You’re Fired, Bannon. Good Riddance.

By Nick Hennessy

 If Trump was the face of a movement, you were its asshole—hidden from the light of day, generating shit behind closed doors. For a while, you remained an enigma. Bannon? What Bannon? But soon enough, you became our bogeyman.

Steve, the shadow-master, the blob holding the remote control, the brains behind a brainless operation.

“Darkness is good,” you told the Hollywood Reporter (of all fucking journals.) “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.” You spewed the names of your predecessors as you would spew any bile, and in so doing, you showcased a rare self-awareness. You were a proud supervillain. An “economic nationalist” leaving behind a trail of slime and openly voiced racism in your slow crawl away from Goldman Sachs and Breitbart. So what happened, Steve? How did you fall so fast?

Like all supervillains, your fatal flaw was hubris. There was the Time Magazine cover labeling you the “Great Manipulator.” The “President Bannon” memes. For a devil operating from the shadows, we saw an awful lot of your (sweaty) face. And then there was, of course, that fateful phone call with a journalist. You should’ve learned by now that nothing in your life will be “off record.”

We are well versed in your personal history. The destructive romances, the empty properties you owned across the country, the hot tub scarred by acid (who did you try to melt, Steve?) And what about College Steve, the liberal-minded student, the loyal Deadhead? Did you strangle that past self as you strangled your own legend, slowly choking the air out of his lungs, watching his face (and loyalties) turn from blue to red? Or did you kill him swiftly, like the bird of prey you are?

And do you actually know what a “Leninist” is, or did you just identify yourself as such because you liked the way it rolled off your chameleon’s tongue?

We will continue to loathe you, even after you make your exit. More importantly, we will continue to identify the Bannons in our lives. The young liberal who turns conservative once his gut starts to sag. The dad who yanks his kid out of public school because there are too many Hanukah books in the library. The abusive husband who masks his brutality in half-remembered lines from Mao and Machiavelli. Everyone has a Bannon. Trump will have other Bannons, and we will all suffer as a result. But you, for now, have done your damage.

I hope the door hits you in the ass on your way out. Or maybe that’s your face it’s hitting. I honestly can’t tell the difference, and neither, I suspect, can you. Shalom aleichem, motherfucker.

Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron Employ the Politics of Nostalgia

 

By Sebastian LaMontagne

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In 2015, one of Justin Trudeau’s unofficial campaign slogans was “Sunny Ways”, a reference to the mantra of Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. More subtly, it could be interpreted as a reference to Louis XIV of France, the Sun King.
Unlike Emmanuel Macron, for whom Louis XIV is a political hero, Trudeau did not have to construct an intellectual and spiritual dynasty. He was born into one, as the son of Pierre Trudeau, who remains Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister at 15 years and quite possibly it’s most popular ever. Therefor it shouldn’t be surprising that Justin Trudeau harbors a belief in manifest destiny.

“Once, before a boxing match that would make or kill his career he was caught babbling Obama-like about his personal destiny. His wife, Sophie, grabbed his arm, looked him in the eyes and said, “Be humble.”‘

That’s an excerpt from a recent, and transparently lustful Rolling Stone profile. The boxing match was for a cancer fundraiser, and Trudeau’s opponent was Conservative Sen. Patrick Brazeau.

Everybody expected Trudeau to be pummeled into the ground like the weak-kneed jet-set brat many believed him to be. But Trudeau won. By TKO. The boxing match launched his political career and completely redefined his image.

When Guy Lawson of the New York Times asked Trudeau if he’d intended the fight to be symbolic, Trudeau responded by saying: ‘‘I saw it that way a little bit. The fight was going to be a way of highlighting and surprising people with what I am. It wasn’t about proving anything to myself — other than perhaps as a reminder that I’m very good at sticking to and executing a plan. But it was a way of pointing out to people that you shouldn’t underestimate me — which people have a tendency to do. There was a perception that I’d grown up with a silver spoon in my mouth.”

Despite this perception, Trudeau’s tragedies have often been his countries tragedies.

Trudeau’s youngest brother, Michel Trudeau, died in an avalanche while skiing in British Columbia in November of 1998. He was swept into Kokanee Lake, and was unable to reach the shore. His friends tried, but were unable, to swim out to him. Michel drowned, and despite a massive search effort his body was never uncovered. Trudeau still visits the lake, which has become Michel’s eternal resting place.

Trudeau’s mother, Margeret, who was 22 when she married then 51 year old Pierre Trudeau, suffered from undiagnosed bipolar disorder which induced her to reckless behavior. The Prime Minister recalls being taunted at school for his mother’s often flambouyant antics, including partying with the Rolling Stones, which had a way of becoming front page news.

When Pierre died of cancer, Trudeau spoke at his funeral and afterwards laid his forhead on his father’s coffin and publicly wept. 

During his political career he has often been accused of “emotional intelligence,” and of being less then unflappable. Frequently his critics claim him to be more Margaret’s son than his father’s.

Trudeau takes the comparisons as a compliment, intended or otherwise. And his temper, arguably his Achilles heel, he gets from his father. This temper rarely shows itself, but when it does it can be a PR disaster, such as when he shoved a female parlimantary member.

Normally Trudeau is a PR mastermind. Pierre too caused worldwide fascination. But unlike his garrulous son he was introverted, and his publicity stunts had a noticeable-ly intellectual bent to them (Nixon called him “a pompous egghead” on the watergate tapes) or deployed satirical wit, such as when he was snapped doing a pirouette behind the Queen’s back at the G7 Summit in London.

