June 26, 2011

Deja Vu - The Label is BIGGER

The first time I saw the news, I laughed out load.  I had to laugh, because while some misguided idjits think that they are making the world a better place, all they are really doing is fulfilling the words of comedian Denis Leary.
There's a guy... He wants to make the warnings on the packs bigger. Yeah! He wants the whole front of the pack to be the warning.
And here we are, the FDA has ruled that the warning must be bigger.
He sums up the issue in his show NO CURE FOR CANCER:

Yes, Congress has caved into the madness, mandating the most intrusive and potentially ineffective labeling law in world history. And frankly, it's highly likely to be overturned if it gets to court; after all, alcohol is similarly devastating, and no one has proposed slapping a diseased liver on cans of Budweiser.

And get this - scientific studies bear out Leary's claims that the labels won't stop people from smoking!  The Discover Magazine blog 80 Beats  discusses the matter.
In a 2006 study, smokers looked at cigarette warning labels from various countries as they lay in an MRI scanner, which measures blood flow in the brain. Brain regions associated with fear and alarm stayed relatively quiet. But the  nucleus accumbens—an area associated with cravings, and a key player in the body’s reward system—showed lots of activation. These warning labels weren’t scaring smokers, the results suggest; the images were, strangely enough, making them crave a cigarette.
Behavioral psychologist Carol Tavris summed up the field this way, to Sara Reardon at ScienceInsider: “Social psychologists have decades of research showing that fear communications generally backfire, that people tune them out, and therefore that these tactics are generally not effective.”
Anyone born in the last fifty years is fully aware of the effects of cigarette smoking.  We get it.  We've seen the movies, we've followed the lawsuits, we've seen John Wayne lurching around with half his breathing capacity, we've seen Larry King on his fourth heart transplant.  "Cigarettes, whisky and while women will drive you insane." Smoking baaad.  We get it.

But the bottom line is this.
It doesn't matter how big the warnings on the cigarettes are; you could
have a black pack, with a skull and crossbones on the front, called
TUMORS, and smokers would be around the block going, "I can't wait to
get my hands on these fucking things! I bet ya get a tumor as soon as
you light up!" 

- Denis Leary, NO CURE FOR CANCER.
So now the question is, if this is who we are, when do we start slapping pictures of morbidly obese people on McDonald's Happy Meals?  How about sticking a photo of a mangled corpse on the side of our cars?

If the Congress honestly believes that these labels are a responsible and necessary approach to keeping Americans safe and healthy, then they are negligent in their duty if they don't mandate similar labels for other potentially dangerous products.

And if they feel that that is going too far, why the exception for tobacco?

June 19, 2011

WSVN Can't Get Facts Straight.

WSVN-7 News covered the little protest we had the other day.  And while it's great that they came out, it would have been more impressive if they got the story right.

The gist of their story - and their error - is in the second paragraph of the article:
Nearly two dozen print and professional photographers are angry. Friday afternoon, they decided to protest a Fort Lauderdale city ordinance that bans all photography within several hundred yards of the filming of the Hollywood movie "Rock of Ages."
The problem with this?  There is no ordinance banning all photography, around the site, or anywhere else. 

Channel 7 is good at showing up and getting footage.  Getting the facts straight, not so much.

What we were protesting is best summed up by Carlos Miller, who broke the story on Pixiq:
Acting as hired guns for the Rock of Ages film set, Fort Lauderdale police officers have been harassing, intimidating and threatening photojournalists trying to photograph actors in public.

The cops even went as far as to erect a sign stating that “photography of this area is prohibited” and that violators will be arrested.
Here's the thing; photography is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.  The public has a right to take pictures in public spaces, and can take pictures of anything they can see from a public space.  There is no ordinance against photography because such an ordinance would violate the Constitution.

Even the Sun-Sentinel managed to get the facts right:
Earlier this week, the North Carolina-based photographers' group (National Press Photographers Association) sent a complaint letter to Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Franklin Adderley questioning the constitutionality of the trespassing signs.
The signs cite a city ordinance that does not, in fact, address trespassing or photography...
But the team at Channel 7 just can't wrap their heads around it:
The Society of Professional Journalists filed a lawsuit against ordinance (sic), saying the city law is unconstitutional.
I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that WSVN can't get the facts straight: after all, it is a Fox News station.

