personal photography politics

War on Photography – Jan 4 2009 Edition (Updated)

Stories like this just piss me off. Its yet another example of police abusing their powers by making up anti-photography laws on the spot, usually because of 9/11 or terrorism.


That’s why this police shooting at the Fruitvale BART station is so infuriating. The official story is that police broke up a fight between two groups and that one of the officer’s weapons accidentally “discharged” while they were questioning the men, killing one, Oscar Grant. The witnesses tell a different story. They said that the doomed man was handcuffed behind his back and on his belly when one of the officers shot him in the back. The bullet passed through his body, ricocheted off the floor and re-entered his belly.

Anyone who’s ever taken BART should immediately be asking themselves why what happened is a mystery since there are surveillance cameras in every station, including on the platform. Except that according to BART, those cameras are for monitoring only and are not capable of recording anything.


So here we have a situation where witnesses’ and the police accounts differ significantly, and there’s a man dead at the hands of the police. There are cameras everywhere, but they’re apparently useless. There’s an investigation, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the officer will be found to have applied appropriate force and suffer no consequences, just like pretty much every other time a cop murders someone.

But the real reason why I’m pissed about the Amtrak story is because of what wasn’t mentioned in the Chronicle stories, but was mentioned in the Kron (SF Channel 4) piece: the police confiscated cell phones and cameras from people in the crowd. Cops lie, witnesses can lie, be intimidated or be simply mistaken, but pictures don’t. Especially when multiple pictures and videos from several sources at different angles all tell the same story. As much as governments and corporations want to use cameras to watch us, it is those same cameras, in the public’s hands that can hold those with power accountable for their actions, and THAT’S why there’s a war on photography. It has nothing to do with terrorists, but with abusive and corrupt officials knowing that they can’t act with impunity as long as people are there recording them.

I know from personal experience that the mere act of pointing a camera at people can cause them to behave differently. But there’s a difference from people not making complete stops at a stop sign in the middle of the night and a badged officer of the law, armed with a deadly weapon and baked with the power of the state and the authority to take your freedom away deciding to abuse that power. That’s why we need to keep our cameras out and pointed at power.


Well, well, well. It would seem as if the cops didn’t get all of the passenger videos, because one of them got out and guess what? It shows the cop in question shooting Grant in the back while trying to handcuff him. Of course, BART Police are “seriously investigating.” Somehow, I still think its going to be ruled a good shooting with no consequences whatsoever. On the other hand, it seems as if the only way the truth would ever come out was through citizens recording police abuses. Another shocker there.

iPhone personal politics stoopid

Paranoia Wins Out

So I read this story yesterday which just pushed me over the edge into full scale paranoia. I now require instant password on my iphone, password when leaving the screen saver or when waking up. I haven’t had auto-login for a while, so that’s nothing new. I’m also looking into full-disk encryption (which seems to be a no-go for Macs for now), fully encrypting all my email (which is problematic since I use gmail) and am looking for other ways to protect myself.

The Smith ruling turned on the fact that “addressing information” of the sort obtained by a pen register had been conveyed to the phone company and stored in their records. It was emphatically not a finding that a person’s “addressing information”—the names and phone numbers of the other people someone contacts—was just per se unprotected. And in fact, Congress responded to Smith by establishing a statutory requirement that police obtain a court order (though subject to a lower evidentiary standard than full-blown Fourth Amendment warrants) before using a pen-register or a trap-and-trace device to get that “addressing information” from a telecom. So even if police had wanted to get Fierros-Alvarez’s call history from that less protected source, they’d at least be subject to some judicial process.

Um, no.

But in any case, let’s see anyone argue that my info doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy when its behind a password (and hopefully soon, 256-bit AES encryption).

Fascist assholes.

personal politics

Politics and Twitter

First of all, Twitter is a terrible medium for a political discourse, but we all seem to do it anyway.

I feel very passionately about certain things, which usually end up tainted in some form or another with politics. While I don’t like to make any secret of my political leanings, I also don’t like to wear them on my sleeve, so when I end up getting into conversations with people on Twitter about things that we are passionate about, I can seem a little shrill. That 140 character/tweet limit can and does seriously change the context and tone of the point that I’m trying to get across.

So when I find myself having a back and forth with Scott Sigler about Joe Traitorman Lieberman and the spirit of bipartisanship, I end up saying this and end up with this dubious award. So while I’m not going to change my mind about Lieberman or bipartisanship, nor will I apologize for what I said, I do think that some explanation is in order.

Joe Lieberman is under threat of censure by the Connecticut Democratic party for his recent actions. Scott believes that to be a wholly undemocratic act as it punishes a public figure for the crime of speaking his mind and standing up for his values. To me, its not that simple. The fact is that Lieberman’s stance is not new, in fact he’s been very consistent with his support for the war. His views are precisely why he was punished by the voters of Connecticut in 2006 when he lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont. He than ran as an independent, and re-took his Senate seat with the help of local and the national RNC. He caucused with the Dems, allowing them to hold the Senate majority, but used the threat of caucusing with the Republicans to bully his way to the chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee. He has made his support of John McCain very publicly known and was rumored to be McCain’s first choice for VP. Lieberman has badmouthed Democratic policies, and the presidential candidates.

The reason why Lieberman hasn’t actually caucused with the Republicans is due to his feelings on domestic policy, which is in fairly serious opposition to those of the Republicans. My (and others’) problem with Lieberman isn’t that he disagrees with the Democrats, or even that he supports McCain over his own party’s candidate (there are several Republican senators who have publicly expressed reservations about a McCain/Palin administration). My problem with Lieberman is that he is actively sabotaging his “own” party, his constituents, and gleefully lies about his own affiliation as he does it. So, if the Democratic party of his home state has had enough of his antics and wants him to either act like a Democrat or get the hell out of the party, that’s fine by me.

For me, the act of joining and participating in a political party means something real. Its not like joining a book club on a whim, its a decision based on how one views the world and is very personal and very profound. People who join or stay in a party because they think it will help them advance are some of the lowest forms of scum (see Rudy 9u11ani). Lieberman is definitely in that category.

As for bipartisanship, right now, that’s a joke, and a bad one at that. Under Bush, bipartisanship is shorthand for rubberstamp everything we give you and do it with a smile. The thing that really gets under my skin is that the Democrats in Congress have been doing just that. They do NOT stand up for what they (say they) believe in, they do NOT fight for what their constituents want them to fight for and they cower before a president who is the most unpopular in history and considered to be the worst in history as if he was the reincarnation of George Washington.

When I say fuck bipartisanship, I’m not being facetious or a hard-headed party activist. I’m saying that the Democrats in Congress need to grow a spine, balls or whatever appendage they need in order for them to stand up and do what they were elected to do. If that means having to fight against the party that dragged us into war, poverty and economic ruin, then is that really too much to ask?