Kurtis Blow: America


This came out in 1985 but never charted. It does not even have proper lyrics online.

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Don’t you love America, my favourite country?
Don’t you love America, land of democracy?

Don’t you love America, my favourite country?
Don’t you love America, land of democracy?

Well, from California to the coast of Maine
From the days of pickin’ cotton and sugar cane
From the mountain tops to the rolling hills
Baseball, hot dogs and all the cheap thrills
There’s New York City and Kalamazoo
White, black, red, yellow and of course the Jews
Democracy is the land of the free
But we’re all gonna die if there’s a World War III

Lebanon, Beirut, Iraq and Iran
Arabians, Russians don’t like Americans
Revolutionary terrorists swarm like bees
Take American hostages across the seas
But how long Reagan go for that?
Before he really gets mad and then he goes for a bat?

Yes I’m talking World War III!
Destruction! The end of you and me!

Can we solve .. peace?

Can we solve .. love?




Brexit (2016- ) is the name for Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU). Long talked about, it became more than talk on June 23rd 2016 when 52% of Britain voted in favour of leaving the EU.

Britain will likely sink into recession, which could spread to Europe, if not China and the US, throwing people out of work. Stock markets are already down across the world.

Scotland, where most people wanted to remain in the EU, could break away and become an independent nation, as it almost did in 2014.

David Cameron, the British prime minister since 2010, has already said he will step down. Even though most of his fellow Tories were for Brexit, he was against it, making him not the man to carry it out. Britain will likely have a new prime minister by August.

The exit could well take two to seven years to complete: Britain will have to hammer out new agreements with the EU, particularly on trade. It could get ugly: France and Germany will want to make an example of it so that other countries think twice before leaving. Only one country had left so far: Greenland in 1982. Greece, though, has come close – called the Grexit.


The EU: Britain joined the EU in 1973, then known as the European Economic Community (EEC). The EU is made up of nearly all the countries of Western Europe and many in Eastern Europe. Most share a common currency, the euro. They share a common market where trade, money and people can flow more freely between countries. It has not so far been able to create a common military, though it seems to have something of a foreign policy.

Britain does not use the euro – it still has the pound – but it is part of the common market.

The main arguments for and against Brexit turned on the effects of the common market:

  • Trade: If Britain leaves the EU, free trade with Europe will end. Not only will trade drop and prices and unemployment go up, but countries like Japan and the US will have less reason to put their money into Britain as a way to enter the European market.
  • Immigration: If Britain leaves the EU, it will be able to control its borders and stop hundreds of thousands of people from pouring into the country every year.

Brexit was heavily favoured by the English working class, to whom the disadvantages of immigration would be more apparent than the advantages of free trade.

It was immigration that gave rise to the nativist UK Independence Party (UKIP), led by Nigel Farage, a Brexit champion. He is a nativist and a liar like Donald Trump, but less extreme.

The Tories promised to get immigration under 100,000 a year. Cameron failed to achieve that through EU reforms. Leaving the EU was the only way to do it. By 2015 there were enough Tories in parliament to push through a nationwide vote on Brexit, which at long last took place on the 23rd.

– Abagond, 2016.

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Caesar Goodson

caesar-goodson-mugshotCaesar Goodson, Jr (c. 1970- ) is one of the six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. He was the driver who last year gave Gray what is widely believed to have been a “rough ride” that broke his neck. Gray died a week later, leading to riots.

On June 23rd 2016 Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams cleared him of all charges:

  1. Second degree depraved heart murder (30 yrs.)
  2. Manslaughter (involuntary) (10 yrs.)
  3. Assault/second degree (10 yrs.)
  4. Manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence) (10 yrs.)
  5. Manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) (3 yrs.)
  6. Misconduct in office

He is the only officer to face a murder charge. Three others face manslaughter charges.



Rough ride: The common belief is that when Gray was put in the back of the police van, Goodson purposely failed to put on Gray’s seat belt. Goodson then took the long way round back to the police station, making many sharp turns and sudden stops. Since Gray’s hands and feet were bound, he could not protect his head or body. The police do this to suspects who try to run, as Gray did.


