Controversial Immigration Law AND Concealed Weapons?

Undocumented Immigrants detained in Arizona

A local poll shows the majority of Arizonan’s approve of Governor Jan Brewer’s support of the state’s backward thinking immigration law. As stated in the Arizona Star, Gov. Brewer’s approval rating is growing and it’s likely influenced in part by her support for two key bills that she recently signed into law.

Two key bills?

Yes, two. Her critical support of the controversial immigration law that mandates police ask to see documents of anyone suspected of being illegally in the country has put her in the national spotlight. But she signed another bill, according to the AZ Star, that also helped her popularity grow in Arizona. A concealed weapons bill.

In the past ten days Governor Brewer has passed a law that some say treads dangerously close to the era when Nazi’s asked people for their papers and just days prior to that made it exceedingly simple to carry a concealed weapon. I understand a rancher near the border was gunned down apparently by a drug cartel member, but most ranchers already carry firearms openly on their property for various reasons.

Each piece of legislation is precarious in it’s own way. I’m not necessarily against carrying a concealed weapon, but extensive training and permitting should be in place to maximize public safety. As for the immigration law, it will hurt Arizona more than the current administration realizes. Boycotts are being called by cities large and small. LA City Council is looking into an economic embargo with Arizona based businesses. Tourism will suffer. Not to mention, the law will likely be struck down as unconstitutional. But by then, Gov. Brewer will have used her time in the spotlight to advance her political career as a “tough” politician.

Controversial Immigration Bill Signed into Law

Muddy footprints across a highway show the path undocumented migrants took entering the country from Agua Prieta, Mexico into Douglas, Arizona.

Immigration bill allowing police to question if immigrants are in the country legally was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer today.

Placing the responsibility on police will lead only to racial profiling and push Arizona further towards a police state. The thought that people have to carry documents with them to prove they are in the country legally is beyond comprehension. Please, explain how a police officer is supposed to delineate between a “legal” and an “illegal” Latino man or woman? What if a citizen is asked for his or her papers but doesn’t have them? Well, they are likely to be detained until they can prove otherwise. Have we as a country gotten so anti-immigrant that we’ll actually throw citizens in jail for not having documents on hand?

Will the police ask Whites, Jews, Persians, Muslims, African Americans, Asians or Armenians if they have papers?

Enough said.

Lorena Ochoa’s Sudden Retirement

Lorena Ochoa won the Safeway International LPGA tournament in Superstition Mountain, AZ.

Like most in the sports world, I was caught by surprise today at the announcement of Lorena Ochoa’s retirement. With more news to come on Friday, it’s with great hope that all is well in her world.

I’ve been shooting professional sports and athletes for almost 25 yrs, the last fifteen for national publications such as Sports Illustrated, Sport (now defunct) and The Sporting News. During that time, I’ve met and photographed the likes of NASCAR champions (Kyle Busch), baseball all stars (Albert Belle), Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Steve Young) and basketball one-of-a-kinds (John Wooden, Phil Jackson). Some are exceptionally nice, others not so much. Anyone who follows sports can figure out which are which (hint: Mr Wooden is a saint!). Honestly, though, Lorena Ochoa is as nice as they come.

I’ve written about her before on this blog, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it now. She treats her fans, media, parents and especially the hard working grounds crews with respect, something often missing from the top tier of sports stars. With 27 wins by the age of 28, including two majors, she’s the best in the game. Yet she always finds a smile and a humble approach to each day. Watching her walk hand in hand with her father to the first tee years ago in Tucson, I was greatly impressed. Here’s a young lady with all the upside in the world and she finds time on tournament day to say a prayer with her parents, tell them she loves them, then walk off to play a game. On the way she would greet people with kindness.

I hope she returns. She’s a champion in the truest form, on and off the course.

The question now is who will fill the void for a tour that has struggled to remain relevant? Ochoa stepped to the plate and took over the role held by Annika Sorenstam for so long. Who’s turn is it now? Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Ai Miyazato? I’m sure the LPGA would love Wie to assume the role, but it’s not likely she’s ready at this point.

Will Michelle Wie step up and take over as the face of the LPGA?

Oklahoma City Bombing 15 Yrs Later

The memorial to the victims of the terrorist act in Oklahoma City. On April 19th, 1995, Timoth McVeigh detonated a truck bomb and blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building.

Sad day fifteen years ago. A day when a lot of lives were lost, a lot of people were injured, and a lot of hate spread by another fringe character who was motivated by intense hatred for the federal government.

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked his truck next to the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in downtown Oklahoma City and proceeded to detonate a massive bomb that killed 168 people including nineteen under the age of six. Hundreds more were injured. All for hate, all for nothing.

