Posts Tagged ‘law’

When is a “child” not a child and a “teen” not a teen?

January 24th, 2011

A few weeks ago I was reading Injustice Everywhere when they mentioned an article in the West Virginia Gazette-Mail titled Policing the Police.  I recommend the article, but this post isn’t about police misconduct.  What I find more interesting was an article listed on the side of the website that was linked with the headline “Teen charged with murder”.  Unfortunately I can’t find the same article on the website, but I did find similar ones such as “Teens plead guilty to killing S. Charleston counselor” and “Teen charged in East End shooting“.  These headlines are really what prompted me to write this post.

I’ve been noticing for a while that certain people and organizations will use words that while true will imply something different and specific to the people who hear them.  The people and groups I’m talking about generally have a specific agenda they are promoting and include, but are not limited to, politicians, media outlets, and special interest organizations.

The specific words I want to talk about today are those related to age.  To help me on this I asked a number of my friends to give me their first impressions as it relates to age on 23 words.

child
high school
old
teen
woman
adult
student
underage
mature
baby
minor
man
mother
toddler
father
college
pedophile
young
adolescent
parent
puberty
middle aged
juvenile

While this was not a scientific survey, and I only received 3 responses, the data generally backs up my beliefs.

Let’s start with “teen”.  When I hear the term teen my first instinct is someone 16 years old.  If I think about it a little longer I would say 13 to 18. Other impressions I get are high school aged or someone in high school.

But the definition of teen is someone who is at least 13, but less than 20.  That is how it’s used in the stories linked above.  They are both about 18 and 19 year olds.  So while a headline of “Teen” is true, it implies something to most people that is completely different.  If you’ve just seen a headline that says “Teen charged with murder” you’re going to look at those walking to high school a little fearfully, aren’t you.

Let’s take a look at another word, “child”.  My first instinct is someone roughly 5 to 8 years old.  In my survey I received a response of 4, 5, and 5-13.  Wikipedia says that biologically a child is a human between birth and puberty.  I think when the majority of the population says “child” that’s what they mean.  The biological definition.  But legally a child is anyone who has not reached the age of majority, generally someone under 18.

One of the places you’ll see child mentioned in the media is in a headline like this:  Former UW-Madison student is on trial over alleged encrypted child porn photos

But one thing that is very rarely, if ever, mentioned in stories like that is the actual age of the “children” involved.  Legally, child pornography is pornographic images of a human under the age of 18.  It doesn’t matter if they’re 7 months, 7 years, or 17 years old, it’s all illegal.  But by calling it child pornography the police, the justice system and the media are creating certain ideas in our minds.  We’ve already seen that most of us think of a pre-pubescent person when we hear child.  Is it too much of a stretch to think that the people responsible for “protecting” us are using that to their advantage?

Now I’m not defending anyone who would force another, through violence or psychological coercion, to perform a sexual act.  And I’m also not defending recording a sexual act without a persons knowledge and/or consent.  But I am saying I have a very different reaction to pornography involving a 7 year old, than I do to pornography involving a 17 year old.  Especially considering that in 38 states, that same 17 year old can legally consent to sex.  (30 states = 16yo 8 states = 17yo)

That’s right, the esteemed legislatures of 38 states have voted and decided that a 17 year old is old enough to wisely choose a partner, understands the risks, rewards, and consequences, and potentially create another human life and become a parent.  But that same 17 year old is NEVER allowed to show an image of him or herself in a sexual situation.  Even if they’re the only person in the image, and they are the ones creating it.  In fact it’s illegal just to create it and teens have been prosecuted for it.

What kind of message does that send?  Everyone talks about body image issues that teens have from magazines, TV shows, fashion models, etc.  But here we are telling the same group of people that their bodies are so wrong, so immoral, so dangerous that they can’t even photograph themselves?  That doing so could land them in jail for years, put them on sex offender registries, and basically ruin their entire lives.

Next we have “minor” and “underage”.  For “minor” I received responses of 21, 18, and 17.  While “underage”, received responses of 17, 18, and 17.  I thought these responses were quite interesting and honestly that they would have been reversed.  Legally, a minor is someone who has not attained the age of majority, for the US and most of the world, that’s 18.  “Underage” is basically the same thing, and describes a person who is “under” the age of majority.

What bothers me about minor, and to a lesser extent underage, is that they’re so negative.  The definitions as used in relation to age are negative; “not attained”, “under the age”.  The way the word is used not related to age is negative; “inferior, smaller, unimportant, not serious, academics requiring fewer courses”.  This is how our society, how our legal system, defines those who are that way merely because of when they were born.  If you don’t believe me you’re not remembering hard enough or you were very lucky.  The way most “adults” treat minors is that they are inferior, unimportant and not serious.

