June 11, 2004

NYC Photo Ban

New York City is considering whether or not to ban photography in and around the subway for security reasons. The New York Times reports hundreds of photographers rode the subway all at the same time and started snapping away in protest.

At a protest by photographers, you see things like a guy taking pictures of a guy taking pictures of a few more guys taking pictures of one another.

There was such a protest yesterday, but it might take hundreds of pages to describe it, given all the pictures that were taken, each one worth at least a thousand words.

[...]

"The point is really to make everyday people wake up and realize that photographers are not terrorists," said Joe Anastasio, who organized the event. "In the last few years, photographers near anything vaguely important have been getting harassed."

Mr. Anastasio went on to tell the story of a friend who took his wife's picture near the Whitestone Bridge, only to be called in for questioning by the police. He told another of a man caught snapping pictures at a Metro-North station who was interrogated for nearly two hours by authorities at the scene.

"The paranoia," he said, "has gone a little too far."

You should expect these kinds of rules in places like Libya. Ghaddafi is the hated boss of a military police state, so he has plenty to be afraid of. So does New York City after 9/11 for different reasons, not the least of which is that Mayor "Nurse" Bloomberg needs to protect the city while Ghaddafi needs to protect his ass. But the salient difference is that New York is an open liberal city and Tripoli isn't.

Rudy Giuliani found a mix of liberal Republicanism that most New Yorkers thought worked pretty well, but Bloomberg - even though he was a Democrat until he entered the mayoral race - can't seem to figure out how it's done.

Here's a clue for Mr. Bloomberg: Popular tough leaders don't act like hectoring school principals - especially not in a freewheeling place like New York - nor do they get nicknames like "Nurse." (No offense intended to the fine nursing profession.) Try being more of a leader and less of a boss and see how that works for a while.

In fairness to the mayor, this is not his idea. It comes from the NYPD. But Bloomberg is in charge more than anyone, and he's been "a picknose control freak," as Christopher Hitchens put it, ever since he took office. He has more power to turn this around than anyone else.


UPDATE: Jason Holliston, a friend of mine who is a small-l libertarian, makes a good point that I didn't expect to see from someone with his point of view.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 11, 2004 01:35 AM
Comments

There is probably a manner of photographing that is more suspicious than your average snapshot. If some suspicious- looking type was taking dozens of photographs from different angles of a subway, or something else of no possible touristic interest, I think all of us would feel better if he could be brought in for questioning. Maybe it could constitute probable cause for detaining someone under the anti-terrorism laws, then you wouldn't need a separate ban on photography in general. It really brings home how post-911 we live in a world that is a little less comfortable and a little less free. Also shows you just how scared shitless the law enforcement is.

Posted by: MarkC at June 11, 2004 04:40 AM

If some suspicious- looking type was taking dozens of photographs from different angles of a subway, or something else of no possible touristic interest,

What's that mean though? There's way too much discretion left to the cops there. I take dozens of photographs of the same thing all in a row very often. Often I'm shooting bridges. I want lots of opportunities for the right shots and I just like bridges.

I got hassled in Uzbekistan for taking a picture of a sunset through the smokestacks of a factory complex. I was told that "No one would want to take a picture of that."

It's these kinds of things that really bug me because they are absurdly intrusive and fairly useless. I had to deal with that crap in Uzbekistan, and I don't want to have to start here.

Posted by: Nathan Hamm at June 11, 2004 04:56 AM

Ohh, heaven forbid that the artistic types should show a little maturity, responsibility, and restraint. It's not like lives are at stake here or anything. Before you know it, Bloomberg will claim that Middle Eastern terrorists are planning to blow up NYC landmarks or something.

The photography ban is obviously just the first step down the road to facism. Now that power-mad capitalist oppresor Bloomberg is censoring photographers. Next it'll be the press. Maybe someday he'll declare thought crimes!

Fortunately, New York's artistic community has decided to stand strong. They've roused themselves from their drug-induced stupor, crawled out of their Alphabet City coffehouses, and taken to the streets! Civil disobedience, baby! An army of artists, thousands strong, are fighting for what they believe in!

