Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two continents; 20,000 miles; 80 hours

Back home in NYC, where I'm seeing patches of snow on the ground, and the temperature is 55 degrees colder than in Sydney, where my day began.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Sydney goes ga-ga over Oprah

That round red circle on Sydney's landmark bridge looks like a holiday wreath, but it's not. It's just one of several ways the city shows its appreciation to Oprah Winfrey, who has taken over the famed Sydney Opera House and made it her show's home base this week.

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Exploring Aussie beers in Manly, NSW

I'm perched happily at a wooden bar upon which sit five generous pours of house brews at 4 Pines Brewing Co., a local favorite among Sidneysiders for hearty house-made beers and ales and big plates of comfort food to soak it up.

The beers are traditional, and to me, they feel quite British. Nothing wrong with that. The pale ale has a soft finish and balanced hoppiness. The ESB has a tinge of coffee almost like a stout but retains some of the mellowness of a typical bitter. I am also enjoying the "Brewer's Mix," a glass filled half with kolsch and half with pale ale.

Thanks to my friend Lil for bringing me to this great spot. I'm fairly certain I'm the only tourist here tonight.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

What I've learned in Sydney in six hours

Yes, the city is beautiful, warm, and sunny. And the people are friendly. But friendly doesn't mean reliable.

Lesson No. 1: I need to trust my own reading of a map more than the tourist info people at the airport.

Lesson No. 2: I have to realize that I have been to a lot of places. A "huge" attraction in one country may seem almost insignificant in another - and vice versa.

I don't mean to knock Sydney, but my trip from the airport to my hotel was a bumpy, slow 75 minutes in a crowded minibus because the info desk at the airport told me finding my hotel from where the 15-minute train stopped would be difficult. Right. The train station is one block from my hotel.

My other transportation snafu was when I asked the hotel concierge how to get to the Sydney Fishmarket. He said I should take a taxi. I asked about public transit. He said there was no way to get there by public transit. Imagine my surprise when I got to the Fishmarket, and the $20 taxi left me off adjacent to the Fishmarket light rail stop. At least the ride back toward downtown was easy. (I returned fairly quickly because the Fishmarket was somewhat disappointing. The wholesale activity is mostly behind the scenes, and although the retail fish looked great, it was nothing even remotely approaching the frenzy of Tsukiji market in Tokyo - or even the Fulton Fish Market in New York when I was little.)

Lots more sights, sounds and sensations to experience. Will share more when I can.

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CORRECTION: Yet another egg recall

My apologies - this was reported last month and is not a new recall. 

Begin forwarded message:

Subject: Yet another egg recall

Calhttp://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm232988.htm">-Maine Foods, Inc. Conducts Voluntary Egg Recall 

Sun, 07 Nov 2010 19:23:00 -0600

JACKSON, Miss. (November 5, 2010) ? Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. (NASDAQ: CALM) today was notified by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that one of the Company’s suppliers, Ohio Fresh Eggs, LLC, Croton, Ohio, had a routine environmental study sample which tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis (SE). Cal-Maine purchased approximately 24,000 dozen unprocessed eggs from Ohio Fresh which were processed and re-packaged by the Company’s Green Forest, Arkansas, facility between October 9 and 12, 2010, yet the Company was only notified today.

  • Products: Sunny Meadow, Springfield Grocer, Sun Valley, and James Farm eggs (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm232988.htm">see recall notice for specific dates and plant numbers)
  • Distributed: To food wholesalers and retailers in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
  • Why: Possible Salmonella
  • Illnesses reported: None
  • For more information: Contact Cal-Maine’s corporate office at 1-866-276-6299 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. CDT.

Posted via email from Doug's posterous

Yet another egg recall

Calhttp://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm232988.htm">-Maine Foods, Inc. Conducts Voluntary Egg Recall 

Sun, 07 Nov 2010 19:23:00 -0600

JACKSON, Miss. (November 5, 2010) ? Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. (NASDAQ: CALM) today was notified by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that one of the Company’s suppliers, Ohio Fresh Eggs, LLC, Croton, Ohio, had a routine environmental study sample which tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis (SE). Cal-Maine purchased approximately 24,000 dozen unprocessed eggs from Ohio Fresh which were processed and re-packaged by the Company’s Green Forest, Arkansas, facility between October 9 and 12, 2010, yet the Company was only notified today.

