“Los Compadres” are back at heritage vinyl record exhibition

The 4th Heritage Vinyl Record Exhibition will be dedicated to the legacy of duo Los Compadres, indispensable mainstay of the history of Cuban music. This initiative, developed from the Office of the City’s Conserver and Casa Dranguet (Dranguet House), appraises not only the sound legacy of Santiago de Cuba, but of the most musical Caribbean island as well.

Starting next Tuesday, March 19, at 11:00 am, the exhibition will open at Dranguet House as part of the program of activities of the International “Pepe Sanchez” Trova Festival, initiative that also highlights the importance of both heritage vinyl records and Los Compadres. It will also strengthen the concept of seeing this city as the “musical city of Cuba”.

“Los Compadres” are back at a heritage vinyl record exhibition

The exhibition will be entitled “Hay compadres para rato”, focused on one of the themes of the duo, recorded in their famous record “Los Compadres” (1969), which was edited by MAG in 1972 for the Peruvian market and that earned them the “Golden Microphone” in January 1973, for sales record.

Anecdotes, curiosities, real stories, an approach to the discography of this emblematic musical duo from Santiago de Cuba, as well as significant details of the life and work of its members, will be revealed at the exhibition, whose fourth edition will include both a new theme and the screening of audiovisuals linked to Los Compadres, as a record player will play old guarachas, sones… for the delight of visitors every day.

As another way of sensitizing people to know heritage vinyl record and preserve it, to get closer to the work of Los Compadres and to show Santiago de Cuba as a musical city in the Caribbean, organizers promote a contest so everyone can take objects linked to this famous duo to be shown there, including images, writings, old records, among others.

Lorenzo Hierrezuelo and María Teresa Vera formed part of the duo that remained active around three decades with a repertoire that meant the best of the old trova (song).

Later, María Teresa Vera was replaced by Francisco Repilado (Compay Segundo), who together with Lorenzo Hierrezuelo made up duo Los Compadres.

Afterwards, Lorenzo called his brother Reynaldo Hierrezuelo, and both continued the work of the duo together.

This unforgettable duo remained active until the death of Lorenzo Hierrezuelo. Its legacy has been present in many of the groups and songs of Cuba’s musical history, and has achieved a well-deserved acknowledgement among the youngest generations.

In 2015, Septeto Santiaguero’s album “Tributo a Los Compadres” (Tribute to Los Compadres) won the Latin Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical album, a well-deserved tribute to musicians who put Cuban music on the highest step of the world stave.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

Juan Almeida, the man who never surrendered

Juan Almeida Bosque not only won the love and remembrance of the Cuban people due to his social-politic works. And it is that the Commandant of the Revolution left a print equally notable and value in the culture and the music of Cuba, with a dozen of published books and more than three hundred compositions which remain alive in the popular appraisal.

Since he was a child the fighter grew up under the examples of ethics and moral of his humble family, in Los Pinos his native neighborhood of Havana, he was developing a humanist conscience, which, definitively, was consolidated when beginning to participate in the fight initiated in answer to the coup d’état on March 10th of 1952.

In these circumstances, the young Juan Almeida met Fidel, to whom he followed later in the assault to the Moncada barracks on July 26th of 1953. Equally, he was one of the condemned to prison, with a penalty of 10 years; until that, after several years of imprisonment in the Model Prison, and thanks to the popular pressing, in 1955 he was amnestied together with his fellows.

Once free, after the amnesty of May 15th of 1955, Almeida continued his conspiratorial activities until he went to the exile in Mexico, to participate in the trainings and preparative of the expedition of the Granma yacht, which left Mexico on November 25th of 1956, and touched the Cuban coasts on December 2nd with 82 expeditionary whipped by tiredness and fatigue.

Alegría de Pío became a fatal reception of fire for the expeditionary fighters. In the middle of that encounter that seemed terrible, one of the most memorable passages of the Cuban history was produced.

The triumph of January of 1959 opened new responsibilities for the Commandant Juan Almeida Bosque, which he would accomplish with equal discipline and dedication, since chief of the Motorized Direction of the M-26-7 until chief of the Aerial Force of the Rebel Army and chief of the Army, in substitution of the Commandant Camilo Cienfuegos, after his physical disappearance.