I guess what I want you to take away from this is to try to be more aware of the words people use who might want to influence your opinion.  And not just the definition of those words, but of how those words are used and how they make you feel.  Especially if they create a strong emotional reaction.

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Round and round we go…

September 16th, 2010

So it’s been a few months since the last update on my Robert W. Kastenmeier courthouse experience.  After not hearing from anyone for about 6 weeks, on February 10th, 2010 I called the offices of Representative Baldwin and Senator Feingold.  Two days later I received a letter with a number of pages from Representative Baldwin.  Click the picture to read it full size.

Representative Baldwin letter February 12th In it she recaps what has happened so far and then says that her office received a reply letter from the Department of Homeland Security on January 6th.  Would have been nice if they would have forwarded it to me when it was received. 

Apparently the Federal Protective Service, part of DHS, provides security at the vast majority of US courthouses but not Kastenmeier, which is protected by the US Marshall service.  The current U.S. Marshal told an aide to Representative Baldwin that he considered the case closed because of Judge Crabb’s letter (page 1, page 2) from November 5th.  It should be noted the the Marshal the aide spoke to is Mr. Steven Fitzgerald, who is different than the one interviewed by Bill Leuders for his Isthmus article.

The letter to Representative Baldwin from DHS is below, click to see it bigger.

DHS to Baldwin First, the letter reveals that the Federal Protective Service has “no record or contact with Mr. Zytkiewicz".  Well, that’s good because I never gave anyone my name, they’d only know it from the letters.

It goes on to say that while FPS provides security for 800 courthouses, the Robert W. Kastenmeier courthouse is one of seven pilot facilities where security is provided by the U.S. Marshal service.  Well, isn’t that interesting.  How many parts of our government don’t know what the hell is going on with other parts of the government?  First it was GSA, then it was DHS, now it’s the U.S. Marshal service with is under the Department of Justice.

The letter then goes on for almost a paragraph about the often repeated lie that terrorist use photography. 

“Therefore, as a precautionary measure, FPS personnel may approach individuals photographing Federal buildings in an attempt to ascertain their reasons for photographing the facility, so as to protect against security compromises.”

This is just so ludicrous.  Much better writers than I have written pages and pages about why idea’s like this don’t work.  Just a few days ago Stephen Haynes wrote a wonderful piece about Security Theater.

Now the last sentence of the paragraph is very interesting.  It may even be useful to photographers to print out this letter and carry it with them.

“Unless there is a reasonable belief that criminal or terrorist reconnaissance activity is involved, FPS guidelines regarding this issue prohibit FPS personnel from taking any enforcement action, including detaining persons or seizing cameras or film.”

Now, I’m not a lawyer, and have no legal training.  But I do know that reasonable belief, and reasonable suspicion are closely related.  Meaning that FPS personnel and law enforcement officers must have specific evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that you have committed, are committing, or about to commit a crime.  I highly doubt that taking pictures of a public building, standing on public property, making no attempt to conceal your actions would lead anyone to believe you are a criminal.

So now I guess I write some letters to the Mr. Fitzgerald, the U.S. Marshals service, and Attorney General Eric Holder.

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“I’ll get a hold of Madison PD, they’ll come talk to you.”

October 15th, 2009

“I’ll get a hold of Madison PD, they’ll come talk to you.”

That’s a threat that I received from a security guard at the Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse in Madison, Wisconsin.  Here’s the story.

I rented a Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 APO G SSM lens to shoot a wedding on October 3rd.  This is the second time I rented this lens and I’ve taken thousands  of pictures with it but they’ve all been wedding pictures.  I wanted to try some other things with it and since I wasn’t able to find any models available I decided to go to downtown Madison.

I started my journey in front of the Madison Municipal building.  They were hosting an exhibit of photography from Chernobyl by Michael Forster Rothbart.

Afterwards I walked the two blocks north to the Wisconsin Capitol.  About the only attention I got was from this guy.

Squirrel on the Capitol Grounds

Squirrel on the Capitol Grounds

I entered the Capitol building through one of the public entrances.  There are at least 4, one on each end of the 4 wings, none of which are guarded or secured in anyway.  I say at least 4 because I think there are upper and lower entrances on the stairs between each of the four wings.  The first “official” person that I saw that day was one of the guides at the information desk in the Rotunda.  I was able to walk freely and photograph throughout almost all of the Capitol.

Liberty Mural

Liberty Mural, one of four murals just below the dome.

I didn’t go into any of the private offices but I was able to enter a small conference room.

Small conference room

Small conference room

And the North Hearing Room with it’s wonderful murals by Charles Yardley Turner.

Detail of Mural in the North Hearing Room

Detail of Mural in the North Hearing Room

After leaving the Capitol I walked down State Street.  Not seeing anything that interesting I turned towards the Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse.

