Daily News

The hypocrisy of Stu Bykofsky

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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.”
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“a little simulated action outside a club”
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“female touts try to attract business”
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”more touts on Walking Street”
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”and more touts”
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“On Walking Street a bartender in a beer bar. Girl? Boy? Are you sure? Do you care?”
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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.

Did you like the Daily News Editorial on clean water today? Great! Take action!

At the of today's Daily News editorial, The Return of Muddy Waters, the paper calls for its readers to take action. Did you agree? Great. Take action. Here. Obviously, Clean Water Action agrees.

Here's an excerpt from the editorial in case you haven't read it yet:

The Clean Water Act was designed to cover all the nation's water.

This is the only interpretation that makes sense - that is, if you're not a polluter. You can't really protect "navigable waters" if you can dump poisons into their tributaries.

Fighting dog fighting

There's a heartbreaking Daily News cover story today about how dog fighting's not just a PR problem for the Eagles, it's an enforcement problem for Philadelphia.

I fostered this pitt bull puppy from PAWS (info on fostering is here), which matches people with animals picked up by the city's animal control, where time is short before animals have to be killed to open up space. He was found in a park, starved so badly he couldn't walk on his own, with scars where his front and back legs had been tied together.

If you go up to the city's facility on Hunting Park Boulevard, it's just teeming with pitt bulls. Trucks in the parking lot are filled with stacked cages of these dogs who were seized from DIY breeders raising them to fight.

The article worries that the Michael Vick thing--dramatic renunciation and all--just raised the profile of dog-fighting. So, how can Philadelphia attack its dog-fighting problem?

The DA can continue to prosecute cruelty cases, and be encouraged to take on as many as resources allow:

Barbara Paul, who prosecutes animal-cruelty cases for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, said that many lower-level dogfighters in Philadelphia and other cities are involved in drug dealing and other crimes. ...

"It's an incredible underground society," Paul said. "They have their own kennel registration, and the wins and losses are registered. It's an incredibly well-developed system. I've seen their breeding certificates."

Federal government resources can be used:

The Agriculture Department investigates violations of federal animal-cruelty laws. Special- agent-in-charge Brian Haaser, who worked on the Vick case, said that since his arrest the department has gotten more tips and has mounted more investigations than before his arrest.

"We've heard anecdotally that some of these people have been laying low, and changing their routines," Haaser said.

But they still find plenty of dogmen. Coordinated raids in six states in July netted 26 arrests, including a Little League coach, a registered nurse and a teacher. Four hundred dogs were rescued.

And education campaigns can be mounted:

Goodwin, of the Humane Society, said that different strategies are required for young urban street fighters and organized dogfighting rings.

"The professionals among them are so ideologically committed, the only thing that will reach them is a good long prison term," Goodwin said. "They come up with all sorts of insane rationalizations for what they do."

But Goodwin said that many younger dogfighters in cities can be reached with the right kind of campaign to turn their thinking around.

But we also need to push for tough sentences (as with the new kennel law, recently upheld as constitutional) and consistent enforcement. I hope this catches the attention of City Council and others who could take the disparate attempts at enforcement and bring them together into a larger campaign to stop dog fighting and all the collateral suffering. Fostering, however critical, can't break the flow of dogs into the city's shelters, as animal control seizes hundreds and hundreds of dogs and more are bred to take their place.

Smart Cards are Here! Tokens are Gone! Candy Canes for Everyone!

The Daily News has a cover story about how SEPTA smart cards are on the verge of being here! Now, with our ultra smart cards, tokens are a thing of the past. Awesome:

THIS IS the dawning of the Age of SEPTArius!

Finally!

Philadelphia, the last major American city where transit riders line up to pay cash for tokens, is on the verge of getting a high-tech fare system that will make riding SEPTA as easy as using E-ZPass on the turnpike.

Or as easy as riding public transit in Chicago, Boston, New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Seattle, where smart cards have replaced tokens, and long lines for tokens, and discovering too late that you don't have exact change for tokens and the toll-booth attendant doesn't make change for tokens and you're stuck.

Or as easy as buying morning coffee at Wawa, or a pack of gum at CVS, or a lawnmower at Home Depot or just about anything in Philly - except a SEPTA fare.

Finally!

Oh, so, without any context, there is also this little bit of info:

The token, which has been a pain-in-the-mass-transit here for decades, could go the way of horse-drawn trolleys by 2011, said John McGee, SEPTA's chief officer of new-payment technology.

Oh.... so tokens could be obsolete by 2011? Interesting. Why only 'could,' amidst this article about the fantasical, whimsical smart cards that will change lives?

Could it be that today is July 21, 2009, and on June 24, 2009, the Inquirer ran this little nugget?

SEPTA has postponed for a third time its deadline for a "smart-card" fare system.

The latest deadline is Aug. 18, five months later than the original March 17 requirement for manufacturers to submit proposals for an electronic system to replace tokens and paper tickets for its buses, subways, trolleys, and trains.

Or, how about this line, from November of 2007:

SEPTA took its first tentative step today out of the era of tokens and paper tickets, announcing its plan to award a contract for a "smart card" by the end of next year.

The end of "next year" was... 2008.

Which is all to say, that while I am all for positive stories on mass transit, it seems really strange that a project that has yet to even close a deadline for accepting proposals, now almost 2 years late, is touted as "finally" coming.

Or, how about this: Would anyone like to make a bet as to whether smartcards will be available and in use system-wide in 2011? If so, I can give you some great odds...

If the Daily News dies, so does Young Philly Politics

So, as Philly Newspapers Inc LLC (PNL) careens through the long road of bankruptcy court, the talk has restarted that the way forward is closing the Daily News. Great.

