miercuri, 27 iunie 2012

istoria se scrie sub ochii nostri...


Queen shakes the hand of former IRA chief Martin McGuinness

The Queen has shaken hands with the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in a gesture that means as much to the peace process as her groundbreaking visit to Ireland last year.

The monarch and Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister met briefly when the Queen visited a theatre in Belfast to view an art exhibition.
A television cameraman and stills photographer were allowed to capture the historic moment, but no members of the public were allowed within a mile of the venue as police imposed a total exclusion zone amid fears of a terrorist attack.
Mr McGuinness, as he held the monarch's hands for a few moments, spoke to her in Irish and told her the words meant: "Goodbye and God speed."
In stark contrast to the cheering crowds who greeted the Queen when she visited Enniskillen yesterday, the sovereign was driven through deserted streets in a bullet-proof car for the meeting with the Sinn Fein MP.
Sections of the nationalist community are vehemently opposed to the meeting between the Queen and Mr McGuinness, who has become Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister since embracing the peace process.
The significance of the meeting can hardly be overstated; Mr McGuinness was allegedly a senior IRA commander at the time the terrorist group murdered Earl Mountbatten, a cousin of the Queen and uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh, in 1979, and for decades the Queen was a prime target for the IRA.
Mr McGuinness has said he had left the IRA by the time of Earl Mountbatten’s murder.
Politicians on both sides of the political divide have praised both the Queen and Mr McGuinness for their courage in going ahead with the meeting.
Some victims of IRA attacks believe it is wrong for the Queen to shake Mr McGuinness’s hand, while Mr McGuinness has been criticised by some republicans for engaging with the woman who symbolises British rule in Ulster.
Overnight more than 100 protestors fought running battles with police in Belfast, throwing 21 petrol bombs and injuring nine officers.
Every vehicle was removed from the roads around the Lyric Theatre, and no pedestrians were allowed in or out of the one-mile exclusion zone.
Yesterday she made her first visit to a Catholic church in Northern Ireland at the start of a historic two-day visit.

After the unqualified success of the Queen’s first visit to the Republic of Ireland last year, the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee visit to Ulster marks another milestone in Anglo-Irish relations.
Although the Queen has been to Northern Ireland 19 times before, her bold itinerary includes visits that would have been unthinkable little more than a decade ago.
Is it appropriate for the Queen to meet a former IRA leader?
The Queen, so long regarded as a target by Mr McGuinness, is believed to have shaken hands with him during today's meeting, a moment that will be every bit as important to the peace process as her arrival in Dublin last year.
Martin McGuinness said yesterday: "In shaking the hand of Queen Elizabeth I am effectively, symbolically, shaking the hands of hundreds of thousands of unionists."
Peter Sheridan, chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, a charity which promotes peace in Northern Ireland and the Republic, said the gesture would alter things irrevocably.
"From my perspective it's a huge act of reconciliation, you cannot underestimate how important this is," he added.
"Whoever would have thought we would ever be in this situation - I think it says a lot about healing, human dignity and treating each other with respect.
"I think after today all of us will say things have changed - for me that's the significance of it."
However last night nine PSNI officers were injured as youths threw petrol bombs and other missiles in the Broadway area of Belfast.
Republicans had erected an Irish flag and a sign which said "Eriu is our Queen" on Black Mountain, overlooking Belfast. Eriu is a goddess in Irish mythology.
Today the monarch will travel to Stormont in Belfast for a garden party attended by 22,000 guests in the grounds of the famous building.
Plans for the historic handshake are separate to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee tour which has taken her across the UK from Leicester to London as she celebrates her 60-year milestone this year.
Asked how David Cameron viewed the handshake, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Clearly, there was a visit by Her Majesty to the Republic of Ireland last year. That has taken relations between the two countries to a new level.
"We think it is right that the Queen should meet representatives from all parts of the community."
The meeting took place at a celebration of culture at the Lyric theatre in Belfast which was attended by President of Ireland Michael D Higgins.

The initial handshake between the Queen and the former IRA commander remained private but farewells between the two individuals were filmed and photographed.
It comes after the Queen's groundbreaking visit to the Republic of Ireland last year when she laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, which honours republicans who died fighting British rule, followed by a tour of the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association before she spoke Irish at a banquet in her honour.