Other tasks involved his efforts: the fight against bandits, First Vice minister and chief of the Direction of Services of the Major General State of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, as vocal of the Revolutionary Tribunal presided by the commandant Augusto Martínez Sánchez who was in charge of judging in summary judgment, to the participants in the invasion of Cochinos Bay on April 17th of 1961; as a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and of the Political Bureau in October of 1965; as well as a deputy to the National Assembly of the Popular Power since the first legislature and Vice-president of the State Council of Cuba.

His legacy goes beyond the revolutionary fight because he dabbled in the art as writer and as a musical composer. Also he composed more than three hundred songs, from which several record productions have been made; two of his more popular songs are “La Lupe” and “Dame un traguito”.

His example remains in the Cuban revolutionaries and his print; in the social and humanistic labor that fomented all his life; as well as in his family and his people that, for sure, will never forget the man who in the middle of the most terrible adversity recovered himself and gave courage to men who at that exact moment, almost without knowing it, they would became in the future of the Revolution.

  • Published in Cuba

Fidel Castro's Legacy Evoked in the Cuban Capital

The Cuban capital recalls the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, in a special edition of the magazine Habanahoy 499, on the 92nd anniversary of his birth and the 500th anniversary of the foundation of this city.

Published by Prensa Latina, the publication of the Provincial Assembly of the People's Power of Havana contains the imprint of the eminent thinker and his ties with his people.

Various moments in Fidel Castro's life (1926-2016), his support for the flowering of ballet and cinema on the Caribbean island, as well as his determination to develop education, health, science and sport are present in the magazine.

The publication also recognizes the permanent and indissoluble relationship of the statesman with the people, his brilliant oratory and unlimited dedication to the cause of the Revolution.

Through suggestive photographs, the text also contemplates the revolutionary's links with Havana, the city which next year will celebrate the 500th anniversary of its foundation.

In some articles, Habanahoy 499 contains testimonies of personalities about the figure of Fidel Castro, among them the prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso and photographer Liborio Noval, winner of the National Journalism Award Jose Marti.

  • Published in Culture

Samuel Formell and his Family Legacy about the Van Van Band

“Samuel Formell is one of those persons who open the door of his house and invites him to enter. He offers you a cofffee and you even feel his dog as a lifetime’s friend in his house's living room .”

“Even when he was a child, Sami or Samuelito, as he was known by his friends and relatives, had the passion for really different careers. However, it was almost impossible to escape from a musical house.”

“That is the reason; as a director of the main musical and popular dancing band of Cuba, he promotes the musical legacy of his father, along with his mother’s influences he always defends. Let us know much more about this musician and man.”

Samuel. How did music get to you?

“My father did not want to start it, and even before having decided for studying it, the naval engineering was the first career that I always liked. It was something really incredible and after that, I approached”

“The architecture much more and psychology, but I had many music-related concerns and the drums, specifically.” “My brother talked to my father and said to him: “

“I tested Samuel and I think he has a good hearing for music and his answer was that there was already another musician in the band and I already had my plans.”

Samuel Formell and his Family Legacy about the Van Van Band. Photo by Alejandro Rojas

“From that moment on, I left all, taking into account the fact that once you study music by becoming it into your career; you have certainly to dedicate yourself to it since you were a child and stop playing many children’s games due to that theme.”

“To be a good musician, it is necessary to study for many years as I think that study never ends.”

Which would be the musical rhythms if you had to talk to us about them?

“I was always marked by too many musical rhythms. My mother was the best tap dancer of Cuba and jazz, rock and music from the 70s and 90s were always listened at my home.”

“When my father knew her, he used to play the double bass for El Barbarán band and she was a professional dancer who used to travel, made shows and performed at Tropicana, Las Vegas and El Parisién centers and my father liked the way she danced tap and told us when we were children that he was behind that mixed-race woman until he achieved it.”

“My mother had a much better economic position at that time and they became a couple in the end. He father began living at her house and my older brother was born later. However, they could not send another child to her and my father asked my mother to stop working and that happened when Juan Formell was at the Revé musical band.”

