The US in 1974

“You’re under arrest, sugah!” – Teresa Graves of “Get Christie Love!” on the cover of TV Guide, November 30th 1974.

So far 2019 most reminds me of 1974 (stuff I did not know at the time is in italics):

“I’m not a crook!” – when the US president has to say stuff like this, you know it is bad. MAD magazine mocked President Nixon as a liar.

subpoena – Congress issued subpoenas to require President Nixon, under law, to turn over the:

Watergate tapes – sound recordings of Nixon talking to top advisers in the White House. John Dean, the former White House Counsel (Nixon’s Don McGahn), said they would prove Nixon tried to cover up the break-in at the Watergate hotel (to steal files from Democratic headquarters, the DNC).

follow the money – said no one. That phrase was invented two years later by Hollywood screenwriters for “All the President’s Men” (1976).

articles of impeachment – drawn up by Congress charging the president with “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanours”. The Democrats had the votes in the House of Representatives to impeach the president, but not the votes in the Senate to convict (find guilty). That did not stop them. They said:

no man is above the law – not even the president is allowed to break the law. He has to obey subpoenas just like everyone else.

obstruction of justice – was one of the charges in the articles of impeachment because Nixon defied subpoenas to turn over the tapes. The other two charges were abuse of power and contempt of Congress.

executive privilege – the reason Nixon gave for not handing over the tapes – he said they were private conversations! The Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, forced him to hand over all the tapes.

smoking gun – the tape where Nixon ordered the cover-up was called the “smoking gun”, a phrase that has meant damning evidence ever since. Nixon resigned.

Boston busing crisis – grown White people throwing rocks at busloads of Black schoolchildren – even though the courts said they could come to their schools. More lawlessness!

energy crisis – Arab countries had shut off oil to the US. There were long lines at gasoline stations. You were not suppose to drive faster than 55 mph (90 kph) or heat your home above 68 F (20 C). Knit tops were in. So were Japanese cars.

stagflation – both prices and unemployment were going up at the same time, breaking the known laws of economics in what was called:

The worst recession since the Great Depressiona title later claimed by the Great Recession of 2008.

disaster films – like “Earthquake” and “Towering Inferno” (with “Jaws” on the way) fit the mood of the times. So did books like “Limits to Growth” (1972), “The Late, Great Planet Earth” (1970), and “Famine 1975!” (1967). The US was under constant threat of being destroyed by Russia’s atom bombs. End-of-times (apocalyptic) thinking came easy. It was right in the Bible!

nostalgia – “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand was the #1 song. “Happy Days”, set in the 1950s, was a new television show. Notice what the title said about the 1970s.

Women’s Libwhat 2019 calls second-wave feminism.

– Abagond, 2019.

See also:



This is my favourite Olivia Newton-John song. In 1980 it went to #8 on the US pop chart, which meant I did not grow sick of it, unlike her many number-one hits. The 1970s were, for those who missed it, more or less Olivia Newton-John and K.C. & the Sunshine Band played to death. Oh, and Watergate.

See also:


A place where nobody dared to go
The love that we came to know
They call it Xanadu

And now, open your eyes and see
What we have made is real
We are in Xanadu

A million lights are dancing
And there you are, a shooting star
An everlasting world and you’re here with me

Xanadu – Xanadu (now we are here)
In Xanadu
Xanadu – Xanadu (now we are here)
In Xanadu

Xanadu your neon lights will shine
For you Xanadu

The love, the echoes of long ago
You needed the world to know, they are in Xanadu

The dream that came through a million years
That lived on through all the tears
It came to Xanadu

A million lights are dancing and there you are
A shooting star, an everlasting world and you’re
Here with me eternally

Xanadu – Xanadu (now we are here)
In Xanadu

Now that I’m here, now that you’re near in Xanadu

Source: AZ Lyrics.

Money in the New Testament

The widow’s mite.

As the King James Bible tells it, money in the time of Jesus went something like this:

  • 1 talent = 1,500 pieces of silver
  • 1 piece of silver = 4 pence (or sometimes just 1)
  • 1 penny (plural: pence) = 4 farthings
  • 1 farthing = 2 mites

A penny was a day’s pay for a common labourer – 2,000 years ago, back when a penny was a penny!