  • Products: Sunny Meadow, Springfield Grocer, Sun Valley, and James Farm eggs (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm232988.htm">see recall notice for specific dates and plant numbers)
  • Distributed: To food wholesalers and retailers in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
  • Why: Possible Salmonella
  • Illnesses reported: None
  • For more information: Contact Cal-Maine’s corporate office at 1-866-276-6299 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. CDT.

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G'day from Sydney

Landed ahead of schedule at Sydney airport... My Australia adventure begins.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Processed meat/deli products recalled in NYC area

The recall announced below by the US Department of Agriculture involves chicken salads, meatballs and other processed foods typically sold at grocery store deli counters. Most of the retailers affected by this announcement are in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, but the incident provides yet another reminder to be careful about choosing any processed products. Details below.

New York Firm Recalls Various Meat and Poultry Products Produced Without Inspection
Recall ReleaseCLASS I RECALL

Congressional and Public Affairs
(202) 720-9113
Catherine Cochran

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2010 - N.Y. Gourmet Salads, Inc., a Brooklyn, N.Y., establishment, is recalling an undetermined amount of various meat and poultry products that were produced without the benefit of federal inspection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The following products are subject to recall:

  • 4.5-pound and 5-pound containers of "Lemon Grilled Chicken"
  • 4.5-pound and 5-pound containers of "Meatballs"
  • 4.5-pound and 5-pound containers of "Meatballs and Sauce"
  • 4.5-pound and 5-pound containers of "Swedish Meatballs"
  • 5-pound containers of "Sausage and Peppers"
  • 4.5-pound and 5-pound containers of "Chicken Salad"
  • 5-pound containers of "Grilled Chicken"
  • 5-pound containers of "Grilled Chicken, Plain"
  • 4.5-pound and 5-pound containers of "Breaded Chicken"
  • 6-pound containers of "Stuffed Cabbage"
  • 5-pound containers "Teriyaki Grilled Chicken"
  • 5-pound containers "Chopped Chicken Liver"

The implicated products were produced between March 11, 2010, and Oct. 29, 2010, and were distributed to retail establishments in New York. Labeling information on these products is currently unknown, unless otherwise noted above. The products subject to this recall may or may not bear the N.Y. Gourmet Salads Inc. label with the establishment number "P-34440" or "Est. 34440" inside the USDA mark of inspection. A retail distribution list(s) is available on the FSIS' website atwww.fsis.usda.gov/FSIS_Recalls/

These products were the subject of a public health alertissued on Oct. 30, 2010. After a continued investigation by FSIS, the products are now being recalled by the firm. FSIS has received no reports of illness due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a physician. 

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. 

Consumer and media questions regarding the recall should be directed to the company Vice President Lenny Spada at (718) 765-0082. 

Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day atAskKaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

RECALL: Organic Dark Chocolate Squares

From the US FDA:

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm234699.htm">Artisan Confections Recalls Dagoba new moon™ Rich Dark Chocolate 74% Cacao 0.32-Ounce Squares Due to Possible Health Risk
Wed, 24 Nov 2010 07:58:00 -0600

Artisan Confections Company is voluntarily recalling a limited quantity of its Dagoba Organic Chocolate new moon Rich Dark Chocolate 74% cacao 0.32 ounce squares because they may contain Salmonella. No other sizes or Dagoba items are involved in this recall.

