This came out in 1985. I doubt it ever charted or got much beyond New York. A bit of it is on an old tape of mine, that is all I thought I would ever have of it, but then a dating website became the musical attic of the nation! Who saw that coming?

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A guest post by Kiwi:

Note: This post builds on Abagond’s posts on “rootedness” and “counter-frames” and is also based on anthropologist John Ogbu’s work. To fully understand what is said below, read “rootedness” and “counter-frames” first.

In America, racial minorities fall into two groups: “voluntary” and “involuntary”, or what Abagond calls “transplants” and “uprooted”.

Involuntary minorities include Blacks, Natives, some Mexicans (ie: Chicanos), Puerto Ricans, and Native Hawaiians. All were forcibly incorporated into America through conquest, colonialism, or slavery.

Voluntary minorities came to America by choice and trace their immigrant origins to countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Refugees are neither voluntary nor involuntary because while they were forced off their homelands by war, they still chose to come to America.

Whereas voluntary minorities usually join the middle class in one generation through hard work and education, involuntary minorities make up a large share of the permanent underclass and suffer disproportionately from the following social problems:

crime, violence, imprisonment, drugs, gangs, poverty, unemployment, truancy, dropouts, single motherhood, illegitimacy, homelessness, ghettos, low IQ

Why do voluntary and involuntary minorities have such different life outcomes despite members of the same race belonging to both groups?

Here is the causal mechanism:

Frame of reference: Voluntary minorities compare their status in America to their former status in their home countries. Almost always, life was worse back home so their outlook on America is positive. They see America as a land of freedom and opportunity. Involuntary minorities have no other homeland so they compare their status to Whites, which makes their outlook on America negative. They see America as robbing them of freedom and opportunity.

Identity threat: Because voluntary minorities have a positive outlook on America, their identities do not feel threatened by their subordinate status. They trust the system and society’s rules. Involuntary minorities have a negative outlook, so their identities feel threatened by their subordinate status. They distrust the system and society’s rules.

Obedience to authority: Because voluntary minorities do not feel threatened by their subordination, they see society’s norms and values as legitimate and follow the rules. Involuntary minorities feel threatened by their subordination and thus reject society’s norms and values, so they disobey the rules. This often results in maladaptive behaviors that lead to the social problems listed above. This mindset is known as oppositional culture.

Descendants of voluntary minorities become involuntary minorities if they assimilate into an involuntary group of the same race. For example, descendants of Mexican immigrants become Chicanos while descendants of African immigrants become Black Americans. Some involuntary minorities choose to become voluntary by reinterpreting their place in society but this is rare.

While involuntary minorities tend to have strongly antiracist counter-frames due to their distrust of society, voluntary minorities have weak counter-frames due to their trust of society. However, voluntary minorities develop strong counter-frames by their third or fourth generation, even if they have no involuntary group of the same race to assimilate into. An example is Asian Americans.

This phenomenon is largely unconscious but explains the sense of hopelessness in non-immigrant minority communities in contrast to the sense of hope in immigrant minority communities, even when the latter starts off poorer.

Images: FeistyThoughts, Slayerment.

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#MissingDCGirls (2017) trended on Twitter this week. Celebrities, like Taraji P. Henson, Russell Simmons and LL Cool J, tweeted that 14 girls in Washington, DC had gone missing within a single day. It became a top hashtag on Twitter, causing even Fox News to report it.

Last June in New York there were 14 girls missing in the Bronx. Like in the DC case, they all seemed to be Black or Latina.

What is going on? Is there some kind of east coast sex trafficking ring snatching girls off the street? Are they wanted for their organs? What?

As it turns out, both the Bronx and DC cases were an artefact of computers.

In the Bronx case, 11 of the girls were already safe at home: the police had forgotten to update their computers – and the press took the claim at face value.

In the DC case, there never were 14 girls who had disappeared in a single day. That was a rumour spread by Twitter. Instead, the DC police had reported ten cases of missing children since Sunday March 19th. By Friday the 24th, only four were still missing. Even one is one too many, of course, but the numbers have been wildly exaggerated.

The number of missing people in DC has been going down: from 4,531 in 2014, to 3,547 in 2016, to 774 cases so far in 2017, a lower rate than last year.