Actually, I agree that the ban is silly and overbroad. But nonetheless, I have nothing but contempt for the "artists'" behavior. You just know that they have not given so much as a moment's thought to the national security implications. Can photographs really be used to help further a terrorst attack? Are some restrictions a good idea? Can a compromise position be worked out? These artists have NO IDEA.

Let's not take the time to learn about national security issues. Let's not meet with the mayor or the NYPD to discuss our concerns. No, let's selfishly take to the streets. Who gives a damn about our city, terrorism, or the lives of innocent New Yorkers? It's all about us! We aren't prepared to sacrifice anything for the good of our fellow man. ]Let those neandrathal cops, or maybe some innocent secretary on the 102nd floor, make the sacrifices. We're artists!

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at June 11, 2004 05:23 AM

Before Sept. 11th I was photographing suburban utility boxes at night. I stopped. Between possibly having to explain to police why I thought the photos were beautiful, to people in nearby houses freaking out, it just wasn't worth it.

This is overreaching and an inconvenience to law-abiding citizens, but in NYC there's still plenty of reason to worry. It wouldn't be hard for any mildly creative terrorist to get around this ban anyway; from walking the tunnels with a notepad to concealing inexpensive micro-cameras.

We're still at war, and we will be for a long time. War is a terrible nuisance. It doesn't matter who's elected president or mayor, no one's going to tell the cops to relax. Local police are the first responders and the actual first line of defense.

Posted by: Joe Maller at June 11, 2004 05:38 AM

Schmoe: We aren't prepared to sacrifice anything for the good of our fellow man.

I'll leave off responding to the rest of this incoherent and insulting rant, as it's largely sarcasm without meaningful content. But this line demands an answer.

That answer is "no"--there are some things which we are not and should not be prepared to sacrifice for any reason. Those who claim to cherish liberty and democracy should be extremely skeptical of surrendering freedom for illusionary promises of security.

Posted by: Catsy at June 11, 2004 05:49 AM

The "Nurse" nickname thing reminds me of Tex Gov Ann "Ma" Richards, who was nicknamed after Texas' first female governor Miriam A. "Ma" Ferguson (1924-28, 1932-36), who along with her husband (governor until impeached and permanently banned from office) were so corrupt that estimates are that they were accepting bribes at the rate of 100+/month.

The funny thing is that the press (and especially the national press) seemed to think that "Ma" was a term of endearment by the voters, which may explain why they were so surprised when she lost her re-election bid.

Posted by: Michael Parker at June 11, 2004 06:09 AM

Two words: camera phone.

A BAN is a ludicrous overreach. Current technology allows easy surreptitious recording of the sort of information terrorists might want, and they are likely to do such things...wait for it....surreptitiously. Meanwhile, hapless tourists and enthusiastic auteur photographers are more likely to show un-self-conscious zeal.

I'm opposed to just about any of these no-one-can-do-it because-of-the-one-in-a-million-who-might-be-a-threat policies. Law enforcement can do their jobs without a ban. If you see someone photographing a bridge or whatever, talk to them. So what. No big deal. Police, be polite and professional. Photographers? Be honest and not defensive. And polite right back.

And that's something I think we should all try to appreciate. In the post 9/11 world, law enforcement has new concerns, and to do their jobs responsibly, they need to check out such things. If you understand the world today, why react defensively, with a surly "whaddaya think, I'm a terrorist?" Why not approach such an instance forthrightly and with appreciation for someone doing THEIR job? "Yeah, I'm Jerry Smith and I have a studio over on Broadway. Here's my card. I take lots of shots of architecture. I can see why you'd be interested. If you want to look at the shots I took, I can give you a contact sheet. (or if it's a digital camera, do you wanna scroll through my shots)

BTW, I think it's pretty silly to use this story as an opportunity to slander photographers. They have every right to protest something that's going to make it harder for them to practice their profession, to no good end. a blanket ban does nothing. Professional discerning polive work does a LOT.

Posted by: bk at June 11, 2004 06:24 AM

I usually carry a throwaway camera in my purse when I go into the city, for unexpected photo ops. After 9/11, during the anthrax scare, I got into the habit of taking photos of people who looked suspicious. Sometimes, if I have the nerve, (or if they see the camera) I’ll play the tourist and ask them to smile. They usually do.

