Archive for the ‘stuff’ Category


Amun as he appeared in Egyptian art.

Amun (by the year -2323), also known as Ammon, Amon, Amen, Amen-Re, and Jupiter Ammon, was an Egyptian and Nubian god, the most powerful god in the world from at least -1500 to -1000, back in the time of Moses and Troy. “Powerful” is here measured by the size of the largest active temple.

Amun is the “amen” of “Tutankhamen”, the “ammon” of “ammonia” – but not the “amen” commonly found at the end of prayers in English since the +1200s.

Note: As with much of Ancient Egyptian history, most vowels are guessed at and most dates are approximate.

Karnak: Amun’s main temple was the Temple of Karnak in Thebes (Luxor, Egypt). It has been the largest known religious structure in the world for the past 3,000 some years.

Temple of Karnak.

Amun through the years:

-2323: Amun begins to appear in Egyptian records (Pyramid Text #446), as a local god of Thebes.

-1937: His name begins to appear in those of kings: Amenemhat I.

-1750: He overtakes Montu, the old war god of Thebes, and takes on some of his features, like being a god of victory.

-1539: The kings of Thebes defeat the Hyksos and bring Egypt back together under native rule. To the victors go the spoils of war – and to the god of victory too. With the rise of the Egyptian empire, Amun’s priesthood becomes more and more powerful – while outliving any one king. As Amen-Re he is seen as being the sun god Ra too. He becomes the King of the Gods in Egypt. His temple becomes the place where he thought the world into being.

-1340: Amenhotep IV, husband of Nefertiti, changes his name to Akhenaton, taking the Amun out of his name and putting in its place a different god: Aten. His father, Amenhotep III, had begun to push back against the power of Amun’s priesthood. Akhenaton took it much further and said Aten was the only god!

-1325: Tutankhamen, son of Akhenaton, officially returns Egypt to the worship of Amun and the old gods. Amun’s priesthood presumably took advantage of King Tut’s youth and inexperience: he was only about 11.

-1275: Amun is credited with saving the Egyptian army at the Battle of Kadesh, the largest chariot battle ever.

-1150: The priesthood at Karnak has grown so powerful they own at least 7% of the people of Egypt and 9% of the land. At least. They also control the king’s taxes and the king’s lands. The king, the mighty pharaoh, becomes little more than a figurehead.

-900s: Egypt falls under Libyan rule. They are the first in a long string of foreign rulers: Nubian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, etc.

-700s: Under Nubian rule, Amum makes a comeback. He was one of their gods too.

-332: Alexander the Great takes over Egypt and has himself declared the son of Amun. The Greeks see Amun as being Zeus. Romans knew him as Jupiter Ammon.

+391: Amun’s public worship is outlawed by the Roman Empire. By then most Egyptians were already worshipping Yahweh instead – as most still do today in +2018 as either Muslims or Christians.

– Abagond, +2018.

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Russsiagate update

Russiagate (2016- ) is the scandal where US President Trump and some of his top men are suspected of secret ties with Russia.

Robert Mueller was appointed by Congress to look into the matter. His investigation is not yet completed.

What we know so far, as of July 16th 2018:

2008: Donald Trump Jr, Trump’s son, said,

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

2014: Eric Trump, another son, said

“We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

2015: Trump says he will run for US president. Russia starts using hackers, trolls, and bots to help him win.

March 2016: Paul Manafort becomes the head of Trump’s campaign. Manafort has ties with the Russian government and is deep in debt to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

June 2016: Don Jr, Paul Manafort, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner meet with people from the Russian government to talk about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. By this point she is only person capable of defeating Trump at the polls in November.

July 2016: Trump’s people get the Republican Party to soften its language on Russia and Ukraine.

July 27th 2016: Trump says:

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails [of Hillary Clinton] that are missing.”

That same day Russian intelligence tries to break into her email account for the first time.

August 2016: Roger Stone, Trump adviser (and former business partner of Paul Manafort), secretly talks to Guccifer 2.0, an online persona of the GRU (Russian military intelligence).