That “774 cases so far in 2017” sounds horrifying, but most cases are closed within 48 hours. As of March 24th, only 38 of those cases were currently open, six of them girls:

  •   Shaniah Boyd, since 3/18/2017
  •  Chareah Payne, since 3/17/2017
  •  Dashann Wallace, since 3/8/2017
  • Chantese Zimmerman, since 2/16/2017
  •  Demetria Carthens, since 2/7/2017
  • Faith Nelson, since 1/13/2017

All the missing girls so far this year have been runaways, often from domestic abuse. There is, currently, no sex trafficking ring snatching them off the streets.

Over the past ten years in DC there has been no sudden increase in missing children.

What has suddenly increased is the number of tweets by the DC police about missing people. That means they are now finding them more quickly, which is great, but the tweets make it seem like the number of missing people in DC has suddenly gone up – particularly girls since their cases are more likely to be retweeted.

White media: The story has broken through to the White media only because of Twitter. Although the Missing White Woman Syndrome is not as common as it was, say, back in 2004, the press still under-reports missing Black people. Black children account for 33% of the missing, but only 20% of those covered by the press.

Tips from the DC police:

  • Keep a current colour photo of your child and a complete description (height, weight, braces, scars, etc). Dental records are important.
  • If you think you see a missing person, report it to the police, even if you are not sure.
  • If you see a child who should be in school, report it.
  • Do not let a child stay overnight at your house without the parents’ permission.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: mainly the DC police, NBC4 Washington, Ebony, BBC.

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Neil Gorsuch

Neil Gorsuch (1967- ), a US judge, has been named by President Trump to sit on the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court. He must be confirmed by the Senate, which is holding hearings and will likely vote next month.

Since 2006, Gorsuch has sat on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver, Colorado. It covers the western states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma and is one step below the Supreme Court.

In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died, opening up a seat on the Supreme Court. President Obama named Merrick Garland to take his place. Republicans controlled the Senate and would not give Garland a hearing or a vote, hoping a Republican would soon become president and name a judge more to their liking. And so it was.

Gorsuch is pretty much the same as Scalia or Clarence Thomas, so it would not change the court much. Like Scalia, Gorsuch is a texutalist: he believes in the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law. Also like Scalia, he is an inconsistent originalist, reading the constitution according to its original meaning when it suits him. As a rich White man he should be good at that.

Gorsuch favours business in most cases over workers, customers and government agencies. He does not like to second-guess the police, even when they use excessive force. He is strong on religious liberty, even for Muslims, but narrowly interprets civil rights laws. He did not distance himself from Scalia’s remark that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a “racial entitlement”.

Alphonse Maddin.

Empathy: In one of his most infamous rulings, he sided with a trucking company that fired Alphonse Maddin for disobeying orders when he feared freezing to death. Of the seven judges who heard the case, Gorsuch was the only one who sided with the company. He said he had “empathy” for Maddin – and yet it did not cross his mind to put himself in Maddin’s shoes when making the ruling.

Humanization: Small wonder Senate Republicans have been trying to humanize him during the hearings. At one point Gorsuch noted:

“the family that skis together stays together”

Most families do not have the money to ski together.

(Image: YouTube)

Dark money: Gorsuch seems unconcerned that millions of dollars in “dark money” (money given in secret) are paying for ads pushing the Senate to vote for him. The ads are running in states that Trump won where Democratic senators face re-election in 2018. Gorsuch says forcing the money men to say who they are would “chill” “free speech”.

The NAACP, after reviewing his rulings, opposes his nomination:

“Rather than protect equal rights as enshrined in our Constitution and civil rights laws, Judge Gorsuch’s jurisprudence presents a troubling consistency in key areas of significance to civil rights claimants which, in our view, will adversely affect the ability of racial minorities and others to fully vindicate their rights under our nation’s antidiscrimination laws.”

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: mainly C-SPAN (the Senate hearings), Democracy Now, NAACP, Mother Jones.

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Mary Elizabeth Taylor

Mary Elizabeth Taylor (c. 1989- ) is that Black woman who has been sitting behind Judge Neil Gorsuch during his Senate confirmation hearings for the US Supreme Court. She is the Deputy Director of Nominations at the White House, part of President Trump’s team in charge of getting Gorsuch through the Senate and onto the Supreme Court.