I know it’s weird but taking pictures is, for some reason, reassuring. And if there was anything going on, I’ll have a record.

I also take photos for fun. The subway is a great place for contrasty black and white shots. I wouldn’t mind if a cop asked me what I was doing, I’d appreciate it, but a ban is over the top.

In related news, nurse Bloomberg is also banning ice cream trucks.

Posted by: mary at June 11, 2004 08:00 AM

He's not banning the trucks. He's banning the music.

There is something that non-NYC people need to understand: the ice cream trucks mostly DO NOT MOVE. They park in a central location, such as at the enterence to the park, and park there all season long.

In other cities, the ice cream truck's melody summons the children of the neighborhood to the scene. It lets them know that the ice cream truck is in the neighborhood.

In NYC, the ice cream truck alwyas stays in the same place, so the children know where it is. They don't need the music to help them find it.

To people who live near the ice cream truck's permanent parking space, however, the music is a big annoyance.

When I lived in Spanish Harlem, there was an ice cream truck on my corner (104th and Columbus). You cannot imagine how irrating it is to hear "turkey in the straw" played 14 hours a day at full volume for 4 months straight.

I got used to it, but I lived on the fourth floor of my building. If I'd lived on the first floor, the noise would have been a lot more annoying. The truck was pretty loud.

Anyway, OT, but I wanted people to understand that Bloomberg isn't just being a jerk.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at June 11, 2004 08:12 AM

My office is on the second floor, and an ice cream truck parks outside every afternoon at exactly 3:46. I like the jingly music. It's a summertime thing.

Bloomberg is a Republican. Aren't Republicans supposed to be opposed to overregulation and nanny state governments intruding on every aspect of people's lives?

Posted by: mary at June 11, 2004 08:24 AM

So Mr. Schmoe, why didn't Bloomberg just push for a regulation that says the trucks can't stay in one place for more than 15 minutes, and can't come back to the same spot for four hours?

It's anti-Libertarian, but Bloomberg is already the Anti-Libertarian™; the least he could do is try to come up with something that cuts down the noise pollution and pushes for some circulation of services.

(For what it's worth, I live in Brooklyn, and here the trucks do circulate.)

Back to pictures for a minute, I read on someone's blog about how a policeman harrassed her for taking a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge. If there is a more-photographed structure in the United States I'd like to know what it is. I could go to any library and photocopy hundreds of pictures, and probably find 10 or 20 books talking about the history of its construction and maintenance.

Vigilance is one thing. Stupid vigilance is another thing entirely.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 11, 2004 08:28 AM

There's a big difference between real security and stupid security. The latter is designed to make it look like those in charge are Doing Something and all it does is annoy law-abiding citizens. Think no tweezers on airplanes..or no photos in the subway.

Real security takes more work (and money) then posturing for the cameras and saying that we are Doing Something.

Posted by: Mike Silverman at June 11, 2004 08:33 AM

Mary, Bloomberg isn't a Republican, he's the Napoleon of Public Health. (He gave an obscene amount of money to my alma mater, which then named its School of Public Health after him. The school now has the elegant name of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.)

We are very irritated at Mr. Bloomberg, yes we are...

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 11, 2004 08:34 AM

There's more here, in case you're interested, from the subway enthusiasts: http://www.nycsubway.org/

See also the Straphangers Campaign, which is a mass transit watchdog group affliatied with NYPIRG: http://www.straphangers.org/photoban/index.htm

Both groups bring up some legitimate issues, and go beyond what even the photobloggers and photographers are worried about.

Posted by: None at June 11, 2004 08:37 AM

>>>"That answer is "no"--there are some things which we are not and should not be prepared to sacrifice for any reason."

what about protecting life? Is that worth some sacrifice? Obviously, you'll have some response that qualifies your initial statement, but at least you'll realize that maximalist statements like that rarely hold water.

Posted by: David at June 11, 2004 08:43 AM

To put this proposed ban in security terms, it's a BAD security control because the rate of false positives far outweighs the potential return of real positives. 1/100,000 or fewer photographers have nefarious intent. To catch that one we want in inconvenience 99,999 innocents? (SWAG numbers, but reasonable guesses.)