Justin Trudeau, in contrast, has capitalized on his innate likability with viral antics, a sort of good natured propaganda captured by the photographers that follow him wherever he goes.

When France’s Emmanuel Macron, the internet’s second favorite bargain bin Obama, won against Marine Le Pen I was too busy celebrating the fact that a Putin supported extremist had been defeated to wonder overmuch what a Macron Presidency might actually look like.

But the honeymoon was soon over, and American observers were forced to begin reckoning with the same comments that French voters had been thinking about for months. Comments such as this one, made to the French weekly Le 1: “In the process and function of democracy there is something missing, the figure of the king, whose death, I believe, fundamentally, the people did not want.”

Macron believes that the absence of a king has “created an emotional void.” A void that Hollande and Sarkozy did little to fill, with their constant attempts to appear as relatable. Holland in particular wished to be appear as an everyman.

Termed a “liberal strongman” by Politico, Emmanuel Macron has wasted no time in consolidating power, doing it with the gusto and the careful presentation of a performance artist or propagandist, and with a history professor’s knowledge of France’s political past.

On 6/18/17 he accrued a majority in the National Assembly for La République En Marche, his upstart political party. (350 seats out of 577)

The Les Républicains party created an alliance with smaller factions and together earned 137 seats, enough to mount a roadblock to some portions of Macron’s agenda.

He even managed to, with a minimum of fuss, rid himself of François Bayrou as Justice Minister. Bayrou’s endorsement of Macron during the campaign was key, but he had begun to portray himself as kingmaker in the media and was attempting to turn himself into a power center within Macron’s cabinet. He resigned on June 21st following the launch of a probe by prosecutors into Bayrou’s MoDem party and it’s alleged misuse of campaign funds.

Bayrou was always a controversial figure to members of the En Marche party, many of whom had been campaigning for him to go. Then Macron dealt French Socialist Manuel Valls, under whom he had once served, a cruel blow. Shortly after Macron’s victory but before he assumed office Valls declared in an interview: “I will be a candidate in the presidential majority and I wish to join up to [Macron’s] movement. The Socialist Party is dead.”

That didn’t go over well with the socialists, who declared on 5/16/17 that Valls would not be on the party ticket in the parliamentary election. Valls was then rejected from En Marche, who claimed he did not “fit their criteria.”

And just like that, a slippery political opportunist who would have been a threat to Macron either inside or outside of En Marche, was transformed into an Independent and stripped of allies.

Meanwhile Macron, once friendly with the press, had disappeared within Élysée Palace and denied every interview that came his way, refusing even to do press conferences. He was busy transforming himself into the Jupiterian leader he had promised France, the distant but competent king he believes they long for.

In stark opposition to Donald Trump’s open door oval office, Macron cut off most of his campaign aides, shut down his mobile phone, and restricted access to his person to a few young aides with whom he shares nothing but information pertaining to each day’s agenda.

He declared that when traveling the country he will only answer questions from reporters if they pertain to the topic of the trip. “When I travel on a topic of my choosing, I speak of the topic of my choosing, I won’t answer newsy questions.”

Macron set about flooding media outlets with cryptic statements, often made through the use of a visual aid such as his Presidential portrait.

In it he is posed between the French flag and the European Union flag. Behind him on the desk lies a brass clock and a bronze rooster, as well as the memoir of Charles de Gaulle (a video taken moments prior to the official photo shows the President carefully arranging the book to make it appear as if he had simply been reading it at his desk), André Gide’s “Fruits of the Earth” and Stendhal’s “The Red and the Black.”

His victory speech was conducted in-front of  François Mitterrand’s glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris. He was recently photographed  at Air Base 125 in Istres, southern France, where he wore a flight suit reminiscent of both Top Gun and the outfit George W. Bush wore when making his “mission accomplished” speech about the Iraq war. Most recently he met with Rihanna for a much documented conversation about global education.

Perhaps the most notorious result of his endless public relations campaign is a photo released on July 4 by Macron’s team, which shows him being lowered into the nuclear submarine “Le Terrible,” in an image reminiscent of Vladimir Putin’s super heroic propaganda.

 

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“The man is pure, cold resolve. If he has decided that he is Jupiter, he will govern from above through surrogates like the PM and cabinet ministers — delegating and firing if he’s not happy with results” declared a former adviser from Macron’s days at the economy ministry, as if reading from a script prepared by the President himself.

The perfect branding hit a bump when Macron staged a surprise “state of the union address” before both houses of Parliament in the Palace of Versailles. The speech accomplished what it was likely supposed to (upstaging Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s speech the following day) but came across as a phoned in re-iteration of Macron’s stump speeches. Some members of the audience seemed on the verge of falling asleep.

This relatively small misstep was hailed by the French press as blood in the water, a sign that Jupiter was not so godlike after all. They didn’t have to wait long for something more substantial to come along.

Charles de Gaulle, one of Macron’s primary role models, created France’s fifth republic and funneled, by 1960, 5.4 percent of France’s gross domestic product into military spending. He made France strong again, in the eyes of the world, and his concentration on military spending allowed for France’s ultimate addition of a nuclear submarine fleet, something which is now key to France’s identity.

But de Gaulle came into power with a stable economy, a luxury not afforded to Macron.

General de Villiers, reinstated to his post upon Macron’s victory, has not been pleased with the new President’s military spending plan.

