Why Not …

Catie & the Bed 15

… post larger photos?

… provide an open link to the “restricted site”?

I have many reasons for doing neither.  One foremost in my mind at the moment, after a bit of Internet trolling, is the number of rip-off sites out there.  Some website owners appear to reach out and grab whatever photo strikes their fancy, providing no attribution and — unless a legend appears on the image itself — no way of linking back to the photographer.

Perhaps some photographers are secretly tickled by such attention.  Not me.  In most cases, I consider it purely and simply theft of intellectual property.

Fortunately, the web includes some very upright citizens as well.  Prime among them is Michael Barnes over at Art Nudes (a featured site link at right).  Michael not only provides thorough attribution, but only posts in order to promote the site to which the photo attaches.  I’ve always admired his selections (and the wealth of his sources that provide him new material), now more than ever.  He was kind enough to feature my return to blogging in a recent post, whereupon hits on this new blog immediately exceeded 600, and have stayed high ever since.  There will be a natural fall-off, already occurring, but some people will stick around — to them, “Welcome!”

But I’m not here to satisfy the never-ending thirst for female nudity.  As those who have clicked on my images know, the photo is a “tease” for my subscription site; there my fans — and there are many — find the wealth of thousands of images shot (and winnowed) over the past decade, to which I am adding on virtually a weekly basis.

I suppose I’d have no way to prevent a subscriber from ripping off the full-size images found on the subscription site, other than by a copyright suit if appropriate, but at least the modest $15 perpetual subscription fee excludes the casual Internet hunter-gatherer (and, as I’ve put it elsewhere, the hormone-besotted adolescent boys).

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Notable Photography Department

A set of intense photographs taken in Spain.  Lots of HDR.  Makes me want to return.

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More American Stasi Department

I wrote only a week ago about the so-called “Fusion Centers” and how some equate their data mining and data collecting activities to the pervasive police-state information gathering by former East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi.  Now comes another article, this time from the respected publication Harper’s Magazine, discussing another Stasi-like aspect of our post-9/11 world:  the “National Security Letter” (“NSL”):  “Tales from Stasiland: The letter that makes you disappear.”

The FBI issues roughly 50,000 of them a year, and the Justice Department’s own internal review in 2007 concluded that many of them were issued abusively, skirting the law and internal rules. The idea is simple: the device is something like a subpoena, though it doesn’t require approval of a judge to issue. Instead, the FBI requires the recipient to help it in an investigation targeting a third party. It might be dropped on a librarian, with a demand that she tell the FBI every book that a certain subscriber checked out, every magazine he perused, and every time he accessed the Internet using a computer at the library. Or it might go to an Internet service provider, requiring information about every website viewed by a certain customer.

This would seem to be civil liberties-destructive enough, but in addition to the foregoing the letters impose a gag order on the recipients — they may not tell anyone (including business associates, family and friends), excepting possibly an attorney (one version of the story that follows said a recipient was even prohibited from speaking to his attorney).

[H]ow can long-term gag orders be reconciled with the Constitution’s protection against warrantless search and seizure and the protection of free speech and press? Judge Richard Cardamone, writing a concurring opinion for the Second Circuit in one NSL case, acknowledged that a gag order might be imposed for a short period, but he observed that “a perpetual gag on citizen speech of the type advocated so strenuously by the government may likely be unconstitutional.”

(Secrecy imposed on NSL recipients is only one aspect of this insidious investigatory tool:  since recipients can’t talk about it, it’s guaranteed that subjects of the investigation will never know they are being investigated.  Which is the point, of course.  Note how distinctly this differs from other instances where non-target citizens are brought in as informants in an investigation:  witnesses before a grand jury are not prohibited from disclosing their testimony; to the best of my knowledge, persons approached by police to provide information relating to an investigation, while encouraged to keep it confidential, are not obliged to do so.  So the FBI may already know what books you’ve checked out at the library, or with whom you correspond by email, or what websites you look at, and you are none the wiser about this governmental intrusion into your privacy.)

Now comes Nicholas Merrill, an actual recipient of an NSL, whose gag order has been partially lifted and is therefore free to talk about the order imposed — although he’s still forbidden to disclose what information the FBI sought.  His accounts are in both The Washington Post and Wired.  Is it redundant to say that the man emerged from a surreal Kafkaesque netherworld?

Two things, he said, “just leaped out at me.” The first was the letter’s prohibition against disclosure. The second was the absence of a judge’s signature.