The cultural gestures - seen as public displays of respect to the Gaelic language and sports that her predecessors had historically sought to curb - had a major impact across Ireland.
Yesterday in Enniskillen, where 11 people were killed by an IRA bomb planted under a war memorial on Remembrance Sunday in 1987, every step the Queen took was laden with significance.
For the past 40 years, security around Royal visits to Northern Ireland has been so tight that they remain secret until the moment they happen.
When the Queen visited Northern Ireland during her Silver Jubilee, at the height of the Troubles, she slept on a ship off-shore and was helicoptered to functions.
But this time, the Queen’s itinerary was published in advance, meaning she was greeted by cheering crowds waving Union flags in County Fermanagh, some of whom had stood in the rain from 4.30am to catch sight of her.
"It's a wonderful day for Enniskillin,” said the Very Rev Kenneth Hall, the Dean of Clogher. “We want to prove we are one community in an atmosphere of togetherness.”
Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen, whose arrival was delayed by an hour after her flight was diverted to Belfast because of bad weather, attended a service of thanksgiving for her 60-year reign at St Macartin's Church of Ireland Cathedral, attended by both Protestants and Catholics, including the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady.
The Queen waves to the public as she arrives for a Service of Thanksgiving in Saint Macartin's Cathedral in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
The Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Alan Harper, gave a sermon in which he said the Queen’s conciliatory words and gestures in Dublin last year had allowed many to throw off the "shackles" that had been loosening since 1998's Good Friday Agreement.
The Queen later met survivors and relatives of the victims of the Enniskillen bombing in private, before making the short walk to St Michael’s Catholic church, which was filled with local community groups that had asked to meet her.
She then went on a brief walkabout, accepting flowers from well-wishers, some in the crowd chanted “We want the Queen!”
Crowds wave Union flags in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, as they wait for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II during a two-day as part of the Diamond Jubilee tour (PA)Crowds wave Union flags in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, as they wait for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II during a two-day as part of the Diamond Jubilee tour (PA)
Frank O'Reilly, 63, said: "We were told about two weeks ago she was coming and everybody's been excited since then.
"Given the present climate this has been a huge step forward for the Catholic and Nationalist communities."
But today's meeting with Mr McGuinness has divided the town. Stephen Gault, who lost his father, told Sky News: "Nobody has been brought to justice for Enniskillen so it's very hard for the families to accept Mr McGuinness shaking the Queen's hand."
Speaking ahead of the meeting Mr McGuinness made reference to a famous remark by Tony Blair before the 1998 Good Friday peace deal, saying: "There was a lot of talk in the past about someone feeling the hand of history on his shoulder.
"This is about stretching out the hand of peace and reconciliation to Queen Elizabeth who represents hundreds of thousands of unionists in the north.”
Less happy times: Martin McGuinness, centre, showing what were claimed to be security forces intelligence pictures of suspects at a provisional IRA press conference.
Gerry Kelly, a Sinn Fein MLA and a former IRA member, said of the meeting: "This is a huge ask for Republicans.
"It is symbolic in the sense that the Queen may be a grandmother who people in England and people orientated towards Britain here in Northern Ireland highly respect and love. But she is the symbol of British rule in Ireland."
Noel Whelan, a political commentator, told the FT: "This is part of Sinn Fein's strategy to broad its political appeal in the Republic and reach out to middle class support as it attempts to establish itself as a potential government partner in the south."

sâmbătă, 23 iunie 2012

iar despre misteriosul Obama

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In search of Obama

Even the most successful attempts to shed light on the US president are unlikely to eclipse his own memoirs
Cool: Barack Obama in 1980 when he was a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California©Lisa Jack/Contour by Getty Images
Cool: Barack Obama in 1980 when he was a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California
Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss, Simon & Schuster, RRP$32.50, 672 pages, published in the UK as ‘Barack Obama: The Making of the Man’ (Atlantic, RRP£25)
The Obamas, by Jodi Kantor, Little, Brown, RRP$29.99, 368 pages, published in the UK as ‘The Obamas: A Mission, A Marriage’ (Allen Lane, RRP£14.99)
And Then Life Happens: A Memoir, by Auma Obama, St Martin’s Press, RRP$25.99/RRP£17.99, 352 pages

