Exclusive Premiere: Hip-Hop Artist Narcy Confronts Steve Bannon and Muslim Bannin’ in Auto-Tune

The Iraqi-Canadian hip-hop artist Yassin Alsalman, aka Narcy, first made a name for himself in 2003 when the U.S. invaded his family’s home country of Iraq. He was the frontman of The Euphrates, and quickly became a prominent voice for the young Arab diaspora in North America just as the “war on terror” — the torture at Abu Ghraib and CIA black sites, the shipping of prisoners to Guantanamo Bay — was kicking into high gear. His subsequent solo albums and collaborations have conveyed the realities of civilians on the ground in U.S. war zones, highlighting victims of drone strikes and challenging the dominant narratives emanating from Washington justifying its global war. Alsalman is also a university lecturer and an author. His lyrics merge news, history, and political analysis with the evolving sounds and concepts coming out of the hip-hop community in the U.S. and beyond.

“We, as a generation of hyphenated Arabs, have had a particular experience of being governed,” Narcy said. “When looking back to our motherlands, we never had true leaders — just pawns and dictators. Same can be said about North America. That’s why I believe we have to put out art that matters, we are the only ones speaking for ourselves. We aren’t afraid anymore.”
Last year, Narcy collaborated with Yasiin Bey on a highly acclaimed track for the indigenous hip-hop group A Tribe Called Red’s album and its powerful accompanying music video. Earlier this month, Narcy released a music video, “FREE,” addressing the refugee crisis in the Middle East by showing the humanity and living conditions of refugees. The aim of the track is to raise money for refugee families. Narcy’s latest album is 2015’s “World War Free Now.”


Cover art for Narcy’s “Fake News.”

Art work: Rami Afifi

Today, in an exclusive for Intercepted, Narcy is releasing his new song, “Fake News.” In a departure from Narcy’s traditional style, the song is performed in auto-tune. “I felt this urge to get a lot of stuff off my chest based on what was going around and all the rhetoric that was going on about: immigrants, refugees, Muslims, brown people in general, black people — and I figured the best way to tell it was in auto-tune,” Narcy told Intercepted. “You have to find ways to be direct about what people should be paying attention to without force-feeding them anything. So, I wanted to write something that was sorta catchy but also, in a way, tongue-in-cheek about the way politics is being presented as a TV show. That everything is almost on hyper-drive, everything is on steroids right now, like it’s all just a show. And we’re not thinking about the long-term impact of this thing — of the new rise of xenophobia all over the world.”

Even if you are not a hip-hop fan, you should listen to the track just to hear Narcy name check Donald Trump’s senior adviser Steve Bannon in auto-tune. “It’s like Muslim bannin’, its just Bannon is in the name,” he said. Narcy recalled being in the studio recording the track and ended up free styling in the booth: “‘Muslim they bannin’, they bannin’, they bannin’, so who do you look at? Holler at Steven K Bannon.’ You know that’s who wrote [the executive order on immigration], so it’s just it’s the truth I’m just saying what the reality is.”

Narcy’s interview and his new song, “Fake News,” can be heard at 59:34 of the latest episode of the Intercepted podcast:

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“Fake News”
Produced by Iraq-a-fella Records producer Sandhill


My baba called me said he really worried
Of what I might say, I told him I’m not in a hurry.
Hung the phone up, got on Twitter, saw the shooting,
Wasn’t ready for it …
Last 20 years feeling really blurry.
All day:
Information overload
Refugees on them boats.
Can’t you see them social codes
How can we be rich in culture, when everybody go for broke?
If money makes the world turn, someone please burn the doe!!!
I don’t trust my phone or television
What is this hell I’m living?
It rings a bell I’m biven …
Devo-tion for my culture,
No hope in politicians,
Quebec is cold baby, can’t feel my soul lately …
I love it, I love it, I’m loving it still.
Pay your taxes numbers don’t lie,
But the government will.
The way you make me feel it turns me off like Michael Jackson.
No black or white,
No Sunni or Shi’ite,
We gon’ be aight.


Bombs over Baghdad
I’m an outcast, bombs over Baghdad
Everyday, real bombs over Baghdad.
North American life ain’t that bad.