Judge Williams, though, thought it was just a “mistake”:

“The state had a duty to show the defendant corruptly failed in his duty, not just that he made a mistake.”

“This injury manifested itself internally. … If the doctors are not clear as to what would be happening at this point in time, how would the average person or officer without medical training know?”

Buying into the plausible deniability – oops! – of a rough ride.

Goodson wisely avoided a jury trial. Juries can get “emotional” about police killings. Judges, on the other hand, protect the police.

Over the past ten years nearly 10,000 people have been killed by police in the US – yet only four officers have been found guilty of charges that a higher court did not overturn. Thus “the process”.

Goodson still faces a (secret) administrative review and a possible civil rights trial in federal court.


The mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who had the National Guard on standby, said after the decision came down:

“I am proud that we as a community have come together to move our city forward over the past year. I know that the citizens of Baltimore will continue to respect the judicial process and the ruling of the court.”

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The governor, Larry Hogan, said he:

“continues to respect the legal process, as well as the court’s decision.”

But not everyone had faith in “the process”:


The Baltimore NAACP president Tessa Hill-Aston said:

“We have to go back to the drawing board here in Baltimore and Maryland with rules and regulations and laws that affect the police behavior, because it’s clear that they can do action that we feel is not correct, but in the courtroom … is not a criminal act.”


Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson said it is:

“a reminder that the current laws, policies and practices protect police behavior at all costs.”

Citizen Troy Clay said:

“It’s like the law don’t matter to them.”

– Abagond, 2016.

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Islamic calendar


The Islamic calendar (639- ) or Hijra calendar is the one Muslims use for religious purposes. Unlike the Gregorian calendar in the West, it follows the moon, not the sun. That makes it terrible for farmers, so it has not caught on much beyond religious uses, though the Saudi Arabian government uses it and you do see it in historical writing. It comes from the old Arab calendar.

Today on different calendars:

  • Islamic: Ramadan 17th 1437
  • Gregorian: June 23rd 2016
  • Byzantine: June 10th 7523
  • Alexandrian: June 10th 7507
  • Hebrew: Sivan 17th 5776
  • Mayan: (3 Tzec 10 Ahau)
  • Discordian: Confusion 28th 3182

Some will tell you today is the 18th of Ramadan. More on that below.

The day begins at sunset. Some determine that as the moment when you can no longer see the difference between a black thread and a white thread.

The week is made up of seven days:

  1. al-Ahad
  2. al-Ithnayn
  3. ath-Thulatha
  4. al-Arba’a
  5. al-Khamis
  6. al-Jum’ah – day of rest for many Muslims
  7. as-Sabt – same day as the Jewish Sabbath

The month is 29 to 30 days long. The 12 months are:

  1. Muharram – the 10th is Ashura (a big Shia holiday)
  2. Safar
  3. Rabi al-Awwal – the 12th is the Prophet’s birthday (Sunni)
  4. Rabi ath-Thani
  5. Jumada al-Ula
  6. Jumada al-Akhirah
  7. Rajab
  8. Sha’ban
  9. Ramadan – the month of fasting
  10. Shawwal – the 1st is Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that breaks the fast.
  11. Dhu al-Qa’dah
  12. Dhu al-Hijjah – the month for the pilgrimage to Mecca

The month starts at the first crescent moon after sunset. There are different ways to determine that:

  1. A sighting by an authorized mosque. If not sighted after 29 days, due to weather or whatever, the new month will begin a day later.
  2. Astronomical calculations (which have headaches of their own).
  3. Using months with a set number of days, using an occasional leap day to keep it in line with the moon.

That means not all Muslims are necessarily on the same day, not even within the same time zone.

The year averages about 354 days, so Muslim holidays come about 11 days earlier each year on the Gregorian calendar.

The era: Years are marked with هـ in Arabic or AH in English. AH stands for Anno Hegirae, which is Latin for “in the year of the Hegira” – when Muhammad fled from Mecca to Medina. On the Gregorian calendar that took place in AD 622.