And this ban, as pointed out, will do nothing to impede a semi-sophisticated terrorist agent. The tools to surreptiously surveil subways are easily acquired and used.

The police will be busy confiscating the disposable cameras of tourists while the real threat laughs and clicks away.

It's pathetic thinking. Pathetic.

The only way to prevent terrorism is to stop them where they breed. It's too late to practically stop them all once they are here.

Posted by: Dan S at June 11, 2004 08:59 AM

David--

If banning photographs was a bonafide security measure, it might be worth it. But this really is asinine because it will irritate a lot of people yet do absolutely no good.

There are thousands of targets in New York, and prominent ones, like the subway and the Lincoln Tunnel, have already been photographed ad nauseum. Anyone who visits the New York Public Library can find more than enough images to plot an attack.

A ban is also silly on its face; if taggers can secretly spray paint a tunnel couldn't terrorists likewise snap a few photos? What about cellphones equipped with cameras? What about that good old James Bond standard, the Minox spy camera, still available at any good photo store?

This is another typical anti-libertarian move by Nurse Bloomberg: really stupid.

Posted by: Fresh Air at June 11, 2004 09:08 AM

Isn't Bloomberg just trying to be the Politically Correct ... picknose control freak?

And succeeding.

Posted by: Tom Grey at June 11, 2004 09:34 AM

Joe Schmoe (very good name!)

I wont even bother with your rant against artists. I did find it hilarious that in the midst of it, you did take a moment to admit that you agreed the ban was silly.

As to the ice cream truck - either you are just making things up, or you are trying to cop some unwarrented cred.

"When I lived in Spanish Harlem, there was an ice cream truck on my corner (104th and Columbus). "

104 and Columbus is the Upper West side. Spanish harlem is above the park and to the east. Not even close. WHaddya think - you can say anything on the web and get away with it?

Posted by: Tano at June 11, 2004 09:48 AM

The point's been made and not refuted: Banning people from taking photographs of the subway system will mean that only people with camera phones and small digitals who believe it's worth the risk will be able to. In other words, the world will have fewer photographs to remember the A train by after the guy who shot it while pretending to be talking on his T-616 blew it up.

It's just stupid. Secure the ports, staff up the cops, coach people on spotting suspicious behavior and packages.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at June 11, 2004 09:49 AM

I actually do not agree with the ban. It seems overbroad and a little pointless.

The problem I have is with the way the "artists" went about challenging it. They didn't ask for a meeting with the MTA, the NYPD, or the mayor. They didn't politely send letters, or try to enter into a dialogue regaridng their concerns.

No, they went into full protest mode. "Bloomberg is a facist!" Civil disobedience! Censorship!

Also, I suspect that they really have no idea if banning photography from the subway is a good thing or not. Now to me, it sounds silly. But if the Mayor of New York and the Commissioner of the NYPD both said that it's an important security measure, the least I would do is look into the issue. Get the facts. Listen to both sides of the story. You know, act like an adult. The photographers don't appear to have done that.

One final thing. You might not agree with this one, but I don't think that it invalidates the above points. I think that a lot of NYC's "artists" are not intersted in art. They are young people who want to live the artists' lifestyle. There is a differnece. When I lived in the East Village, I knew hundreds of them. "Writers" who didn't actually write anything, "musicians" who never practiced with their instruments, and "actors" who seldom went to auditions. In NYC, these faux-"artists" outnumber the actual creative people by about 100 to one. They didn't actually create anything, but enjoyed living the avant-garde lifestyle. In short, they were poseurs.

Most of them were, of course, liberal. They put as much thought into their poltiics as they put into their "art." If anything inconveniences them, they'll cry "facism!" at the drop of a hat. These people are not really trying to protect artistic fredom; for one thing, they don't actually create any art. It's all just a juvenile exercise in feel-good liberalism to them. What could be more cool than a spontaneous protest? No way have they actually weighed the issues and arrived at their decision. It's just childish, knee-jerk protesting.