If you Muslim,
They bannin’, they bannin’, they bannin’, they bannin’, they bannin’,
Holla at Stephen K. Bannon, remember that name, K. Bannon, K. Bannon
How come the last president out in St. Vincent Copa Cabannin,
Whole brown world image on that cobra commander
All I hear is Aladdin Aladdin Aladdin bin Laden Aladdin
Rub the lamp, stir the pot, and the world is lost,
Then the magic will happen.
The enemy is here — that’s what they all say.
I take it with a grain of salt bae.
Man, everything done changez.
I’m disappointed in Kanye (then call me bro)
Too Canadian or nah, eh?
Floride in my lattes
Soy almond yoga grande
Like Ariana, I’m sorry mama, been on Instagram the whole day
Fake news, so vague, always, short taste, phase 2 (phase 2)
Alt-right might punch a Nazi,
But that’s a court case, well, alriiiiggghhttt
We’re getting trapped anyway …

“Fake News” is available on Narcy’s SoundCloud page. His album “World War Free Now” is on all platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.

The post Exclusive Premiere: Hip-Hop Artist Narcy Confronts Steve Bannon and Muslim Bannin’ in Auto-Tune appeared first on The Intercept.

The Only Concrete Takeaway From Trump’s Speech: Medicaid Is Doomed

Most of Donald Trump’s speech to Congress Tuesday night can safely be ignored. Almost all the government policy he advocated is either strenuously opposed by House and Senate Republicans (driving down the cost of drugs, paid family leave, promoting clean air and water), is not going to happen whether or not they oppose it (“American footprints on distant worlds”), or was so vague that Trump might as well have said, “I support good things.”

However, Trump did call for something specific that Republicans desperately want and that is completely feasible: brutal cuts to Medicaid.

Of course, Trump didn’t put it like that. Instead, he said, “We should give our great state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.”

That sounds nice, but is standard Republican code for attacks on Medicaid. In fact, it’s lifted almost word for word from Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan for Medicaid, which states that “we believe states and individuals should have better tools, resources, and flexibility to find solutions that fit their unique needs.” Moreover, both during the campaign and afterward Trump has endorsed the standard GOP plans for Medicaid.

What this would mean in practice is two-fold.

First, the federal government would significantly reduce spending on Medicaid. Medicaid is run by individuals states, but currently the federal government pays a fixed share of each state’s costs — which rise during recessions or due to any number of unforeseeable events. Republicans have long wanted to change the funding mechanism to one in which the federal government pays only a fixed amount per Medicaid beneficiary (called a per capita cap) or a fixed amount per state (called a block grant), with states responsible for paying anything past that.

This would result in larger and larger cuts over time. Most GOP plans would permanently fix federal spending on Medicaid based on a future year, and then only increase the fixed amount annually at the rate of inflation, even though medical costs consistently rise faster than inflation.

But even more importantly, Medicaid is not just healthcare for the poor. It also pays the bills for over 60 percent of nursing home residents, and 40 percent of all national long-term care costs. And the number of Americans who need nursing home care is going to rise significantly over the next several decades as the baby boom ages into their eighties and nineties. Cutting Medicaid over this period is a recipe for people literally dying in the streets (or for luckier ones, on the foldout couch in their kid’s living room).

Second, if Trump gets his way, states will receive waivers to change Medicaid in various ways that would be both cruel and require nightmarish bureaucracies to enforce. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to drug test Medicaid recipients. In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin hopes to make beneficiaries without dependents work and pay premiums. Worst of all, states such as Arizona are attempting to enact lifetime five-year limits on Medicaid coverage, which could be a death sentence for people with diseases like cancer.

Trump has spent his life making preposterous claims about what he can do for you, making promises he could never keep, But this is one case where he may well keep his word. As he said in his speech, “Above all, we will keep our promises to the American people.” When it comes to Medicaid the American people should take him seriously.

Top photo: President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington on Feb. 28, 2017.

The post The Only Concrete Takeaway From Trump’s Speech: Medicaid Is Doomed appeared first on The Intercept.

Intercepted Podcast: Donald in Wonderland

Subscribe to the Intercepted podcast on iTunes, Google Play, StitcherSpotify, and other platforms.


