there is a “Mind” behind it all, and by that he means the Catholic god.

That’s the God of the Gaps argument, which is just an argument from ignorance: “We don’t know, ergo Catholicism.” He even maintains that compatibility comes from seeing that the same motivation underlies science and religion: a desire to understand the universe and a confidence that it makes sense. But he doesn’t mention that scientific explanations can be tested, while religion’s attempts to “make sense” involve simply making stuff up, and differ from one religion to the next.

Barr finally brings up Dawkins (i.e., Satan) as an example of an aggressive, arrogant, and disrespectful atheist scientist who asserts that a person can’t be a believer and a scientist at the same time. I don’t think either Richard or I maintain that view: we argue that religious scientists aren’t coherent in how they deal with evidence. If you apportion your beliefs in accordance with the strength of the empirical evidence supporting them, then a religious attitude is clearly at odds with a scientific one. As I always say, in science faith is a vice, while in religion it’s a virtue.

Of course there can be religious scientists: that’s a matter of simple fact. But many are deeply inconsistent in how they approach life. In the end, Barr’s argument for compatibility boils down not to evidence, but to the fact that there were and are people who are both religious and scientists. And that’s not compatibility, but coexistence. 

I wish Pantaleo had asked Barr what the evidence was for the truth of Barr’s Catholic beliefs, but of course that’s confrontational, and the interviewer wished to avoid hardball questions.

Click on the screenshot to hear the two viewpoints:

Rick Pantaleo, the nice man who interviewed me, adds this:

Along with being broadcast multiple times on VOA’s radio network throughout this weekend, the program will also be available via several online audio streams (including iTunes).

The Society of Catholic Scientists is apparently new, or at least they’ve just had their first conference. Stephen Barr announces it here, with a poster. See anything interesting?

One of the speakers was biologist Kenneth Miller (not a member of the Society, though he’s considering it), and Forbes wrote this about his take on the society:

But two of the highlighted speakers of the conference were indeed quite well known Catholic scientists: Kenneth R. Miller, the Brown University biologist who became nationally known for his defence of evolution against creationists, especially during the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2005.

The co-author of the best selling high school biology textbook in the country, Miller was present to receive the first St. Albert Award from the Society, in honor of St. Albert the Great, who is considered the patron saint of science in the Catholic Church.

Miller actually had been invited to speak at the March for Science, which was taking place in cities all over the country at the same time as the conference.  “And I would actually be speaking at the one in Providence, if I was at home in Rhode Island,” he said. “Because I was invited to do so.”

But one of the things that motivated that march, he told me, is the sense of disaffection from popular support that the scientific community feels.

“And I think part of that disaffection is the sense that science is in fact anti-religious,” he said. “That science promotes an absolute secularist agenda. I think that harms the reputation of science in the eyes of the public. And I think an organization like the Society here can go a long way towards healing it. So, I think this organization is a good thing.”

 I doubt it: not so long as Catholicism perpetuates antiscientific views like the existence of souls, of Resurrections, and of the literal ancestry of all humans from Adam and Eve. And not so long as they privilege faith over reason and base their religion on unsubstantiated fairy tales. In fact, the methods and outcomes of science have been secular as a matter not of principle, but of practice; so if that’s what Miller means by science having a “secular agenda,” he’s right. If he means that science leads to a lack of religious belief, well, that’s also true—or so I argue in Faith Versus Fact—but most scientists don’t promote atheism as a deliberate agenda.

Caturday felid trifecta: Lego cats, cat dictionary, Ikea ad with “lion man”

Bored Panda shows some nice cats made out of Lego blocks. You can even order the blocks and an assembly kit. Here a few pictures and some information if you want to order a kit, which you can do here.

If Lego and cats are among your favorite things in this world, now you can order a playful statue made of ‘Legos’ to liven up even the dullest office space or a living room. Hong-Kong-based company JEKCA offers mini Lego sculptures for ‘kidults’ that come around 1.6 ft each – and their variety will surprise even the pickiest of customers.

While JEKCA doesn’t differentiate between cat breeds, you can order your ‘Lego’ feline in different positions and various colors.

A single Lego statue will cost you around $66 and you assemble the building blocks with the kits provided yourself. “These cats are like real sculptures and will not collapse or break apart,” JKCA writes on their Facebook page.


Here’s a tw**t that tells you how to decipher cat language:


Finally, here’s an Ikea “Lion Man” ad contributed by reader Michael. His notes:

Here’s the latest IKEA ad with a dad dressed up in Lion costume, waiting for the kids to arrive for a birthday party.A Caturday candidate.

Lots of details to grok in one minute: The wooden giraffes, his book ~ “Purrfect Relaxation: Release Your Inner Beast”, his appreciative drink of ‘blood’ juice from a tumbler, using his tail as a bookmark, Serengeti impala dream, the yellow bone-shaped balloon at 0:52. Mum in the right corner letting him do the work for a change. The music is from Desert Island Discs, by the way.

What did I miss?

h/t: Taskin, Grania

Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader John Conoboy sent some photos from Africa; his notes are indented:

Here are a few pics from Tanzania.

Giraffes (I think this is a Maasai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) and African bush elephants (Loxodonta africana), are, of course, very  common to see. It is amazing how close you can get to them, although our guide was very good about keeping far enough away so as not to disturb the animals. It is obvious, once you visit, that it is so easy to get close to these beautiful animals that people who go on trophy hunts, such as the Trump spawn or “restaurant” owner Jimmy John Liautad, do not deserve being called “sportsmen” as there is no sport involved. All you have to do is drive up relatively close to these mostly passive animals and blast away. There is no challenge at all in hunting almost all of the African wildlife including the predators like lions, cheetahs, etc.  The argument that these people help conservation of the animals because they pay big fees for the hunts is bogus. If they really cared about the animals they could just donate the money to help conserve them. The collective noun for a group of giraffes is a tower and for elephants it is a herd (how dull) or, better yet, a memory.


We happened upon a large group of banded mongooses (Mungos mungo) scampering around. Apparently, there is no collective noun for a group of mongooses. We also saw a dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula), but it did not stick around long enough for pictures.

The black backed  jackal (Canis mesomelas) was not a common sighting and we were lucky to see this guy just hanging out.

Finally, a non-wildlife photo, but part of the safari experience. We visited what was ostensibly a traditional Maasai village. I am not totally sure what to make of this, as it appears that this village exists primarily for the purpose of tourist visits, as many groups of tourists were arriving as we visited. We were told by the travel agent to bring some school supplies to donate to the village school, so we did. We were met by a large group from the village who performed for us and invited us to join in. We threw spears, they showed us how to make a fire, and we visited the school and taught the kids how to do the hokey pokey, and went into one of their houses. We then had the opportunity to buy various locally made jewelry and other items and were asked if we wanted to make any additional donation to the school. I felt a bit uncomfortable about all this, but at the same time the people were so nice to us and it was clear that they have come up with a way to try to make some money from the tourist trade. So good for them; I do not regret buying some souvenirs and donating some money. For years, I always thought that the Maasai people were very tall, so I was amazed to find that they were almost all about my height (5’7″).