This song came out in Egypt in -1400. As far as I know, it never charted, but the notation for it made it into a banquet scene and was reconstructed by scholars. It is played on a lyre whose musical scale was taken from an Ancient Egyptian flute that is still playable.

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The Trump dossier


The Trump dossier (2016) – hashtag #GoldenShowerGate – was put together by a former British spy in 2016 and made public by BuzzFeed earlier this week. In 35 pages it outlines Russia’s relationship with Donald Trump, its operation to get him elected US president (WikiLeaks was part of it), and the blackmail it holds over his head. Trump won the election and becomes president next week.

Russia says the dossier is a “hoax”.

Donald Trump tweeted:


and used Russia to back his claim:

“Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is “A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.” Very unfair!”

It was paid for by Trump’s opponents, he is right about that. It was opposition research paid for first by supporters of Jeb Bush and then by Democrats.

But it is unlikely to be a hoax. The spy in question is believed to be Christopher Steele, now in hiding. He is well-regarded by both British and US intelligence. Which is presumably why US intelligence thought it important enough to bring to the attention of the president, the president-elect and top lawmakers – even though it was unverified raw intelligence.

The FBI and some in the US press have known about the dossier since before the election, but said little about it. They say it is because they could not tell how true it was. A courtesy they did not extend to Hillary Clinton when it came to WikiLeaks or Anthony Weiner’s computer.

Some of what it says:

  1. “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions within the western alliance.”
  2. Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.”
  3. Russia has compromising information with which it can blackmail Trump, notably a golden shower sex tape of Trump with some call girls. It also has compromising information on Hillary Clinton: phone calls where she opposes her stated public positions.
  4. Putin wanted both Trump and Clinton to oppose the TPP trade deal. Both did.
  5. Putin hates and fears Hillary Clinton.
  6. Putin was behind the DNC hack and the John Podesta emails that appeared on WikiLeaks.
  7. Trump spies for Putin on Russian oligarchs in the US.
  8. Trump and Putin were surprised by the backlash in the US when people began to suspect Russian meddling in the election.
  9. Trump does not mind if the US press looks into his business ties with Russia – there is not much there and it draws attention away from huge bribes and kickbacks in China and elsewhere. His business ties with Russia lie mainly in the future:
  10. Trump, by way of Carter Page, promised to drop sanctions against Russia in exchange for “up to a 19 per cent (privatized) stake” in Rosneft, the state oil company.

Trump has been acting strangely about Putin and Russia, and the dossier makes sense of that – but maybe too well.

– Abagond, 2017.

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Donald Trump wants to make Jeff Sessions the head of the Department of Justice (DOJ). In 1986 when President Reagan wanted to make him a top judge in Alabama, Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr, opposed it, writing a nine-page letter to the Senate:

“Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.”

Here is some of what she said in the letter:

“The Voting Rights Act was, and still is, vitally important to the future of democracy in the United States. I was privileged to join Martin and many others during the Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights in 1965.”

Part of what had come out of that march, besides the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was the Perry County Civic League. They used absentee ballots to effect, something Whites had been doing for years. In 1984 Sessions called it voter fraud and used the power of his office to go after its leadership. He had the FBI show up at the doors of older Blacks who had voted, frightening them out of voting:

“doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods.”

Sessions went after absentee ballots in Black-majority counties, not White ones.

“Free exercise of voting rights is so fundamental to American democracy that we can not tolerate any form of infringement of those rights. Of all the groups who have been disenfranchised in our nation’s history, none has struggled longer nor suffered more in the attempt to win the vote than Black citizens. No group has had access to the ballot box denied so persistently and intently. Over the past century, a broad array of schemes have been used in attempts to block the Black vote.”

These days it is called voter suppression. It is no small matter:

“The exercise of the franchise is an essential means by which our citizens ensure that those who are governing will be responsible. My husband called it the number one civil right. The denial of access to the ballot box ultimately results in the denial of other fundamental rights.”

Which is just what unfolded under Jim Crow.

“If we are going to make our timeless dream of justice through democracy a reality, we must take every possible step to ensure that the spirit and intent of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution is honored.”

The DOJ that Trump wants to put Sessions in charge of is the very government department in charge of upholding the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – putting the fox in charge of the hen house.


– Abagond, 2018.