They might be right about this. I suspect that htey are. But they haven't (a) weighed the issues, or (b) actually tried to work them out through the normal channels. Oh, no, they went into full-on civil disobedience mode. That's irresponsible.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at June 11, 2004 09:58 AM

Tano-

A minor issue, to be sure, but have you ever actually been there? The neighborhood is 97% Dominican. Dominicans speak Spanish. It's also poor. The NYCHA's Frederick Douglass Houses, a huge public housing project, is on the other side of 104th street. My neighbors referred to the area as "Spanish Harlem." While there are indeed differences of opinion over where "Harlem" officially begins (on the East Side, is it at 97th or 110? Now that Central Park North is becoming gentrified, is it really still in Harlem?), I think it is fair to refer to my old neighborhood as "Harlem."

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at June 11, 2004 10:04 AM

If you are willing to accept a ban on photography as a legitimate security measure based on the old argument of "if it saves one life then it's worth it", then what is the argument for not placing all of New York City - and any other expected or feared target city - under complete police state control, including access, curfew, and other "security" related measures?

Posted by: steve at June 11, 2004 10:11 AM

Joe, I'm sure that many of us recognize the sterotype you've sketched, of the hangers on of the art world who think they are artists but are really laboring under an aging pretense.

Nevertheless, I'm not so sure their response was knee-jerk and devoid of critical thinking. Besides, given how easy it is to notice how pointless the policy is, how much thinking do you need to do? These people, whatever their faults, quickly recognized the fingerprints of heavy-handed overly simplistic authoritarianism in a policy that disdains critical thinking. Sure, maybe sometimes they "recognize" this when it's not there, but this time it was. Like you admit, they're right.

Posted by: bk at June 11, 2004 10:14 AM

Joe Schmoe, I'm all for having proper channels, but I'm also for civil disobedience when government is being oppressive. Bloomberg has crossed that line. If I want to take a picture of my girlfriend on the Brooklyn Bridge, I do not want to be hassled for it.

I'm not an artist. I'm a schmuck who just wants a picture of his pretty girlfriend and a pretty bridge.

More power to the picture protesters, IMHO.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 11, 2004 10:22 AM

Joe,
A minor issue indeed, but...
Yeah I've been there. Born and raised. I lived on the west side for 17 years, drove a cab for three, went to school on the hill overlooking harlem, and worked for 4 years on 120th.
FWIW, Harlem has always been above the park, east of morningside, west of the river. Spanish H expanded down to 97th because of the low property values around the Park avenue tracks.

I also hung out for many years in the East village. I knew lots of writers who never wrote anything, or musicians without a gig, or actors who rarely got a role. They were not poseurs. They were failures. Dont mean it in a bad way,,,god bless 'em I say. They tried. And out of such groups of people who try, emerge the few that actually succeed.

You just seem to have a lot of hostility towards some groups of people. Fact is that calm, reasonable supplication doesnt accomplish much. City officials (any city) make decisions, and if people meekly say "please change your mind", the response is - "no". They are, after all, invested in the decisions they make. They need to sense some shift in the larger public sentiment before they would be willing to admit that maybe their idea isnt so good. Make a little noise, get some publicity, convince the general populace that the policy is wrong, and then, only then, would the gov't reconsider. Thats the way it works in the real world.

Posted by: Tano at June 11, 2004 10:26 AM

Mike Silverman wrote my post.

Posted by: TmjUtah at June 11, 2004 10:31 AM

I agree the idea of a general ban doesn't make sense, however a law like this could be used tactically, like tax evasion. The police could ignore the vast majority of violators, and use it to bring in someone they're suspicious of to begin with, but don't have probable cause to arrest under the present system. Just another tool in the law enforcement tool box.

In plotting a terrorist attack, "casing" the target by taking photographs is probably one of the few times the terrorist actually exposes his intentions to the outside world and opens himself to arrest. It's understandable, then, why the authorities would want to take advantage of it. I bet it is based on actual experience with surveillance of terrorists. I agree with Joe Schmoe that the issue, though problematic, needs to be grappled with, and not dismissed in a fit of libertarian outrage.

One question for the photographers (and terrorists) in the forum- wouldn't small, cheap consumer cameras be inadequate for a terrorist, who presumably would want higher resolution, wider angles, etc?