McVeigh was stopped by Oklahoma State Trooper Charlie Hanger less than two hours later for a missing license plate and arrested for unlawfully carrying a weapon. Evidence later pointed directly at McVeigh and his accomplice, Terry Nichols.

A memorial was built on the site of the federal building and opened five years to the day after the bombing. As you can imagine, it’s a somber site with chairs symbolizing all those lost in the bombing, a reflecting pool and a ominous clock that goes from 9:01 to 9:03, the time during which the blast occurred.

On June 11, 2001, I was assigned to spend a day with a survivor as he went about his life on the day McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection. It’s tough to say how he felt that day, but on this day I always think of him and the hundreds of others who were attacked by a pair of cowards.

Oklahoma State Trooper Charlie Hanger apprehended bomber Timothy McVeigh 90 minutes after he blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Vigilantes on the US/Mexico Border

Vigilantes Patrol US-Mexico Border

Story on NPR’s site today tells the tale of the increasing violence along the US/Mexico border as drug cartels battle for control of the border region. Sad, but as much press as this has been getting, the drug AND migrant smuggling problem has been going on for decades. True, cartel related killings are at unprecedented levels, but nevertheless I photographed the fear and vigilante patrols over ten years ago in border towns stretching from Texas to California.

US/Mexico border rancher discovers a dead dog in a bag he believes was left by drug smugglers as a message to not watch them.

One day while shooting a story for the NY Times Sunday Magazine in Eagle Pass, Texas, I photographed a border rancher patrolling his property that sits along the Rio Grande river, the dividing line for Mexico and the US. As we bumped our way down a dusty road in his old pickup truck, rifle and pistol in the cab, he stopped as he came along a bag in the middle of the road. He had just finished telling me of a recent encounter with drug smugglers who shot at him from across the river as he stood with binoculars in hand. Ambling from his truck, Bud Natus stretched his foot out and gingerly nudged the bag open with his boot. Inside was a dead puppy. Bud took it, flung it back toward Mexico and got back in his truck. He took it as a sign from smugglers that they weren’t playing games.

On another occasion, I was in the Arizona border town of Douglas shooting a story for TIME magazine about a rancher named Roger Barnett who was known to patrol his property with an assault rifle on the lookout for anyone coming north from the Mexican town of Agua Prieta. Roger would stand atop a knoll and peer through binoculars, track fresh footprints and essentially do the job of sworn federal officers in the US Border Patrol. Barnett figured he was on his own property, so any detention must be legal. He was tired of the drugs and human trafficking making it’s way across his property and was determined to help put an end to it.

Not far from where Barnett began to make national headlines, another figure in the increasing vigilante movement  emerged. Chris Simcox, a Los Angeles transplant, took his patriotic fervor and issued a “Call to Arms” for local citizens in the local paper. Shooting for a couple days for Newsweek magazine, I spent time with Simcox and a hodgepodge of citizens as they roamed the isolated desert between Tombstone, Arizona and the border. With sidearms on the hip and radios in the pockets, the group spread out under a full moon and soon encountered a group of undocumented migrants. Surrounding them and using high powered flashlights, the vigilantes held the migrants until the Border Patrol arrived.

Everyone knows San Diego as a hot spot for illegal border crossings. But the eastern region, nearly a hundred miles from the one time wide open border in San Ysidro, was home to a highly organized and effective vigilante patrol. Initiated by a border rancher whose family has lived smack on the border for generations, this patrol was heavily armed and used technology such as Night Vision Goggles, Vietnam error ground sensors and sophisticated weapons while on patrol. Bob Maupin, as he often told me, never had a problem with migrants coming through years ago. A friendly and independent man, Bob explains that in the old days the migrants would simple take a drink of water from a hose and close the gates as they went north. But all that changed as a flood of traffic began coming through his property while trying to avoid the government sanctioned Operation Gatekeeper to the west. With thread bare support from the Border Patrol, Bob and a handful of residents took up arms and began patrolling his property. Anyone caught was promptly turned over to the Border Patrol. Drugs continue to make their way through Bob’s remote ranch and he is never unarmed as a result.

Shoplifting in the Digital Age

Frequently Requested Image

Visual journalist’s everywhere should watch with interest the outcome of a class action suit filed by various photographers and organizations, including American Society of Media Photographers and Professional Photographers of America, against behemoth Google Inc. In a nutshell, Google has been in the process of creating a massive digital library by digitizing millions of books. The problem is that the contents of those books, photographs especially, do NOT belong to Google and are the intellectual property of the individual copyright holder. That said, ASMP and others are taking the giant search engine to court in violation of copyright law claiming that digitizing the contents without licenses from the copyright holders is illegal.