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Authors or titles with links have posts of their own:

1. Those that I have actually read:

  • Mortimer Adler & Charles Van Doren: How to Read a Book (1972)  – I wish I had read this before I went to university.
  • Aristotle: Complete Works (-322) – taught me how to think and how to read long books, like:
  • The Bible (367) – I had read bits and pieces, but the Bible made more sense once I read it all the way through. The West made more sense too.
  • George Orwell: 1984 (1949) – For years I did not read this because it was such a downer. The older I get, the more right Orwell seems.
  • Beverly Tatum: Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (2003) – made sense of so much of what I have gone through.
  • Tolkien: The Hobbit (1937), Lord of the Rings (1955) – when I was 12 this girl in art class told me I should read “The Hobbit”. I still remember the green and blue cover of her book (pictured above). She went on and on about it. She was right. But only years later did I find that out. A lesson learned late: when someone whose judgement I trust recommends a book, I should at least give it a try. So:

2. Recommended:

  • Livy: Ab Urbe Condita (-9) – recommended by Machiavelli.
  • Boethius: Consolation of the Philosophy (523) – recommended by C.S. Lewis.
  • Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice (1813) – recommended by my sister and Winston Churchill.
  • Frantz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth (1961) – recommended by a friend at university.
  • The books of 2013 that I have not read yet.
  • Chancellor Williams: The Destruction of Black Civilization (1974) – recommended by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I only know African history in bits and pieces, so this book also belongs on the next list:

3. A hole in my education:

  • William H. McNeill: Rise of the West (1991) – I have read half of this. It is the closest thing I know to a demographically balanced world history, even though it is plainly Eurocentric (but at least it knows it).
  • Iris Chang: The Chinese in America (2003) – I have read parts of this.
  • Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (2014) – I have read parts of this.
  • A history of India
  • A history of Egypt – from prehistory to present. I only know bits and pieces.

4. What I have read of it seems good:

  • Eduardo Galeano: Open Veins of Latin America (1973) – Latin American colonialism.
  • Isaac Asimov: Asimov’s New Guide to Science (1985) – now 30 years out of date, but holds up better than you would think.
  • Nell Irvin Painter: Creating Black Americans (2006) – a good overview of US Black history from 1619 to 2006.

5. I cannot believe I have not read these yet:

  • Shakespeare: Complete Plays (1614) – I have read some plays but not all, which is kind of nuts for an English-speaking person who loves to read.
  • W.E.B. Du Bois: Souls of Black Folk (1903)

6. Other:

  • Xenophon: Hellenika (-354) – the sequel to Thucydides, which I loved.
  • al-Idrisi: Entertainment (1154)
  • Marco Polo: Marvels (c. 1300)
  • Ibn Batuta: Travels (1369)
  • Leonardo: Notebooks (1519) – I have an abridged version, but even that would be better than nothing!

– Abagond, 2017.

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This song came out in 2016, but sounds like it could have been any year since 1989. It still reminds me of 2016, though, since I heard it so much then. It is so generic that I was surprised it was Rihanna singing it. To be fair, Harris did manipulate her voice – so much so that NME called it “surprisingly soulless”. That did not stop it from reaching the top ten on the pop charts in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the US.

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Baby, this is what you came for
Lightning strikes every time she moves
And everybody’s watching her
But she’s looking at you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, oh, oh

Baby, this is what you came for
Lightning strikes every time she moves
And everybody’s watching her
But she’s looking at you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, oh, oh

We go fast with the game we play
Who knows why it’s gotta be this way
We say nothing more than we need
I say, “Your place,” when we leave

Baby, this is what you came for
Lightning strikes every time she moves
And everybody’s watching her
But she’s looking at you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, oh, oh

Baby, this is what you came for
Lightning strikes every time she moves

Baby, this is what you came for
Lightning strikes every time she moves
And everybody’s watching her
But she’s looking at you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh
You, oh, oh, oh, oh



Eastern Orthodox Christmas (January 7th), or the Feast of the Nativity, is the holiday that marks the birth of Jesus Christ, of the Christian god made flesh.

It is much like Christmas in the West – Christmas trees, gift-giving, feasting, special food, song and church services, a Father Christmas figure, etc. The main difference is the date and the fasting that leads up to it.

Dates (on the Gregorian calendar):

  • December 25th: Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, US.
  • January 7th: Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova and Montenegro.

Other eastern Christians, not just the Eastern Orthodox, also observe Christmas on January 7th: those in Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea and many in the Arab world.


Where Christmas is celebrated on January 7th. Click to go to the interactive map at the Telegraph to find out more about each country.

Why January 7th? Because those churches still use the old Julian calendar to set religious holidays, not the Gregorian calendar used by Catholics and Protestants. January 7th on the Gregorian calendar is December 25th on the Julian calendar (from 1900 to 2099).

Julian calendar: The Julian calendar is the Roman calendar as reformed by Julius Caesar. Under the Roman Empire it became the calendar used by Christian churches.