November 9th 2016: Trump wins the election by 22,748 votes in Wisconsin, 10,704 votes in Michigan, and 44,292 in Pennsylvania.

December 2016: Jared Kushner talks to the Russian government about setting up a way of talking to them without US intelligence knowing about it.

January 2017: The Steele Dossier is made public. It says:

“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.”

Which Trump has been doing ever since right before our eyes.

May 2017: Trump fires James Comey, the head of the FBI. He later admits he did it to stop the Russiagate investigation. Congress appoints Mueller days later to carry on that investigation.

July 2017: Trump lies about the June 2016 meeting – which means he knows that Russiagate is not, as he has repeatedly said, a “witch hunt” cooked up by the “deep state” as “fake news” to create “an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election”.

June 2018: Trump’s lawyers move from the argument that Trump did not obstruct justice to the argument that as president it is not possible for him to obstruct justice.

July 16th 2018: Trump and Putin meet in Helsinki. Trump, standing next to Putin, tells the world he believes Putin over US intelligence on the question of whether Russia tried to undermine the 2016 election. Putin, when asked if he was blackmailing Trump, avoided a direct answer and said:

“Please disregard these issues and don’t think about this anymore again.”

– Abagond, 2018.

Source: mainly Vox (July 16th 2018).

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Mj Rodriguez ft Billy Porter: Home

This is from “Pose” (2018- ), from the sixth episode, the one written and directed by Janet Mock. Blanca Evangelista (Mj Rodriguez) and Pray Tell (Billy Porter) sing “Home” from “The Wiz” to AIDS patients at a New York City hospital in 1987. That was back when AIDS was a death sentence. One of the patients is Pray Tell’s boyfriend. Both Blanca and Pray Tell know that they are HIV-positive, that they will likely someday get AIDS too.

The sound quality is not great. It is the best version I can find so far.

“Suddenly the raindrops that fall they have a meaning”

I do not know how good this song seems without the context of the rest of the show, but the same could be said of the Diana Ross version in “The Wiz” (1978). In both cases it was powerful in context, the “Pose” one more so. It underscored Blanca’s belief that love is the most important thing in life. Blanca and Pray Tell have been separated from their birth homes not by a tornado but because they are queer (trans and gay, respectively).

It is one of the best scenes in “Pose” so far, but Janet Mock had to fight to get it included!

Rodriguez and Porter both come from the world of Broadway and “Home” is a Broadway song.

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When I think of home, I think of a place
Where there’s love overflowing
I wish I was home, I wish I was back there
With the things I’ve been knowing

Wind that makes the tall grass bend into leaning
Suddenly the raindrops that fall they have a meaning
Sprinkling the scene
Makes it all so clean

Maybe there’s a chance for me to go back
Now that I have some direction
It sure would be nice to be back at home
Where there’s love and affection

And just maybe I can convince time to slow up
Giving me enough time in my life to grow up
Time be my friend
And let me start again

Suddenly my world is gone, changed its face
Bit I still know where I’m going
I have had my mind spun around in space
And yet I’ve watched it growing

And oh, if you’re listening, God, please don’t make it hard
To know if we should believe the things that we see
Tell us should we run away or should we try and stay
Or will it be better just to let things be

Living here in this brand new world
Might be a fantasy
But it’s taught me to love (taught me to love)
So it’s real (it’s real) So real (So real) So real

And I’ve learned that we must look
Inside our hearts to find
A world full of love
Like yours, like mine

Like home

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Disclaimer: This post is based on episodes 2, 5, and 6, half of those shown so far.

“Pose” (2018- ) is a US television show on FX centred on five transgender women of colour – played by five transgender women of colour. Radical, I know. It is pretty much “Paris Is Burning” (1991) made into a television show, with some straight White characters added. It takes place in New York of the late 1980s: greed is good, AIDS, the ballroom scene, Patrick Nagel paintings, etc. “Pose” was created by Ryan Murphy, a White gay man who gave us the hit show “Glee” (2009-15).

“Pose” made history last Sunday (July 8th 2018): its sixth episode, “Love Is the Message”, was the first episode of US television ever written and directed by a trans woman of colour – Janet Mock.