June 18, 2011


The Miami Herald reports that a man who could not get a job as a flight attendant using his own identity managed to get the job using a stolen identity that should have also been disqualified.

Jophan Porter is an immigrant from Guyana. The article doesn't mention what his immigration status actually is (or was when he applied for the job), but presumably it disqualified him from working on airplanes in our post 9-11 mindset.

So he stole the identity of one Anthony Frair.  But Frair had an arrest record!
Frair was arrested four times in Largo, in Pinellas County, between January and October 2008 on charges of criminal mischief, domestic battery, witness tampering and battery with a deadly weapon. - The Miami Herald
This should have disqualified him - or anyone from using his identity - from getting a job at an airline. It's a clear security risk, and should have raised all kinds of red flags.  It's like a jewel thief deciding to hide his identity by pretending to be a mugger.

Instead, Porter, as Frair, has been working as a flight attendant.

Friar doesn't know Porter, and doesn't know how Porter ended up with his identity.  The theft came to light when Frair, now living in New York, applied for food stamps.  He must have been surprised when he was rejected for being gainfully employed at a job he couldn't possibly hold.

Porter's being detained by immigration, and has been charged with possessing false government IDs, forgery, and possessing stolen driver's licenses.

No one has explained how he passed the background checks that should have uncovered Frair's record, if not Porter's actual identity.  But their can be no doubt that someone really screwed the pooch on this one.

And the question on everybody's mind - will the story translate as a musical?

June 17, 2011

The Public Wins One

DSC_3035Last week, there were signs posted all around the historic Himmarshee Village in Fort Lauderdale, stating that "photography of this area is prohibited", that the ban is "strictly enforced by FLPD",  and "violators subjet (sic) to arrest".  The signs even cited a city ordinance.

The law cited, City Ordinance 16-1, reads:
Sec. 16-1. - State Offenses and county ordinances adopted
(a) State Felony.  It shall be unlawful for any person to commit, within the corporate limits of the city, any act which is or shall be recognized by the laws of the state as a felony, felony of the first degree, felony of the second degree, or felony of the third degree.
(b) State misdemeanor.  It shall be unlawful for any person to commit, within the corporate limits of the city, any act which is or shall be recognized by the laws of the state of the as a misdemeanor.
(c) County Ordinance. It shall be unlawful for any person to commit, within the corporate limits of the city, any act which is or shall be recognized as a violation of any county ordinance which is effective within the city.
(d) Penalties.  Any person convicted of violating this section, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld shall be punished in accordance with the penalty clause of the state statute that the person, corporation or entity was convicted of violating.
Basically, all that 16-1 says is "if it's against the law in the State and the County, it's illegal here, too."

Photography is not illegal in the State of Florida, or in Broward County.  It can't be. As we noted above, it's protected under the First Amendment.

At least one lawsuit was filed, and Carlos Miller arranged for a group of photographers to make an appearance in Himmarshee Village.

Carlos Miller being interviewed by Channel 7.

But by the time we arrived on the scene, all the offensive signs had been removed.

This photo shows the same corner as the first photo in this article, a few days later.

Another difference in the last few days; uniformed cars have been replaced with un-marked cars.  But there were still armed, off-duty police officers working security.

One of them tried pretty hard not to start citing the photographers, but her job was made difficult by the odd decision not to have any clear demarcation between public areas and the area being blocked off for the production.  She couldn't resist going to the manager of  Bourbon on 2nd Street to try and incite some trespassing charges; she stepped inside the restaurant, and within a minute or two, he stuck his head out to see if we were blocking the door.

Which we weren't.

Off-duty police officer pointing out the line she wants us standing behind. 
She never did produce any supporting documentation for that line.

And what did they not want us to see?


I don't know either.  The Glades never riled up such a fuss; I hope whoever thought the signs were a good approach gets the pink slip they richly deserve.  Oh, not for the feeble attempt to violate our rights; for exposing the production to needless negative publicity. This should never have been an issue.