“I have a fine army. But it is doing 130 percent of what it was meant to do”

Beneath the surface of all Macron’s symbolism, he hasn’t added to the military’s budget. He has in fact cut it. Ahead of Bastille Day the Macron government announced an 850 million euro cut to the 32 billion euro defense budget promised for this year.

In a closed door meeting an incensed General de Villiers pronounced, in such terms, that he was not one to be fucked with. Soon afterwards Macron gathered an audience of military leaders including the general, and reminded them that he was their commander, that they would obey him, and not voice their personal opinions in the press. Macron would deliver the promised defense budget in 2018.

General de Villiers resigned shortly afterwards, saying he believed himself incapable of fully protecting the French people with the limited resources provided him. The resulting nervousness in the military community, and the more anxious quarters of the civilian one, forced Macron to promise a 1.8 billion euro increase to the defense budget in 2018.

Macron’s approval rating has dropped to 54 percentage points, a full ten point drop between May and July.

His approval rating dropped 18 percentage points among civil servants, 11 points among over-65s, and a whopping 25 points among supporters of the MoDem party, constituting, perhaps, a backlash over Bayrou’s resignation.

The French President, so eager to be king, would be wise to remember that as quickly as France rushes to adore a monarch, it rushes to behead them in times of protracted instability.

 

 

The Price of University “Impartiality”

By Isabella Nilsson

Columbia University is a political place. The day after Donald Trump was elected, the campus was dead silent, cold and gloomy—a marked contrast to the primal screams and effigy-burning that had taken place in the dead of night only hours before. Out of concern for the sleeplessness as much as for the psyche of their students, some professors postponed midterms—an action ridiculed in such publications as the National Review as catering to “spoiled Ivy league babies” who refused to “get it together”. On campus at least, though, this postponement of normality felt less like an infantile tantrum than an appropriate mourning for the death of a certain kind of American idealism. It felt like a wake.

To be clear, when I say that Columbia is a political place, I mean a Democratic place, like the vast majority of US colleges. According to the Brookings Institute and the Pew Research Center, only 37 percent of 18-29 year olds voted for Trump in the 2016 elections, and college graduates in general backed Clinton by a nine-point margin. The Washington Post recently published an article detailing how liberal professors at leading universities outnumber conservative ones by a ratio of twelve to one. While this example of our country’s increasing political extremism could be questioned as—and probably is—troubling, it exemplifies Columbia’s status as an extremely liberal institution, at least demographically.

Our fears for the future seemed confirmed in January, when President Trump passed his controversial and oft-challenged Executive Order 13769, which suspended border entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely, and temporarily suspended entry of citizens from seven other Muslim-majority nations. Trump himself has not been shy about his distrust of Muslims and general xenophobia, calling while campaigning for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and referring to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and drug traffickers.

On campus, both professors and students were aghast. We held seemingly endless rallies and candlelight vigils. One grew so large that NBC livestreamed it via helicopter. Downtown, CUNY students protested for the return of a student who had been deported to Iran on her post-break return to classes. Many, including myself, felt like the president’s ban was not only abhorrent, but also a clear violation of human rights—for example, of Article 9 of UNESCO’s Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”, or Article 13, “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”, or even Article 2: “no distinction shall be made on the basis of…the country or territory to which a person belongs”.

The injustice of the ban felt especially clear and visceral from the perspective of a college student. So many of my international friends and peers—who had toiled throughout high school to attend my college, and who had nothing but positivity to offer both the United States and their home countries after graduation—were thrust into frightening limbo.

In comparison to our outrage, the reaction by the administration felt surprisingly tepid.

Students received a single email regarding the ban from University President Lee C. Bollinger, which “decri[ed]” the ban as “discriminatory” and “contrary to our nation’s core values and founding principles.” However, Bollinger went on to repeat the importance that the university, “as such”, not “take stands on ideological or political issues”, and must only voice objection when “policies and state action conflict with its fundamental values”.

Why? In the face of both an outraged community and an obvious violation of fundamental human rights, why not take a stand? In 2017, the distinction between an ideological issue and a value conflict seems almost moot when the issue or conflict at hand involves a rejection of the rights of human beings.

Lee Bollinger might offer a few explanations. One is that Columbia University, like almost every other institution of higher education, is classified as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, which precludes participation in political campaigns. However, 501(c)(3) organizations are permitted to practice “legislative or issue advocacy”—in this case, concerted action as well as further speech against the (amended in language but not in spirit) ban. Besides, Donald Trump is no longer campaigning for any political position. Unfortunately, he is our president.

Another explanation is that it is traditional for universities to remain “apolitical” in an effort to protect free speech. This effort does have a rationale, and violent protests against guest speakers like Charles Murray and Ann Coulter at campuses like Middlebury and Berkeley are troubling and illogical. But should this effort extend to refusing to condemn a human rights violation, simply because the violator is president? In addition, fighting Executive Order 13769 does not violate Trump, or anyone else’s, first amendment rights. He is as free to design cruel legislation as we are to oppose it.

Thusly, there is nothing keeping Bollinger—and the university as a whole, and universities across the country as a whole—from taking a stand, from voicing an objection and putting the force of age, reputation, and endowment behind it, from going out on a limb and doing not only what is representative of student body opinion, but what is right. There is nothing in our way but calcified tradition and fear of criticism. And these obstacles seem not only minute but even repugnant in the frightened face of those denied return to their adopted home simply because of their location of origin, or their expressions of faith.