To convert between AD and AH you cannot simply add or subtract 622. That is because Islamic years are shorter. So you do it this way:

AH = 1.030684 x (AD − 621.5643)

AD = 0.970229 x AH + 621.5643

The year 20,875 will be the same on both calendars.

Sample years:

  • 1 AH: Hegira
  • 92 AH: the Arab Empire reaches Spain
  • 145 AH: Baghdad founded
  • 492 AH: Jerusalem falls to the Crusaders
  • 548 AH: The world map of al-Idrisi
  • 656 AH: Fall of Baghdad to the Mongols
  • 726 AH: ibn Batuta in Alexandria
  • 897 AH: Columbus lands in the Americas
  • 899 AH: Babur becomes king.
  • 971 AH: Shakespeare born
  • 1190 AH: US born
  • 1422 AH: 9/11
  • 1424 AH: Fall of Baghdad to the Americans
  • 1437 AH: I write this blog post.

On the Islamic calendar, 9/11 was on 6/22.

– Abagond, 2016.

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Know-Nothing Party


The American Party (1849-1860), formerly known as the Supreme Order of the Star-Spangled Banner, better known as the Know-Nothing Party, saw Irish Catholic immigrants as a grave threat to the US – like how Donald Trump sees Mexicans and Muslims. They were nativists.

Catholics were a threat to American values. They:

  • Did not practise or value democracy in their home countries.
  • Were loyal to the pope.
  • Drank liquor.
  • Partied on the Sabbath.
  • Had sex all the time, especially in churches and convents.
  • Held nuns in convents against their will.

These views were informed in part by Maria Monk, who wrote the best-selling book of 1835: “Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk: The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed”. All made up.

Also in 1835 Samuel F. B. Morse, he of the Morse code, warned that Catholic kings and Jesuits were sending:

“shiploads of Roman Catholic emigrants, and for the sole purpose of converting us to the religion of Popery.”

Lyman Beecher, whose daughter would later write “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, gave anti-Catholic sermons which led to a wave of church burnings in New England and the Midwest.

In 1844 an anti-Catholic riot in Philadelphia went on for three days, burning down churches and houses, killing 13.


Philadelphia, 1844.

Then in 1845 the Irish Potato Famine hit.

Over a million Irish immigrants fled to the US. Most had no money, no education. Nearly all were Catholic.

The Irish were seen as bringing crime, taking jobs and lowering wages. They were stereotyped as poor, lazy, drunk and violent. Ralph Waldo Emerson did not even think they were Caucasian, seeing them as little better than American Indians, Africans or the Chinese.

Out of all this came the Know-Nothings. In Washington and Baltimore they beat up voters who opposed them. In Cincinnati they tried to lynch a papal envoy. In Louisville a priest reported that election violence led to:

“a reign of terror surpassed only by the Philadelphia riots. Nearly one hundred poor Irish have been butchered or burned and some twenty houses have been consumed in the flames.”

Elections: In the early to middle 1850s Know-Nothings became governors of New York, Massachusetts and several other states. They became mayors of Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. They won dozens of seats in Congress. They gained control of the House of Representatives by joining forces with another new party: the Republicans. In 1856 their man for president, Millard Fillmore, won a fifth of the vote.

Abe Lincoln:

“As a nation we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it: ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.‘ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.'”

Policies: liquor laws, convent inspections, anti-corruption measures, barring the foreign-born from voting or taking office, a wait period of 21 years to become a naturalized citizen, etc. But once in power they were quickly torn apart by disagreements over slavery.

A generation later the Irish were seeking to ban the Chinese.

– Abagond, 2016.

Source: mainly “The History of White People” (2010) by Nell Irvin Painter.

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Vulgar Latin


Vulgar Latin (-200 to 800) was the Latin that ordinary people spoke during Roman times and for several hundred years afterwards. It died out in Britain and Roman Africa, but elsewhere it turned into the Romance languages, among them:


Classical Latin, the kind you see in books, is a literary dialect. It has changed little in the past 2,000 years. Vulgar Latin, meanwhile, never stopped changing: changing words, changing pronunciation, changing grammar.

