Abandoning Pennsylvanians

Governor Tom Corbett unveiled a 2012-13 state budget Tuesday that abandons middle-class Pennsylvanians and our most vulnerable citizens.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has a full analysis of the Governor's proposal. Here's the quick version.

With this budget, the Governor continues to turn his back on middle-class families who rely on good schools and affordable college tuition.

Help for the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians is reduced or eliminated. Tens of thousands of families and children have already seen health and other services terminated. This approach is not about finding efficiencies or cutting waste but rather cutting off help to people who have been hit hardest by the recession.

And while there is a call for greater accountability for every dollar in spending, businesses are let off the hook based on claims that they will create jobs in exchange for tax cuts that now total more than $1 billion.

This is not the path to a stronger economy or a better Pennsylvania.

We'll have more to say in the weeks ahead. For now, you can learn more by reading our analysis.

Will Michael Nutter Be the Deciding Vote on the Shale Bill?

Update: The Pennsylvania Senate approved the shale fee bill Tuesday by a vote of 31-19. The House followed suit Wednesday, approving it by a narrow vote of 101-90.

Will Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter be the deciding vote on a bad Marcellus Shale bill?

In typical fashion, the Pennsylvania Legislature is ramming through a shale bill, including a natural gas drilling fee, at the very last minute that is worse than anything we have seen so far.

Rumors are that the Mayor is pressuring Philadelphia Senators to take the deal, which is bad for all Pennsylvanians and not so hot for Philly.

There has been tremendous pressure on Southeastern Senators to hold out for a tax that is more than a pittance, and to restore to local governments the constitutional right to protect their communities from the excesses of drillers gone wild.

The Democratic leadership team of Jay Costa and Vince Hughes have breathed life into a Democratic Caucus that has existed pretty much to collect their paychecks. They have done a fabulous job pushing for strong environmental protection against a legion of gas lobbyists, while the Governor's inclination is to give the drillers the keys to the state and walk away. Philadelphia Senators Vince Hughes and Tony Williams are the most likely to take the bait.

We need a round two on the shale bill. Our Senators, and the Mayor, should hold out for a better deal.

The hypocrisy of Stu Bykofsky

A1

As folks know, many of us here at YPP have taken on Stu Bykofsky’s gag-inducing need to publish his fascination with sex tourism in Thailand. Dan, Brendan, Jennifer, myself and others have posted on it below. Today Bykofsky re-appears in his latest Daily News column to declare his arbitrary outrage against human trafficking. The prodding came via the offices of State Sen. Daylin Leach, a genuine champion around human rights and trafficking issues who hosted a film screening and discussion on human trafficking this past weekend.

Here’s Bykofsky's takeaway from that discussion:

I received a semi-personal invitation from the senator's office to attend, and I did, primarily because I support human rights, partly to ask, personally, why I was invited.

A Leach staffer told me it was because of my semi-infamous recent column about Thailand, the last third of which explained - neither defending nor attacking - the slice of the sex trade in bars and clubs. The truth is that although prostitution and trafficking can be related, they are not synonymous. I found no evidence of force, fraud or coercion among the women I wrote about.

Some people, including a few shrill hysterics, wrongly took my column to be an endorsement of pedophilia.

Here's how I feel about child molesters: If one touched my daughter, I would shoot him in both kneecaps and then castrate him. I'd do the same if he touched anyone's daughter.

So if I may paraphrase: Bykofsky’s new logic is now that as long as he asserts his abhorrence for pedophilia and didn’t actually witness force, fraud, or coercion, it’s not trafficking. Bykofsky conveniently ignores the work of far more knowledgeable groups than himself – say, the U.S. Dept. of Justice and human rights organizations around the world – which have ascertained that in Thailand prostitution and trafficking are frequently related; often involve force, fraud and coercion; and that a sizeable portion of trafficking victims are underage children.

It's hard to understand why Bykofsky - who is so unforgiving on a host of issues particularly around immigration - continues to defend his column and assert his self-righteousness now more than ever - he's a human rights supporter don't forget!

Meanwhile, you have to wonder about his ability to recognize his own hypocrisy when so many of his other postings state otherwise. After all this is someone who spent quite a bit of time to boast to his readers exactly where, how much, and how eagerly his “touts” (short I assume for prostitutes) offered their services.