Isabella Nilsson is a student at Columbia University, and a prose editor of The Adroit Journal. Her writing can be found online at Litro NY and in print within Scholastic’s Best Teen Writing of 2015, among other locations.


Works Cited

Bollinger, Lee C. “Response to Executive Order on Refugee and Immigration Policy .” Message to the author. 29 Jan. 2017. E-mail.

Hendrickson, Clara, and William A. Galston. “How Millennials voted this election | Brookings Institution.” Brookings. Brookings, 22 Nov. 2016. Web. 03 May 2017.

“Limits on Political Campaigning for 501(c)(3) Nonprofits.” Www.nolo.com. Nolo, n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.

“Protests at Columbia University in Wake of Trump Order.” NBC New York. NBC New York, 03 May 2017. Web. 03 May 2017.

Richardson, Bradford. “Liberal professors outnumber conservatives nearly 12 to 1, study finds.” The Washington Times. The Washington Times, 06 Oct. 2016. Web. 03 May 2017.

“SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR DONALD TRUMP.” Make America Great Again! | Donald J Trump for President. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.

Timpf, Katherine. “Classes Being Canceled Because Trump Won Is Why Trump Won.” National Review. N.p., 10 Nov. 2016. Web. 03 May 2017.

Tyson, Alec, and Shiva Maniam. “Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education.” Pew Research Center. Pew Studies , 09 Nov. 2016. Web. 03 May 2017.

“UNESCO Declaration of Human Rights.” Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UNESCO, n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.

Wartime Wisdom

By Nick Hennessy

After launching tomahawk missiles at Syria’s airfield (and, more importantly, after massacring civilians) and dropping the “mother of all bombs” on a tunnel in Afghanistan (and, more importantly, after massacring civilians) our inexperienced overlord, Donald “Trumpwad” Trump, has learned some valuable lessons about what it means to be a wartime president. Let’s look at what those valuable lessons are.

 1. Unarmed women and children are pushovers.

 2. All of ISIS tends not to gather in the same tunnel at once.

 3. Things were simpler in the days of the botched Yemen raid, when only one eight-year-old’s death weighed on Trump’s conscience.

 4. Getting away with bombing brown people overseas is somehow even easier than it is to get away with denying them fair housing stateside.

 5. Launching tomahawk missiles is more fun when, right before you give the okay, you screech, “Fly, my pretties, fly!” as Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus scamper around you in flying monkey costumes.

 6. When your fingers are too small to punch in the nuclear codes, you can always fall back on the “mother of all bombs”
 

7. “Mother of all bombs” somehow does not refer to the first 100 days.
 

8. Declaring war is not necessarily a declaration of war.
 

9. You don’t need a 9/11 to retaliate against a 9/11.

 10. If you want to forget your crimes against humanity, you should count your simple, innocent blessings: an understaffed executive office, a beautiful captive wife, and a secret tax shelter in Cyprus.

America is the mother of all bombers, and if Trump continues his reckless abuse of military power another generation of fatherless children will curse her name 

By Sebastian LaMontagne

The Mother Of All Bombs
On Thursday the 13th at 7pm local time, the U.S hit an ISIS tunnel complex in the district of Achin, part of the Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. They used a bomb known as a massive ordinance air blast weapon, GBU-34B, or the “mother of all bombs.” It was the first time the U.S had ever used it’s largest non-nuclear bomb in combat. The GBU-34B unleashed 11 tons of explosives, making it 0.073% as powerful as a nuclear weapon. In translation, the explosion it caused shook the earth miles away but was a spark in comparison to the house fire of Hiroshima.

Asked about the use of the bomb Trump explained with his habitual eloquence that, “what I do is I authorize my military. … We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and frankly that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.” Unfortunately Trump’s metric for success is that anything and everything he does is inspired.

The online response was quick. The Atlantic reposted an article lazily entitled “Make the Anti-War Movement Great Again” which questioned the lack of reaction to Trump’s use of military power. Mark Cuban tweeted that “Mother of all bafoons dropped mother of all bombs to create DISTRACTION from mother of all betrayals.Dont get distracted #russiagate #moab”; Wikileaks tweeted a nytimes article, captioning it “Those tunnels the U.S is bombing in Afghanistan? They were built by the CIA” and The Onion published a bit headlined “New Bomb Capable Of Creating 1,500 New Terrorists In Single Blast”

Meanwhile on Fox and Friends Ainsley Earhardt, visibly flushed with arousal at the idea of dismembered Afghans, declared “that’s what freedom looks like. That’s the red, white and blue.” But did Trump’s explosive act of compensation for his masculine insuffencies actually just help ISIS to continue crowdfunding terrorism?

The propaganda of a previous extremist group may help us better understand how the dropping of #moab has been received in Afghanistan.

The Structure Of Taliban Poetry

Night Raid
August 8, 2008

Those who have ruined my life’s harvest
Make a night raid on my home again.
The Red armies came and returned defeated;
They left the destroyed Afghan valleys behind them.
In any direction that I look, I see the deserted gardens;
The unity of my home has been hit by separation.
Who made a night raid on my home again?

What complaint can you make of the Red, this is their rule;
The forest wolves will always eat meat,
What else should humans expect from wolves?
They have hit my mount and Hamun’s as well.
Who made a night raid on my home again?

Somebody extended the hand of the cruel onto my lap,
That’s why there is no respect for the country’s Ulemaa’.
The turbans fell from the heads of our elders today,
They have set our people on fire.
Who made a night raid on my home again?