In 476 Rome fell. Travel and education became the exception. Few had any reason to travel beyond the nearby market town. Few could read. That meant the Latin of each town was now changing independently of written Latin and faraway towns.

By the 600s Classical Latin was becoming a foreign language: those who could read started writing notes in the margin, like that saniore meant plus sano (healthier) or that ore meant bucca (mouth).

By the 800s Vulgar Latin was breaking apart into separate languages. Priests stopped giving sermons in Classical Latin because most could no longer understand it.


After 1066 even English was affected. English does not come from Vulgar Latin, but, mainly because of the Norman French Conquest, it has come to share some of its features:

  1. Soft c and g before e and i, like in the words conceive and giant.
  2. Silent h at the beginning of words like in hour and honour.
  3. Grammar: use of word order, prepositions and auxiliary verbs (especially have and be) in place of word endings.
  4. Words: more than a fourth of English words come from Vulgar Latin, mostly by way of French between 1200 and 1400.

Words from Vulgar Latin, listed by when they entered English:

  • by 1000s:
    • beer: probably from biber, “a drink, beverage”.
    • kitchen:*cocina.
    • priest: *prester.
    • mass*messa, “eucharistic service,” literally “dismissal”, probably from the last word at mass.
    • pear: *pera.
    • plum: *pruna.
  • 1100s:
  • 1200s:
    • use: *usare.
    • mountain: *montanea.
    • beast: *besta.
    • piece: *pettia.
    • destroy: *destrugere.
    • merchant: *mercatantem.
    • fool: probably from follis, “bellows; windbag, empty-headed person.”
    • river: from *riparia, “riverbank, seashore, river”.
    • arrive: from *arripare, “to touch the shore”.
    • country: *(terra) contrata, “(land) lying opposite,” or “(land) spread before one”, from contra, “opposite, against”.
    • age: *aetaticum.
    • language: *linguaticum.
    • round*retundus, “like a wheel, circular, round”.
    • piss*pissiare.
  • 1300s:
    • cherry*ceresia.
    • giant: *gagantem.
    • certain: *certanus.
    • beauty:  bellitatem.
    • sudden: *subitanus.
    • tremble: *tremulare.
    • outrage: from *ultraticum. “excess”, from ultra, “beyond”.
    • prune:  from *pruna, “plum”.
    • escape: from *excappare, “get out of one’s cape, leave a pursuer with just one’s cape.”
    • achieve: from *accapare, “come to a head”.
    • chance: from *cadentia, “that which falls out” while playing dice.
    • ancient: from *anteanus, “from before” the fall of Rome.
  • 1400s:
    • disobedience*disobedientia. Classical Latin used inobedientia.
    • mock: perhaps from *muccare, “to blow the nose” (as a derisive gesture), from the word mucus.
  • 1500s:
    • career: from *(via) cararia, “carriage (road), track for wheeled vehicles.”
  • 1600s:
    • brilliant: perhaps from *berillare, “to shine like a beryl” stone.
  • 1700s:
  • 1800s:
  • 1900s:
  • 2000s:

(* = word reconstructed by linguists.)

– Abagond, 2016.

Sources: Mainly Online Etymology Dictionary (2016); “Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin” (2007) by Nicholas Ostler; “A Natural History of Latin” (2004) by Tore Janson.

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This went to #33 on the British pop charts in 1996, not as big as “Keep on Jumpin” from earlier that year. Hard to believe that it is already 20 years ago.

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Do that to me right now
Do that to me right now
Do that to me right now now now now now now
Do that to me right now now now now now now now
Do that to me right now now now now now now now
Do that to me right now now now now now now now
Do that to me right now
Do that to me right now
Do that to me right now
Do that to me right now now now now now now now
Do that to me right now
Do that to me right now
Do that to me right now
Do that to me right now

Ma ma ko, ma ma sa, ma ko sa
Ma ma ko, ma ma sa, ma ko sa
Ma ma ko, ma ma sa, ma ko sa
Ma ma ko, ma ma sa, ma ko sa


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