This week on Intercepted, an ex-CIA analyst and a former FBI counterterrorism agent say they fear that a terror attack against the U.S. could result in a coup for the radical ideologues in the Trump White House. As Trump continues to promote his alternative facts, Nada Bakos and Clint Watts explain how Trump’s administration could use Dick Cheney’s model of “alternative intelligence” to justify dangerous military actions. Immigrant communities across the U.S. are facing a dramatic uptick in raids as part of Trump’s pledge to deport millions while Attorney General Jeff Sessions cancels the Obama-era order to end the use of private prisons. Shane Bauer of Mother Jones worked as a private prison guard and breaks down the connections between the raids and soaring private prison profits. Intercept reporter Ryan Devereaux discusses his investigations into the Department of Homeland Security and the White House plans for mass deportations. Trump’s insane adviser, Sebastian Gorka, hangs out with Alice in Wonderland. And an Intercepted exclusive: the world premiere of the new song “Fake News” by the acclaimed Iraqi-Canadian hip-hop artist, Narcy. We bet you never thought you’d hear Steve Bannon’s name rapped in auto-tune.

Transcript coming soon.

Top photo: U.S. President Donald Trump during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017.

The post Intercepted Podcast: Donald in Wonderland appeared first on The Intercept.

FTSE 100 hits new record as pound falls, while Dow reaches 21,000 – as it happened

3.06pm GMT

Global markets are continuing to benefit from a renewed Trump bounce following the President’s address to Congress, while the prospect of higher interest rates in the US is boosting bank shares.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently up 245 points or 1.18% at 21,057, while the FTSE 100 has jumped 1.55% to 7375 and is heading for a record close.

Snimal spirits have taken over. As expected, the Dow Jones has soared through the 21,000 mark just over 3 weeks after breaking the 20,000 level for the first time. It’s the quickest time ever to 1,000-point milestone, beating the record set in 1999. But this looks a bit different to the dotcom boom and bust as we are dealing with a complete reversal in fund allocation in the form of a major shift away from bonds to equities.

Today’s boost is all down to the president’s speech to Congress last night. Trump’s rallying call to reignite the American spirit has produced the desired effect on the markets, pushing stocks to fresh all-time highs. Indeed it’s because of Trump that we are here – the prospect of stronger growth, lower taxes, more spending and higher earnings is like a magic cocktail for equities. Of course details of tax reforms will be crucial – there is still the scope for disappointment as markets are pricing in a huge surge in corporate earnings.

3.02pm GMT

Unlike the slightly disappointing Markit US manufacturing survey, the ISM report has come in better than expected.

The ISM manufacturing activity index reached 57.7 in February, up from 56 in January and better than the 56.2 analysts had been forecasting. This is the highest level since August 2014, and adds to the growing expectation that a US interest rate rise could be imminent.

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The audacity of hype: could Obama’s presidential memoir be the greatest ever?

The literary output of former White House residents is a mixed bag. Surely this most writerly of politicians will produce a book to savour

After Brexit and Trump, no one should make any predictions about politics – but here’s one anyway. The presidential memoirs of Barack Obama, whose purchase by Penguin Random House has just been announced, will be hailed as the very best in the genre.

Tricky to say that before a word has been written? Perhaps, but the bar is not set too high. Most of the men who sit in the Oval Office produce a volume of reminiscences afterwards, but few shine with literary merit. Most tend to follow a strict formula, recalling the highlights, explaining away the lowlights and pleading for clemency from the court of posterity. As such, they usually veer between self-justifying and self-pitying, often too bent on rehabilitation or legacy-burnishing to be a satisfying or even revealing read.

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Trump’s Use of Navy SEAL’s Wife Highlights All the Key Ingredients of U.S. War Propaganda

During his Tuesday night address to the U.S. Congress, President Trump paid tribute to Ryan Owens, the Navy SEAL killed in the January commando raid in Yemen that Trump ordered. As he did so, television cameras focused for almost four full minutes on Owens’s grieving wife, Carryn, as she wept and applauded while sitting next to and periodically being touched by Trump’s glamorous daughter Ivanka. The entire chamber stood together in sustained applause, with Trump interjecting scripted, lyrical expressions of support and gratitude for her husband’s sacrifice.