Samuel Formell and his Family Legacy about the Van Van Band. Photo by Alejandro Rojas

“Why do I tell this history? Why he was at the helm of the feeling movement and my mother was at home with me? Moraima Secada lived in the corner. Elena Burke used to visit us a lot and Ángel Díaz too. There was then too much influence from them, along with the always present jazz.”

“Those were my great influences not only to me but also for my father to create the Charanga format with the drums that is the first in Cuba which appears a dancing band with that musical instrument, electric bass and so on.

Which music did you use to listen to and like, specifically?

“At that time, I used to listen to my mother showed to me like Ballads in English. She used to sing very well by using the Blue style and that influenced me a lot when I started the Arts school.”

“The musician almost always tends to become attached to the good harmonies as you train you ear. I study classic music and I think it is from there where the proper technique comes. The power about knowing how to listen to the sounds and making orchestral arrangements train you completely. It is compulsory to study piano even though you wanted to play trumpet, bass pr whatever and that took me to the contemporary Jazz music and that is what I have always liked listening to, even at present.”

We have talked about art and its influences thus parts, but it is time to tell us the way Samuel is at home.

“I have almost always had each month, a day where I wake up something that occurs at home. That is what I could not have studies from architecture. I have made many transformations and I built them from zero. I made myself the designs.”

“I like cooking everything, sea food, a paste which is the knowledge learnt from my father that passed me on the cook’s legacy.”

“I am also very fond of movie, photography. I respect the sound bands a lot and I do think that no one could match the process of creating music for a film as that increased your level. You have to study the script and it is really difficult when you have a scene that lasts a minute and a hundredth. It is certainly difficult to compose a melody without happening it, taking into account that could give the related continuity or the opposed effect, as well.”

“It is a hard work because that is the way the feelings are expressed, but it is a very rewarding outcome in the end.”

Samuel Formell and his Family Legacy about the Van Van Band. Photo by Alejandro Rojas

Now that we are talking about the film world, what is your relation with the audiovisual world?

“I do like the Cuban movie, the Latin American movie as it is the most complete art due to its many platforms. I believe that music keeps that path through video clips due to there is a screen and being there. The audience watches constantly and the tendency about listening to music has been lost, especially in the public places and that is why to be allied to the cameras, videos through 4K and HD formats and they should really have certain quality to be able to show them worldwide.”

At this point, I imagine that you have many things to be fulfilled. Which are them?

“I have many illusions and of them is about the Van Van band never to disappear. That is all a dream and a demand because we are not going to be alive forever. Moreover, my own son could join us or even not, however, all it is certainly a dream due to the band is already an additional emblem for the Cuban.”

“Nevertheless, if you asked about a dream of mine, it would be playing at a symphony orchestra of London as I would really like it.”

What else would you like to do as a musician, apart the Van Van band?

“To be honest, I have right now some projects which have anything to do with the Van Van orchestra that takes lots of my time, but I think Samuel Formell sharing with friends, musicians playing Jazz, funk and songs in English, lots of improvisation with cords and local bands and doing much more and feel attached to the music that made me grow, is certainly my debt.”

Samuel Formell and his Family Legacy about the Van Van Band. Photo by Alejandro Rojas
Time becomes an enemy sometimes. How do you use it to do many things?

“It is difficult, the musical instrument that I play the people often do not know how it is really is. My work is like the one carried out by three musicians at the same time and not only from the musical point of view but also physically one, the I have had to deal with it, I almost undergo a surgery due to my two elbows were affected, so if I had a surgery, the Van Van band would not be performing for four months and there was not any certainty about them being properly recovered after the physical therapy treatment. It was then decided to add mother cells into them with a related treatment for almost a month and I ended up really well. “

“I start here because in my personal life, apart from the band I have always to have a space for physical exercises and trying to be fit which is a habit I had not before.”

“In addition, I have to deal with all the family, I am the father of my nephew, who is the little brother who left my father and other relatives like my sirter Elisa, my suister Paloma, taking into account that Juan Formell was the one who protected the family, even economically, so I have to keep doing the same so that they are all ok.”

“There is a moment when I read, do Yoga and I always find time to be focused, adapt myself to the music, interviews of television, and the videos of the rehearsals. The tours are really intense for us. We go and we waste sometime some time in cities where we do not know absolutely anyone, so I take advantage of any period of time to be with the family.”