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IN ESSAY

At the start of his much-awaited biography of Barack Obama, David Maraniss quotes William Faulkner: “The past is not dead. In fact, it is not even past.” He takes another 167 pages to arrive at Obama’s birth. Family trees are essential to any biography and with Maraniss, the roots go particularly deep. In Barack Obama, the author includes often moving portraits of both Obama’s parents, Barack Obama Sr and Ann Dunham, and of their parents, and theirs before them – a prolonged overture to the brief marriage between a Kenyan man and a woman from Kansas that began the life of America’s 44th president. But in closing with the 27-year-old Obama heading for Harvard Law School, Maraniss may leave many readers feeling prematurely abandoned.
It would have been nice to get to the point where Obama was elected as the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review – the feat that originally won him national attention. But that is not the Maraniss way. Where he triumphed with First in His Class, his 1995 biography of Bill Clinton, the author strikes a less vivid chord with Obama. The difference is largely one of material. By the time we close the Clinton book, “Slick Willie” is three times governor of Arkansas and declaring his candidacy for the White House (an ambition that Maraniss traced to Clinton’s torrid youth in Hope). Clinton was practically born running for office and left a trail of relationships and records wherever he went. By contrast, Obama keeps his heart well away from his sleeve. Clinton was needy and ill-disciplined. Obama is iron-willed. In addition, he had already written his own memoir,Dreams from My Father (1995), which pretty much covers the same years as Maraniss.
Within these constraints, Maraniss still pulls off an impressive book. The reader is never in doubt about the importance of Obama’s biracial identity to the making of the man and his political persona. Nor is there any question that Obama agrees. “The only way my life makes sense is if, regardless of culture, race, religion, tribe, there is this commonality ... [and] that we can each reach out beyond our differences,” Obama tells Maraniss. “If that is not the case, then it is pretty hard for me to make sense of my life. So that is at the core of who I am.”
 
Some of the most telling passages are where Maraniss finds fault with Obama’s autobiographical memory, as he frequently does. Composite people populate Obama’s memoir, from his best friend at high school in Hawaii, who was an amalgam of several characters, to his girlfriends in New York and in Chicago (ditto) before he met Michelle. Maraniss gently debunks one scene in which Obama catches his besuited reflection in the elevator doors of his employer’s office and sees a future on Wall Street stretch out before him. In overcoming his own “temptation of Christ”, Obama spurns wealth for principle. Maraniss quotes Obama’s sceptical former colleagues to conclude that he never wore a suit. Nor did the elevator offer any reflection.
With the same light touch, Maraniss punctures the notion that a three-and-a-half-year-old Obama could have advised his mother on her second marriage (to Lolo Soetoro, Obama’s Indonesian stepfather). “I asked her [Obama’s mother] if she loved him,” Obama wrote. “I had been round long enough to know such things were important.” In which case, Maraniss writes, Obama was an “extraordinarily experienced child with perceptive skills and conversational powers well beyond his years”.
Maraniss is too subtle a writer to make more of these discrepancies than they deserve. He describes Dreams from My Father as “literature” rather than “fiction”. Moreover, in terms of the spirit of what Obama wrote – if not always the letter – Maraniss is largely in sympathy. The only progeny of a brief Hawaiian marriage between a teenage white girl and a volatile but charismatic older man, Obama was delivered into a biracial puzzle. At a stage where miscegenation was still illegal in many American states, and where in Hawaii almost all mixed marriages were between whites and Asians, Barry stuck out wherever he lived – from Honolulu to Jakarta. It is only when he reached Occidental College in Los Angeles at 18 that the young Obama starts to crystallise. Until then Maraniss continually threads in and out of the tragically short lives of Obama’s mostly absent biological parents.
 