This is a mishmash of Greek, Elizabethan, and Flemish money that made some kind of sense in England in 1611 when the King James Bible came out. But it would have made no kind of sense to the professional money changers of Jesus’s time. And, after decimalization and 408 years of inflation, it makes little sense now in 2019.

Examples of how the King James translates the Greek:

  • Mt 10.29: “farthing” – assarion (two sparrows for one assarion)
  • Mt 17.24: “tribute money” – didrachma
  • Mt 17.27: “piece of money” – stater (coin found in the mouth of a fish)
  • Mt 20.02: “penny” – denarius (daily pay)
  • Mt 22.19: “penny” – denarius (to be rendered unto Caesar)
  • Mt 25.15: “talent” – talent (parable of the talents)
  • Mt 26.15: “30 pieces of silver” – 30 silvers (probably tetradrachms)
  • Mk 12.42: “2 mites” – 2 lepta (widow’s mite)
  • Mk 14.05: “300 pence” – 300 denarii (spikenard sold to give to the poor)
  • Lk 10.35: “2 pence” – 2 denarii (paid to innkeeper by Good Samaritan)
  • Lk 12.06: “farthing” – assarion (five sparrows for two assarions)
  • Lk 15.08: “pieces of silver” – drachmas (parable of the lost coin)

Tyrian tetradrachms: the “pieces of silver” Judas was probably paid.

What underlies all of this:

Greek money:

  • 1 talent = 21kg of silver = 6,000 drachmas
  • 1 tetradrachm = 14g = 4 drachmas
  • 1 stater = 7g = 1 didrachm = 2 drachmas
  • 1 drachma = 3.5g

Roman money:

  • 1 denarius = 3.9g of silver = 16 assarions
  • 1 assarion = 0.24g = 4 quadrans
  • 1 quadrans = 0.06g = 2 lepta (a Greek coin)

A shekel, used in Jewish law, was pegged at 4 drachmas.

For comparison with 2019:

  • 1 US dollar = 2.1g of silver
  • 1 UK pound = 2.6g

Cost of living: In ancient times the cost of living was way lower. You could in fact get by on just $2 a day. Of course, there would be no telephone service.

The talent was too big to be a coin, even a gold one. The NIV translates a “talent” as “a bag of gold”, which gives you the right idea even if it is not a literal translation.

Render unto Caesar: a denarius from the reign of Emperor Tiberias, the sort Jesus probably held when he said, “Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s”. This is the “penny” of the King James Bible.

The penny: Historically speaking, “penny” is the right translation of “denarius”: the English penny comes from the denarius. But by 1611 it had lost much of its value. By 2019 it was even worse:

Coins by value in grams of silver:

  • 3.9g: denarius in the year 30
  • 0.5g: penny in England in 1611
  • 0.026g: penny in England in 2019
  • 0.021g: penny in US in 2019

So even in 1611 “penny” was a bad translation, even if it was still made of silver.

Prices: from the New Testament, in grams of silver:

21,000 – the talent that was not put out at interest.

1,200 – the 327g of spikenard that could have been sold to help the poor.

420 – the 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas to betray Jesus.

8 – a few days at an inn.

4 – a day’s pay for a labourer.

3.5 – the lost coin.

0.24 – two sparrows (buy four and get the fifth one free!).

0.06 – the widow’s two mites.

At the spiritual level, of course:

“the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10)

– Abagond, 2019.

See also:


Uighur internment camps

A “vocational training centre” for Uighurs, circa 2019. (Via The Independent)

Uighur internment camps (fl. 2017- ) in China now imprison up to a million Uighurs, a Muslim people whose country, East Turkestan, was taken over by China and made into the province of Xinjiang, north-west of Tibet. China has about 11 million Uighurs (the name sounds like “Weegores”).

Uighurs in Kashgar, their old capital in the far west of China, on March 22nd 2017. (Via Al Jazeera)

Settler colonialism: Since the 1950s China has been taking land from Uighurs and giving it to Han Chinese, the main ethnic group in China. In 1945 Xinjiang was 83% Uighur. By 2008 it was only 46%. Uighurs had become a minority in their own homeland. In 2009 hundreds were killed in ethnic violence. And then it got worse:

Hi-tech police state: Starting in 2016, China started turning Xinjiang into a hi-tech police state when it came to Uighurs, even worse than it already was. There are security cameras capable of face recognition everywhere. Their houses and even their knives have computer-scannable QR codes. The government checks their mobile phones, takes their DNA, etc.