“We wanted to know how was Juan Formell's Jazz. We insinuated first, we asked for it later and he sat down and began playing later and we had not another option other than sitting down and enjoying from that show and drinking coffee.”


  • Published in Culture

Sir Paul McCartney on Lennon, Kanye and his own musical legacy

Sir Paul McCartney's final album of the '80s, Flowers in the Dirt, is regarded as one of his best of the decade.

He teamed up with new musicians, new producers and a new songwriting partner in the form of Elvis Costello and it inspired his first world tour in 10 years.

Now, as the record is re-released, complete with previously unheard demos, Sir Paul speaks to BBC 6 Music's Matt Everitt about collaborating with Costello, Kanye West and Michael Jackson - but why he'll never work with anyone better than John Lennon.

Sir Paul also reveals he's working on a new album with Adele's producer, and what he thinks his musical legacy will be.

Do you learn something from every person that you collaborate with?

My thing with collaboration, I know I can never have a better collaborator than John. That is just a fact. So I don't try and escape it. I just know there's no way I can find someone now who's going to write better stuff with me than I wrote with John. But having said that, I'm interested in working with other people because they bring their own particular thing to it.

If you're thinking of someone like Stevie (Wonder), he works by just making something up on his keyboards. You invite him to dinner, he shows up 10 hours later because he was fiddling around on his keyboard. He's such a musical monster and such a genius, that's what you learn from him.

Michael Jackson, we just sat upstairs in this office and I tinkled on the piano and we just made up a song there. Now with Kanye, I had no idea what was going to happen because I knew it wasn't going to be two acoustic guitars opposite each other. So I thought, 'Well, here goes nothing'.

The one provision I said to everyone, I said, 'Look, if I feel this doesn't work out, then we just won't tell anyone. Kanye who? I didn't work with him!'.

http://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/0530/production/_95282310_maccakanye_getty.jpgKanye West, Rihanna and Sir Paul collaborated on 2015's FourFiveSeconds / Getty Images

I just was myself and I told Kanye various stories that had inspired me musically. One of them was how the song Let It Be arrived, which was through a dream I'd had in which I'd seen my mother, who had died 10 years previously.

But I was so inspired by that that I wrote the song. I told Kanye that, because he'd lost his mother. So then he wrote a song called Only One when I was just noodling around on the electronic piano. So he got the melody, I put the chords in and the style and that's how it happened.

Did you go into Flowers In The Dirt feeling like it was kind of a bit of a reset?

I think so. I'm just bringing up my family, and then a point will arrive where I just think, 'OK, I've got some songs. I should get busy, I should record these. We should go out on tour. It's time'.

And that's what happened round about that time. It was suggested to me that I work with Elvis Costello as a partnership and it seemed like a good idea. I thought, 'Well, he's from Liverpool, he's good' - which helps - and we have a lot of things in common and so I thought, 'Well that could work'.

http://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/13C50/production/_95267908_maccaelvis.jpgSir Paul said he worked with Elvis Costello in a similar way to how he had worked with John Lennon

Was it writing nose-to-nose? Two acoustics, strumming at each other?

There's a million ways to write, but the way I always used to write was with John and it would be across from each other, either in a hotel bedroom on the twin beds, with an acoustic guitar and we're just looking at each other. He'd make up something, I'd make up something and we'd just spin off each other. The nice thing for me is seeing John there, him being right-handed, me being left-handed, it felt to me like I was looking in a mirror.

Obviously, it was very successful. So that was a way I had learned to write and it was the way I liked to write and Elvis was very happy to work like that. So it was like a repeat of that process, and so he was John, basically, and I was Paul.

I have to ask you about Chuck Berry. Obviously a massive musical hero of yours. What was he like? Did you work with him much?

I didn't work with Chuck. I met him. He came to one of our concerts when we were playing in St. Louis, his home town, and he came round backstage. It was great to meet him and just be able to tell him what a fan I was.

When I think back to being in Liverpool pre-Beatles, when we were all just kids learning the guitar with the dreams of the future, we suddenly heard this little thing, Sweet Little Sixteen. We never heard anything like that, and then when Johnny B. Goode came along, all of his fantastic songs, Maybellene. All these songs about cars, teenagers, rock 'n roll music, was just so thrilling.