The house of my history and culture was looted today,
Each slave is now riding me.
The teeth of the East and the West have become like pliers on my muscles.
I have stepped into his hall in his presence.
Who made a night raid on my home again?

Wise up, O Afghan!
This scene of grief is made for you.
Be zealous and grab him by his neck,
This seared on your heart from the history of yesterday.
Who made a night raid on my home again.


Compare the poetry of the Taliban with the propaganda of America’s right wing extremists, who write words weightless with nugatory shock. Instead of sinking to the internet’s floor beside the unread long form of solo bloggers the work of false polemicists such as Milo Yiannopoulos skims along the surface, schlock for the unsighted.

Similarly Afghan poetry presents a rhetorical argument that evokes an emotional reaction, but does it with high language and historical reference, using symbolism to create depth so far unattained by white nationalist propaganda outlets such as Breitbart.

Trenches

August 23, 2008.


Hot, hot trenches are full of joy;
Attacks on the enemy are full of joy.
Guns in our hands and magazine belts over my shoulders;
Grenades on my chest are full of joy.
The enemy can’t resist when he sees them;
Black hair and stiff mustaches are full of joy.
He who fights in the field is manly;
Houses full of black haired women are full of joy.
We become eager two times after hearing it:
The clang, clang and rockets are full of joy.
Leave the lips and spring, O poet!
Poems full of feeling are full of joy.
Jawad, I say, on the true path of jjhad,
All kinds of troubles are full of joy.
I tell this to Bush!: Ezatullah Zawab
Bush! Don’t get upset just listen to a few words.
Listen to my bittersweet words!
You are neither God nor can the light of God be discerned in your face.
My Shamshad looks like a small mount Sinai.
There is no Pharaoh now, but you made a Pharaoh of yourself.
Every human in this world now looks like an enemy to you.
With whose blood you relieved your thirst.
A red dagger appears in your hand again.
Bush! Don’t get upset, just listen to a few words.
You climbed to the roof again; who are you monitoring?
Which village are you going to bomb again with red bullets.
All those who you killed will grab your collar.
How can you deny their deaths?
Bush! Don’t get upset, just listen to a few words.
You kill the young so that their maidens will cry in Iraq again,
May you be killed so that your children will cry for you.
May your mother, sister and grandmother cry for you,
You devote your life to the killing of innocents.
You came here and gave our way to strangers,
Who knows why you gave it to the foreigners.
What kind of friendship have you started with us?
We are Afghans, but you gave our soil to the foreigners.
You struck the mountains and throw bombs at them,
You cut pines from them and gave the snow upon them to the foreigners.
Bush! Don’t get upset, just listen to a few words.
You have become crazy, you are looking for life in the graves.
You came out of the nice city of lights.
You are seeking your life in our black walls.
You are taking advantage of the poor.
You are seeking your life in their hearts for a few dollars.
Bush! Don’t get upset, just listen to a few words.


Emotion plays a major role in Pashtun poetry. This is ignored in the West’s framing of Afghans as stoic warriors. Pashtun poetry expresses romantic love, as well as love for family and country. Joy is taken in pastoralism and the beauty of nature plays a pervasive role.

Most Taliban poems are in Pashtun and make creative use of a standardized canon of symbolism. Taliban verse is rife with references to the Russians and other invading forces that have been defeated by the Afghans. None of the poems written by the Taliban could be said to be free verse. They all contain some sort of rhyme scheme, often ancient in origin. Because of the ease with which poems can be miscredited or their author’s names completely lost, poets often work their own names into the verse they write.

Taliban poetry is an oral tradition meant to be intoned, sometimes with the backing of daff or da’ira frame drums. The use of percussive instruments evokes feelings of warlike defiance against invaders.

The invaders are not specifically referred to as Americans. Instead they are a featureless, nameless mob stretching back into the mists of Afghanistan’s past. The invader is the eternal antagonist, and the poet stands seething and sorrowful before them. The Taliban are not referred to by name either. Instead they are called “mujahed”, “muslim”, “Afghan” “brother” or “trench friend.” The Taliban’s use of universal language was in line with their desire to be the primary leaders in the resistance against Afghanistan’s government and the U.S.

Most poems are blatantly meant for a variety of propaganda purposes: recruitment, morale boosting and the rhetorical advancement of an agenda based on armed resistance. A few poems fall outside the rhetorical framework in which the rest operate and call for young men to achieve an advanced education and fight against their oppressors using knowledge.

The main repository of Taliban poetry was their website where poems were uploaded in the form of MP3s. Anybody in the Taliban could submit their poetry to the site. MP3s were the foremost distribution format for Taliban poetry, which was often traded via phones.

Poems were also passed around as cassette tapes which could be played in Taliban vehicles.  Though most music was banned under the Taliban, not all music was. Music that celebrated the Taliban was allowed and often listened to by its leaders. These songs use traditional poetic structures such as ghazal, which employs rhymes at the end of every line except for the half-line.

Poems were sometimes used as ringtones on Taliban member’s phones. And Pashtun poets still gather on Thursday nights in many towns and cities to recite their work.

Poets of Guantanamo

Most people have Brooklyn or Greenwhich Village in mind when they think of prolific poetry communities. No one thinks of Guantanamo Bay.