At Occidental, Obama led a part-earnest, part-bohemian life that melded a Left Bank reading list with his love of running and basketball. In a foretaste, perhaps, of the age in which he would govern, Obama joined a society describing itself as a group of “apathetic half-intellectual sports fans”. At another point Obama is described as having “gripped the bong [for smoking pot] with practiced coolness”. Race, and Obama’s identity struggle, are never far away. It is at Occidental where the Hawaiian “Barry” turns into “Barack” even though some of his African-American peers still viewed him as an “Oreo” (black on the outside, white on the inside). That took many years to overcome. The original title for Dreams from My Fatherwas “Journeys in Black and White”.
By the time Barack has traded LA for New York, we learn how introspective he has become. We also get a foretaste of the intensely private man who would enter the White House. Obama was often a loner. Many contemporaries at Columbia University have no memory of him. The contrast with Clinton at Yale or Georgetown could not be greater. “His warmth can be deceptive,” wrote Genevieve, Obama’s Australian girlfriend, in her diary. “Though he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness ... ” Perhaps “The Cool President” could work as a title for any future biographer. According to friends, Obama had a habit of concluding arguments by observing that “the truth is usually somewhere in between”. From New York to Chicago, Maraniss ends the book with Obama’s stint as a community organiser in a mid-1980s South Side blighted by the closure of the steel mills. It was here, as one interviewee states, that Obama took the necessary step of “credentialing himself in the black world as he made his way to a political future”.
It would be hard to imagine a book more different from Barack Obama thanThe Obamas, Jodi Kantor’s lively account of the first couple’s time in the White House. Where Maraniss is punctilious in sourcing and questioning his own observations, Kantor is sometimes tendentious. But her book has the virtue of brevity. And it is recognisably the same Obama who emerges.
 
There are also new traits, such as Obama’s impatience with criticism. Shortly after Obama appointed the ebullient Rahm Emanuel as his White House chief of staff, he received a call from Christopher Edley, dean of the Berkeley law school. Edley thought the president-elect had made an unwise decision and should rethink. Obama was irritated. “The old friends never spoke again,” Kantor writes (“have not spoken since” might have made better wording). Here, also, the difference with Clinton is telling.
Most evenings Obama dines upstairs with his family in the White House private apartment. Then he usually works alone and often scans the internet for news (another first for an American president). He rarely picks up the phone to chat with advisers or allies. Whenever the Obamas host larger events, “there is no mistaking when the party is over”, one visitor tells Kantor. The Obamas spend almost all of their purely social time with Valerie Jarrett, the ubiquitous senior adviser and original Chicago mentor, or with the Whitakers and the Nesbitts – also from Chicago.
Kantor does a good job of describing how quickly the bubble formed around the Obama White House – and how easily it is to get accustomed to what comes with it. Early in his presidency, Obama took the first lady on Air Force One to New York on a dinner date and a visit to Broadway. In spite of having created a massive traffic jam, the president was astounded at the criticisms of his evening out.
Michelle is the hero of Kantor’s book. Having made an awkward start, her role has steadily grown alongside her national popularity. One retail analyst estimates that the first lady boosts sales of any item she is seen wearing by an average of $14m. This is star power indeed – more Duchess of Cambridge than, say, Laura Bush. Michelle’s aides used to refer to the White House’s East Wing as “Guam”: pleasant and powerless. But Michelle’s touch has grown steadily more sure. Once pliable, she nowadays holds back from agreeing to campaign appearances unless advisers give her a say in the strategy. Mostly she sticks to the safer territory of childhood learning and obesity.
According to Kantor, the Obamas have not made a single new friend in Washington. This should come as no surprise. After daughters Sasha and Malia quit their weekend soccer team, half the remaining players dropped out. Their parents apparently saw no further value in participating. Even the simple act of watching a school performance has to be re-staged in the White House. The First Couple have learnt how disruptive their attendance can be. Frustrated at the lack of good piano teachers, Michelle persuaded her daughter’s teacher to move to Washington from Chicago. A little worryingly, the president apparently views his first lady as his ultimate “reality check”. It is Michelle who tells Obama what the real America is thinking, according to Kantor. Let us hope there is another. Kantor is pretty confident that there isn’t. “The Obamas burrowed ever deeper into a tiny pre-existing circle,” she writes. “Their behaviour was on the far side of introverted.”
Those seeking glimpses of a president off his guard might be tempted to turn toAnd Then Life Happens, a memoir by his Kenyan half-sister, Auma Obama. But this is a book for certified Obamaniacs only. Originally written in German, in which Auma became fluent when she worked in Frankfurt, the book clearly rides on the family name. It tells us little about Obama, whom Auma has met on only a few occasions (although two of those were very intensive). It was she who introduced Obama to his paternal land. He is fond enough of Auma to have flown her family to his Senate and presidential inauguration at his own expense. She is his only constant link to Kenya.
Alas, though, Auma’s memoir sheds little light on her enigmatic American sibling. Understandably, she seems a bit overwhelmed by it all. “My little brother was now a big man, I thought. If only the old man were still alive to see all this!” Meanwhile, Obama remains as elusive as ever. Many more words are likely to be spilled on him. Few will be as absorbing as those by Maraniss, or as relentlessly prying as Kantor’s. But none – even the Maraniss opus – is likely to be as carefully worked over as the sequel Obama will surely one day produce. Writing, after all, is Obama’s first love. In the art of his own biography, this president retains the upper hand.
Edward Luce is the FT’s chief US commentator and author of ‘Time To Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Decline’ (Little, Brown)