I would hope that this doesn't affect future productions from filming in South Florida.  A lot of productions film without incident, and without riling up the locals.

We promise we won't interrupt your shoot if you don't violate our right to have one, too.

June 6, 2011

Chief Adderly: Movie Crews Are Not Above The Law

This is in reference to this Pixiq story, and the images found there.

I know these Hollywood types are very impressive, but just because they insist that you do certain things, it does not mean that you can or should do them.  It's just a goddamn movie.  Filming a movie does not grant them any special rights or privileges.  They have to abide by the law; the law does not abide by the film crew.

I know that they are pressuring you to stop people from taking pictures of the film in progress.  I've worked in the entertainment business for 25 years, and I know that I frequently request that people stop taking photographs.  I've even kicked people out of my theater for taking photographs.

The thing is, my theater is private property.  I sell admittance to it at my discretion, and I have the right to revoke their right to be there.  Tickets are sold with conditions.

Note that even if I catch them taking photographs,  I can't take their cameras or their film, or their memory cards; it is illegal to seize private property without a court order (in the form of a subpoena or warrant).  I can only kick them out.

But you do not have that legal recourse on public property.  The public pays for it, they have the right to be there.  Furthermore, they have the right to take pictures or movies of anything they see from that public property, even the filming of a movie.   Court rulings are very clear on this; it is not and can not be against the law to take pictures or movies of anything you can see from a public right-of-way.  They have ruled that photography is a form of communication, and thus is protected speech under Amendment 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

No state or municipal law may override the Constitution, and no law may infringe the rights guaranteed therein.  Even if it pisses of some piss-ant film crew. 

Now, I don't know which shit-for-brains ass-kisser motivated officer did it, but all those signs being put up stating that "photography of this area is prohibited" are not only insulting, they are also without any legal support whatsoever.  I understand that a lot of these officers are off-duty.  But they are exposing the city to legal action, and that should not be tolerated. Anyone you cite for taking photos, or worse yet, actually arrest, has the basis for a lawsuit that they will win.  Every time this kind of thing has come up before the courts, the court has ruled that photography is protected speech.  Every. Single. Time.

Now you're going to tell me that even though the streets are closed for the filming, you're trying to maintain access to businesses there.  And that's laudable.  But you cannot have it both ways; if you're letting the public on the sidewalk, then all their rights come with them.  So if you want to keep the cameras out, keep the public out.  The film company is responsible to recompense the businesses for their loss - it's actually included in the language of the permit.  And the film company needs to make its choice; either shut everything down completely and foot that bill, or let the public in and live with the cameras.  It's their choice; pay up, or put up with it.  But violating the civil rights of citizens isn't on their list of options.  And it's not on yours, either.

So to sum this up for you: if it's a public space, and the public is allowed to be there, so are cameras, and the public can use those cameras to take pictures of anything they see and there is nothing the Fort Lauderdale PD can do about it without violating the law.

June 3, 2011

Memorial Day Shooting

Lots of hot hair is pumping over the police shooting of Raymond Herrisse on Monday.  Were the police justified? I don't know.  If they find residue on his hands, placing the gun found in his car in his hands, then very likely, yes.  If ballistics from that gun show that it was used in an armed robbery back in November, then it's pretty clear the police did the right thing.

No, the shooting of an (alleged) armed criminal doesn't bother me.  It's the people shooting video who claim they were assaulted, or had their cameras seized, that worry me.

The Miami Herald spoke with a couple who recounted their experience.
A West Palm Beach couple who filmed Monday morning’s deadly officer-involved shooting on South Beach has accused officers of intimidation, destroying evidence and twisting the facts in the chaos surrounding the Memorial Day shootings – a charge that police officials say they know nothing about.
Sadly, it's a familiar story in South Florida; cops are filmed arresting a suspect, and then round up the footage.  Usually, the arrest involves complaints of excessive force, and often the video proves just that.

In theory, if the officers were following proper procedure, the videos would of course prove that beyond reasonable doubt.  So when officers start grabbing cameras, we, the people, must be suspicious of this behavior.