Looking at the wave of tributes that followed Chuck Berry's death, do you ever wonder how are you going to be remembered?

I think you do and you put it out your mind. I don't get into it, really. I remember John once, saying to me, 'I wonder how I'll be remembered. Will they remember me well?'. And I had to reassure him. I said, 'Look at me. You are going to be so remembered, you've done so much great stuff'. But it was funny - you wouldn't think John would even have a remote bit of insecurity about it. But I think people do. Luckily, it won't matter because I won't be here.

On a more positive note, what's next?

I'm making a new album which is great fun. I'm working with a producer I first worked with two years ago on a piece of music I'm doing for an animated film. Since then, he went on to work with Beck and got album of the year with Beck. Then he went on to work with Adele and has just got song of the year, record of the year, with Adele, and just got producer of the year.

So my only worry is, people are going to go, 'Oh, there's Paul going with the flavour of the month'. But he's a great guy called Greg Kurstin and he's great to work with. So yeah, I'm at it. Beavering away, doing what I love to do. As Ringo says, 'It's what we do'.

To hear the whole of Matt Everitt's interview with Paul, listen back to the BBC 6 Music Breakfast Show, broadcast on Thursday morning.



  • Published in Culture

The long goodbye: As Trump inauguration approaches, Obama seeks to save legacy

With the clock running out on his presidency, Barack Obama is taking some last-minute steps to cement his legacy – from handing out government appointments and releasing Guantanamo prisoners to deploying US troops along the Russian border.

For a president who once famously said “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama has not issued very many executive orders. He averaged only 34 per year for a total of 275, according to Pew Research. Eighteen of those executive orders came in the wake of the November 8, 2016 election, however.

Emptying Guantanamo

One of Obama’s main campaign promises in 2008 was that he would close down the camp in Guantanamo Bay set up by his predecessor in 2002, calling it a “a recruiting tool” for terrorists, including Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Yet he did not push very hard to do so when he had the chance and eventually faced a Republican-majority Congress that expressly forbade him to close to offshore detention camp.


What Obama has done, however, is release nearly 200 of Guantanamo’s prisoners since taking office in 2009. The most recent transfer took place on Monday and involved 10 Yemeni nationals who were sent to Oman.

Begging your pardon

On Tuesday, Obama commuted much of the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army whistleblower who handed over thousands of US documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. Manning had been sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison under the Espionage Act, but will be released on May 17.

Manning has attempted suicide twice while imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and over 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for her release. Among them was NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, currently in exile in Russia.

Many expected Obama to pardon Snowden as well, with over a million people worldwide signing a recent petition asking him to do so. While Snowden was touched and had “no words” for the outpouring of support, the White House rebuffed the plea.

Snowden “fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday. By contrast, Manning “went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” Earnest said, adding that Obama was actively considering commuting her sentence.

On Tuesday, Earnest told reporters that Snowden “has not filed paperwork to seek clemency from this administration.”

Snooping for everybody

While rejecting a pardon for Snowden, the Obama administration has moved to make raw NSA surveillance data available to all US law enforcement agencies.

The previous strict limits on sharing raw data with other government agencies were “eviscerated” by the new rules, according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s announcement last week.

As Snowden himself pointed out, NSA surveillance is conducted under Executive Order 12333 and requires no warrants or court approval.

Friends in high places

Before leaving the White House, Obama has also sought to take care of his advisers and staff. Since January 1, he has named 72 people to various federal job openings, and nominated another 17 for posts requiring Senate confirmation, according to CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller.

The latest round of appointments, on Monday, included seats on the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts board of trustees for Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, as well as a seat on the board of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for Assistant to the President Ben Rhodes.

Obama appointments, with 71 hours and 41 minutes left


In Monday’s announcement, Obama also appointed the ambassador to Congo and a member to the US International Trade Commission. Both appointments require Senate confirmation, but are unlikely to receive it. The president-elect has already requested the recall of all politically-appointed US ambassadors.

Echoes of 1941

During his first term, Obama launched the optimistically-named ‘reset’ of relations with Russia. He leaves the White House amid the worst hostility between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War.