vineri, 22 iunie 2012

Watergate-ul lui Obama


The Fast and Furious scandal is turning into President Obama's Watergate

Obama is repeating many of the mistakes that led to Nixon's resignation in 1974
Fast and furious hasn’t been discussed a lot in the mainstream media, which is why the facts can seem so preposterous when you read them for the first time. But the story is slowly unraveling and the public is catching up with the madness. On Wednesday, the The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over his decision to withhold documents related to the “gun walking” operation – documents that President Obama tried to keep secret by invoking executive privilege. The question of why the Prez intervened in this way will surely hang over the investigation and the White House for many months to come. Be patient, conservatives. It took nearly eight months for the Watergate break in to become a national news story. But when it finally did, it toppled a President.
Here’s what Fast and Furious is all about – and for the uninitiated, be prepared for a shock. In 2009, the US government instructed Arizona gun sellers illegally to sell arms to suspected criminals. Agents working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were then ordered not to stop the sales but to allow the arms to “walk” across the border into the arms of Mexican drug-traffickers. According to the Oversight Committee’s report, “The purpose was to wait and watch, in hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case…. [The ATF] initially began using the new gun-walking tactics in one of its investigations to further the Department’s strategy. The case was soon renamed ‘Operation Fast and Furious.”
Tracing the arms became difficult, until they starting appearing at bloody crime scenes. Many Mexicans have died from being shot by ATF sanctioned guns, but the scandal only became public after a US federal agent, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, was killed by one of them in a fire fight. ATF whistle blowers started to come forward and the Department of Justice was implicated. It’s estimated that the US government effectively supplied 1,608 weapons to criminals, at a total value of over $1 million. Aside from putting American citizens in danger, the AFT also supplied what now amounts to a civil war within Mexico.
It’s important to note that the Bush administration oversaw something similar to Fast and Furious. Called Operation Wide Receiver, it used the common tactic of “controlled delivery,” whereby agents would allow an illegal transaction to take place, closely follow the movements of the arms, and then descend on the culprits. But Fast and Furious is different because it was “uncontrolled delivery,” whereby the criminals were essentially allowed to drop off the map. Perhaps more importantly, Wide Receiver was conducted with the cooperation of the Mexican government. Fast and Furious was not.
So Obama’s operation is subtly different. But just as concerning is the heavy handed way that the administration has handled criticism. Obama says that the Oversight Committee has been hi-jacked by Republicans who would rather talk about politics than creating jobs (because Obama is o-so very good at generating those). But there has been Democratic criticism too, and the Prez’s determined defence of Holder will only encourage conspiracy thinking that the scandal has hidden depths. Executive privilege is usually associated with protecting information that passes through the Oval Office. What did the documents reveal about Obama’s association with the operation?
Again, it’s important to contextualise. Executive privilege has been invoked 24 times since Ronald Reagan, and attempts to over-ride it rarely reach the courts. Moreover, Holder’s request for executive privilege made no reference to White House involvement in Fast and Furious, which seems to have been run exclusively by the ATF. Nevertheless, by refusing to sack Holder or push him to come clean, Obama may have made a very Nixonian mistake.
A lot of conservatives are writing at the moment that not only is Obama turning into Nixon Mark II, but Obama is much worse because no one actually got killed during Watergate. The comparison is based on the myth that Nixon ordered the Watergate break in and that’s what he eventually had to resign over. But that’s not true. Nixon’s guilt was in trying to pervert the course of justice by persuading the FBI to drop its investigation of the crime. Mistake number one, then, was to involve the White House in covering up the errors of a separate, autonomous political department. Mistake number two was that when Congress discovered that evidence about the scandal might be recorded on the White House bugging system, Nixon invoked executive privilege to protect the tapes. In both cases, it was the cover up that destroyed Tricky Dick – not the original crime.
And, forty years later almost to the day, here we have Obama making the same mistake. Perhaps it’s an act of chivalry to stand by Holder; perhaps it’s an admission of guilt. Either way, it sinks the Oval Office ever further into the swamp that is Fast and Furious. Make no mistake about: Fast and Furious was perhaps the most shameful domestic law and order operation since the Waco siege. It’s big government at its worst: big, incompetent and capable of ruining lives.