And to this end, if a picture is worth a thousand words, Bykofsky's fully public Facebook mobile upload page (sent to me by an astute observer) makes it pretty clear where his sense of moral outrage was on his overseas trip. A note: I wasn't happy to post these photos but in the end, it was too difficult to talk about just how creepy and leering and hypocritical Bykofsky's whole Thailand thing is without showing it from his own viewpoint.

“In Thailand. It is now Saturday night and time to hit the fabled, naughty Walking Street.”
Untitled

“a little simulated action outside a club”
A1

“female touts try to attract business”
Part 1

”more touts on Walking Street”
Part2

”and more touts”
Part5

“On Walking Street a bartender in a beer bar. Girl? Boy? Are you sure? Do you care?”
Part3

Yeah, Stu, we do care. And maybe if you had spent half as much time reading about human trafficking in Thailand as you did luridly snapping photos and posting them for the public to view on your Facebook page, maybe we wouldn't have to revisit this again.

I'll let Bykofsky's own words appropriately encapsulate the limits of his moral outrage on human trafficking:

”An endless supply of girls with no marketable skills, but rentable bodies, heads for cities to work in the sex trade. Although prostitution is officially "illegal," it flourishes and Thais tolerate it.

Just about everyone in a bar or club - from dancers to hostesses to servers - is available to go, after you pay a "bar fine" to compensate the bar for reducing its work-force. That happens after you agree with the woman on a price, what she will and won't do, for how long and where.

Bar fines are $10-$20, girls in bars charge $50-$100. Streetwalkers along Beach Road and the infamous Walking Street charge a fraction of that. Few are drug addicts. There are no pimps, and each woman is an independent contractor who also shares in the bar fine and any drinks bought for her. She can earn in one night what a clerk makes in one week.

But when I see a young woman walking with a farang (foreigner) who looks like a Pop-Pop leading his granddaughter by the hand to a Toys "R" Us, I feel bad. They are not headed to the toy store. They are headed to his bedroom.

He's rich, by her standards. She's poor, selling her youth and beauty to support herself or her family. Nothing is forcing her, except maybe circumstance.

That makes me feel bad, but every journey is external and internal. It's true for me, DeCeglie, and the Thai bar girl.”

Bykofsky was right to decry trafficking. He was wrong in not taking the time to apologize for his previous column and rethink "personal journeys" that derive their entertainment from the exploitation and misery of others.

Fighting for Our Health

During the 18 months of the Health Care for America Now (HCAN) campaign in support of what became the Affordable Care Act, I gave over a hundred speeches to thousands of activists who were working us in Pennsylvania. I frequently concluded my speeches this way:

Who is most responsible for the most popular domestic program in our history, Social Security? (Someone would, of course, shout out ‘Franklin Roosevelt.’ Or a history buff would say Senator Wagner.) No, that’s not really true. Franklin Roosevelt was President when Social Security was enacted and his support was crucial. But he came late to supporting it. Long before he did, a mass movement called the Townsend Movement made retirement security an issue of national importance. The Townsend movement held meetings, just like this one, in living rooms, in church basements, in fire houses, in union halls, and in public libraries. It never brought 100,000 people to tin Washington. But little by little, one city and congressional district at a time, it created the pressure and support without which Franklin Roosevelt would never have embraced and Congress would never have passed the Social Security Act.

Higher Tuition, More Foreclosures: Just Some of the Ways We Are Paying the Price of Service Cuts

Price of Service CutsLast week, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center launched a new series about the impact of five years of state service cuts on the citizens of Pennsylvania. Check out the first three installments below, and keep up with all the stories in the days and weeks ahead by liking our Facebook Page or bookmarking our Price of Service Cuts web page.

End to Mortgage Aid Nearly Cost Pennsylvania Woman Her Home

Judy earned a modest income from her clerical job until an unexpected health problem hit. She needed to work to pay her mortgage, but her doctor and physical therapist told her she had to take time off to recover. Judy, who lives in Allegheny County, went five months without income and fell behind on her mortgage payments. She faced the awful prospect of losing her home. ...

When Judy turned to the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) for help, she hit a wall. Funding for HEMAP was cut so deeply in the 2011-12 state budget (by $8.5 million or over 80% from the previous year) that the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency had no choice but to shut HEMAP down in July 2011. Read the full story.