A 4,000-strong US combat team with tanks and armored vehicles arrived in Poland earlier this month, while hundreds of US Marines deployed to Norway and Army Rangers arrived in Ukraine. Thousands of German, Dutch, British and Canadian troops are scheduled to deploy in Estonia, Latvia in Lithuania between now and April – the biggest concentration of troops along the Russian border since Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa in June 1941.

In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented to her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov a red button that said “reset” in English – and supposedly in Russian. Due to a translation error by the State Department, the Russian inscription actually read “overload” – a gaffe that in retrospect seems more prophetic than accidental.

Current Secretary of State John Kerry defended the US foreign policy posture and sought to bequeath it to the next administration in his January 5 ‘Exit Memo’ speech. During his January 11 farewell address, Obama urged Americans to stay on the course he charted during the previous eight years.

Donald Trump was elected president on a platform explicitly repudiating most of Obama’s legacy, however, from foreign policy to Obamacare. He will take the oath of office at noon on Friday, January 20.

  • Published in World

President Barack Obama’s Crappy Legacy

Barack Obama came into the White House on a wave of passionate new voters, many of them black or young and white, becoming the nation’s first black president and promising a new era of “hope and change.”

Eight years later, as he is preparing to exit the White House, he leaves behind considerable wreckage, disappointment and a legacy of death and destruction, plenty of it physical, but also much of it in the legislative and political arena.

He did give us, over the last eight years, a lot of change, but not much hope, and most of the change has been negative.

Let’s just run through at least some of the list:

* One of candidate Obama’s big selling points in 2008 was that he promised to end the Bush/Cheney administration’s disastrous war in Iraq, to close the horrific torture site and prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, so damaging to American principles and to the county’s international reputation, and to restore the rule of law with regard to government behavior in areas like torture, extrajudicial killing and surveillance. Eight years later, the war in Iraq — a country almost totally destroyed by the illegal US invasion in 2003 and by the subsequent occupation and deliberate encouragement of civil war between Sunni and Shia populations — continues, with US forces being added even as our Nobel Peace Laureate president prepares to leave office. Guantanamo remains open and stocked with prisoners, many of them known to have been wrongly accused of terrorism, as the president has proved too gutless to do the right thing and just shut the place down, or order the captives released. Meanwhile, torture continues, the president has expanded and formalized a system of state-sanctioned and directed murder, even of US citizens abroad, and surveillance of Americans has reached appalling levels not even imagined by science fiction writers like George Orwell a generation or more ago. Indeed, the Obama administration had its lawyers actively and aggressively defend these Constitutional assaults, crimes and violations of international law in the nation’s federal courts, even appealing when courageous federal judges made the right decisions.

* Race relations in the US, and the economic condition of people of color in America, have only deteriorated during President Obama’s two terms. When a police officer arrested a distinguished middle-aged Harvard professor in his own house early in Obama’s first term, falsely assuming the man, despite showing his faculty ID, was a burglar, the president had the two men to the White House for a “beer summit,” instead of demanding an end to such racial profiling. As a result, racial profiling and the killing of unarmed blacks, including children, by mostly white police officers has become epidemic and an almost daily occurrance on this president’s watch, along with a general militarization of police (encouraged by his administration’s offer of free military surplus war armaments) to the point that it’s hard to distinguish them from an army of occupation across the land. The president has had basically nothing to say about reversing this catastrophic assault on freedom and democracy.

* The prison system has continued to expand, with perhaps some of the worst conditions of all in Supermax prisons run by the federal government (under the direct control of the president), where all inmates are held in conditions of solitary confinement that the civilized world considers to be a form of torture. The president has done nothing about this giant prison industrial complex of some 2 million inmates (not to mention the millions more living as half-citizens on permanent “parole” as ex-felons). It’s a situation which has appropriately been labeled a new form of chattel slavery by such experts as Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man who spent over two decades in such conditions, and who is still serving a live sentence in a Pennsylvania jail, a victim of corrupt and racist courts and unseemly political pressure from the nation’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police.