Posted by: MarkC at June 11, 2004 10:37 AM

Could somebody explain to me what the hell a terrorist needs with pictures of the subway?

ITs not like there are any great secrets down there. Its tracks, platforms, garbage pails, people, and trains. Send a suicide bomber down there, what do they need with a photo? Just walk through the turnstile, and there are your victims. Plant a bomb under the platform? What is a photo going to tell you? Just take a peek - yeah there is space for a bomb there. Oh, and by the way, there are only about 18 gazillion photos of the subway system in the public domain already...

When was the last time there was a terrorist attack that relied crucially on some covert photographic information for its successful completion?

Posted by: Tano at June 11, 2004 10:53 AM

Not so fast on the "open liberal city" label. Taxes on this & that, rent control, so smoking anywhere, no loitering - and they'll decide what's loitering,.....

I wonder if nurse Bloomberg ever heard of the Minox camera.

I read yesterday that it's now illegal to take photos of any NY bridge.

As for Joe's discomfort with the "protest", for one thing, it's a heck of a lot more civil than the "anti-war" protests. For another thing, sometimes there's only one way to get the attention of the higher-ups who are convinced that they're right and you're not.

Posted by: Mike at June 11, 2004 10:58 AM

Joe,

Fake "artists" exist. So do real ones.

I'm not a photographer, but I do like to take pictures of cities. I have 200 pictures of Santiago de Chile. One of them is inside the subway. It didn't occur to me I might have been doing anything bad when I snapped it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 11, 2004 11:18 AM

Tano, Mike-

If the faux-artists actually TRIED to produce any art, but weren't successful, I too would be sympathetic. If you write a lot of songs that no one wants to listen to, becuase they aren't very good, that's okay. You're an artist, just not a talented one. And there is nobility in failure. However, if you don't write any songs, you're not an artist. You are a poseur.

A lot of people are poseurs as artists, and they are poseurs at politics too. They put as much effort into their politics as they put into their art. It's all a fashion statement to them.

Well, this is no time for fashion statements.

Tano-

Here's some speculation: suppose someone is taking pictures of security measures? Suppose the NYPD has installed chemical or biological weapons alarms, or radiation detectors, in the subways? You know what? Though this is the fist time I have thougth about it, I bet they actually have installed these things. If you were a terroist, you might want to know the details of the detectors in order to plan your attack? How about taking pictures of the ventillation system? The electrical cables? Crucial beams that could cause the subway station to collapse?

Again, you are right, the ban probably is silly and ineffective. There are indeed some pretty small cameras nowadays. But what if it isn't? What if the NYPD actually has a point? Shouldn't the "artists" at least bother to ASK?

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at June 11, 2004 11:31 AM

FYI - apparently there's a 45-day public comment period before this policy goes into effect. Furthermore, it's unclear whether Bloomberg even supports it -- all of which is beside the point since the Mayor wouldn't be able to prevent or force the MTA to do anything; the MTA gets its authority from the State of New York. Third point is that some members of the MTA board may vote against it . . .

See more here: http://www.nynewsday.com/news/local/transportation/nyc-pics0526,0,5388086.story?coll=nyc-homepage-headlines

I think it's somewhat draconian, but we should get the facts straight before running this discussion into the ground. And, as always, if you're in New York, or if you use the subways, speak out!

Posted by: None at June 11, 2004 11:38 AM

"Shouldn't the "artists" at least bother to ASK?"

Yeah, well c'mon Joe, this is the way we new yorkers ask...

As the demos get some publicity, the reporters will stick a mike in the polticians face and say - "well, whats your justification for this outrageous rule - what is your response to the artists"? And if they have some convincing justification, that seems to trump the photographer's concerns, then it will get fair play. And the public will be in on the discussion - in fact, general public opinion will probably greatly influence the outcome.
Democracy in action....

Posted by: Tano at June 11, 2004 11:41 AM

A similar thing happened a few years ago in my town. The FBI had recently bought a new building for the state, moving their offices out of the local federal building.

A local artist whose work is painting local city scapes sat down across the street and began scetching the new building. He was noticed and accosted by the FBI, who ordered him to stop and leave. He did. He came back the next day with as many artists as he could find and they all began scetching, photgraphing, and painting the FBI building, with a front page cover story in the paper.