  • Product: Dagoba Organic Chocolate new moon Rich Dark Chocolate (74% cacao) sold in 0.32 ounce squares
  • Distributed: Sold nationwide online and through natural/specialty food retail outlets
  • Why: Possible Salmonella
  • Illnesses reported: None
  • For more information: Contact Artisan Confections Consumer Relations at 866-608-6944. (9 a.m to 4 p.m. EST)

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Twitter icon http://twitter.com/foodsafetygov">Follow us on Twitter

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GovDelivery, Inc. sending on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services · 200 Independence Avenue SW · Washington DC 20201 · 1-877-696-6775

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Versatile cauliflower adds nutrition, cuts calories in mac & cheese; can sub for mashed potato

A few days ago I had a guest visiting and I made dinner as best as I could in my temporary apartment in uptown New York City. The menu included two small, beautiful grass-fed sirloin steaks, seared then broiled to mid-rare; baked acorn squash with honey and olive oil glaze; salad of field greens, pear and local blue cheese; and, mashed cauliflower.

Yes, there were no potatoes. After boiling the cauliflower until soft, I put it in the blender with a little milk, salt and pepper. I added more as the mixture approached a mashed consistency so that there would be some small but noticeable chunks of cauliflower. Then I popped the mixture into the oven with a little Vermont cheddar on top. Who needs potatoes when you can make something like this? My version was not low-calorie or low-fat, but you could easily reduce the milk or cheese and still have a pretty nice side dish.

For an even more creative way to use cauliflower in otherwise gluttonous dishes, try this recipe from Mark Bittman:

Creamy Cauliflower Mac

Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes

Vegetables are comfort food too, as proved by this recipe, which is sure to please anyone who loves mac-and-cheese. The "secret" is cauliflower's miraculous ability to turn creamy when puréed. If you don't want to wash out a blender or food processor (and don't mind some lumps), use a potato masher to purée the cauliflower in the same pot you cooked it in.

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish 
2 1⁄2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water 
2 bay leaves 
1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces 
8 ounces elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta, preferably whole wheat 
1⁄2 cup grated cheese (like sharp cheddar, Gruyère, or Emmental or a combination) 
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or to taste 
1⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste 
Black pepper 
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
1⁄2 cup or more bread crumbs, preferably whole grain and homemade, optional

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with a little oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the stock with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles appear along the sides, about 5 minutes later, turn off the heat and let stand.

2. Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a blender or food processor. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until still somewhat chalky inside and not yet edible, about 5 minutes. Drain it, rinse it quickly to stop the cooking, and put it in the prepared baking dish.

3. Remove the bay leaves from the stock. Carefully process the cauliflower with 2 cups of the stock, the 2 tablespoons oil, the cheese, mustard, nutmeg, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. (You may have to work in batches.) If the sauce seems too thick, add the remaining 1⁄2 cup stock. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the pasta, toss, and spread the mixture evenly in the dish. (You can make the dish to this point, cover, and refrigerate for up to a day; return to room temperature before proceeding.)

4. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan and bread crumbs if you're using them. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Recipe by Mark Bittman, published in The Food Matters Cookbook. Used with permission. For more information, visit markbittman.com.


This post was originally published on Doug Levy's other blog, http://wineandfoodworld.com



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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Not sure what statement this fashion makes

Recently Opened "Co". Brings a New Style Pizza to New York

Popeye pizza from Co. in New York's ChelseaMy culinary exploration of New York city took me this week to Chelsea, a neighborhood nestled between Greenwich Village and the Meat-Packing District to the south and Hell's Kitchen to the north. Historically home to artists both rising and falling, Chelsea is an eclectic area now experiencing some of the general upsurge that seems to be occurring citywide. In fact, today's New York Times says that a couple of new buildings going up in the area are going to house condos that will sell for well over $1 million each. Ouch.

Our destination was a medium-sized casual restaurant at the corner of 24th Street and Ninth Avenue, called Company, or "Co." to those more familiar. Known for pizzas, the pies here are not New York, Chicago or any other familiar style. The crusts have a slight sourdough flavor and a great balance of crispness on the bottom and a just-right sponginess once you bite into it.

The choices range from the leafy Popeye (spinach, gruyere, Pecorino, and mozzarella) to the Meatball (tomato, veal meatballs, caramelized onions, olives, Pecorino.) The simple Rosa has bright tomato sauce coating the crust, dotted with slices of fresh garlic and spiced with a little red chili and fresh oregano. The Leek & Sausage is more complex, with chili flakes, sausage pieces, leek and cheese cushioned with a layer of bechamel sauce that created a surprisingly light background flavor.