It was, as intended, an obviously powerful TV moment. Independent of the political intent behind it, any well-functioning human being would feel great empathy watching a grieving spouse mourning and struggling to cope emotionally with the recent, sudden death of her partner. The majestic setting of the U.S. Congress, solemnly presided over by the U.S. president, vested the moment with political gravity.

Media commentators predictably gushed that this was the moment Trump became “presidential.” Meanwhile, the U.S. media’s most reliable partisan warriors, horrified that the moment might benefit Trump, instantly accused him of exploiting these emotions, and exploiting Carryn Owens herself, for his own political benefit.

While there is certainly truth in the claim that Trump’s use of the suffering of soldiers and their families is politically opportunistic, even exploitative, this tactic is hardly one Trump pioneered. In fact, it is completely standard for U.S. presidents. Though Trump’s attackers did not mention it, Obama often included tales of the sacrifice, death, and suffering of soliders in his political speeches — including when he devoted four highly emotional minutes in his 2014 State of the Union address to narrating the story of, and paying emotional tribute to, Sgt. Cory Remsburg, who was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan:

George W. Bush also hauled soldiers wounded in his wars before cameras during his speeches, such as his 2007 State of the Union address, where he paid tribute to Sgt. Tommy Rieman, wounded in Iraq.

There are reasons presidents routinely use the suffering and deaths of U.S soldiers and their families as political props. The way in which these emotions are exploited powerfully highlights important aspects of war propaganda generally, and specifically how the endless, 15-year-old war on terror is sustained.


The raid in Yemen that cost Owens his life also killed 30 other people, including “many civilians,” at least nine of whom were children. None of them were mentioned by Trump in last night’s speech, let alone honored with applause and the presence of grieving relatives. That’s because they were Yemenis, not Americans; therefore, their deaths, and lives, must be ignored (the only exception was some fleeting media mention of the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, but only because she was a U.S. citizen and because of the irony that Obama killed her 16-year-old American brother with a drone strike).

This is standard fare in U.S. war propaganda: We fixate on the Americans killed, learning their names and life stories and the plight of their spouses and parents, but steadfastly ignore the innocent people the U.S. government kills, whose numbers are always far greater. There is thus a sprawling, moving monument in the center of Washington, D.C., commemorating the 58,000 U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam, but not the (at least2 million Vietnamese civilians killed by that war.

Politicians and commentators condemning the Iraq War always mention the 4,000 U.S. soldiers who died but rarely mention the hundreds of thousands (at least) innocent Iraqis killed: They don’t exist, are unmentionable. After a terror attack aimed at Americans, we are deluged with media profiles and photographs of the victims, learning their life aspirations and wallowing in the grief of their families, but we almost never hear anything about any of the innocent victims killed by the United States.

Senior Chief Ryan Owens is a household name, and his wife, Carryn, is the subject of national admiration and sympathy. But the overwhelming majority of Americans do not know, and will never learn, the name of even a single foreign victim out of the many hundreds of thousands that their country has killed over the last 15 years. This imbalance plays a massive role in how Americans understand themselves, the countries their government invades and bombs, and the Endless War that is being waged.

None of this is to say that the tribute to Owens and the sympathy for his wife are undeserved. Quite the contrary: When a country, decade after decade, keeps sending a small, largely disadvantaged portion of its citizenry to bear all the costs and risks of the wars it starts — while the nation’s elite and their families are largely immune — the least the immunized elites can do is pay symbolic tribute when they are killed.

Nor is it to say that this obsessive, exclusive focus on our own side’s victims while ignoring the victims we create is unique to the U.S. Again, the contrary is true. This dynamic is endemic to nationalism, which in turn is grounded in tribalistic human instincts: paying more attention to the deaths of those in our tribe than those we cause other tribes to suffer.

As I’ve described before, I was in Canada the week that it was targeted with two attacks — including one on the Parliament in Ottawa — and the Canadian media was suffuse for the entire week with images and stories about the two dead Canadian soldiers and their families. Then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke at the funeral of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who became a household name for dying in the Parliament attack, even though most Canadians don’t know the names of and can’t tell a single story about even one of the numerous innocent victims killed by their own government over the last 15 years. This is by no means a uniquely American phenomenon.