* A once-in-a-generation opportunity to finally scuttle this country’s outrageous and uniquely expensive and class-based for-profit health care system in favor of some kind of government run “single-payer” national system such as, again, the rest of the civilized nations of the world have adopted at much lower cost and with far better access and outcomes, was squandered by this president. Although he had advocated a “socialized” system before running for president, he opted to exclude that option from his “reform” planning. Instead, he gave us the Affordable Care Act — a complex and increasingly unaffordable system that was the preference of the insurance industry, whose shares rose dramatically with its passage into law. Obama’s legacy in this case is a system so inherently costly to both government and the public that it is doomed to crash and burn, leaving many or even perhaps most Americans worse off than before what is now known as “Obamacare” existed. (In effect, Obama gave the US almost exactly what Hillary Clinton’s mangled effort tried to give us 16 years earlier in the early years of husband Bill Clinton’s presidency: a complex private insurance industry-run system doomed to collapse under its own profit-maximizing weight.)

* Climate disaster, which candidate Obama warned was the biggest crisis facing America and the world, has been allowed to worsen almost unimpeded. The president refused to make it his number one issue, which is inexcusable given that he began by claiming that is what is was. Eight years that, with action taken, could have made a difference in at least slowing the looming disaster, were wasted while the president instead pursued his wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia and elsewhere and his drone killing campaigns elsewhere in places like Pakistan and Yemen, and as he promoted a gratuitously confrontational foreign policy towards both Russia and China as advocated by the neo-con advisors he appointed to key positions in his administration, including as Secretary of Defense.

* Particularly where it comes to energy, the president not only did nothing significant to reduce carbon emissions in the US (any declines in US carbon production were the result of the enduring economic slowdown, itself in many ways the result of the president’s too timid approach on taking office to try and use his huge initial popularity in early 2008 to press for a major spending campaign to jump start the economy out of recession. He actually took a page from his wacky opponents, Sen. John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin, and pressed for a “drill, baby, drill” policy of promoting “all of the above” energy sources, including offshore oil and gas exploration, extensive fracking for oil and gas, and even expanded drilling in the increasingly fragile Arctic and Arctic Ocean. He continues to back the construction of pipelines that only encourage more exploitation of heavy carbon-producing “dirty” oil from places like North Dakota and Canada’s tar sands.

* Nuclear war, which the president as candidate promised to make less likely, has become more likely, in the view of many experts, than any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is in large part because this president has pushed an aggressive program of trying to inviting countries on Russia’s border into NATO, of undermining the elected government of Ukraine only to replace it with a coup government run by anti-Russian fascists, of installing nuclear-tipped missiles right on Russia’s western border in Poland, and of “modernizing” America’s nuclear stockpile, including the design and manufacture of “useable” small nukes of only a few kilotons of destructive power, weapons which could in the future be used in battlefield settings, with disastrous potential for escalation to bigger bombs. This alone should cause the Nobel Committee to revoke the president’s ill-deserved Peace Prize, though since Norway is a compliant member of NATO that highly appropriate if unprecedented action is unlikely to happen.

* The president campaigned with tremendous labor movement support on a pledge to make a reform of the hugely pro-management labor relations laws, beginning with a bill to make “card check” calls for a union, where a majority of workers simply have to sign cards saying they want one, sufficient to mandate that an employer recognize a union and bargain fairly for a contract. He never even submitted such a bill, saying once elected that he had bigger issues facing him. American workers have continued to have to battle to survive during the president’s two terms under a National Labor Relations Act that is stacked against them.

* Beginning in 2010, the president, instead of calling on the mass of supporters developed during his 2008 campaign, to get out and back progressive candidates for Congress, oversaw as head of the Democratic Party a campaign to undermine and run conservative Democratic candidates against most more radical and progressive candidates seeking office in Democratic Party primaries. The result of this backstabbling of progressive candidates was that support for Democratic Congressional nominees that year and in subsequent elections was lackluster at best, leading to Republican takeover of both House and Senate — a grim situation that will now be difficult to undo.

* In the area of education, the president has actively encouraged the continuing privatization of public school systems at the expense of public schools, instead of working to better fund poor school districts. In what is a zero sum game, this has simply shifted public tax money from poor schools to selective privately run schools, where much of it ends up being siphoned off to high-salaried executives and the shareholders of for-profit management companies running the charters. The losers in all this have been the nation’s children. At the level of higher education, the president had the government take over as lender to students, but although such loans do not even allow default, they continue to be offered at extortionate interest rates, leaving graduates as essentially indentured servants for life. Note that big banks are able to borrow money at zero interest (which they simply turn around and invest in treasures to earn a 2-3-percent spread, rather than lending out), but students, whose successful education should be seen as a boon to the whole nation, instead have to pay 3-6% rates for their borrowed federal loan funds. (Student debt ballooned from $600 million when Obama first took office to a record $1.3 trillion in 2016 as he is leaving.)