The FBI admitted they were wrong and commissioned him to paint a picture of the building, which they hung in the building's lobby.

Posted by: Moonbat_One at June 11, 2004 11:50 AM

Joe,

What do fake artists have to do with this anyway? I know they exist. When I meet someone who says they are a writer, I can usually tell within three or four sentences of conversation if they're serious or not.

But New York is full of real writers and real photographers. And fake "photographers" like me equipped with a digital camera and no photography knowledge at all still have the right to be annoyed at the proposed ban.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 11, 2004 11:51 AM

Michael, I know, it's just that I think they are shallow people. I give as much respect to their poltiical views as I do their manuscripts, songs, and paintings. It really is just a fashion statement to them.

But I am making an unfair assumption here, that is true. I am tacitly assuming that the protesters are artist-wannabees. Maybe they aren't. In fact, they probably aren't. The poseurs really aren't relevant to this discussion, as I am sure that a lot of genuine artists are upset at the ban. My bad.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at June 11, 2004 11:58 AM

The problem here is that security is impossible. We aren't going to be able to secure NYC against terrorist attack without it ceasing to be a city. We could make it into a fortress, but then no work could get done there.

We can (and will) turn the US into a police state, and it will still be inadequate in stopping the terrorists. But lots and lots of people will be killed by the police state. We'll all be chanting about how wonderfully free we are as this is occurring, of course.

Posted by: T. J. Madison at June 11, 2004 12:52 PM

T. J. Madison,

I'm going to visit a real Middle Eastern police state (the one I mentioned in my post) in three weeks - assuming the damn visa paperwork gets finished, which is still debatable at this point. If I do get in I'll be sure to let you know, if you continue to read, what it's like. Hopefully that will give you a little perspective.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 11, 2004 01:12 PM

Making it a 'tactical law,' like the way the tax law is used to nail some criminals is BAD. We have way too much of that already. I'm all for nailing and locking up (or, for that matter, shooting!) the real criminals, but the WRONG way to do it is with laws we expect everyone will break and the enforcers will enforce selectively.

Do you really want to give the cop on the beat the responsibility to make this decision on a day-to-day basis? I don't. I'd rather have laws that are actual lines we don't cross... or if we do we accept the penalty.

We have WAY too many laws on the books already. We break them very often through simple ignorance because it's to the point we can't know them all. Let's not make it worse. Instead lets shout down more stupid laws.

What we need is more common sense and less nit-pickyness.

This propsed law is FLAT stupid. It won't accomplish a darned thing except make more work for already overworked law enforcement, and lower our generally already low respect for the law even more.

Tighter immigration laws and enforcement of them would be a better use of resources. And I'm ALL for immigration, the decent ones make GREAT citizens. It's the terorists that don't. Need to weed them out.

Hmph, want a proposal for a useful law? Propose that every law, retroactively, has a 10-year sunset provision and must be renewed affirmatively every 10-years or it lapses. That would clean out some dead wood (either laws or the politicians!)

Posted by: Dan S at June 11, 2004 02:06 PM

Without commenting on the specific advisability of this particular ban, I cannot help but note that the ACLU and civil liberterian community has yet to approve of a SINGLE security measure taken in the wake of 9/11. This is not helpful. If their job is to prevent government excess, then they must propose reasonable compromises. Those of us who live in New York understand what's at stake. At least most of us do.

Posted by: Doug at June 11, 2004 07:49 PM

Doug: I cannot help but note that the ACLU and civil liberterian community has yet to approve of a SINGLE security measure taken in the wake of 9/11. This is not helpful.

Yeah, I agree. I just think this one is dumb, along with a lot of the airport nonsense. You know, the tweezer ban and whatnot. They really SHOULD screen every piece of checked-in luggage, though.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 11, 2004 10:23 PM

At least twice while wearing a visor, Ive been asked to remove my hat at the airport. I dont make a fuss, I just take off the visor and look at the guard through the center of it. Silly. I wonder if anyone has ever been asked to remove their turbin?