sâmbătă, 16 iunie 2012

a Ceausescu era story...


'It felt like he sacrificed us'

At night, Carmen Bugan's father would rail against the Ceausescu regime in Romania by typing pro-democracy pamphlets. Afterwards, he'd bury the typewriter in the garden. But one day he threw caution to the winds ...
Carmen Bugan
Carmen Bugan: 'We developed very close relationships. We would read each other’s minds.' Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
In 1983, Carmen Bugan's father, Ion, put on his best dark suit and drove to Bucharest to radically change his family's life for the worse. He stopped his red Dacia car on a rush-hour street and mounted banners on the roof. "Criminal, we don't want you to lead us" announced one. "What do you defend, the Ceausescu dynasty or the rights and liberty of man?" said the other, directed at the army, judiciary and police.
Romania was in the grip of the totalitarian Ceausescu regime. At home, 12-year-old Carmen was convinced her father's one-man protest would end in his death. "I thought it was a suicide mission. It felt a lot like abandonment. I wasn't quite ready to sacrifice my father for any political ideal," she remembers now.
She was also angry. "For a long time I felt that somehow we were less important to him than the case of Romania."
Ion had certainly chosen his moment. His wife, Mioara, was in hospital, after complications during the birth of Carmen's younger brother; her sister was away doing gymnastics. It was left to Carmen and her grandmother to face the Securitate, the secret police, who interrogated them, and turned their home upside down in an attempt to discover the extent of Ion's treachery. Carmen did not know if her father was dead or alive.
Twenty-three years later, Carmen, a poet who lives on the border of France and Switzerland, has written a beautiful, vivid memoir of growing up in Ceausescu's Romania – Burying the Typewriter – a childhood idyll gradually supplanted by a growing awareness of oppression. Her parents ran a grocery and she witnessed the food shortages and fighting over rations.
But until her father's ill-fated protest, the clearest inkling she had of her parents' activism was when she found her father burying their typewriter in the backyard. Every night she heard the keys clacking, as her mother and father wrote forbidden pro-democracy pamphlets; by day, she learned of other moments of dissent in the east, via Radio Free Europe.
When her father vanished, she realised that her mother had helped him with the flyers not just because she believed in what he was doing: "More than that, it was a dedication to her family. She felt if she helped him they would stay secret," she says.
With his wife in hospital, years of pent-up political activism exploded in Ion. "My father didn't feel so supervised by my mum. He felt more free to focus on this work because my mother wasn't there to remind him how dangerous it was and try to stop him."
For her father, she says, "It was now or never, a desperate thing." But he also understood the risks. "He knew all about torture, about being followed and punished for his political beliefs. He was prepared for the sacrifice."
"It didn't feel like he sacrificed himself," she pauses. "It felt like he sacrificed us as well."
Ion wasn't killed, but he was imprisoned. Microphones were hidden in their home; even in private, Carmen and her family could never speak openly about what they felt. Villagers and friends were forced to inform against the family. Teachers turned against the children at school, and incited other pupils to bully them. The police found the typewriter buried in the backyard. Mioara was banned from teaching and forced to divorce Ion.
Ion was released in a national amnesty to relieve overcrowded prisons in 1987, but the surveillance got worse.
Despite the anger that Carmen and her mother felt towards Ion, the family grew closer. "You would think something like this would tear people apart – the reproaches, the regret, prison. It worked the opposite way with us." Their oppression drew them closer; they couldn't trust their friends or community. "I always felt we were five fingers on a hand – one of us couldn't achieve anything without the other," she says of herself and her parents, sister and brother.
"We were forced by necessity into a trust that is very rare in life. It was beautiful. We developed very close relationships. We would read each other's minds. We were each other's shadows."
