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General News    H2'ed 2/13/13

This Year's SOTU: We Must All Defend Our Freedom

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(Article changed on February 13, 2013 at 14:34)

'AI 101 / Old Glory' upside down
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"AI 101 / Old Glory" upside down by Marta Steele

President Obama's State of the Union (SOTU) address  this year was lengthy and filled with Democratic priorities. TV's Politico commentators were unimpressed.

     I was happy about the suggestion to raise the minimum wage, the promise to exit Afghanistan next year, the embrace of women's rights and gay rights, environmental concerns, alternative energy sources, preschool for all, the high school-junior college overlap, and more. But the two issues that most concerned me appeared as crescendos at the end: voting and gun control--especially voting--and they were poetically intertwined: All of those innocent victims of gun violence gone amok deserved a vote. I took this to mean a vote in Congress against gun violence. I hope that's what the president meant.

     Expanding on the new thematic of long lines and chaos at the polls, which "we need to fix (according to the Jan. 21 inaugural address)," Obama this evening specified voting as "our most fundamental right as citizens." As the military is here to defend us, so it is up to us to defend our right to vote. Onward, Christian soldiers!

     We've been marching to that tune for a while now, this most recent breed of suffragists, we who arose after election 2000 in shock and horror to protest and fix the hideous problems.

     But you see, as always, as I told an interviewer not too long ago, there's a ten-year gap between what Progressives militate for and when the liberals [viz., Democrats] catch on. Even smart ones like Barack Obama, who said this evening that he wants to make our government "smarter" rather than "bigger."

     Brad Friedman has just published a caveat ( to the president's ringing promise to appoint a blue-ribbon, bipartisan commission to fix things. Looking back to about ten years ago, he recalls the [October 2002] birth of the Help America Vote Act, HAVA, influenced to some extent by another blue-ribbon commission composed of former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, formed by President George W. Bush, and then the Carter-Baker commission appointed in September 2005, which also contained some good ideas and some bad ones, like the requirement of voter ID. Anything would do back then to these gentle reformers--a utility bill, for instance.

     Friedman also recalls a House hearing held ironically less than a week after the spontaneous birth of a poor excuse for an activist organization online, the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR). The [March 21, 2005] timing was exquisite: the hearing concerned what went wrong with election 2004 in Ohio. It was led by Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH), co-sponsor, along with Rep. Steny Hoyer, of HAVA.

     Because ACVR's Mark "Thor" Hearne was one of the chief spokesmen for the issues, naturally the conclusion was that too much voter fraud was committed and hence voter ID was needed across the country to fix this thorny situation.

     Had any of hundreds of real, as opposed to ad hoc, grassroots activist groups been heard, the focus would rather have been on the long lines and the violation of human rights in places like Ohio, where the electoral votes were thus stolen and the wrong candidate kept in office.

     Funny how Ney's March 21, 2005 hearing grew out of a report commissioned by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) on what went wrong in Ohio 2004. The conclusions were a list of atrocities attached to every aspect of the voting process in the Buckeye State. No blue ribbons were awarded.


     In other words, EI activists and all others concerned, don't applaud too much or hold hands and jump around in glee too soon, warns Brad wisely. The people deserve the blue ribbon far more than the members of the commission so named.  People who lost loved ones to assault weapons in the wrong hands. I will not add that another sort of anaphora--who really deserves to be shot--was not even implied in Obama's speech, though Boehner, McConnell, Cantor, and their ilk looked like personified razor blades without even trying. If I were in front of the TV simply to amuse myself, totally and otherwise cynical, I might have watched the squirming Boehner, opening and shutting his mouth, looking in turn nauseous and sullen--the latter when some word or two from the president was less revolting than most of them. I won't swear to it, but I think he stood up once or maybe twice to applaud during the speech. Once, for sure. He liked the idea of free trade with Western Europe. He liked the idea of diverting troops from Afghanistan to Mali, too.


     But it all sounded so good--the SOTU, that is. Even before reading the Tweet from Mr. Friedman, I didn't jump for joy, but  I did sort of breathe a sigh of relief and made a note to myself to expect more news on this now-somewhat-popularized issue and to watch carefully for it.

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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