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse  Main entrance

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse Main entrance

As you can see the Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse is a very visually interesting building.  First off, it’s blue.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blue building.  Designed by architect Kenton Peters of Madison, it’s covered in blue metal, with red accents, some of which are neon.

So I started to photograph the building.  Some wider shots, some close ups, from all different sides.  On the west side of the building there’s a small alley between it and the City of Madison Overture center parking ramp.  (In the picture at that link, the blue line just above the head of the two gentleman is the back of the courthouse).

Courthouse on the left, parking ramp at right

Courthouse on the left, parking ramp at right

There are no fences, no signs, nothing limiting access to this area as being off limits.  I walked straight ahead in this picture and come out on the other side where I took this picture.

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse - Rear

Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse - Rear

I turned a little to my right and snapped this picture

Wisconsin Capitol Dome

Wisconsin Capitol Dome

when I heard someone calling “Hey, Hey, Hey”.  A security guard was approaching me.  At this point I turned on the voice recorder in my iPhone.  Here’s a transcript of our conversation.

Guard:  Hey Hey
Guard:  Hi how you doing?
Me:  Pretty good
Guard:  What you shooting pictures of?
Me:  Whatever I want
Guard:  Well yeah I understand that.  For what?
Me:  Just ’cause I was out today
Guard:  Ok. What’s your name?
Me:  Why do you need to know?
Guard:  This is the federal courthouse, we like to know why you’re shooting pictures around it.
Me:  There’s…
Guard, interuppting me:  Relax man, no one, no ones in trouble.  We just, we like to know.
Me:  There’s no law that says I can’t take pictures.
Guard: No there’s not.
Me:  So, what’s your deal?
Guard:  I want to know why you were taking pictures and what you were taking pictures of is all.  That’s it.
Me:  Well.  (I shrug, looking at him)
G:  Okay, have a nice day.
Guard walks away, I shoot a picture.  He turns around.
G:  But you won’t take one of the building.
M:  What was that?
G:  Don’t take one of the building.
M:  Why not?
G:  Because…..security procedures.
M:  What security procedures?  There’s no law that says I can’t take pictures.
G:  I’ll get ahold of Madison PD they’ll come and talk to you.
Guard walks away.  I stick around shooting pictures of the building for another ten mintues, no police ever show up.

Guard:  Hey Hey

Guard:  Hi how you doing?

Me:  Pretty good

Guard:  What you shooting pictures of?

Me:  Whatever I want

Guard:  Well yeah I understand that.  For what?

Me:  Just ’cause I was out today

Guard:  Ok. What’s your name?

Me:  Why do you need to know?

Guard:  This is the federal courthouse, we like to know why you’re shooting pictures around it.

Me:  There’s…

Guard, interuppting me:  Relax man, no one, no ones in trouble.  We just, we like to know.

Me:  There’s no law that says I can’t take pictures.

Guard: No there’s not.

Me:  So, what’s your deal?

Guard:  I want to know why you were taking pictures and what you were taking pictures of is all.  That’s it.

Me:  Well.  (I shrug, looking at him)

G:  Okay, have a nice day.

Guard walks away, I shoot this picture.

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

He turns around.

Guard:  But you won’t take one of the building.

Me:  What was that?

Guard:  Don’t take one of the building.

Me:  Why not?

Guard:  Because…..security procedures.

Me:  What security procedures?  There’s no law that says I can’t take pictures.

Guard:  I’ll get ahold of Madison PD they’ll come and talk to you.

The Guard then walks back towards the building.  At this point I’m not sure if I’m standing on Federal or City propery so I walk to the sidewalk but continue to take picture.

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

Robert W. Kastenmeier United State Courthouse

I stick around shooting pictures of the building for another ten mintues, no police ever show up.  On the way back to my vehicle I spot this outside the Central Library.

On the sidewalk outside the Cental Library, Downtown Madison

On the sidewalk outside the Cental Library, Downtown Madison

Lets just hope that someday the federal government will learn to trust it’s citizens.

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Knowledge is Power

July 30th, 2009

Knowledge is Power

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now.  Things keep coming up that relate to how I currently think about knowledge or information.  I think the saying “Knowledge is Power” is true, but only when that information is not commonly known.  In other words, when information is known by only a few,  that can be immensely powerful, but if everyone knows it there is no power there at all.

A classic example is sexual orientation.  In many parts of the world if you’re gay and you haven’t told anyone that secret, that information is very powerful.  In many countries you can be legally put to death for being gay.  Even in the “civilized” US some people could be blackmailed, lose their jobs, their families, and yes even their lives.  But if it’s common knowledge that someone is gay, there is no power there.  You can’t blackmail Ellen DeGeneres with the knowledge she’s a lesbian because everyone knows she’s a lesbian.