And yet even in confinement poets must write. Or perhaps especially in confinement. These poems vary in their subject matter. Some present rhetorical arguments, such as the poem “They Fight For Peace”, which argues against Americans who claim the war on terror is a fight for peace and liberty:

“Peace, they say./ Peace of mind?/ Peace on earth? / Peace of what kind?”


This is a poem describing the anger and pain of Mozzam Begg, since released from Guantanamo:

Freedom is spent, time is up –

Tears have rent my sorrow’s cup;

Home is cage, and cage is steel,

Thus manifest reality’s unreal.

A short excerpt from Humiliated in the Shackles by al-Haj also denounces the war:

America, you ride on the backs of orphans,
And terrorize them daily.

Bush beware.

The world recognizes an arrogant liar.

All three of these were published in the essential Poems of Guantanamo, a collection of 22 poems by 17 inmates. The Pentagon made it impossible for it’s publisher, Marc Falkoff, a U.S professor of law with a literature doctorate, to publish them in any form but the English translations.

According to a 2007 article by Al Jazeera the poems were translated only by security cleared linguists. The article quotes Pentagon spokesman Commander JD Gordan, who claimed that detainees “have attempted to use this medium as merely another tool in their battle of ideas against Western democracies”

When the book was published in 2007, as many as 355 detainees had not been brought to trial. Among them was Sami Mohy El Din Muhammed Al Hajj. While traveling to do camera work for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan he was arrested by the Pakistani military and imprisoned for six years without trial at Guantanamo Bay.

Before they were given access to pens and paper detainees would use styrofoam cups, scratching poetry into the cups with pebbles or smearing it on with toothpaste, to be passed around and read until the day came to a close and the guards collected the cups and threw them away. The poems collected in Falkoff’s book humanize the men who have become liberal America’s guilty conscience.



Satire

Pashtun poetry can also be a weapon for humiliation, taking expectations and flipping them for the purposes of satire. There is nothing that delegitimizes the powerful so much as laughing at them. The following poem about a love affair between Karzai and Bush is an example of political humor that transcends culture and is easily grasped by the casual Western reader:

Condolences of Karzai and Bush
December 18, 2008

Karzai:

O hello, my lord Bush;

Now that you’ve gone, who did you leave me with?

Bush:

My slave, dear Karzai!

Don’t be upset; I am handing you over to Obama.

Karzai:

These words make me happy.

Tell me, how long will I be here.

Bush:

Karzai! Wait for a year;

Don’t come till I send someone else there.

Karzai:

Life is tough without you my darling;

I share in your grief; I am coming to you.

Bush:

As for death, we’ll both die.

Alas, we’ll be first and next.

Karzai:

Give me your hand as you go;

Turn your face as you disappear.

Bush:

Sorrow takes over and overwhelms me;

My darling! Take care of yourself and I will take of myself.

Karzai:

Mountains separate you from me;

Say hello to the pale moon and I’ll do so as well.


 Condolences of Bush and Karzai reads like an SNL skit or an article in The New Yorker’s humor section. It also speaks to the system of personal alliances in Afghanistan culture; Just because Karzai has a good relationship with Bush does not mean he will have one with Obama. Karzai’s relationship is not with the United States or the office of President. It is an alliance cultivated with Bush as an individual.

Propaganda for the Recruitment of Propagandists

There is even propaganda aimed specifically at poets, that calls for them to stop writing about frivolous things and take up the cause of spreading the Taliban’s message. This is presented as a patriotic and even holy thing to do. By turning your pen to a war of words it is possible to simultaneously serve one’s country and serve one’s god and religion. The role of the poets described here begins to seem similar to that of the 18th century pamphleteers who put pen to paper to shape public perception. The poems treat the pen as both a weapon as deadly as a gun or a bomb and as soothing as a doctor’s medicine, capable of healing the wounds of a nation in crisis. This directly validates the essential impossible drive of the writer: to be everything, capable of anything, important to everybody.

Poetic Competition
By Mohammed Omar Kheywawal


I beseech you, O appreciative poet.
Always write the truth, O poet.
In writing what is right, don’t care about anyone else;
You are the consummate translator of the Muslim Umma, O poet.
God has conferred great power to your pen,
Unite the Muslims with your pen, O poet.
Never write for your reputation, O writer.
Yours is the tongue of the nation and its eyes as well, O poet.
You will be questioned for each word you write;
Don’t write things that you’ll regret in the future.
Leave the Godar, Mangai, black ringlet and eyes as well;
Cry for the sorrow of the homeland; leave the pizwan, O poet.
Do jihad with your pen; that is your obligation today;
Fight cruelty on every battlefield, O poet.
I, Kheywawal Omar, am asking for god’s kindness;
Go spread the word and make your faith, O poet.

Thin Tongue
By Zeerak

Your pen holds the power of positive change;
It contains love and charm for hearts.
Hard hearts are melted by it’s tears;
It has many effects and blessings.
Pious god has granted it great respect;
It’s thin tongue holds much virtue and achievement.
It doesn’t act as if white is black and black is white;
Because finally that ends in awful embarrassment.
Write what is real and take the right path;
You will be helped and blessed by God.
Write each line as a prescription for the pains of the country;
If you desire honor, there is honor in this affair.
Oh Zeerak! Telling the truth is considered to be jihad;
Martyrdom is granted for he who dies for what is true.