Was she put there because she is Black? Maybe to make Gorsuch seem less racist? Most likely. When the camera pulls back you do not see any other Black people – just her. And yet there she is right behind Gorsuch. Just like how Trump puts Black people behind him at his lily-White rallies. It is not like she is the lead staffer or something. The number one person on her team, former New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, sits farther away from Gorsuch, off-screen. The number two person, Makan Delrahim, has way more experience with confirmation hearings, yet there she is.

At the White House Taylor is part of the legislative affairs unit, which the Obama White House said worked “with senators, representatives, and their staffs to promote the president’s priorities.”

Her boss at the White House is Amy Swonger, a former lobbyist who, like Taylor herself, used to work for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In 2011 Taylor graduated from Bryn Mawr with a political science degree. In the summers she worked as an intern, at the Senate (2006-2009) and at Koch Industries (2010), run by the Koch Brothers, the main moneymen behind the Republican Party.

From 2011 to 2014 she helped to run the Senate cloakroom, becoming one of four Senate Cloakroom Assistants. According to CNN:

“The cloakrooms are off the floor of the House and Senate chambers, and they are similar to what other offices call break rooms. Lawmakers might work on cutting deals in the cloakroom, or they might just kick back and watch television. Each party has its own cloakroom. Floor assistants and cloakroom attendants are among those who work in the rooms. Their duties include alerting lawmakers when votes are coming up, telling them whether the chamber will be open on a snow day and working with pages to deliver messages.”

In 2012 she was a Public Policy Leadership Fellow at The Fund for American Studies (TFAS), a “year-long networking and education program […] designed to develop young leaders with a shared commitment to helping improve public policy,” according to the website. To qualify you “should be committed to the ideals of free markets and limited government.” She is almost certainly a Black Republican.

From the cloakroom she became an aide to Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the most powerful senator in the nation. As aide and as cloakroom assistant she has “developed personal relationships with Republican senators,” according to the Washington Post. That would make her valuable to the White House in its dealings with the Senate.

Even though Twitter has noticed her, it seems the press has not (yet) interviewed her.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: Heavy, Washington Post, CNN, TFAS.

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Attic units

Athenian “owl” or tetradrachm, -400s.

Attic units (fl. -500 to +150) are the units of measure of ancient Athens. You see them in the writings of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch and others.

Note: the metric values given below are approximations, in part because Attic units were not as fixed as metric ones, in part because there is some degree of uncertainty.


  • 1 talent = 60 minae = 25.8 kg
  • 1 mina (pound) = 100 drachmas = 430 g
  • 1 drachma = 6 obols = 4.3 g
  • 1 obol = 0.72 g

Units changed from city to city. In Aegina, for example, a drachma was 6.1 grams, while in Corinth it was only 2.9.

Money: Expressed as weights of silver. Money was not counted but weighed!

Common coins:

  • obol
  • drachma
  • didrachm (= 2 drachmas)
  • tetradrachm (= 4 drachmas)
  • Persian daric or stater (about 25 drachmas)

All these were silver coins except the stater, made of gold. There were bronze coins too for small change.

Costs (middle -400s):

  • 470 talents – to build the Parthenon (all that marble!)
  • 400 talents -yearly income Athens got from taxes and fees.
  • 400 talents – yearly tribute Athens got from its empire.
  • 10 talents – the prize money Herodotus won for his history.
  • 1 talent – the cost to run a warship (trireme) for a month (all those rowers!)
  • 0.5 talents – cost to build a warship.
  • 6 to 8 drachmas – pair of shoes
  • 5 to 20 drachmas – woollen cloak
  • 1 drachma – olive oil, 1.25 L
  • 1 obol – enough barley to feed a family of five for eight days

a day’s pay:

  • 1 drachma – skilled labourer, even the architect of the Parthenon!
  • 2 obols – unskilled labourer.

In the late -400s, wages will triple due to wartime inflation.