Each pizza has four generous slices - two slices a person seems like a decent portion. (My friends and I went ahead with a more encompassing sampling, each of us tasting six different pies - and none was leftover. We were doing research, after all.)

Of the pizzas we tried, my favorite was the vegetarian Popeye, though the Leek & Sausage was interesting, flavorful, and maybe a little quirky - in a good way.

Co. has six craft beers on tap and a modest but well rounded wine list. Interestingly, the wine list includes only wines with screw-tops - no corks. The cheerful server, Brenna, had great descriptions of each of the beers and was able to guide us skillfully through both the beverage and comestibles parts of our meal.

Dinner for two with a round of wine or beer runs between around $30-$50, depending on your selections.

Co. is located at 230 9th Ave; New YorkNY 10001www.co-pane.com or (212) 243-1105.

This item is cross-posted from Doug's other blog, http://wineandfoodworld.com

Company on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gawker.com: Possible Energy Committee Head: God Promised There'd Be No Climate Change

This is from http://gawker.com/5686027/possible-chair-of-energy-committee-god-promised-thered-be-no-climate-change

Possible Chair of Energy Committee: God Promised There'd Be No Climate Change


Are you worried about global warming? Don't be! According to Illinois Rep. John Shimkus—candidate for chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee—climate change isn't a big deal. How does he know? Because of the Bible!


Shimkus, a Republican who represents part of Springfield and some St. Louis suburbs, is seeking the chairmanship for the Energy and Commerce Committee. And good thing, too, because what's really missing in this whole terrible fake "debate" about climate change is sub-Sunday school Biblical literalism.

See, Shimkus' whole take on this "global warming" situation is informed by the part in the Bible when—after flooding the earth—God promises Noah he'll never again destroy the world. So, obviously, climate change won't do much harm to the planet. Because of God's promise. Do you follow? This is all in Genesis, people!

But that kind of scintillating logic isn't all Shimkus brings to the table—Progress Illinois illustrates his climate expertise:

During a discussion at a hearing about the Environmental Protection Agency's ruling that greenhouse gases threaten public health and the environment, Shimkus noted that carbon dioxide is a natural result of breathing and asked, "Does EPA propose we stop breathing?" (They do not.) At a dinner held by the Sangamon County Republicans in February, Shimkus suggested that the sight of farmers "ice-fishing on ponds in Southern Illinois" is the latest evidence that global warming is a "hoax." Oh, and let's not forget the time Shimkus expressed fear that curbing carbon emissions would "take away plant food." (Scientists disagree.)

[Informed CommentProgress Illinois]

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Unbelievable: Tucker Carlson impersonated Olbermann and sent nasty emails that were published


The Huffington Post   |  Jack Mirkinson First Posted: 11- 9-10 05:23 PM   |   Updated: 11-10-10 08:51 AM

UPDATE: The text and headlines of this article have been changed to reflect Tucker Carlson's admission that he sent emails posing as Keith Olbermann.

Conservative pundit and Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson perpetrated a hoax last weekend by posing as Keith Olbermann in a series of emails to a Philadelphia columnist.

On Tuesday afternoon, a set of emails surfaced on the Philadelphia news site Phawker. Phawker said that the emails showed the "100% for real" correspondence between Olbermann and Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky over the weekend. In the emails, "Olbermann" talks about his boss, MSNBC President Phil Griffin, in hyperbolic, insulting terms.

In one email, "Olbermann" says that Griffin is "not my boss (thank god), nor is he intellectually qualified to be...I'll be anchoring on election night 2012, long after Phil Griffin has moved on to a job for which he's actually qualified, perhaps on QVC."

In another, "Olbermann" writes that "I could have Phil Griffin fired tomorrow if I felt like it, trust me. And if he keeps yapping about me in public, I may. For the moment, however, keeping Phil around is like having a drunk chimp in the office -- more amusing than threatening."