What Do Jon Stewart, Elizabeth Warren, and Barack Obama Have In Common?

It’s been a big week for calling out corporate tax dodgers.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called for an economy where “everyone plays by the same set of rules” and where companies can’t avoid taxes by shifting profits overseas. He acknowledged what we’ve been saying for a long time which is that special interests have long played by a different set of rules than the rest of us – ones they’ve helped create, I might add.

That same night, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren went on the Daily Show and called out 30 corporations that a recent Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group (PennPIRG) and Citizens for Tax Justice study found paid more to lobby Congress than they did in federal income taxes between 2008 and 2010. When Warren told this to John Stewart on the Daily Show, it made the usually unflappable comedian’s jaw drop.

The special treatment that special interests have won over the years is on full display when it comes to our tax code. While small businesses and ordinary taxpayers pay taxes on the income they earn, companies like GE and Wells Fargo have so deftly manipulated the tax code that they paid no taxes on billions of dollars in profits between 2008 and 2010. In fact, they actually got tax rebates from Uncle Sam on tax day. While it may sound criminal, it’s all perfectly legal.

Most taxpayers can’t employ hoards of tax lawyers to manipulate the tax system or hire an army of lobbyists to craft the tax code in their favor. Warren put it best during her Daily Show interview: “Washington now works for those who can hire an army of lobbyists and an army of lawyers.” The “Dirty Thirty” companies identified by PennPIRG and CTJ all told spent nearly half a billion dollars lobbying Congress on tax policy and other issues over the three year period of the study. “They hire those people to make [the tax code] onerous so they can worm their way through,” as Stewart rightly asserted.

School District can't afford to leave democracy behind

(This post has been updated to remain consistent with my posting at the Notebook.)

Yesterday’s move by the School Reform Commission to hire a Chief Recovery Officer who will be advised by an "outside team of experts" signals a potentially troubling path around both mission and process for the School District as it struggles to keep afloat amid fiscal chaos.

Local 1201 union president George Richezza, whose 2700 members have all received layoff notices, said what’s on many people’s minds: “What I see here is a dismantling of the public school system."

To be sure, no one can deny the District’s devastating financial situation. A $715 million deficit. $61 million to close by June. A projected $300+ million deficit to close in FY2013.

On top of all that was yesterday’s very important story that the city and school district had lost a state court appeal around property taxes that could result in $45 million less in tax revenue for the schools.

The current leadership of the SRC needs to take swift fiscal action. No one denies that. The fact that schools, school personnel, and classrooms have made and will need to continue to make compromises is also a given.

But here’s where the SRC leadership needs to act with caution.

Larry Platt's Response to Stu's Sex Tourism Column

I have been sitting on this, trying to write a response, but, Larry Platt did eventually respond to my email about Stu Bykofsky's sex-tourism column. While trying to write out a response to the email, the days rolled by, and I was busy being obnoxious with Rick Santorum. Leaving this hanging is unfair to Platt, so, I am going to just publish his response in full, with only minimial comment.

On the whole, I find the response-- while nice- dismissive and unresponsive to the real concerns the column raised.

First, again, my email to Platt:

Larry:

I (sincerely) apologize for asking this while the Daily News is taking the hit of the Bill Conlin morass, and, I find it encouraging that the paper is now also actively investigating Conlin and pursuing the story. But, I am writing mainly to follow up to Helen Gym's op-ed from this morning about Stu Bykofsky's column from last week.

While the timing might make this more painful for the paper, it seems that questions about the Bykofsky column are even more important this week than they were when the column ran. I am going to write something for our little blog, piggybacking on Helen's piece, but, I would like to ask the Daily News a few questions first (with the understanding that I will publish these in full on our blog). If there is someone more appropriate to ask, please forward this on to them.

The questions:

First, given the paper's experience over the last few days, would the Bykofsky column run if it were submitted today? If not, will the Daily News issue any statement about the efficacy of that column actually running? Obviously, running the piece by Helen is an important step, and shows some willingness to deal with this issue, but, this is not the same as the paper itself responding.

Second, Stu's column dances around whether he did or did not have sex with a Thai prostitute. In the submission process of this column, was Stu directly asked this by an editor? If this conversation did occur, was the column changed as a result of this discussion?