It is the first show on US television I have seen where someone smells the milk before using it. And unlike “Friends” (1994-2004), New York is not full of White people who live in nice apartments. Some White people even live in the New Jersey! You know, like in Real Life.

Representation matters not just for Black people but even more for trans people. Transphobia, internal and external, is worse than racism. So trans people writing, directing and acting their own stories matters. Even well-meaning cis allies get things wrong. Ryan Murphy seems to understand all this.

Single story: “Pose” goes one step further by having not one but five trans characters and putting them centre stage. That allows the show to avoid tokenism, the single story, and much of the cis gaze. Instead of gawking at trans people like they were zoo animals (there is arguably some of that), or medical curiosities (some of that too), you can put yourself in their shoes. The way it should be.

There are also some White straight characters and Black gay ones. Some get more lines than some of the trans characters.

More than a worthy effort: It is also turns out to be one of the better shows on television. Not just in my opinion: according to Rotten Tomatoes, 96% of critics liked it. As with “I’ll Fly Away” (1991-93) and “My So-Called Life” (1994-95), it is so good that I am afraid they will cancel it. So I am watching as much of it as I can while it is still on.

It goes beyond mere soap opera or spectacle. Ironies abound, like about motherhood and realness. An affair by a White man, which on most shows would have been the A plot, is the B plot – and its best scenes take place in a diner, not in bed. Janet Mock’s episode made a better use of the song “Home” than even “The Wiz” did. My heart breaks in pieces just thinking about it.

Period piece: Something both me and Janet Mock remember from the late 1980s is the Crack Era. Crack, not AIDS, was the big threat. But on “Pose” it barely registers.

– Abagond, 2018.

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Brett Kavanaugh

Judge Kavanaugh, a friend of big business, found the design of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to be unconstitutional. (Via Allied Progress)

Brett Kavanaugh (1965- ) is a US judge and Bush Republican. On July 9th 2018 President Trump named him to serve on the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. He could be confirmed by the Senate as early as October.

The Supreme Court left to right. With Kavanaugh replacing Kennedy, Roberts would become the political centre of gravity. Source: FiveThirtyEight.

Sheltered White Man: That he would be the 108th White man on the court (out of 114) is totally not racist. Only wise Latinas can be racist.

If he is confirmed it will be a dream come true for Republicans: at long last they will have enough hard-right judges on the court to overturn Roe v Wade (1973), the decision that allows abortion (killing of the unborn). It is why most of the court is, like Kavanaugh, Catholic.

The Federalist Society recommends him. They too want to overturn Roe v Wade. For the past 30 years they have been pushing originalism, the idea that the Constitution should be read according to the “original intent” of those who wrote it. That is a nice way of saying the US should be by and for rich White straight Christian cis men, a way to turn back the clock to at least 1950. Make America Great Again!

Kavanaugh will also likely provide the fifth vote needed to end affirmative action.

Presidential power: Of more immediate concern to President Trump is the Russiagate scandal, which could easily reach the Supreme Court. These words by Kavanaugh in 2009 are likely what got him the nomination:

“I believe that the President should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office. … the indictment and trial of a sitting President, moreover, would cripple the federal government.”

after all:

“If the president does something dastardly, the impeachment process is available.”

In 1998 he helped write the Ken Starr report, in particular the part that says a president can be impeached for obstruction of justice or lying under oath. But:

From 2001 to 2006 he worked for President Bush and saw how hard it is to be president. He was a staff secretary, handling every piece of paper that reached the president. It gave him a deep understanding of how government agencies work.

From 2006 to 2018 he was a judge on the DC District court, considered the second most powerful court in the land. Many of its cases concern government agencies.

Net neutrality: Kavanaugh is not a fan. He thinks that companies that provide Internet service should be allowed to block or slow down or speed up any website they want – in the name of “free speech”! The free speech of the companies, that is. If you do not like it, you can always change Internet providers, which for most people would mean moving to another city or state. Abortion under Kavanaugh could wind up like that too: you might have to go to another state.