If I tell you that on August 21st, 2017 there will be a total solar eclipse plunging most of the United states into darkness during the middle of the day you’ll probably believe me.  Most people reading this will understand what a solar eclipse is and that they can be predicted.  But that same knowledge, a few hundred years ago or in some of the less educated parts of our current world, could brand me as a wizard, require animal sacrifice or elevate me to the status of a god.

Now how does technology fit into this?  Technology makes it easier for everyone to know.  And that scares a lot of people.

Here in Wisconsin we have something called Wisconsin Circuit Court Access or WCCA.  Anyone can go to the website, input someones name and find all public court cases they were involved in for approximately the last 20 years.  Go ahead and put my name in there.  Josh Zytkiewicz You’ll find a traffic ticket, and an incident where I chose my roommate poorly and we got kicked out of our apartment.  Here is the record for former state Senator Chuck Chvala, you can see why he’s the “former” Senator.  In the past, and in many other states currently, you have to actually go to the county courthouse, stand in line, probably fill out some forms, maybe pay a fee for “copying” or “searching”, and you might get to see them the same day.

Or how about the City of Madison property assessment.  Punch my last name in, find out about my condo I bought last year.  Or find out where our Mayor Dave Cieslewicz lives.  Pull the address up on Google Maps and you can get a nice picture of it from Street view.

Some people call this invasion of privacy.  But it’s not.  This is PUBLIC information, and more and more information about you is becoming public.  I say that’s okay.  I’ll even go further and say that’s a good thing.  But only when that information is truly public.  When everyone can access it, and everyone has an equal chance to find information about others and for others to find out about them.

People say they are afraid of Big Brother.  That’s because it’s a one way street.  Big Brother knows about you, but you don’t know Big Brother, what he knows about you, or anyone else.  I like “little brother” better.  Little brother knows about you too, but you also know things about him, and you both know things about everyone.

Big Brother is the CCTV systems in the UK.  Where the government operates them and no one can see what they see unless they choose to show us.  Little brother would give us the same access to those cameras.  We would get to see what they see, all of us, at any time.  We would be the watchers and the watched.

Can you see?

Can you see?

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2257

March 15th, 2009

For those of you who don’t know 2257 is the chapter of some new regulations the federal government is instituting on photographers that create nude photographs.  I’m not gonna go into huge detail on it, if you do a search online you can find out all that you need to know.  What I am gonna do is draw some parallels to a fictional law that will bring out many of the negative aspects of it.

The given reason for these regulations is to prevent child pornography.  The creators of this legislation believe that the new rules will decrease child pornography and give law enforcement new tools to combat it.  Those two simple sentences will get many people to support 2257.

My hypothetical example is a law against speeding.  Now you might say that speeding is already illegal.  You’re right, and child pornography is already illegal as well.  2257 requires creators of nude or sexually explicit content to do is keep certain identifying records such as name and birthday, and allow the government to access them whenever they’d like.  My fictional law would require all drivers to keep records of the distance travelled and the time it took on each trip, and also allow the government to access these records.

The more astute of you may already see where I’m going with this.  Why would someone that is breaking the law keep a record of it in a way that the government suggests?  If I’m going to take sexually explicit pictures of a minor do you honestly think I’m going to keep a copy of her ID on file so that the government can walk in and use the record against me?  NO! The only people who are going to keep accurate records are the people who are not committing the crime.  In my speeding law, if you travel 100 miles, and it only takes you an hour, are you really gonna write that down and prove to the government that you were going 100 miles an hour?

Some people will say that if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about.  Oh, really?  There’s some pretty significant penalties for failing to comply.  Up to five years in prison.  And that’s not just for willfully disregarding the law.  If you don’t know about 2257 or you make a mistake on something, you can still be punished.  You take some sexy pictures of your 45 year old housewife neighbor, but don’t keep the right paperwork, and you could go to jail.  In our speeding law, if I drive the 2 blocks to the convenience store for a half gallon of milk, but I don’t write it down, I’ve just violated the law.  It won’t matter to the government that I only went 25 mph and the speed limit is 30.

So what is this law gonna do?  For the people who create child pornography it’s not gonna do anything.  They were breaking the law before, they’ll keep breaking it after.  For the speeder?  Same thing.  Some people will just do as the law says.  They’ll keep the records, and spend all that time doing it.  Other people just won’t.  They will not change their behavior, legal or illegal, and will continue to do whatever they did before.

For others the law will make them question whether they want to do the activity they need to keep records for.  If I had to write down every time I drove the 2 blocks to Pizza Hut, or the Mall, maybe I’d walk.  How many photographers are going to stop taking nude pictures of anyone because of this law?  Perhaps that’s the actual intent of it’s creators.  They’ve tried to ban nude photography before and they’ve been unsuccessful.  This law doesn’t say you can’t do it.  It only makes it more difficult.  And that’s the first step isn’t it?  To get the people to not want to do something.

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