Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of Obama

“It begins with our economy.” The current recession and looming financial crisis took precedence during President Obama’s first State of the Union Address. On Wednesday, January 27, 2010, President Obama assured the nation that the worst of our economic woes are over, but emphasized that a lot of work still needs to be done before Americans can shed their existing fears of unemployment, mortgage payments, inflation, taxes, and truly realize the ‘CHANGE’ that the Obama promised during his presidential campaign. President Obama reminded Americans, “I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone. Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy.”

The President insisted that Congress and the Senate reject their respective party’s ambitions for the good of the American people. President Obama apologized to the nation for not explaining the complexities of the current health care debate more clearly, referring to the fact that health care reform stall in the House and Senate has left many Americans wondering “What’s in it for me?” Half-jokingly, he added that, “If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.”

On Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama maintained that U.S. national security and the safety of the American people is top priority. The President declared that, “We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August,” and continued, “In Afghanistan, we're increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home.” Building upon his landmark speech to the Muslim world last year at Cairo University in Egypt, President Obama stated, “We're working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science and education and innovation.”

In his closing statements, President Obama urged the American people to stay resilient by looking to the unifying spirit that has sustained the prosperity of the United States for centuries, proclaiming “We don't quit. I don't quit.”

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Prison is Prison No Matter Where You Are

Acclaimed Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” The manner in which Guantanamo detainees are treated represents the failing degree of civilization in American society. The Guantanamo Bay prison is in blatant violation of the U.S. constitution and bill of rights. The use of torture, absence of habeas corpus, not being read Miranda rights, and indefinite detainment without charge or conviction, all have a negative impact on the U.S. global image as the symbol of liberal democracy, freedom, and justice for all.

The Obama administration’s promise to close Guantanamo Bay by its Jan. 22, 2010 deadline is a façade since it is merely relocating the illegitimacies to Thomson Correctional Center, located about 150 miles west of Chicago, IL. Shockingly, the man elected to ‘CHANGE’ the Guantanamo policies enacted by the previous Bush administration, President Obama has sustained the same civil and human rights abuses save for a few minor modifications. During the last presidential election campaign, Obama appeared to oppose Bush’s doctrine applied in Guantanamo, yet he said “nothing about maintaining the constitutional protections that prevailed in the American legal system before Bush took office”.

As Paul Craig Roberts writes, “Closing Guantanamo meant ceasing to hold people in violation of our legal principles of habeas corpus and due process and ceasing to torture them in violation of US and international laws.” Thomson will merely be adding to the long list of U.S. abuses revealed in Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib. Several concerns have been raised over the proposed transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to Thomson, but nothing has been mentioned by the Obama administration nor elected representatives of Illinois regarding the need abolish the illegalities applied in Guantanamo that will be carried over to Thomson.

Indifference is a luxury that most Americans afford by having no direct association with what goes on at Guantanamo Bay. As Margaret Kimberly states, “While Guantanamo is unseen, Illinois is right in the middle of the United States. None of us can now claim absolution from our government sin.” Illinoisans will no longer enjoy the pleasure of national apathy towards Guantanamo as the realities of torture and blatant civil rights abuses will be present in their very own state.

In order for the Obama administration to successfully transfer the detainees from Guantanamo, Congress must approve the funding to purchase Thomson, as well as, amend the law passed earlier this year that prohibits terror suspects from entering the U.S. except for the purposes of trial. According to Governor Pat Quinn, selling the Thomson prison to the federal government will jump start the depressed Illinois economy and reduce unemployment by creating an estimated 3,000 jobs. On Tuesday, December 22, the Illinois State Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability held a public hearing in Sterling, IL on the possible sale of Thomson prison.

Regardless of the findings from the hearing, based on the Illinois’ State Property Control Act and State Facilities Closure Act, Governor Quinn does not need to seek approval from the General Assembly to sell the Thomson prison. Senator Richard Durbin, also, supports the sale of Thomson, but in 2005 “compared interrogation tactics at Guantanamo to those used by the Nazi regime and the Soviets in the gulags.” An opinion article from the Pittsburgh Tribune titled “Federal Solution” cleverly explains Quinn and Durbin’s strong support for Thomson:

We've now witnessed the federal government's solution to the current economic recession. It's incarceration.

If the transfer of 100 detainees (formerly known as terrorists) from Guantanamo, Cuba, to "Guantanamo II" in Illinois can create 3,000 well-paying jobs with great benefits, then that's the solution to our current economic malaise.

All we have to do is round up all the estimated 12 million illegal (law-breaking) aliens who currently reside in our country, reclassify them as detainees and incarcerate them, pending adjudication of their immigration status.

If my math is right -- according to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Democrat Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, it takes 30 people for each incarcerated detainee -- this roundup would create 360 million well-paying jobs with great benefits.

There would be so many jobs that we would probably have to import people from Mexico to fill all the vacancies.

Ron Opatka

Naysayers of the transfer of detainees are calling Thomson, “Gitmo North.” Senate hopeful Mark Kirk argues that the move to Thomson will create a radical Islamic breeding ground on U.S. soil and force Illinois into becoming a future terrorist target. Kirk’s viewpoint on Thomson coincides with the belief held by many Midwesterners that the U.S. “Heartland” is relatively safe from terrorist attacks. Such naivety dismisses the past terrorist attempts in Springfield and Chicago before Thomson was ever brought into discussion.