Global warming: Bending over backwards for big business means he undermines the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do anything about global warming.

Kavanaugh could be on the court till the 2040s.

– Abagond, 2018.

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Anthony Kennedy

Anthony Kennedy (1936- ) has been on the US Supreme Court since 1988. He will retire on July 31st 2018, the last of President Reagan’s judges on the Court. He was the swing vote in favour of stuff like gay rights, abortion, and affirmative action. President Trump will almost certainly appoint someone well to the right of him. The Democrats do not appear to have the votes in the Senate to stop it.

Anthony Kennedy is no relation of President John Kennedy.

Background: Kennedy is the son of a California lawyer and was part of the Stanford University class of 1958. President Ford put him the Ninth Circuit court in 1975 (the circuit courts are one step below the Supreme Court). Reagan, who knew Kennedy from when he was governor of California, put him on the Supreme Court in 1988 after failing to get the Senate to approve hard-right Robert Bork.

His son: Kennedy announced his retirement one week before news hit that his son, Justin Kennedy, was in charge of the part of Deutsche Bank that lent Trump $1 billion – at a time when most US banks were unwilling to lend money to Trump.

Not an originalist: Kennedy did not read the Constitution strictly according to the original intent of those who wrote it, many of them White slave owners from the 1700s. In overturning a Texas sodomy law in Lawrence v Texas (2003), for example, Kennedy wrote:

“They knew time can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws, once thought necessary and proper, in fact serve only to oppress.”

An originalist will likely take Kennedy’s place on the Court.

Libertarian: Kennedy believed in giving people as much freedom as possible. But since “corporations are people too,” he could favour gay men in one decision, and large companies in the next.

Swing vote: Some important cases where Kennedy was the swing vote, listed here from newest to oldest:

  • Trump v Hawaii (2018) – in favour of the Muslim travel ban in the name of “national security” as determined by the president.
  • Abbott v Perez (2018) – in favour of racial gerrymandering in Texas to “ensure Anglo control” (as a lower court put it).
  • Obergefell v Hodges (2015) – in favour of same-sex marriage.
  • Shelby County v Holder (2013) – in favour of gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965, opening the way in the South to voter suppression and racial gerrymandering (see above). Kennedy apparently thought the South was no longer all that racist.
  • Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010) – in favour of large companies pouring unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns in the name of “free speech”.
  • Roper v Simmons (2005) – against capital punishment for children as “cruel and unusual punishment”.
  • Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey (1992) – upheld the right to an abortion and struck down state laws that place a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”

Now the Court will sickeningly lurch further to the right of that, with John Roberts as the new swing vote.

– Abagond, 2018.

Update: Trump has picked Brett Kavanaugh to replace Kennedy. He is well to the right:

The US Supreme Court, 2018, from left to right. Click to enlarge.

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Boney M: Rivers of Babylon


Although little known in the US, this was the number one song worldwide 40 years ago today in 1978. It is a cover by a Black German disco band of a 1970 Jamaican hit song by the Melodians. Boney M took out the Rastafarian language.

It only went to #30 on the US pop chart – but in Britain it was a huge hit, the seventh best-selling song of all time, the best by any Black act (as of 2018), better than any Beatles song.

In the US 40 years ago today, the #1 song was “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb on the pop chart, and “Close the Door” by Teddy Pendergrass on the R&B chart.

“Rivers of Babylon” is loosely based on Psalm 137 (or 136, depending on your Bible). The King James translation puts the first four verses this way:

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

“We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

“For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

“How shall we sing the Lord‘s song in a strange land?”

This is from the time of the Babylonian Captivity, when Jews were deported to Babylon in the -500s.

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By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion.
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion.When the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
Now how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
When the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Requiring of us a song
Now how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart
be acceptable in thy sight here tonightLet the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart
be acceptable in thy sight here tonight

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion.

By the rivers of Babylon
there we sat down
ye-eah we wept,
when we remember Zion.

By the rivers of Babylon
there we sat down
ye-eah we wept,
when we remember Zion.

By the rivers of Babylon
there we sat down
ye-eah we wept,
when we remember Zion.

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