Aged 18, Carmen sought asylum at the American embassy in Bucharest. With help, she evaded the secret police, made contact with the embassy, and applied for refugee status. "It was one of the greatest moments of my life – I had a role," she says. Only later did she learn that her father had been Amnesty International "political prisoner of the month" in 1986 and was also championed by Index on Censorship. Western publicity may have stopped the Romanian authorities from making her family disappear.
When they did leave the country, the official at the passport office gave them a chilling warning: if they ever spoke out against Ceausescu they would be hunted down and killed.
As they crossed the border into Yugoslavia, a fellow passenger on the train offered them a sip of Coca-Cola. Their father made the passenger drink it first; he was afraid of being poisoned. Shown it was safe, they all sipped this symbol of the west, "as if it was holy water" remembers Carmen.
In the weeks after arriving in their new home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in November 1989, she was still terrified, mistaking Jehovah's Witnesses and peeping toms for the Romanian secret police. (It is hard to know who would be more insulted.) Suspicions died hard.
After all those years, did her family struggle to relearn how to express their true feelings once they were safe in America? No, says Carmen, they talked straightaway; her parents are not the kind of people to hide their feelings. In any case, there was a kind of mental liberation: that Christmas in 1989, the church group that first gave them a place to stay discovered the family "dancing and screaming and crying" in front of the television set: there had been a revolution in Romania; President Ceausescu was finally deposed.
Her father wanted to return to Romania; revolution was his "biggest dream and it was happening without him". But his wife and children insisted on staying in America. "We were very tired people," says Carmen. "It felt like there was nothing to return to."
They became model political refugees and immigrants. Carmen was the first to get work, aged 19, as a cleaner, and her mother and sister became nurses. Her father got a job as a school caretaker and her brother is now serving in the US army in Afghanistan.
Carmen studied at Michigan and Oxford Universities and became a poet. Writing about her childhood was a way of reawakening positive feelings for a country from which she still felt estranged. However, her feelings about the past were transformed again when she decided to call up her secret police files, now accessible in Romania's state archives. In a bureaucratic mix-up, she was handed her father's files: 18 volumes and nearly 1,500 pages.
Suddenly, she had an oppressive state's view of her private family life; a strange new "archival identity" as she calls it. She learned that her father – codename Andronic – had been monitored since 1961 after making admiring comments about America's race to land on the moon.
She discovered more about his three prison sentences, his time in solitary confinement – and the torture he had experienced. Some revelations were unsettling: she read a letter in which Ion's father disowned him when he was first imprisoned; her grandfather is now dead and she will never know if this letter represented his true feelings. The surveillance provided an odd, voyeuristic view of herself but some of the things on file were "magical". Bizarrely, the secret services kept a short story she had written, aged 11, on their forbidden typewriter. In another file from 1973, the man spying on her father noted: "He has two young children for whom he cares very much."
Carmen is still very close to her parents, who are now retired, but she struggles to have a relationship with Romania. She lives on the border between France and Switzerland, where her husband works at Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. "I think I belong on the border. I feel safer psychologically if I have two countries, two places to go," she says.
She also feels half ashamed of being Romanian: "For a government to do that to its people was shameful." Even now, 23 years on, she only has two close Romanian friends. "I'm still suspicious," she says. "You keep wondering what their past was – were they on the side of informers? Were they on the side of the secret police?"
Returning to Romania two years ago to revisit her family home and old school was "one of the worst experiences of my life", she says. Yet there is still an inescapable desire to reconnect. Her writing is circling ever closer to Romania. "Do I want to turn back?" she wonders. "Is Romania really the sun and am I the sunflower?"
• Burying the Typewriter by Carmen Bugan is published by Picador, £16.99. To order a copy for £13.59, including free UK p&p, go toguardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 6846

vineri, 15 iunie 2012

Obama, probleme, ma?