Third, will the Daily News issue corrections for the column? Obviously, the paper cannot run a 'correction' for the racist views of its columnist. But, the column did simply have factual errors. For example, Stu's assertion that 'there are no pimps in Thailand' is false, and refuted by any number of reports from Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and others which document that many prostitutes in Thailand are children, and in conditions resembling slavery (or, simply, slavery). It goes without saying that these children are not in slavery without someone... keeping them enslaved. Similarly, "each woman is an independent contractor" is false, for many of the same reasons, and this too could be easily refuted. If these corrections have been issued, and I missed them, please let me know.

Finally, and more fundamentally for the Daily News, is any view whatsoever appropriate for publication by its columnists? Stu's column danced around whether he did, or did not, in fact have sex with a Thai prostitute, and then referred to Asian women with bizarrely outmoded racial stereotypes. Is there any limit to what the Daily News would not publish along these lines? For example, would the Daily News run an entire column discussing how cheap Jews are?

Thanks in advance for your consideration. It goes without saying, but, one reason this kind of piece angers so many of us is that we greatly value the role of an active, vibrant local paper, generally, and of an institution like the Daily News generally specifically. So, when it publishes something this offensive and destructive, it sets off all kinds of alarms. As I said, I will put any answers in writing in full, and can wait until tomorrow if that is helpful.

Best,

Dan

He then responds:

Hey Dan,

Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you sooner — still digging out from the Conlin mess.

I take it your deadline has by now passed, but let me just respond to a couple of general points and you can do with this what you will.

First, there is no connection between Stu’s first-person observations about something he witnessed in Thailand and the Conlin tragedy. To suggest such a connection is to demean the victims who have come forward with their stories of Bill’s horrible misdeeds.

Second, I think in the aftermath of Stu’s column, both in our paper and on philly.com, there has been some really valuable back and forth. In particular, there have been, as you point out, some important reporting addendums offered by readers that would have strengthened the column. (For example, placing Stu’s slice-of-life observations in the larger context of the human trafficking issue and quoting from UN reports before zeroing in on what he witnessed would have preemptively addressed many of the concerns now being raised.)

That said, I don’t think the evidence exists on the page for some of the conclusions being drawn from the column. He doesn’t promote the sex tourist trade, for example. Instead, as a number of philly.com commenters pointed out, he has penned a column about a “sad first impression he’s gotten about what life is like for one part of the Thai population.” Certainly, this expression of sadness may not square with the moral outrage you or I might have responded with, in which case I invite you to answer upsetting speech with more speech and write a letter that I’d be happy to publish. (As we’ve done a few times in the past week). As for “corrections,” I have yet to see any factual assertions requiring correction, though I’m happy to look at specifics. (As to the two you suggest, they are not, in fact, assertions made in the piece: Stu never posits that there “are no pimps in Thailand” or that prostitutes in Thailand are independent contractors. The paragraph in question actually refers only to the women — not children — who work in bars). So far, what I’ve heard from people wouldn’t qualify as corrections so much as additional information that would have provided a context for Stu’s slice of life peek at this world.

Finally, let me say that the days when publishing occurs solely upon publication are (thankfully) over. This piece — with its ongoing discourse — strikes me as an ultimately healthy, if occasionally messy, exercise. Our pages, and philly.com, will happily continue being a forum for readers to express their reactions and, yes, for columnists to sometimes piss off said readers. My old friend Nat Hentoff once wrote a great book called “Free Speech For Me, But Not For Thee” and it touched on the all-too-human instinct to want to silence those who offend us, rather than engage the argument. I invite you, and your readers, to engage.

Best,
LP

OK, so, I expected this for the most part. Let me just say one thing that I think is really, really, really ridiculous about the last paragraph-the 'all dialogue is good dialougue' canard. Basically, Platt absolves the paper absolves itself of any responsibility whatesover, because there is back and forth. In other words, we can say whatever crazy, destructive, criminal crap we want, because we allow people to respond... I just don't buy it.

Anyway, there it is. I will write some more about it- but, please give your thoughts below.

January Freeze: Governor Announces $157 Million in Midyear Budget Cuts

Governor Tom Corbett announced $157 million in state spending cuts this week to resolve a midyear revenue shortfall. This marks the fifth straight year of cuts to health care, education and human services.