As I say at every forum I am asked to speak at, when the question about 'new media' comes up: We are 100 percent dependent on a vibrant local media. Period.

At heart, YPP is basically a volunteer operation that I keep going because 1)I enjoy it and 2)I think it serves some sort of unquantifiable need and 3) once in a while we do a little good. There is no way that we will ever, ever, ever be able to survive without good local reporting. And, while the Inquirer has a solid City Hall Bureau, without the Daily News, we instantly lose a huge chunk of focus on our City. There is no way that something like YPP will replace it. None.

I know there are problems with the way newspapers operate, and with how certain stories are run, and with the constant focus on crime above almost everything. But, if we lose the Daily News, and we no longer have Bob Warner, Dave Davies, Catherine Lucey, Chris Brennan, and company writing about the City, things we should know about will simply go unreported. Instead, life will be spent trying to decipher a bunch of press releases. And it will matter a whole lot less that City Council may be violating the Sunshine Act, because there is a good chance no one will be around in the first place to report on it.

If the Daily News dies, so do we. Not right away, maybe not even for a while. But there is just no way that we can function in the long run, and have content every day, without the Daily News existing.

Things I Am Not Sick Of

... Or rather, people I am not sick of, specifically three of them (Link:)

After learning that battered women in Philadelphia are largely responsible for serving their attackers with court stay-away orders, aghast City Council members yesterday called upon the Committee on Public Safety to explore alternatives to a process they deemed dangerous for abuse victims.

"The current system . . . is absolutely preposterous and untenable," Councilman Bill Green said in a statement. "Not only are we causing the abuse victim additional mental anguish, but we are placing the victim in additional danger of physical harm."

Green, along with Council members Maria Quinones Sanchez, Curtis Jones Jr. and Blondell Reynolds Brown, introduced a resolution authorizing the safety committee to hold hearings on the service of protection-from-abuse orders, or PFAs.

Yesterday's resolution was prompted by a Daily News series on domestic violence that ran in late December.

The series followed one victim's exhausting and frightening quest to serve her alleged attacker with a temporary PFA issued by Family Court.

Quinones Sanchez, Green, and Jones, Jr. To paraphrase my hero, Ronald Reagan, there they go again.

Basically, we have a stupid, asinine law that women who get protective orders against their abusers must... actually serve those orders themselves. If women felt like they were in danger, they could call 911 and get police to accompany them, which about half do.

I am sure calling 911 is a barrier for some women in the first place. And, even if the police do a good job of accompanying them whenever they are asked, it is ridiculous that we are putting abused women in the position where they have to unnecessarily confront their alleged abuser.

We have some good Councilpeople who have served for a while (Kenney, Tasco, Goode, etc.), but sometimes bringing in new people is simply helpful because they can look at stupid things that have gone for a long time, and simply say "WTF?"

My BFF, Donna Miller, is chair of the Public Safety Committee, and yet to set hearings. Hopefully this happens soon.

Nice job, Daily News. This is just another example of how important local print media can be.

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Update: Please see the comments below from Seth Levi, from Councilman Green's office, who clarifies (and corrects me, on) what exactly happens when woman get protective orders.

Buy the Daily News

Doing the whole more with less thing, the Daily News continues to put out quality stories on the City. There was the article on violence and the police force from Dave Davies that Gaetano discussed a few days ago, and today, as Mayor Street leaves office, Mark McDonald looks at the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, in the first of a two part series.

I will refrain from commenting more until I see tomorrow's piece, except to say that I think NTI was a great idea, that was not really carried through in the way it was intended.

Also in the DN is the update on Nutter's cabinet appointments- including these three:

Deputy mayor for public safety: Everett Gillison will work with the Police Department and all other criminal justice agencies to coordinate crime-fighting efforts.

He is a senior trial lawyer for the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

Deputy mayor of health and opportunity and health commissioner: Donald Schwartz, associate professor of child advocacy at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, will take on this new position, which was designed to coordinate health policy and better deliver health and social services.

Director of multicultural affairs: Longtime community activist Izzy Colon will act as the mayor's adviser and liaison on multicultural issues.

I don't know any of these people- I am sure most of us don't. But, someone with a lot of experience with kids, an activist from Angel Ortiz's office, and a Deputy Mayor for Public Safety who is a 20 year Public Defender seem like pretty interesting, admirable choices. As always, the proof will be in the pudding.

Finally, there is this weird article:

The civic watchdog group Committee of Seventy today will propose city-charter changes giving Philadelphia's police commissioner more management authority and permitting the city to hire cops willing to move in from the suburbs.

The proposals would involve a relaxation of civil-service rules for promoting and transferring police commanders.

If approved, they would allow incoming commissioner Charles Ramsey to bring more commanders in from other cities if he chooses.

"In the 21st century, any CEO needs the ability to manage his or her organization," said the Committee of Seventy's president and chief executive officer, Zack Stalberg.

"That's especially true for a paramilitary organization like the police department, and under the existing rules, the commissioner has very limited control."

This is a little strange. I understand they are a good government group, so getting their opinion on taking away civil service jobs and moving them to appointments makes sense. But, doesn't it seem strange that instead of being asked about whether they would support a move, they are actually proposing policing policy changes?

I don't know, something is strange about 1)hearing from the Committee of Seventy about the need for more control over our "paramilitary organization" and then 2)this quote, when asked about the potential for a return to a patronage system in the force:

"I'm concerned, but I'm not so concerned that I want the current public safety crisis to go on," he said.

Again, if I were the Mayor or Commissioner, I would want Seventy's input. But, it seems more like the Committee of Seventy is either greatly expanding its mission, or that someone asked them to issue this call for change, so as to use their goodwill in the media, etc.

That is not to say our "paramilitary organization" does not need changes. I am sure it does. But, still, pretty weird.

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