  • 1 stade = 600 Attic feet = distance of a foot race = 180 m
  • 1 plethron = 100 feet = 29.6 m
  • 1 fathom = 6 feet = 1.8 m
  • 1 cubit = 1.5 feet = 0.44 m
  • 1 foot = 16 fingers = 0.296 m (English foot = 0.3048 m)
  • 1 finger (dactylos) = 1.8 cm

Liquid volume:

  • 1 amphora = 144 kotyles = 39.39 L
  • 1 kotyle (cup) = 270 mL

Dry volume:

  • 1 medimnos = 48 choinix = 52 L
  • 1 choinix = 1.08 L


Months start on the new moon:

  • summer: Hekatombaion, Metageitnion, Boedromion
  • autumn: Pyanepsion, Maimakterion, Poseideion
  • winter: Gamelion, Anthesterion, Elaphebolion
  • spring: Mounikhion, Thargelion, Skirophorion

Years: Start with the summer. Named after whoever was archon of Athens at the time.

Thucydides understood that most people, outside of Athens and in the future, would have no idea of who was archon of Athens when, so he dates of the start of the war between Athens and Sparta this way:

“The peace, which after the winning of Euboea was concluded for 30 years, lasted 14 years. But in the 15th year, being

  • the 48th of the priesthood of Chrysis in Argos,
  • Aenesias being then ephor at Sparta and
  • Pythadorus, archon of Athens, having then two months of his government to come,
  • in the sixth month after the battle Potidaea and in the beginning of the spring…”

What we would simply call 431 BC, thanks to Christianity becoming a world religion. Notice he does not use Olympiads. That was not yet common.

From there all his dates are in relation to the start of the war: “In the tenth year…”, etc. And, because months were different from city to city, Thucydides generally spoke in terms of seasons:

“The spring following, when corn began to be in the ear…”

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: mainly the appendices of the Landmark editions of Herodotus and Thucydides; “The World of Athens” (1984) by the Joint Association of Classical Teachers at Cambridge University.

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“Pinky” (1949) is a Hollywood film about a light-skinned Black woman who has to make a decision about whether to be Black or White. It stars Jeanne Crain as Pinky, Ethel Waters, and the aging, legendary stage actress Ethel Barrymore (Drew Barrymore’s great aunt). It is based on the book “Quality” (1948) by Cid Ricketts Sumner. Elia Kazan directs.

Commercial and critical success: It was 20th Century Fox’s highest grossing film that year. It was named for three Oscars but did not win any.

Hollywood Whitewashing: Both Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne were interested in playing Pinky, but it went to a White woman, Jeanne Crain. Kazan did not think much of Crain’s acting, but that made her good for the part:

“The only good thing about her was that it went so far in the direction of no temperament that you felt Pinky was floating through all of her experiences without reacting to them, which is what ‘passing’ is.”

Pinky and her boyfriend, who wants her to live as a White woman.

Censorship: It was banned in Marshall, Texas, in part because it showed a White man kissing a Black woman – even though the actress playing the Black woman was White! A cinema in Marshall played the film anyway. It went all the way to the Supreme Court, with the cinema winning on First Amendment (free speech) grounds.

Censored scene: an interracial kiss between White actors!

White racism: Because it was written by White people, I expected the film to play down White racism. Hardly! It showed Whites being nice to Pinky and giving her the benefit of the doubt – until they find out she is Black! Then, suddenly, they change, almost like they have a split personality. There were several scenes like that, with the police, a shopkeeper and some good old boys. Yet when her White boyfriend finds out she is Black – he barely skips a beat! Huh?

Anti-racist messages: The film uses a doctor to argue that racism is not supported by science and a judge to argue that racism makes the US look bad in front of the whole world. It also uses Pinky’s grandmother (Ethel Waters) to counter the stereotype of Blacks as naturally lazy. On the other hand:

Pinky and her grandmother (Ethel Waters), who wants her to be who she truly is, a Black woman.

Mammy stereotype: Ethel Waters is selflessly devoted to an old White woman (Ethel Barrymore), whose ancestors most likely owned her ancestors. But at least Pinky has the good sense to object to it.

Tragic Mulatto stereotype: Because of when it was written, I expected Pinky to be a Tragic Mulatto, torn between the White and Black worlds and finding happiness in neither. It was a common stereotype used to argue against the mixing of the races (“What about the children?”). Instead Pinky finds that passing for White is no way to live: you need to be proud of who you are, which means proud of being Black and owning it.

Overall: Maybe in a few weeks I will come to my senses and this post will make me cringe, but having just seen it, I loved it (though “Skin” (2008) is still tops for me).

– Abagond, 2017.

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