Posted by: mnm at June 12, 2004 08:51 AM

Bloomberg was a life-long registered Democrat until he decided to run for mayor and chose to run on the Republican ticket because there were too many Democrats running on the Democratic ticket.

For him, his choice to run on the Republican ticket was a matter of convenience.

Posted by: syn at June 13, 2004 01:39 PM

how foolish. people who take photographs ARE the eyes for the NYPD. They pay attention; they capture people on film. They would note random packages left on the tracks, or in the stations.

they are the ones who could make us safer.

We are the citizenry that should be Empowered to be using our common surveillance to note the danger and the suspicious beforehand.

and a person who takes photos for taking photos? isn't going to hide, evade, or otherwise become uncomfortable when a policeman walks up to him to ask about his gear or his shots.

Posted by: foo at June 13, 2004 08:20 PM

>>If I do get in I'll be sure to let you know, if you continue to read, what it's like. Hopefully that will give you a little perspective.

I am well aware of what a full blown police state is like. We do not (yet) have one. We're still laying the groundwork: arbitrary executive power, greatly diminished accountability, enhanced surveilance powers, bureaucratic mission creep, degradation of rule of law, etc. We'll probably already need a few more Events before the population really demands a police state.

These things take time.

The US is not North Korea. The US is not Iran. I imagine a US police state will look more like Israel than anything else.

Posted by: T. J. Madison at June 14, 2004 12:41 AM

Sadly, our civil liberties are being chipped away, all because of one thing: Moslems. No Moslems=no Terror. The only reason the NYPD wanted to ban photographs in the subway is to prevent Moslem terrorists from taking pictures. Same for all those ugly concrete barricades around our public buildings. Why we continue to let Moslems in, when all that will result will be more terror and less civil liberties, I don't know.

Posted by: Seymour Paine at June 14, 2004 11:36 AM

Historically, Muslims don't engage in any more (or less) terrorism than most other religious groups. If we go check the democide statistics for the last century, we will find that although mass murder of civilians has occurred in Muslim countries, most notably Indonesia, these atrocities are dwarfed by the epic terrorism of Shintoists, Christians, and especially Atheists (of whom I am a proud member.)

We should also keep in mind that the number of Muslim terrorists is really quite small. Although large numbers of Muslims express unhappiness with, even hatred of, the US government, the number of Muslims willing to engage in violence against the USG is probably less than 200,000 out of 1 billion. The number of Muslims willing to travel to the US and kill civlians here is certainly much smaller, no more than 1000 tops.

The number of Muslim terrorists who have the necessary minimal intelligence and resources needed to actually get to the US and carry out a respectable attack is smaller still -- probably no more than 50 at the present moment.

I propose that the (highly inefficient) diversion of resources to fight the "War on Terrorism" is probably killing more people than it saves, especially when one factors in the opportunity cost of lost R&D and production. 400 billion dollars per year buys a lot of cancer research, a lot of advanced energy research, and a lot of civilian infrastructure.

Posted by: T. J. Madison at June 14, 2004 04:41 PM

Subways would be a most excellent way to spread pathanogens in New York.

But you can't protect everything.

Maybe we can drop the failed war on drugs and spend more time tracking bio weapons, nukes, and terrorist.

Posted by: IXLNXS at June 14, 2004 08:32 PM

There are a couple of errors here. NYC wasn't "considering" a ban; it was announced as something that was going to happen; now it has, unsurprisingly, become controversial (it will likely be dropped, since it's idiotic).

Separate point, may I suggest it's useful to use the Link Generator to link to Times stories if you want them to be read 8 days or more later? Here is the actual story, rather than the now useless link you gave.

"Rudy Giuliani found a mix of liberal Republicanism that most New Yorkers thought worked pretty well...."

Actually, prior to September 11th, Guiliani was despised with a passion that Bloomberg will never come close to, by a significant proportion of NYers; at least 40%. Bloomberg arouses indifference and annoyance. Guiliani was hated or admired. In '97, the results were Messinger (D) 533, 869, Guiliani ® 753,404; a very substantial victory against a very weak opponent, but not "most New Yorkers" especially given the low turnout.

Posted by: Gary Farber at June 16, 2004 01:47 AM
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