How Barack Obama avoids prison

15.06.2012
 
By Lawrence Sellin
How Barack Obama avoids prison. 47337.jpeg
A political deal will be struck to save the Democrat Party from total collapse and protect the Republican Party from revelations of complicity in the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the American people.
A growing number of Americans are now learning that Barack Obama, according to Article II, Section I, Clause 5 of the U. S. Constitution, is an illegal President. The law requires a candidate for the Presidency to be a "natural born citizen," that is, a second generation American, a U.S. citizen, whose parents were also U.S. citizens at the time of the candidate's birth.
Obama's father was a citizen of Kenya and a British subject at the time of his birth, which made him forever ineligible for the Presidency.
Practically speaking, that issue is not a problem for Obama because the Republican Party also wants to violate the Constitution. Many Republicans are aggressively advocating Florida Senator Marco Rubio as Mitt Romney's Vice Presidential candidate.  Rubio is ineligible because, even though he was born in the United States, his parents were Cuban citizens at the time of his birth.
Since 1975, both Democrat and Republican politicians have been trying unsuccessfully to amend Article II, Section I, Clause 5 of the U. S. Constitution. The election of Obama has allowed them to do so, not legally, but by fait accompli.
According to the wishes of Democrat and Republican politicians, Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a drone strike on September 30, 2011, was eligible to be President because he was born in New Mexico of Yemeni parents. Al-Awlaki was the "spiritual leader" of al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, whose sermons at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia were attended by two hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks, Nawaf al-Hamzi and Hani Hanjour. Likewise, accused Fort Hood shooter and alleged al-Awlaki disciple, Nidal Malik Hasan, is eligible to be President because he was born in Virginia of Palestinian parents.
There are also persistent questions about the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate, Selective Service registration and his use of a Social Security number not issued to him, all serious crimes with the potential for lengthy prison sentences.
The law, however, is not a problem for Obama because any serious investigation would implicate far too many Democrat and Republican politicians. That is why the political establishment and the media are suppressing every effort to uncover the truth about Obama's personal history because it would expose their own corruption and hypocrisy.
The greatest danger to Obama is the potential collapse of the Democrat Party from the failed policies engineered by his Administration and the Party's progressive wing.
The Clinton faction and other Democrats outside of Obama's circle of supporters now fear he may be leading the Party, not only to certain electoral defeat, but to political oblivion. They are actively working behind the scenes, likely with the collusion of Republicans, to ensure Obama's defeat or, perhaps, even quietly to force him out of the 2012 Presidential contest. They all have a vested interest in maintaining the balance of power of the political status quo, which an Obama victory would permanently alter.
An Obama win would, for example, forever eliminate Clinton Democrats as a political factor and nullify all the Republican economic arguments, which represent the core of the Romney campaign.
In general, however, politicians' concern for the well-being of country exists only in the context of the power they wield and the health of their financial portfolios and that is the essence of the Obama threat that they perceive.
Much can happen between now and November to determine whether or not the non-Obama Democrat and Republican coalition will succeed. Will Attorney General Eric Holder be forced to resign paving the way for other investigations? Will there be selective leaks to embarrass Obama? Will the financiers and liberal media turn against him? Will Obama be privately blackmailed or promised a pardon?
The fate of Obama has already been determined, not by voters, but by powerbrokers using tactics that will unfold over the coming months.
There is one thing, however, that is certain. Regardless of who wins in November, Obama's alleged crimes will never be fully investigated and his personal history will never be exposed by either Democrat or Republican politicians. Their involvement in a conspiracy of silence is unmistakable and their protection of Obama stems solely from political self-interest.
Barack Obama has been issued a "get out of jail free" card by a corrupt political establishment and a dishonest media.
Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of "Afghanistan and the Culture of Military Leadership". He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com