* In the area of open and law-abiding government, candidate Obama promised a new era of open government. That was probably his biggest whopper. By all accounts, his has been the most secretive government in history, with the most prosecutions of whistleblowers, including the use of the hoary and clearly Constitution-undermining Espionage Act, his hounding of such courageous exposers of government wrongdoing as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, NSA critic Edward Snowden, and war-crimes exposer Chelsea Manning, and his G W Bush-like fondness for executive orders. Open government died with President George Bush and his consigliere, Vice President Dick Cheney. It has been buried by President Obama.

* Finally, Obama failed abysmally on the economy, in large part because just as with the criminals of the Bush/Cheney administration whom he declined to prosecute for their clearly illegal and unconstitutional crimes of torture, aggressive war-making and illegal surveillance on Americans, he decided to bar the Justice Department from prosecuting the criminal bankers at the head of the nation’s largest banks for causing, through their corrupt lending and fraudulent derivative-marketing programs, the real estate and stockmarket bubbles that ultimately collapsed the US and the global economy.

That decision was a disaster that still haunts the USA today, where some 20 percent of the workforce remains unemployed or unwillingly working less than full-time, often at a fraction of the wages they were earning before 2008. By bailing out the banks instead of breaking them up, he did nothing to encourage actual lending to people and small businesses for year on critical year.

So accommodating has this president been of the leadership of these billionaire banksters (many of them big contributors to his political campaigns), that not one top bank executive since 2008 has even been required to resign or retire, much less face prosecution, even at banks that ultimately, this year, were actually charged with felonies, but were allowed to cop a guilty plea in return for simply paying billions in fines — fines which they were able to write off against their taxes, in effect making the public pay them.

It’s hard, amid all this presidential wreckage, to find significant area where Obama is leaving any progressive legacy of substance. If anyone can think of something, it is sure to be dwarfed by the monumental pile of crap that he has allowed or even actively encouraged to pile up during his sorry two-term watch as president.

The sad thing to add about his exit is that he has so befouled the electoral landscape by his record of vacuous promises and subsequent lack of leadership and non-delivery of the goods that a jaded and/or angry public is likely to deliver us one of two replacements in the White House who will be even worse.



Trump Calls Clinton's Legacy "Death, Destruction, Weakness" in Leaked Speech

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Republican presidential candidate for the White House Donald Trump today will say that his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton left a legacy of "death, destruction and weakness" after serving as Secretary of State during 2009-2013, in his acceptance speech at the Republican Party Convention (RNC).

"Hillary Clinton's legacy does not have to be America's legacy. The problems we face now - poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad - will last only as long as we continue relying on the same politicians who created them," says Trump according to the draft speech, which was leaked to reporters in Cleveland, Ohio where the RNC takes place.

Trump lashes out at Clinton's campaign for being a "puppet" of "big business, elite media and major donors" and representing a "rigged system".

"Hillary Clinton's message is that things will never change. My message is that things have to change - and they have to change right now."

Trump, according to the draft, will also criticize Clinton's proposals and legacy in foreign policy, immigration, trade, education and protection of the right to bear arms.

Trump will also propose an immediate suspension on immigration from all countries affected by Jihadist terrorism until the US has improved security mechanisms.

"We must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place," Trump will announce according to the draft leaked to the press.

"My opponent has called for a radical 550 percent increase in Syrian refugees on top of existing massive refugee flows coming into our country under President Obama," Trump will state in his speech.

"She proposes this despite the fact that there's no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from. I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people."

"Anyone who endorses violence, hatred or oppression is not welcome in our country and never will be," he will conclude the topic, according to the draft.

Trump's acceptance speech will wrap up the Republican Convention in Cleveland, an atypical convention marked by some major party figures refusal to attend, Senator Ted Cruz's affront and the controversy over the similarities in the speech held by the magnate's wife Melania and that of Michelle Obama in 2008.

  • Published in World
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