The incendiary emails seemed too good to be true -- and they were. They were sent from keith@keitholbermann.com. That's an address that is not owned by Olbermann, but by Carlson. In July, Carlson announced that he had purchased the domain name KeithOlbermann.com, and told Politico that people could email him at Keith@KeithOlbermann.com -- the same address that the emails to Bykofsky came from.

On Tuesday night, Yahoo's Michael Calderone reached Carlson by phone. Carlson confirmed that he had, in fact, sent the emails posing as Olbermann.

"Could you resist?" Carlson said. "It was just too funny. The flesh is weak."

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Monday, November 8, 2010

FDA: Another egg recall

From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm232988.htm">Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. Conducts Voluntary Egg Recall 
Sun, 07 Nov 2010 19:23:00 -0600

JACKSON, Miss. (November 5, 2010) ? Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. (NASDAQ: CALM) today was notified by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that one of the Company’s suppliers, Ohio Fresh Eggs, LLC, Croton, Ohio, had a routine environmental study sample which tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis (SE). Cal-Maine purchased approximately 24,000 dozen unprocessed eggs from Ohio Fresh which were processed and re-packaged by the Company’s Green Forest, Arkansas, facility between October 9 and 12, 2010, yet the Company was only notified today.

  • Products: Sunny Meadow, Springfield Grocer, Sun Valley, and James Farm eggs (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm232988.htm">see recall notice for specific dates and plant numbers)
  • Distributed: To food wholesalers and retailers in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
  • Why: Possible Salmonella
  • Illnesses reported: None
  • For more information: Contact Cal-Maine’s corporate office at 1-866-276-6299 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. CDT

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Monday, October 25, 2010

At least NPR's chief admits she handled Juan Williams firing poorly

This message was sent internally at NPR yesterday. I believe it to be authentic, although I cannot verify that with total certainty.

Vivian Schiller [vschiller@npr.org]
Sent: Sunday, October 24, 2010 6:58 PM
Subject: Recent Events

Dear Program Colleagues,
I want to apologize for not doing a better job of handling the termination of our relationship with news analyst Juan Williams. While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. I know you all felt the reverberations and are on the front lines every day responding to your listeners and talking to the public

This was a decision of principle, made to protect NPR’s integrity and values as a news organization. Juan Williams’ comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR's standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst. After this latest incident, we felt compelled to act. I acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree about timing: whether NPR should have ended its relationship with Juan Williams earlier, on the occasion of other incidents; or whether this final episode warranted immediate termination of his contract.

In any event, the process that followed the decision was unfortunate – including not meeting with Juan Williams in person – and I take full responsibility for that. We have already begun a thorough review of all aspects of our performance in this instance, a process that will continue in the coming days and weeks. We will also review and re-articulate our written ethics guidelines to make them as clear and relevant as possible for our acquired show partners, our staff, Member stations and the public.

The news and media world is changing swiftly and radically; traditional standards and practices are under siege. This requires us to redouble our attention to how we interpret and live up to our values and standards. We are confident that NPR’s integrity and dedication to the highest values in journalism and our commitment to serving as a national forum for the respectful discussion of diverse ideas will continue to earn the support of a growing audience.

I stand by my decision to end NPR’s relationship with Juan Williams, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it. You have my pledge that the NPR team and I will reflect on all aspects of our actions, and strive to improve them in the future.

Please feel free to share your concerns and suggestions.


Vivian Schiller

Vivian Schiller
President & CEO, NPR

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Homage to New York's long lost Pennsylvania Station, 100 years later

I am just barely old enough to vaguely remember the magnificent structure that used to sit on the block between Seventh and Eighth Avenue where Madison Square Garden currently exists. Built in 1910, the enormous columns on the Romanesque Pennsylvania Station greeted thousands of commuters and other travelers daily. It was a grand entrance to a grand city. The image below is what Penn Station looked like when I was a toddler. 


By Photographer: Cervin Robinson [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia

When the developers of the Madison Square Garden complex won the rights to tear down Penn Station in 1963 and replace it with the Garden and office buildings, city leaders pledged to erect a replica of the station so that its grandeur would live on. Of course, we are still waiting for that replica to be built.