Gregorian calendar: By 1582 the Julian calendar had fallen 11 days behind the sun. Easter was falling too late in the spring. Pope Gregory XIII, with some help from Copernicus, reformed it giving us the Gregorian calendar. It became the calendar of Catholics in the 1500s, of Protestants by the 1700s (which is why George Washington has two birthdays) and of most governments worldwide by the 1900s. But not most eastern churches. In the meantime the Julian calendar has fallen 13 days behind. In 2100 will be 14 days behind.

Fasting: instead of partying, the Eastern Orthodox church recommends fasting, prayer and acts of charity as the best way to prepare one’s mind, body and soul for the day of Christ’s birth. That means not eating meat and certain other foods for the 40 days before Christmas, especially on the day of Christmas Eve till the stars come out at night. Then it is time to feast and sing Christmas carols!

The celebration can last up to three days:

  • January 6th: Christmas Eve, celebrating the Birth of Christ and the Adoration of the Shepherds.
  • January 7th: Christmas: celebrating the Adoration of the Magi.
  • January 8th: Feast of the Theotokos, Mary as the Mother of God.

And then, on the 12th day of Christmas, is Theophany or the Baptism of Christ, called Epiphany in the West. In Armenia it is bigger than Christmas.

In Greece, Easter is a bigger holiday than Christmas.

In Russia, the world’s biggest Eastern Orthodox country, New Year’s is a bigger deal than Christmas. That is because godless communists had outlawed Christmas from 1917 to 1990. Those who celebrated it did so in secret – it was no longer a big public holiday. Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter Snow Maiden (pictured below), who used to give gifts to children on Christmas, moved their activities to New Year’s. So did many others. Christmas has since made a comeback, but New Year’s is stil the bigger holiday.


– Abagond, 2017.

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Black Americans


Malcolm X, a Black American leader.

Black Americans (1619- ) are the people in the US who look at least part African (the One Drop Rule). Most came as slaves. The ideas that made that seem right and good are still very much alive. As the United Nations noted in 2016:

“there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent. Contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching.”

Demographics: US Blacks make up at least 13% of the US, 22% of the African Diaspora and 4% of all Black people worldwide. I say “at least” because many Blacks in the US who were born in Africa or the Caribbean mark “Some Other Race” on the US census.

Migration: US Blacks have migrated to the northern US (the Great Migration), Liberia (Americo-Liberians), Sierra Leone, Canada, Mexico, Trinidad, Haiti and elsewhere.

Genetically, Blacks in the south-western US are 92% African and 7% European (according to National Geographic in 2017).

Culturally, as Khalid Muhummad puts it:

“Have you forgotten that once we were brought here, we were robbed of our name, robbed of our language. We lost our religion, our culture, our god … and many of us, by the way we act, we even lost our minds.”

Most have become English-speaking Christians, but some Africanisms do survive.

Colonization: Blacks are, in effect, an inner colony of the US, one that lives under violent White rule and provides cheap labour. Blacks do not control their own schools, police departments, courts, labour and housing markets, etc. No surprise Blacks suffer internalized racism and, according to the UN’s 2012 numbers, have a quality of life worse than Brazil’s (HDI = 0.70).

Black history (in 200 words or less):

  1. Slave times (1619-1865) – by 1700 slavery is tied to being born Black. Self-serving stereotypes duly follow that last down to this day: Blacks as lazy, unintelligent, criminal, etc. Slave uprisings are met with slave patrols, which lay the groundwork for the Klan – and present-day policing. The wealth of the nation is built on Dead Indian Land and the Backs of Black People. About 10% of Blacks are free.
  2. Emancipation and Reconstruction (1865-77) – Black slaves are freed and given the full rights of US citizenship – but not 16 hectares and a mule. But even that proved too much for White people:
  3. Jim Crow (1877-1967) – Blacks are kept apart and at the bottom of US society by law – and by Klan terror and lynchings when necessary. Leads to the Great Migration.
  4. Civil Rights Movement (1955-68) – Jim Crow laws overturned through protests, like Selma and the Freedom Rides. The rise of Black Power. The US government’s Cointelpro kills, imprisons or drives into exile Black leaders seen by Whites as too dangerous.
  5. The New Jim Crow (1969- ) – Blacks are sent to prison in unheard of numbers through draconian drug laws and racial profiling by police. Blacks lose half their wealth in the Great Black Depression (2007- ). In the wake of the Ferguson riot, a new protest movement is born: Black Lives Matter.

It is two steps forward, one step back.

– Abagond, 2017.

Update (January 9th): Used more up to date numbers from National Geographic for Black genetic ancestry, which, using different groupings, puts it at 92% African, 7% European.

Sources: National Geographic (2017), among others.

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