Weak economic growth in the first half of the fiscal year contributed to lower-than-expected revenue, but the picture, in the short term, may not be as dire as that painted by the Governor. The state is carrying a half a billion dollars in reserve that more than covers the current revenue gap. And despite falling short of estimate, state revenues as of December 2011 are still ahead of collections a year ago. Every major tax has seen year-over-year growth, except for corporate tax collections (which account for more than half of the current revenue shortfall).

Actions taken by the Corbett administration and the General Assembly have contributed to the revenue shortfall. The decision last year to allow corporations to accelerate depreciation costs may be costing more than originally estimated, while doing little to improve the economic outlook. That, combined with the continued phase-out of the capital stock tax in 2012, will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Changes to the revenue estimate may also be playing a role. Estimating a larger share of revenue collections in the first half of the year and a smaller share in the second half of the year, may have contributed to the midyear shortfall and could set the stage for a stronger revenue showing between now and June.

President’s Recess Appointment Gives Watchdog Teeth It Needs To Protect Consumers From Wall Street Financial Shenanigans

By Edmund Mierzwinski and Alana Miller

Kudos to President Obama for standing up for consumers this week by making a recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The President’s action means that the CFPB now has all its powers to protect the public from unfair financial practices, whether by banks or other financial firms, such as payday lenders and credit bureaus.

Since July 21, the CFPB – a centerpiece of the 2010 Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – had been up and running, but only with partial powers. It is the nation’s first federal financial regulator with only one job – protecting consumers, including seniors, students and servicemembers, from unfair financial practices.

Now with a director in place, the CFPB has additional abilities that kick in, including the right to supervise payday lenders, mortgage companies, credit bureaus, debt collectors, private student lenders and other non-banks. It also now has additional powers over banks and credit card companies.

Along with civil rights, labor, senior and consumer groups, PennPIRG had long urged the Senate to confirm Cordray, the former Ohio Attorney General, to direct the CFPB. Recently, 37 state Attorneys General, on a bi-partisan basis, had sent a letter to the Senate urging confirmation.

Yet, at the behest of both the Wall Street banks and the payday lenders, some Senators had opposed confirmation of any CFPB director. 45 Senators, including Pennsylvania’s own Senator Toomey, had written the President in May and told him that they would block confirmation of any director until and unless the CFPB’s independence and authority were first restricted. Then, on December 8th, 45 Senators blocked Cordray’s nomination. They wanted the CFPB weak and powerless and with a tin cup in hand.

Best and Worst Education Moments of 2011

NOVA-Arlene Ackerman

Last year I named Arlene Ackerman – and her penchant for making any and all news all about her – as my number one choice for the Top 10 education story of the year. Indeed, Dr. Ackerman did not fail to hit a homer in that category. 2011 was a year that made education watchers and opinion-makers of us all. Here’s my pitch for the best and worst moments on the (mostly) Philadelphia school scene.

Grinch of the Year: Arlene Ackerman
Her three year tenure was marked by a combination of ruthlessness (firing whistleblowers for example), profligacy ($40 million summer school anyone?) and neglect (ignoring cheating and violence in schools) – all while claiming sole rights to the voices of “the children.” She brought the District from its greatest wealth to the brink of financial collapse; drew national attention with a million dollar public buyout and filing for unemployment benefits; hired controversial underlings in P.R. and human resources who allegedly abused the powers of their office; and spearheaded a prejudiced response to racial violence at a local high school that earned the District a racial discrimination lawsuit from the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Within a week of her departure, she was urging parents to “vote with their feet” and flee the public schools she had helmed just a few days earlier. She relentlessly played race, gender and class politics to pit and divide communities and fomented a base of support known for hyperbolic, no-holds-barred rhetoric. Her Promise Academy effort may have been initially been well-intentioned but like most things under her watch, the execution was flawed, budget needs were not considered, and in the end hanging onto the effort became more about the Superintendent’s ego than sustainability of the program. She left as she came – with her reputation for bitter and reactionary politics solidly, and sadly, intact.
Runner-up: Gov. Tom Corbett for being the first governor in two decades to cut education spending in the Commonwealth – a billion dollars worth – at the same time he gunned for a costly voucher program, shielded the natural gas industry from taxation, and sat on a state surplus.