Narces Benoit and Ericka Davis say that Miami Police got very scary:
The video shows Benoit get into the car, where his girlfriend, Ericka Davis, sat in the driver’s seat. He raises his camera and an officer is seen appearing on the driver’s side with his gun drawn, pointed at them.
“They put guns to our heads and threw us on the ground,” Davis said.
Benoit said a Miami Beach officer grabbed his cell phone, said “You want to be [expletive] Paparazzi?” and stomped on his phone before placing him in handcuffs and shoving the crunched phone in Benoit’s back pocket.
Benoit was later uncuffed, and slipped the memory card out of his wrecked phone.
Officers again took his phone, demanding his video. He said they took him to a nearby mobile command center, snapped a picture of him, then took him to police headquarters and conducted a recorded interview while he kept the SIM card in his mouth. He insisted his phone was broken.

He was given a copy of a police property record receipt dated May 30.
Not surprisingly, the police deny it.  Specifially, Police Chief Carlos Noriega denied it.
“I was there during the second shooting and it was quite a chaotic scene,” he said. “We were trying to figure out who was who and it was a difficult process. Not once did I see cameras being taken or smashed.”
He goes on to say that if a complaint had been filed, Internal Affairs would be investigating.

IA is a division of the Police Department whose members just destroyed Benoit's phone, and held him and Davis at gunpoint, remember.  Yeah, I'm sure they were anxious to run down to the Police Department after that experience.

When cops lash out at witnesses, confidence in the integrity of the police force is greatly diminished.  Benoit and Davis had committed no crime, but still ended up being handcuffed at gunpoint, according to their testimony.  Not filing a complaint with that police department is wholly understandable.

Noriega did make the observation that the video could help the investigation of the shooting, and he's right.  But the law does not allow police to seize the private property of witnesses.  They have to get a court order to do that.

Some people complain about the backlash of outrage whenever cops start seizing cameras.  They say things like "well, the videos never show what happened before" or "they edit them to make the police look bad."  And sometimes that is true.  But maybe, if cops would follow the law instead of assaulting and harassing those with cameras, perhpas fewer people would be trying to slant the footage.  And if the law was followed, court orders would bring out the full, unedited, video in each case, showing the real story, whatever it happens to be.

Of course, one would have to be confident that one had properly followed procedure before taking the legal and legally binding steps to secure the footage.  After all, once it's been gathered by a court order, it becomes part of the public record.  Video you grab in the heat of the moment can conveniently disappear if it shows you violating procedure.

And that's why the tendency of the police to lash out at photographers and videographers is so damning in the public eye.

I'm back.

Yeah, I feel a little foolish.  I guess I just needed an outlet for "the softer side."  But suddenly I feel the need to point out the follies we're surrounded with.

Crime and...Punishment?

You run two men down in the street, leave them to die in a pool of blood, get friend to lie about where you were, hide the car, and deny everything.  Oh, and your license was already suspended for reckless driving.

And your punishment?  You get sent home.  To your house.  For two years.

You know he's laughing all the way to his room.  Hell, he's probably already ordered a keg for the party.

Ryan LeVin ran down Craig Elford and Kenneth Watkinson on February 13, 2009.  They didn't get to go home to their wives and children.

LeVin had been racing his Porsche along State Road A1A. He'd lost his license for doing this, but he was at it again.  And this time, he killed someone.

Judge Barbara McCarthy imposed an incredibly inadequate sentence; two years of house arrest, followed by ten years of probation, and his driving privilege is permanently revoked.

His driving privilege was already revoked when he killed the two men.  This demonstrates that LeVin has no respect for the law or court rulings.  If ever there was a man who need to spend time in a prison cell to re-assess his choices, it's Ryan LeVin.  Instead, he'll have whatever pathetic friends he has over to watch The Fast and the Furious in hi-def, and send out for pizza.

But LeVin gets to go home, and hopefully won't find a way to slip out of the house to party, get in another race and run some more people down.  After all, he didn't give up driving the first time the court made a ruling.  Why should we expect that he'll behave differently now?

Meanwhile, the families of his victims have learned the bitter lesson that there is no justice in Barbara McCarthy's court.