“It seemed to be acting like a search warrant, but it wasn’t a search warrant signed by a judge,” said Merrill. He said it seemed to him to violate the constitutional ban against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The letter said that the information was sought for an investigation against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities. Merrill said he thought it “outlandish” that any of his clients, many of whom were ad agencies and major companies as well as human-rights and other nonprofit groups, would be investigated for terrorism or espionage.

As Harper’s says,

Although other judges have found that the Fourth Amendment can’t simply be brushed aside, the experience with NSLs is a good demonstration of how the civil liberties envisioned by the Framers are being frittered away–in the hypothetical interest of national security.

(An earlier version of the enabling statute actually prohibited recipients from challenging an NSL in court — that version was declared unconstitutional, and the statute was thereafter revised to provide that such a challenge could be brought, albeit anonymously.  In “December 2008 [an] appeals court … held that parts of the amended gag provisions violated the First Amendment and that, to avoid this, the FBI must prove to a court that disclosure would harm national security in cases where the recipient resists the gag order. Senior administration officials have said the FBI has adopted that ruling as policy.”)

Remember, as I alerted earlier, the Obama administration has sought to authorize the FBI to demand more extensive records of customers’ internet activity purely by administrative request.

I still want to know:  who is today’s George Orwell recording all this stuff?

(More useful reading at Wikipedia and the ACLU.)

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Strange Labyrinth Department

Imagine the following scenario.  You are a Mexican married couple visiting the U.S.  One of you is charged with a crime.  The only witness to the alleged crime is your spouse.  At trial, your spouse is called to testify against you.  Such testimony should be blocked under “spousal privilege,” right?  Not so fast.

If you are a gay couple, you will encounter another situation of which Kafka would be proud.  Although as of Tuesday the Mexican Supreme Court has ruled that gay marriages performed in Mexico City must be recognized by all thirty-one Mexican states, that recognition might not follow you across International boundaries, with the anomalous result that a marriage recognized throughout the length and breadth of our neighbor to the south is considered a nullity here, even when the very life and liberty of one of the spouses is at stake.

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Not Necessarily the Best Department

One would expect that a respected black attorney representing a black defendant in a death penalty case would do a good job, right?  Here’s what The NY Times says about the Oklahoma murder trial of James Fisher:

The lawyer, E. Melvin Porter, a civil rights advocate and the first African-American elected to the Oklahoma State Senate, later said that at the time he considered homosexuals to be “among the worst people in the world,” and Mr. Fisher to be a “very hostile client.”

Mr. Porter was shockingly ill-prepared for trial — “unwilling or unable to reveal evident holes in the state’s case,” a federal appellate court later noted, yet “remarkably successful in undermining his own client’s testimony.” He exhibited “actual doubt and hostility” about his client’s defense, the court said, and failed to present a closing argument, even though the state’s case “was hardly overwhelming.”

When the time came at sentencing to plead for mercy, the court said, Mr. Porter uttered just nine words. Four were judicial pleasantries; the remaining five formed a lame objection to the prosecution’s closing argument.

With that, James Fisher, 20, was sentenced to death.

In fact, a second attorney representing Fisher on retrial was also found to be severely lacking.  Although in the end Fisher escaped execution and in fact has been released from prison, read the story.

You can never come back, ever. If you plead guilty to that long-ago murder in Oklahoma City, you will be released from prison, where you have spent most of the last 27 years on death row. But once free, you will be banished from Oklahoma. O.K.?

O.K., said James Fisher, trading his black-and-white-striped prison top for a blue-and-white-striped dress shirt. Then, without shackles or escort, he stepped into the late afternoon of a state that once wanted him dead and now just wanted him gone.

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You’ve Got to be Kidding (I Think) Department

It’s illegal to sing the National Anthem at the Lincoln Memorial.  No kidding.  (OK, I can somewhat understand the rationale, but it still just seems wrong.)

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Sex, Religion, and “American Values” Quotes Department

Karl assembled a trove of great quotes over on Photo Fermata, like

To hear many religious people talk, one would think God created the torso, head, legs and arms, but the devil slapped on the genitals. ~Don Schrader

Well worth reading — check them out.

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From our most recent session; ranging from the relatively tame (here) to ….

This entry was posted in Civil Liberties, Law, My Photography, Photography, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why Not …

  1. Karl says:

    Thank you for the mention. It is getting kind of scary in this country for anybody who is not part of a conservative bend of religion.

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