Worst Abdication of Responsibility: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on Chester-Upland School District
One of the state’s poorest districts, Chester-Upland became the experimental playground for an ideologically-driven state takeover in 2000 that forced EMOs and charters upon an already vulnerable community. Student walkouts and organized parent protests eventually drove out EMO operator Edison Schools and resulted in a state takeover of the original state takeover board. (Philadelphia activists studied Chester-Upland’s experience closely, and as a result succeeded in limiting and diversifying Philly’s EMO effort.) When the state ended its takeover, Chester-Upland’s resources and internal capacity had been effectively decimated. Last month, Chester-Upland begged for a state advance to keep itself running, a plea that the state rejected leaving the future of thousands of schoolchildren up in the air. Today teachers in Chester-Upland got their last payday and yet voted to continue working without a salary. Notably AWOL: the ideological politicos and educational operators who plundered the district in the name of reform.

Best Quote from an Unexpected Person: Newly installed SRC Commissioner Lorene Cary
SRC Commissioners appeared on WHYY’s Radio Times and in a discussion about vouchers, a commissioner remarked that the “devil is in the details and there are a lot of details.” To which Cary quipped, “There are a lot of devils."

Worst Charitable Effort: SRC Chair Robert “I’m just a volunteer” Archie.
When you’re out to lunch while a district goes bankrupt, engage in backroom wheeling and dealing that earn you an ethics slap on the wrist, and approve an atrocious contract extension that contributes to the million dollar buyout of your superintendent, playing that charitable line falls just a little flat.

SRC Chair Cuts Off Fox 29 Reporter: MyFoxPHILLY.com

Best Innovative Effort in Education: The “open campus” plan by Penn Manor, Hempfield, and Manheim Township High Schools.
The most promising rethinking of education came from, gasp, three “traditional” school districts in the Lancaster area which recently announced an effort to pool resources and create an “open campus” where high school students could take classes online and have flexible scheduling. The plan was designed to save jobs and was driven by the belief that “district teachers can deliver a better education program than anything offered by a cybercharter school.” Philadelphia’s education delegation should be heading to Lancaster, not Denver, for real ideas on how to expand a vision of educational delivery.

Worst Use of Poetry: Ackerman invoking “oil wells” and Maya Angelou
Former Supt. Arlene Ackerman drained the poignancy and inspiration out of Maya Angelou’s beloved poem “Still I Rise” and recited it as a bitter kiss-off to the public and her bosses.

Best Use of Poetry: The Daily News’Arlene Ackerman Haiku-Fest
Hey if you’re not crying, you might as well laugh with Haiku-Fest gems like this:
Let’s all Imagine
2014. We’ll still be
paying Ackerman.

As Joshua takes power let's thank the Moses of Montgomery County Democrats

On Wednesday, Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards will take office as Montgomery County Commissioners after winning the most important political race in the state in November. As you must know, this will be the first time in this history of the County that Democrats have controlled the County Commission.

At the same time Joe Hoeffel will be leaving public office, perhaps for the last time.

But everyone, from Josh and Leslie down, know that without the efforts of Joe Hoeffel, there would be no Democratic majority on the County Commission in Montgomery County. Without Joe, Allyson Schwartz would probably not be the member of Congress for the 13th Congressional district which includes a big part of Montgomery County and which Joe once represented. And many other Democratic public officials would not old the offices they do today.

Video: Me, Santorum and "The absolutely best twitter exchange of the day, if not ever"

Well! You should watch this!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I haven't felt this close to Rick Santorum since 1999, when I went to the Presidential Classroom in DC. I was a 17 year old punk, and when it was time to meet with our senator, and everyone fawned, I asked him why he helped fillibuster an anti-smoking bill that would have saved the lives of kids. (He said it was a 'free speech issue.' Ya know, it is free speech to help kids form lifelong addictions to cancer causing drugs! Even then, he was a true crusader for the rights of the people that matter.)

Rick Santorum and I Finally Agree!

Rick Santorum and I don't agree on much. But, he agrees with me on one thing: His movement in the polls gives us the potential for great headlines:

Santorum2

Thanks to our former Senator Rick for putting up my tweet of this great Philly.com headline:

Santorum surges from behind in Iowa.

As of 8:00 AM, its still up on his twitter page.