Thank goodness………

Google, however is no different than the countless others who think images are free. There is a general belief that photographs are not a valuable commodity. Why? There’s a myriad of reasons why this belief has taken hold, but I think a portion of it is the prevalence of photo sharing sites and the willingness for young, naive and amateur photographers to just give their images away. In the past month or two I have had multiple requests for images of mine to be used by others. Sadly unsurprising is that each request is accompanied by a plea for the image to be given to them free of cost. As an example, pay attention to how many news organizations prominently feature a link to “send us your photos or videos”. This is a huge scam illustrating how far society has come in devaluing photographic work. The news organizations in recent years always had to pay a license fee to the photographer/videographer. That’s not the case anymore (read the fine print on the websites before uploading and you’ll see that it stipulates no fee will be paid).

As a further example, here’s a excerpt from a real email I received yesterday from a company selling a product: “Unfortunately, being a startup, we’re quite short on cash these days and are not able to afford the photo….. Is there anything we can do?

Sure, allocate some of your start-up money to marketing and use that to acquire a legal license for an image. Simple!

There are many variations on this but all center around the same theme that “we don’t want to pay for the image but want to use it anyway.” One of the most common is the non-profit request which always indicates that their is no budget and therefore the image (s) should be given to them. I discount, often times quite heavily, for non-profits but the truth is that the image is being used to promote the non-profit’s work so that the non-profit can receive funding through donations, grants etc. Using my image to promote your company (non-profit or for profit) is reason enough to pay a fee. To put it in another perspective, would a representative of a company walk into my store in a mall, pick up a photograph, proceed to the check out counter and ask to have it for free?

My images are not FREE. Creative input and the expenses involved in creating intellectual property [images] make it necessary to recoup the costs. Do you know any other business that can afford to give away their inventory yet stay viable? I don’t…….

Remember, images are protected under the US Copyright Law. Google, and any other company large and small, need to understand that photographers have a need AND a legal right to charge a fee to use their image. I don’t behoove Google Inc from digitizing millions of books, but like any other publication, if you do so without first obtaining a legal license from me, you’ll be sued the same as if you stuffed my photograph under your coat and left my store without paying. You’re shoplifting! It’s no different…….

A Freelancer’s Perspective

There is an interesting story (here) about how the economy has fostered a growth in the world of freelancing. This is not specific to photography by any means, but details how companies are apt to rely on freelancers to save the cost associated with employing someone. This is hardly a surprise and one that I think most economists would have predicted. I personally feel it’s a shift that will stay as more and more companies keep payroll at a minimum and depend more on outsourcing when the need arises.

But is freelancing all that bad? Are the costs of running your own business or being a sole proprietor a heavier burden than the freedom gained from freelancing?

I’ve freelanced for twenty years now, so I feel I have a fairly good perspective on the pros and cons. And there are definitely both.

Looking at the positive, I can say without a doubt that with proper care, a freelancer can gain more economic security than an employee. That runs counter to what most people think, particularly those who have worked for others all of their lives. By diversifying your clientele, in my case deriving income from various magazines, non profits, corporations and teaching, the freelancer can weather the downturn from a particular client or clients. By contrast, an employee relies solely on the one company for income and is usually impacted much harder if that one company folds or issues layoffs. Hence, less security for the employee. Another positive, noted in the story referenced above, is the creative freedom to develop your business in the manner the freelancer desires as opposed to the manner which the employer demands. There are many other positives, but those two are at the top of the list, together with things like shorter commutes (in my case,  a stroll down my hallway to my office).

Realistically, however, there are cons as well. And the cons are what most new freelancers encounter quickly. No more employee provided health care, paid vacation or sick days, lack of company matching 401k programs or pensions. Another factor seldom considered (until a accountant points it out) is the freelancer is liable for all of the Social Security tax. Whereas an employer typically pays 7.5% and the employee pays 7.5%, as a freelancer you are on the books for the entire 15%. Keep in mind also that a freelancer also has to quickly assume the role of bookkeeper, contract negotiator, expense manager and many other responsibilities previously taken on by the employer. And don’t forget that a freelancer is always on call, so don’t even think about turning that Blackberry or iPhone off!

The transition from employee to freelancer can be tough, especially in this economy where health care costs can devour any profit a freelancer might see. But it can be a rewarding experience as well. Like any transition in life, it will take extreme dedication, a bit of luck and the willingness to work long hours to develop a steady flow of work. Once a freelancer has substantiated his or her business, I think the poll would indicate it’s a superior lifestyle to that of employee.

Open for comments!