Pistol on the Chair

A mishmash of unrelated stuff this morning.


Academic Consideration of the War on Photography Department

A major law review article that I’m still digesting, but which appears to be one of the most important contributions to the discussion to come down the pike:  “Less than Picture Perfect: the Legal Relationship between Photographers’ Rights and Law Enforcement,” by University of Tennessee law professor Morgan Leigh Manning.  The abstract reads:

Threats to national security and public safety, whether real or perceived, result in an atmosphere conducive to the abuse of civil liberties. History is littered with examples: The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the Palmer Raids during World War I, and McCarthyism in the aftermath of World War II. Unfortunately, the post-9/11 world represents no departure from this age-old trend. Evidence of post-9/11 tension between national security and civil liberties is seen in the heightened regulation of photography; scholars have labeled it the “War on Photography”- a conflict between law enforcement officials and photographers over the right to take pictures in public places. A simple Google search reveals countless incidents of overzealous law enforcement officials detaining or arresting photographers and, in many cases, confiscating their cameras and memory cards, despite the fact that these individuals were in lawful places, at lawful times, partaking in lawful activities.

This article examines the so-called War on Photography and the remedies available to those who have been unlawfully detained, arrested, or have had their property seized for taking pictures in public places or private places open to the public. It discusses recent incidents that highlight the growing infringement of photography rights and the magnitude of the harm that law enforcement officials have inflicted, paying particular attention to the themes these events have in common. It explores the existing legal framework surrounding photography rights and the federal and state remedies available to those whose rights have been violated. It examines the adequacy of each remedy including: (1) declaratory and injunctive relief, (2) Section 1983 and Bivens actions, and (3) state tort remedies. It discusses the obstacles associated with each remedy and the reasons why these obstacles are particularly hard to overcome in the context of photography. It then argues that most, if not all, of the remedies discussed are either inadequate or altogether impractical considering the costs of litigation. Lastly, this article will discuss the reasons why people should be concerned about the War on Photography and possible ways to reverse the erosion of photography rights.

and the 58-page PDF may be downloaded here.


Collectors Drive Art Department

It’s long been recognized that collectors and artists’ patrons can have as great an influence on the visual arts as any other force.  After all, an artist can be as avant garde, as evocative as imaginable, yet if no one recognizes his (or her) art, and no one buys it, the art’s impact is diminished if not altogether negligible.

Gertrude Stein as envisioned by Pablo Picasso

Such was the case in Paris beginning in the Belle Epoque and continuing between the Wars, and the collecting patterns of the Stein family, best known to us through the family’s dominating female presence, Gertrude.

The Steins’ impact was very nicely illustrated through “The Steins Collect,” an exhibit I saw at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art just before Memorial Day.  Now you can read about it in an article in The New York Times.  Well worth reading, and while you read consider whether we would know Matisse — or even Picasso — as well as we do had it not been for this art-buying and -collecting family.  (A companion article reviews the show.)

One of the show’s most fascinating aspects?  The life-sized enlargements of photographs of the Steins’ apartment showing many of what we consider to be 20th century masterpieces just hanging there on their walls as if in your grandma’s dining room.


Travels by Zephyr Department

I wrote over the past few weeks describing my cross-country AMTRAK travels, notably on the California Zephyr.  Sunday’s NY Times “Travel” section has an entertaining article by a woman traveling with her two grown sons from NYC to San Francisco, with the Chicago-onward portion being on that same train.  All her observations rang true, and if you are a fan of train travel (or at least like me view it as a necessary counterforce to TSA predations), recommended.


Online Photography Department

Another source of good online photography, this one having been around for awhile but which I’m seeing for the first time:  Photographer&Muse.  Lots of small collections, mostly glamour and fashion related, but some of them moving over into the artistic realm.


Civil Liberties and Acting Badly Department

Four War on Photography-related headlines from Carlos Miller, each article being worth reading if for no other reason than to raise your blood pressure:

One must wonder if this will ever end, and if so, how.  At the moment I’d say the atrocities will continue into the foreseeable future, and it may require some really big monetary judgments for the lessons to be driven home with finality.


Pain in the Leg Department

The leg continues to improve, slowly.  I got through most of yesterday hardly noticing any discomfort, and it was only during an ACLU Minnesota reception yesterday evening that my inability to stand in place for very long manifested itself once again.  And, speaking of the reception, ….


Meeting Bruce Schneier Department

I mentioned a few days ago my discovery that nationally renowned security expert Bruce Schneier lives literally diagonally across the lake from us.  He and his wife only recently moved into a house on a bluff above the lake, but they’ve lived in Minneapolis for many years before.  So I met Schneier at the ACLU reception, which was held at Schneier’s house.

Needless to say, I’m not on Schneier’s radar at all, and since my ego is strong if not domineering, I was not about to press myself on him.  The result was no substantive discussion between us.  We did briefly speak about Graham’s vintage ports, since I spied an empty bottle of ’63 Graham’s on their bookshelf — turns out Schneier was born in 1963 and they had the bottle for a recent birthday; I mentioned having had a ’45 myself for my 65th this past December.  That’s as far as the conversation went.

The reception centered around a brief address by Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie on the question of Republicans’ nefarious efforts to require that Minnesota voters have a state-issued ID before they may be permitted to vote, thus converting voting from a right to a privilege.  Ritchie described how Minnesota Republicans’ efforts were part of a national effort to disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, minorities, and others, an effort similar to what we’ve seen in Florida ever since the 2000 election.

Schneier followed with a brief explanation of the national “Real ID” efforts that are related to these efforts, but which go further by permitting the government to track citizens via a central identification that will feed into a central database.  He is passionate on the subject, and as he wrote in his testimony to the U.S. Senate,

[I]dentification checks based on REAL ID won’t be nearly as secure as we might hope. But the main problem with any strong identification system is that it requires the existence of a massive database. DHS maintains that it’s not one database, but fifty-plus separate databases. This is a semantic dodge; a series of interconnected physical databases is the same as a single massive database. In this case it’s a massive database of private and sensitive information on every American—one widely and instantaneously accessible from airline check-in stations, police cars, schools, and so on.

The security risks of this database are enormous. It would be a kludge of existing databases that are incompatible, full of erroneous data, and unreliable. Computer scientists don’t know how to keep a database of this magnitude secure. The daily stories we see about leaked personal information demonstrate that we do not know how to secure these large databases against outsiders, to say nothing of the tends of thousands of insiders authorized to access it. The fact that REAL ID database is a “one stop shop” for personal information exacerbates these risks.

I’ve commented strongly here about avoiding having your name added to national databases — don’t hand over your ID unless legally required to.  Imagine what it will be like if Real ID comes to pass.  At the moment, as Schneier remarked, it is an unfunded mandate on the states.


Weiner is Such a Hot Dog Department

Finally on a day that had more than its share of interesting stuff, there was, of course, the Congressman Anthony Weiner idiocy, which led Rachel Maddow and her folks at MSNBC to create “The post-Bill Clinton modern American political sex-scandal consequence-o-meter,” in which Maddow runs through pretty much the entire menagerie of recent sex idiocy on both ends of the political spectrum.  Check it out, it’s quite a telling commentary on modern political life:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Oh, yes, and did you hear that what seems to have been Palin fans edited the “Paul Revere” Wikipedia page to make it appear that Palin’s gobbledygook version of Revolutionary history was in fact true?  (Wikipedia corrected the aberration and locked the page.)  This is going to be a fantastic political season!


When she was bald and had fewer tattoos.

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