Cleveland Uber Alles

Untimely Dispatches from the Neighborhood of the Unrepresented & Inarticulate; Anecdotes that Pedal and Coast Through the Boot-Print of 20th Century American Urbanism

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

29.7 Miles to the Heartland Clevelanders who wonder what goes on "in the the Heartland" or "on Main St. USA" need only to put the city's three toothed skyline and its idle smokestacks in their rearview mirrors and head east on Route 2 for 38 minutes, until they reach Painesville. There, as they eye one of those typical small town Ohio street-scapes that says that life is all about waiting for the big occasions (the photography studio, the bridal shop, the Attorneys-at-Law, the mortician, and the LPAs), they can get a sense of Nation's "true point of view"--not, of course, the messy P.O.V. of the American hoi polloi, with its multi-lingualism and its under-paid aches, but the good, basically-white blandness of those who wear the company polo shirts, gas up their trucks, and keep America rolling. Or so runs the logic of the Baltimore Sun's White House Correspondent Julie Hirschfeld Davis, who checked in on our "True Umerikan" neighbors in Painesville to find out what normal Americans think about the President's decision to eavesdrop on their fellow citizens without a warrant. Davis, who perhaps bought the lie of Ohio' s license plates, chooses a 34-year-old insurance agent from Painesville named Edith Rodriguez, among other locals, to act as the American Vox Populi. As you might expect, our civil liberties are in poor hands:

"If that's going to help them not let 9/11 repeat itself, then I say, 100 percent, go for it, because that was awful," said Rodriguez.
"I look beyond whether it's right or wrong," said the 34-year-old insurance agent. "If it's going to catch some terrorist, then, hey - go ahead."
Nevermind the nightmare of Rodiguez's own, Bush-like fractured grammar and the Groundhog Day the movie image it calls up of "9/11 repeat[ing] itself." Nevermind, too, for now, that she and virtually all of the people whom Hirschfeld Davis interviewed, expressed neither knowledge of, nor patience for, a discussion of ideas like "just probable cause." The real trouble is in the very narrative that this article constructs, which tells us: 1) that the legality of the NSA surveillance program is question only for experts, and the "real" question is whether or not Americans are safe from the terrorists; 2) that "real Americans" and the "real truth" about America lies in "swing states," like our Ohio, and swing counties, like Lake County, where a 51-49 split in the 2004 election is supposed to make it a perfect mirror for "A Nation Divided," when in fact, this division is more an illusion of the electoral map than of the number of voters who actually take the blue and red positions. The legality of NSA spying without a warrant is not, of course, a question only for experts, since, of course, what's at stake here, really, is the question of whether or not the president is obligated to obey the law as written and is therefore accountable to Congress, the Courts, and, of course, the American people. What's more, no matter what an insurance agent from Painesville will say, the security and the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence efforts to track Al Queda is not the issue in this case either, since the FISA courts allow for government agencies like the NSA to go ahead and eavesdrop, if necessary, and to seek a warrant for it retroactively. For more on all of this, and some evidence as to the potential for blogging to give us ringside seats in government, see Glenn Greenwald's excellent posts on this matter, including his live blogging from the hearings on the NSA scandal , which features this observation:
"Of course Gonzales begins his Opening Statement by quoting Osama bin Laden and Zawahri. We used to quote Madison, Jefferson and Lincoln to decide what the principles of our Government are going to be. Now we quote Al Qaeda. The Administration wants Al Qaeda and its speeches to dictate the type of Government we have. It is the centerpiece of everything they do and say."
And, of course, the 51-49 America that the Baltimore Sun's article portrays in Cleveland's backyard is a fiction, especially when the president's approval ratings are stuck around 40%. However, to get an idea of just how necessary this fiction must be to Beltway scribes like Hirschfeld Davis and the rest of the national press, one needs look no further than the election results in Baltimore Country, Maryland, where the Sun is headquarted. There, Kerry defeated Bush by a mere 52% to 47%. The numbers might not be tidy enough for the produce the kind of "real Umerikan" impression that the Sun's article tries to produce, but they certainly suggest that the paper didn't need to travel very far to get a "range of honest opinions" about whether or not its OK for the Chief Executive to claim the expansive powers that George W. Bush has claimed for himself by ignoring the FISA law's requirements. The effect of awful coverage of the issue like this is already beginning to rear its head, with none other than our own Senator Mike DeWine leading the charge to have Congress abdicate its responsibility to exercise oversight over the Executive Branch. As This WaPo article notes, DeWine is leading the effort to draft a law to make the President's wiretapping policy legal:
"Senate intelligence committee member Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said in an interview that he supports the NSA program and would oppose a congressional investigation. He said he is drafting legislation that would "specifically authorize this program" by excluding it from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secret court to consider government requests for wiretap warrants in anti-terrorist investigations. "The administration would be required to brief regularly a small, bipartisan panel drawn from the House and Senate intelligence committees, DeWine said, and the surveillance program would require congressional reauthorization after five years to remain in place."
Sherrod Brown, DeWine's opponent, seems to be as little help as the other Democrats in Congress. In the Hirschfeld Davis article in the Baltimore Sun, he dismisses the NSA's wiretapping as unimportant to his likely constituents:
"People have quit listening to the president's scare tactics," Brown said as he mingled. "People don't come up to me and say, 'What about this spy thing?' They come up to me and say, 'How come the drug industry has so much influence in Washington? How come they're doing nothing about heating prices?' "
Let Brown know that he needs to do more to speak out for our civil liberties.


At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Cleburger said...

Kossuth you are a smart guy! All this time I've been suspicious of Baltimore. First they stole away my beloved Browns and won a Superbowl. Now those sneaky devils are eyeing up my favorite pastime, the Lake County Captains. How dare they assualt our apple pie here in the heartland? What's next, the Boulevard of 500 Flags is moving to Townsend?

At 7:14 PM, Blogger Audient said...

Make Lake Erie college can move to Glen Burnie?


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