But unique or not, this is an incredibly consequential tool of war propaganda. By dramatizing the deaths of Americans while disappearing the country’s victims, this technique ensures that Americans perpetually regard themselves as victims of horrific, savage, tragic violence but never the perpetrators of it. That, in turn, is what keeps Americans supporting endless war: These savages keep killing us, so we have no choice but to fight them. 

More importantly, this process completely dehumanizes the people the U.S. government bombs, attacks, and kills. Because they’re never heard from, because we never learn their names, because we never experience their family’s suffering, all of their human attributes are stripped from them and their deaths are thus meaningless because they’re barely human.

This dehumanization — the suppression of any humanity on the part of the U.S.’ foreign war victims — is the absolute key to sustaining popular support for war. Nobody knew that better than Gen. William Westmoreland, the U.S. Commander of the Vietnam War, which is why he insisted that “Orientals” do not experience death and suffering the way that Westerners do

A population will only tolerate the ongoing, continual killing of large numbers of civilians if they believe that the innocent victims do not experience human suffering or, more importantly, if that suffering is hidden from them.

Just imagine how different Americans’ views of the war on terror might be if they were subjected to heavy grieving rituals from the family members of innocent victims of U.S. bombing similar to the one they witnessed last night from Carryn Owens. There’s a reason the iconic photo of a South Vietnamese police official summarily executing a Vietcong suspect during the 1968 Tet Offensive resonated: Violence and suffering are much more easily tolerated when their visceral reality need not be confronted.

The ritualistic tribute to dead or wounded U.S. soldiers has other purposes as well: It attempts — not using rational formulas but rather emotional impulses — to transfer the nobility of the slain soldier onto the war itself; after all, how unjust could a war be when such brave and admirable American soldiers are fighting in it?

And it is also intended that the soldier’s nobility will be transferred to his commander in chief who is so solemnly honoring him. As demonstrated by the skyrocketing post-9/11 approval ratings for George Bush and the endless political usage Obama obtained for killing Osama bin Laden, nothing makes us rally around a president like uplifting war sentiment.

Van Jones received intense criticism from Democrats for how positively he reacted on CNN to Trump’s tribute to Ryan and Carryn Owens, but Jones was just speaking honestly and with his emotions, as he often does: War makes people instinctively venerate the authority and leadership of the president who is presiding over it. That’s why — as John Jay warned in Federalist 4 — presidents like wars due to all the personal benefits they generate.

The reaction to last night’s Owens moment was fascinating because the widespread media contempt for Trump clashed with the instinctive veneration of all matters relating to U.S. war; in most cases, the latter triumphed. But more interesting than that is what this ritual reveals about how Americans are taught to think about war and the reasons it is so easy for the political class — no matter the outcome of elections or what polling data tells us or how many people senselessly die — to continue and escalate endless wars. These propaganda rituals are well-tested and very potent.

The post Trump’s Use of Navy SEAL’s Wife Highlights All the Key Ingredients of U.S. War Propaganda appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump’s Congress speech was a heroic effort in contradiction and cliche | Richard Wolffe

The president’s first address to Congress was full of inconsistency when compared to his words and deeds in the White House

All presidents deserve the respect that belongs to the office of the commander-in-chief. Even orange ones who trash the media, hide their business interests from public view, and praise Russian foes.

Yes, even Donald Trump deserves something more than “you lie!” Especially when he lies.

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Police chiefs object to Trump’s efforts to involve them in immigrant deportations

Exclusive: letter from more than 60 law enforcement heads asks to soften push to include police in roundups, saying it makes their communities less safe

Police chiefs from across the US, including several from states that voted for Donald Trump, are resisting White House moves to force them to become more involved in deporting undocumented immigrants.

In a joint letter, more than 60 law enforcement heads are appealing to Trump in all but name to soften his aggressive drive to enlist police officers in the highly contentious job of deporting millions of immigrants living without permission in the country. They object to being thrust into “new and sometimes problematic tasks” that will undermine the balance between the local communities they serve and the federal government, and “harm locally-based, community-oriented policing”.

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Why Democratic women wore white to Trump’s Congress speech – video

Women from the Democratic party made a visual statement at Donald Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday night by wearing white, a symbol of the suffrage movement. Many of the 66 Democratic women representatives and delegates who make up the House Democratic Women’s Working Group wore white clothing to support women’s rights

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