De-extremification: China also passed de-extremification laws. Muslim practices, like men wearing long beards or women wearing the veil (hijab), are seen as “extreme”, a threat to the security of China. Uighurs are required to watch state television or listen to state radio, to send their children to state schools. They can only read a state-approved Koran, cannot go to Mecca or even fast during Ramadan. On top of all that, the government in 2019 is drawing up a five-year plan to “sinicize” Islam, to make Islam “Chinese”. Those who break these de-extremification laws, and even many who break no law at all, are sent to:

Vocational training centres – or, as a sign on one them put it, “de-extremification re-education centres”. In satellite pictures they look like factories or maybe schools – except that you can see the shadows of watchtowers along the outer walls. And, if you search government websites, you find out that they order stuff like large numbers of police batons, electric cattle prods, handcuffs and cans of pepper spray. When Western reporters try to visit these vocational centres on the ground, the police turn them away. According to Chinese law, these centres are required to carry out:

Thought transformation: According to eyewitnesses this means saying bad things about Muslim and Uighur ways, chanting “Long live Xi Jinping!” (the current ruler of China), and singing songs like “Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China”. There are reports of torture and even death – but not mass killings. China is headed in that direction: internment camps are a feature of stage six of a genocide.

Belt & Road Initiative: Behind all of this – China’s need to crack down and much of the world’s need to keep silent about it – is the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). Started in 2013, it is a trillion-dollar infrastructure project meant to tie much of Asia and even parts of Africa to China by way of roads, railways, pipelines, ports, etc. And much of this new Silk Road passes right through Xinjiang, the Uighur homeland.

– Abagond, 2019.

Source: mainly The Economist, BBC, Al Jazeera, Vox, and Democracy Now.

See also



This was my favourite new song 30 years ago this week. I know that because June 4th 1989 is burned into my brain. I can even remember what my living room looked like on that day – a tunnel back in time.

Part of why I liked this song 30 years ago was because Donna Summer, in turn, reminded me of 10 years before that! Nostalgia within nostalgia.

I loved her.

This song was by British music producers Stock Aitken & Waterman (think Rick Astley). It was Donna Summer’s last transatlantic top-ten hit:

  • 1975: Love to Love You Baby (#2 US, #4 UK)
  • 1977: I Feel Love (#6, #1)
  • 1978: MacArthur Park (#1, #5)
  • 1979: No More Tears (Enough is Enough) (#1, #3)
  • 1989: This Time i Know It’s For Real (#7, #3)

It did not make the US R&B chart.

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What would I have to do
To get you to notice me too
Do I
Stand in line
One of a million
Admiring eyes

Walk a tightrope way up high
Write your name across the sky

I’m going crazy just to let you know
You’d be amazed how much I love you so baby
When I get my hands on you I won’t let go
This time I know it’s for real

Should I write or call your home
Shout it out with a megaphone
Radio, TV news
Got to find a way
To get my message to you

To say I love you with a neon sign
Anything to make you mine

I’m going crazy just to let you know
If I wait too long for you I might explode baby
I’ve been around the block enough to know
That this time I know it’s for real

Oh baby
This time, this time, this time, this time
Oh baby
This time, this time

Walk a tightrope way up high
Write your name across the sky

I’m going crazy just to let you know
You’d be amazed how much I love you so baby
When I get my hands on you I won’t let go
This time I know it’s for real

I’m going crazy just to let you know
If I waited too long for you I might explode baby
I’ve been around the block enough to know
That this time I know it’s for real

Source: AZLyrics.

Stuff I was taught at school

Some things I was taught at US public schools in the 1970s in the deep blue north-eastern US:

  1. Immigration is good for the country – the cosmopolitan model of US society.
  2. Science is good.
  3. Labour unions are a good thing (see below on capitalist greed).
  4. Democracy is the best form of government.
  5. Heroes: Columbus, Washington, and Lincoln are the three great heroes of history.
  6. Presidents are supposed to be honest and brave and do what is right for the country, like Washington and Lincoln. And not be above the law, like Nixon.
  7. The Founding Fathers were profoundly wise – even though their constitution had a terrible flaw (allowing slavery) that led to civil war.
  8. Supreme Court: its worst decisions ever: Dred Scott v Sandford (1857) and Plessy v Ferguson (1896).
  9. The US civil war was about slavery and “preserving the union”.
  10. Slavery was terrible and evil – no teacher I had ever tried to make excuses for it. They did cover some of the excuses that were made, but they were presented as self-serving Southern propaganda.
  11. Moral centre: The northern US is the moral centre of history and a champion of freedom, as proved by its wars against British colonial rule, the slave South, and genocidal Nazi Germany.
  12. Ignorant patriotism: The US in the 1970s is so great that there is no need to learn about other times and places except in so far as they led up to this one – Spotlight History.
  13. Freedom: The US is great not because of its wealth or power but because of its freedom: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, etc.
  14. Revolution: The US is far from perfect, but reform, not another American revolution, is all that is needed to make the US as great as it can be.
  15. Meritocracy: people rise or fall in the US according to their talents and hard work. Or at least should, which is why racism and sexism are bad things.
  16. Prejudice: Racism and sexism are prejudices. Most of the differences in society between men and women and between Blacks and Whites are caused by prejudice, not biology.
  17. Race is fixed and racism is universal. Like with sex and sexism.
  18. The two-race model: the US is mainly made up of Black people and White people. The inequality between them has driven much of US history. Indians (Native Americans) are “outside” US history.
  19. Indians were mostly wandering bands of hunter-gatherers, not farmers. The US stole most of their land through broken treaties.
  20. Vietnam War: The US had absolutely no business fighting in Vietnam. It was not yet in textbooks, but some teachers had strong opinions. Even those who did not rant would say things like, “Kennedy was not a great president because he got us into Vietnam.”
  21. Capitalist greed: Big companies only care about profits, so the government needs to keep them in check. Otherwise they will pay workers next to nothing to work in unsafe conditions – while destroying the environment! Just look at the robber barons and the Gilded Age!

– Abagond, 2019.

See also:


Part of Lister’s diary for February 19th 1819.

The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister (1806-40), about 6,000 pages long, record her life from age 15 to 49 in England in the early 1800s – a time and place best known through the made-up love stories of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.

Lister wrote in two scripts:

  • plainhand – her terrible handwriting, full of abbreviations, using up every bit of paper.
  • crypthand – her secret code (pictured above) made up of Greek letters and other symbols, with no punctuation. She wrote a sixth of her diaries in it.

Lister was a rich landowner in the north of England. When her younger brother died, Shibden Hall and its lands fell to her, complete with farms and coal mines. She never married or had children. She travelled and, not having been given a university education, studied Greek, Latin, French, mathematics, and history, read a ton of English literature, and kept up on the latest science. She stood with king, country, and church, did not see the justice in democracy, looked down on manufacturers, even those richer than her, and had a heart of stone for the poor.

In 1840 she was bitten by a tick while travelling in the Russian Empire and died.

In 1887 the last of her family to live at Shibden Hall, John Lister, had some of her plainhand entries of historical interest printed in the newspaper of the nearby town of Halifax in West Yorkshire. When he and Arthur Burrell, a schoolteacher and antiquarian, broke her code and read some of the crypthand, Burrell wanted to burn the diaries. Lister, the better antiquarian, hid the diaries in a wall of Shibden Hall.

In 1933 John Lister died broke. Shibden Hall passed to the Halifax town government along with her diaries. From Burrell they got the key to the code and locked it in a safe at the library.

In 1958 historian Dr Phyllis Ramsden got permission to work on the diaries complete with the key to the code. She said the crypthand parts were:

“excruciatingly tedious to the modern mind … and of no historical interest whatsoever.”

In 1988 what Anne Lister had written in crypthand was at long last made public, or (for those who have been paying attention) at least some of it. She wrote stuff like this:

January 29th 1821: “Burnt Mr Montagu’s farewell verses that no trace of any man’s admiration may remain. It is not meet for me. I love and only love the fairer sex and thus, beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any other love than theirs.”

May 31st 1824: “[my] disguised & hidden nature that suits not with the world … I tell myself to myself & throw the burden on the book & feel relieved.”

Filter bubble: It took over a hundred years and a sexual revolution (if not a gay rights movement) for that to get printed.

Filter within filter: And it took an Amazon recommendation hyped up, I later found out, by a television show on HBO, “Gentleman Jack” (2019- ), for me to find out even that. Ugh!

– Abagond, 2019.

Sources: mainly Google Images; “The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister” (2010) edited by Helena Whitbread.

See also:


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