Like the previous two this last poem gives the promise of a higher calling, a great mission, the ability to be part of something. But more than the previous poems it lays the stick to the reluctant poet, scolding him for making himself illegitimate by writing about frivolities, as well as proffering the obligatory carrot. The carrot in this poem is the declaration that the old songs are now very old, no longer relevant. It’s time for new songs to be written. You, O’ poet, could be the one to write them:

War Talk
Zakir
September 8 2008

Don’t talk about cheeks and beauty here anymore;
Pack up your words about make-up and beauty.
Now is not the time for complimenting pots and springs;
Let’s talk about the blows of white swords.

The old songs are very old now;
Now remember the words for the clink of handcuffs.
Don’t remind us of Atans and picnics;
The word for wars pollution are spoken at every opportunity.
Why do you make yourself more illegitimate?
Why are the words for turbans lost now?
Whose voice would reach from Spin Ghar to Delhi?
Give the words of that powerful father back to your sons.
The history of epics is not lost, reopen it!
Use words about the Tatars and the Moghuls.
You celebrate independence day so why don’t you talk about
The foreigners’ control of our soil?
The fact that the foreign forces may come to my homeland?
Heavy words lie on this path.
For gods sake O Afghans and fellow Pashtuns,
Talk a little about the Western colonization,
About what’s going on with my poor nation in my homeland,
About the words of bombardment against our innocent women.
May this emotionless pen be broken and lost,
The one that still takes about love and the beloved.
If the homeland is crying, people are crying and wounds are crying;
O Zakir, don’t you hear the words of pain and injuries?

Violent incursion against Afghanistan inevitably leads to reactions like these. The more bombs are dropped and the more families are sundered by America’s war on terror, the deeper and broader this shared history of suffering becomes and the more likely ISIS is to find recruits bent on seeking revenge against the West.

The America First Executive Budget Proposal: Winners and Losers

By Justin Shea

In mid-March President Donald J. Trump released his first executive budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, entitled “America First, A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” Let’s take a closer look at who and what this budget actually puts first, or, in terms our fearless leader will understand, who are the winners and who are the losers.

Winner: The Military Industrial Complex

President Trump’s budget proposal requests $639 billion for the Department of Defense. This would be a $52 billion increase in funding for DOD from fiscal year 2017 and, coupled with the additional $2 billion for defense programs outside of the DOD, would bring the total increase for defense spending to $54 billion. It is even stated in the budget proposal itself that “this increase alone exceeds the entire defense budget of most countries.” To be exact, this increase in and of itself is larger than the defense budget for every other nation except; China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom. The budget proposal allocates most of this funding for; “warfighting readiness needs,” necessary resources for the defeat of ISIS, increased cybersecurity, additional ships for the US Navy, and maintenance and additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Air Force. Trump’s budget proposal claims that all of this is absolutely necessary and it depicts our military capabilities and infrastructure as having been weakened by the tyrannical Obama administration. It goes as far to say that the Air Force “is now the smallest it has been in history.” That’s right! The smallest Air Force in history, even smaller than than the Air Force of the continental army, tasked with dropping cannonballs from above on Trenton in the hours before the assault. However, the ridiculousness of the justification for such an absurd increase in defense expenditure, matters not when the man in the oval office made it abundantly clear, in his message to congress at the beginning of the budget, that he wants our armed forces, “when called upon to fight, do only one thing: Win.” (I fear as though much of the minutia of International human rights law is lost upon this President).

Losers: Poor Kids 

The largest losers in this budget proposal are by far underprivileged children. This becomes clear from the budget proposal for the very first department (Department of Agriculture). This budget proposes the elimination of the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, which provides for the donation of U.S agricultural commodities and associated financial aid assistance to carry out preschool and school feeding programs in foreign countries. In this scenario Trump is ripping food from the mouths of non-American children (we can safely assume Trump deems these as less valuable), but American children are still affected in a negative way by this budget. The proposal suggests closing centers that serve disadvantaged youth by “educating and preparing students for jobs.” The proposal would also reduce the overall budget for the Department of Education by $9 billion while adding $1.4 billion in funding for school choice programs (get ready to watch federally subsidized white flight in action folks). The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program would be eliminated. Thisprogram supports before-school, after-school, and summer programs for children. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program is also on the chopping block. This grant is reserved for college students with the greatest need for financial aid. Federal Work-Study would also be reduced “significantly,” because why should the government help people be able to afford higher education in a changing economy where a college degree is becoming more and more important in order to find employment opportunities. That just wouldn’t make any sense for them to do that.

Winner: Climate Change

The America First budget proposal does much more to hurt the environment than just slashing the EPA’s budget by $2.6 billion or 31%. The Global Climate Change Initiative would also be eliminated and the U.S would cease “payments to the United
Nations’ (UN) climate change programs.” Funding for the clean power plan will also be discontinued, this is of course because Trump has proven time and again that the only type of power he enjoys is the kind you pay for with an escort or are given by Vladimir Putin in a dark alley.