(Oh, by the way, the actual story the headline comes from is worth a read.)

Ah, Santorum!

Four (Unanswered) Questions for the Daily News about Stu's Sex Tourism

(For background, see this post from me, and Helen's column from yesterday.)

Yesterday, the Daily News ran Helen's wonderful op-ed on the horrible Stu Bykofsky sex tourism column.

But, even after Helen's column, there are some unanswered questions that need to be answered by the Daily News as to how this all happened, and what they plan to do about it. Last week the paper might have been able to shrug this off, and be happy with the increased page views they probably saw due to the controversy. But, now that one of their own has been forced into retirement for alleged sexual crimes against children, I don't think this can really go unanswered.

With that in mind, I wrote to Larry Platt, and asked him the questions that I think the Daily News should answer (and, I am sure there are more). He has not responded. If he does, I will post his answers in full.

The email:

From: Dan U-A
Date: Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 11:15 AM
Subject: Questions about Stu Bykofsky Column
To: Larry Platt
Cc: Helen Gym

Larry:

I (sincerely) apologize for asking this while the Daily News is taking the hit of the Bill Conlin morass, and, I find it encouraging that the paper is now also actively investigating Conlin and pursuing the story. But, I am writing mainly to follow up to Helen Gym's op-ed from this morning about Stu Bykofsky's column from last week.

While the timing might make this more painful for the paper, it seems that questions about the Bykofsky column are even more important this week than they were when the column ran. I am going to write something for our little blog, piggybacking on Helen's piece, but, I would like to ask the Daily News a few questions first (with the understanding that I will publish these in full on our blog). If there is someone more appropriate to ask, please forward this on to them.

The questions:

First, given the paper's experience over the last few days, would the Bykofsky column run if it were submitted today? If not, will the Daily News issue any statement about the efficacy of that column actually running? Obviously, running the piece by Helen is an important step, and shows some willingness to deal with this issue, but, this is not the same as the paper itself responding.

Second, Stu's column dances around whether he did or did not have sex with a Thai prostitute. In the submission process of this column, was Stu directly asked this by an editor? If this conversation did occur, was the column changed as a result of this discussion?

Third, will the Daily News issue corrections for the column? Obviously, the paper cannot run a 'correction' for the racist views of its columnist. But, the column did simply have factual errors. For example, Stu's assertion that 'there are no pimps in Thailand' is false, and refuted by any number of reports from Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and others which document that many prostitutes in Thailand are children, and in conditions resembling slavery (or, simply, slavery). It goes without saying that these children are not in slavery without someone... keeping them enslaved. Similarly, "each woman is an independent contractor" is false, for many of the same reasons, and this too could be easily refuted. If these corrections have been issued, and I missed them, please let me know.

Finally, and more fundamentally for the Daily News, is any view whatsoever appropriate for publication by its columnists? Stu's column danced around whether he did, or did not, in fact have sex with a Thai prostitute, and then referred to Asian women with bizarrely outmoded racial stereotypes. Is there any limit to what the Daily News would not publish along these lines? For example, would the Daily News run an entire column discussing how cheap Jews are?

Thanks in advance for your consideration. It goes without saying, but, one reason this kind of piece angers so many of us is that we greatly value the role of an active, vibrant local paper, generally, and of an institution like the Daily News generally specifically. So, when it publishes something this offensive and destructive, it sets off all kinds of alarms. As I said, I will put any answers in writing in full, and can wait until tomorrow if that is helpful.

Best,

Dan

No response so far...

In the meantime, lets remember what officials from the Daily News said in the wake of the Conlin accusations:

“I can’t even begin to express the shock, sadness and outrage I feel by what Bill Conlin is alleged to have done,” said Daily News editor Larry Platt Tuesday.

“I am sickened by these allegations,” added Gregory J. Osberg, CEO of Philadelphia Media Network, which owns both the Inquirer and the Daily News.

“We have always taken tremendous pride in the ethical and moral standards we operate from at Philadelphia Media Network.”

Moral standards? Sorry, that will continue to ring hollow when the Daily News publishes factually incorrect, racial stereotype laced, amoral columns that meander through the pros and cons of having sex with children.

A child does not magically lose her humanity because she lives in Thailand. It is time for the Daily News to start explaining how this type of thing is acceptable journalism.

Syndicate content Syndicate content