Losers: Workers

Would you consider yourself as someone who works? Did you do a training before beginning your job? Really, you did? Wow! Guess what just proposed eliminating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s training grants? Thats right, its the America First Budget proposal! Job safety grants are apparently worth cutting to save a whopping 11 million dollars, or in other terms 0.000000656% of the total US GDP. This is coupled with the slashing of the Department of Labor’s budget by 21%. The budget would also eliminate the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which aides with the transition of “low-income unemployed seniors into unsubsidized jobs.” And say adios to those doctors and nurses who care for those workers with injuries they sustained on the job, and the old people with health conditions they developed in their old age because this budget “eliminates $403 million in health professions and nursing training programs.” Also if you work for the EPA approximately 3,200 EPA employees will be canned so get ready for that. There is however one profession where workers are winners in this budget:

Winners: Wall Builders
 

That’s right folks, you chanted for it, and now its finally here. Little children hand over your legos, White Women, give us your Nora Roberts novels, 1970’s Pittsburgh, fork up your defensive lineman, we all have our role to play for the cause. The cause of course, as the budget proposal describes it, is a “high-priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology.” A.k.a the wall! The wall that President Trump and his crack team of advisors have determined is worth investing $2.6 billion for FY 2018. Personally I don’t think there is a better way to spend that $2.6 billion, except maybe to stop the budget cuts to the Department of the Interior ($1.5 billion cut) and Department of Justice (1.1 billion cut). For the readers of this budget analysis here is a list of possible combinations of cuts to programs and departments that add up to about $2.6 billion:
– Department of Transportation ($2.4 billion) + NFIP Flood Hazard Mapping Program ($0.2 billion) = $2.6 billion – Department of the Treasury domestic programs ($0.5 billion) + Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program and other “lower priority programs” ($1.1 billion) + Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant and other FEMA programs ($0.7 billion) + NOAA grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management and research ($0.3 billion) = $2.6 billion
– Environmental Protection Agency ($2.6 billion) = $2.6 billion
– Department of Energy ($1.7 billion) + Funding for multilateral development banks
such as the World Bank ($0.7 billion) + TRIO (Programs that increase access to higher education for economically disadvantaged students) and GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) ($0.2 billion) = ($2.6 billion)
– Department of Labor ($2.5 billion) + Small Business Administration ($0.04 Billion) + Community Development and Affordable Housing ($0.04 billion) + Essential Air Service Program ($0.02 billion) = $2.6 billion

A dietician explains Trump’s behavior, hopefully how he dies

By Nick Hennessy 

Donald Trump doesn’t drink or do drugs, but his unhealthy diet has given the American public cause for alarm (as well as hope that he will expire before finishing his first term in the White House.) News sources as diverse as Vice, the New York Times and Cracked have all published articles detailing the president’s eating habits—articles conspicuously devoid of the phrase “potentially fatal.” We sat down with a dietician (who requested anonymity) and asked how exactly Trump’s diet affects his mood, decision-making, and chances of lasting four whole years working the nation’s most stressful job.

 

POST-TRUTH POST: Donald Trump is 70 years old. He eats pretty much just steak and carbs. Will he make it to 71?

ANONYMOUS REGISTERED DIETICIAN:

I’m not sure exactly what you mean by that, but I would recommend that President Trump increase his intake of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, especially considering how old he is. We want to make sure he eats well throughout the day.

 

Sure we do. Trump is probably vitamin deficient. What are the implications?

Vitamin deficiency definitely affects the nervous system, nerve efficiency. He might be experiencing chills and fatigue, dizziness, irregular heartbeat—

 

Stroke?

Unlikely. To combat vitamin deficiency, he should be consuming the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables every day.

 

We both know he won’t do that. He eats lots of Lay’s potato chips, doesn’t he?

Yes. Lots of empty carbs, fat, salt. That might lead to constipation, irritable bowels—

 

So he’s alive, but at least his every waking moment is hell on earth.

Um, I wouldn’t go that far. We should also look at his Diet Coke habit.

 

True. Enough of that stuff is addictive and deadly, right?

Only if you drink absurd amounts does Diet Coke become carcinogenic. I only brought it up because it seems to be his one “vice,” and it’s not great, but at least it’s not alcohol.

 

Speaking of alcohol, would we be better or worse off if Trump got into drinking?

What exactly do you mean by that?

 

I mean, on the one hand, his judgment and temper are remarkable already, so drunk Trump is terrifying to think about. But on the other hand…

On the other hand, what?

 

Never mind. He told People Magazine back in 2016 that he doesn’t have a regular exercise regimen. Could that be the death blow?

At his age, he should be aiming for at least 30 minutes of regular exercise a day. He plays golf, but he does it with the aid of a golf cart and he doesn’t carry his own clubs. That doesn’t count as regular exercise. And he only sleeps three hours a night, at most. Sometimes not at all.

 

Much like Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth died of sleep deprivation.

She’s also a fictional character. Thus far, Trump’s lack of sleep isn’t fatal, but it likely affects his judgment. Sleepiness and irritability go hand in hand. He should at least try to work in a nap during the day. Being the president is a demanding job, and it requires being calm, alert, and energized enough to make huge decisions. If he works long hours, he should be sleeping, too.

 

Then again, what if he just burns himself out?

Excuse me?

 

Back to the Trump steaks. How would eating giant, overcooked steaks every day affect someone’s energy levels and mental process?

Well, especially because he likes his steaks well-done, I imagine he’d be suffering some constipation.

 

Excellent. Do you think he’s constipated enough that all the half-digested steak is just building up in his rectum, and one day, when his body can’t hold it all in—

No, Donald Trump will not explode into a literal pile of shit.

 

Come on, Doc, throw me a bone. When’s the old geezer gonna kick the bucket, and why?

I’m honestly put off by all this morbid talk.

 

I’m just saying what most of our readers are thinking.

Well, that’s alarming. I’d tell your readers to prepare for 2020. God is not going to strike Donald Trump down with a lightning bolt from the heavens. It’s up to voters to decide whether or not he gets to stay in the White House.