For a great, quick read on Penn Station's history both before and after 1963, check out MIchael Grynbaum's blog post on today's New York Times website: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/18/the-joys-and-woes-of-penn-station-at-100/

City Room: The Joys and Woes of Penn Station at 100
Published: October 18, 2010

Off the Rails invites readers to weigh in on the Penn Station experience, from décor to design to usability to convenience.


Posted via email from Doug's posterous

Homage to New York's long lost Pennsylvania Station, 100 years later

I am just barely old enough to vaguely remember the magnificent structure that used to sit on the block between Seventh and Eighth Avenue where Madison Square Garden currently exists. Built in 1910, the enormous columns on the Romanesque Pennsylvania Station greeted thousands of commuters and other travelers daily. It was a grand entrance to a grand city. The image below is what Penn Station looked like when I was a toddler. 


When the developers of the Madison Square Garden complex won the rights to tear down Penn Station in 1963 and replace it with the Garden and office buildings, city leaders pledged to erect a replica of the station so that its grandeur would live on. Of course, we are still waiting for that replica to be built.

For a great, quick read on Penn Station's history both before and after 1963, check out MIchael Grynbaum's blog post on today's New York Times website: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/18/the-joys-and-woes-of-penn-station-at-100/

City Room: The Joys and Woes of Penn Station at 100
Published: October 18, 2010

Off the Rails invites readers to weigh in on the Penn Station experience, from décor to design to usability to convenience.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Getting close to harvest time in Haut Medoc

These plump Cabernet grapes at Chateau Lynch Bages in Paulliac look like they will have intense, concentrated juices when they are harvested in about two more weeks.

Sent from my iPhone

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MoreEats!: Living the Wine Life: Cold weather = unpredictable grape harvest

« Dining with Danielle: Brick & Bottle | Main

August 23, 2010

Living the Wine Life: Cold weather = unpredictable grape harvest

Doug Levy

Living The Wine Life with Doug Levy-

In case you hadn't noticed, the Bay area's weather has been a tad chillier than normal this year. For most of us, that just means putting on a sweater or turning on the heat. But odd weather can wreak havoc on agriculture, especially for the oh-so-sensitive wine grapes. Nonetheless, the first grapes of the 2010 California vintage will be picked this week in Napa and Sonoma.

One of the reasons California is so wine-grape friendly is our usual combination of wet winters, dry summers, and -- in most of the Wine Country -- just enough breeze coming off the Bay or ocean to moderate the warm daytime sunshine.

This year, not so much.

You may recall we had late rains -- into June. And much of August has had temperatures 10-15 degrees below normal.

Luckily, none of the rain was enough to drench the vineyards, but the cool temperatures are going to delay harvest. As "Wine Evangelist" Barbara Drady put it, "This year, we may be harvesting with Santa." (Read more about what she has seen along the Sonoma Coast on her blog here.)

The ultimate consequences of this weird weather won't be known for months, if not years, but here's what we know:

●    Most northern California grapes will be ready for harvest at least two or three weeks later than normal, perhaps more.

●    Many of the grapes have struggled to grow in the absence of heat and sun, so some of them will be smaller, with more intense flavor than usual.

●    If the fall rains start before harvesting has been completed (or started,) grapes remaining on the vines could become worthless very quickly due to mold and other spoilage.

I feel especially sorry for some of the growers in the parts of Mendocino County that suffered last year when grapes were damaged by smoke from wildfires. Much of the juice from those grapes was sold off to secondary wineries, since it was not of sufficient quality for many of the prime Pinot producers. So far, many winemakers are optimistic that this year's harvest will be a good one...eventually, but this year certainly proves that any kind of farming can be a risky business.

For those familiar with growing grapes in other regions of the world, coping with variable temperatures and frequent rain are part of the standard routine. Some of the best grapes grow in rainy parts of France, for example. But our New World wines, including the big bold Napa cabernets, the fruity Russian River Pinots and the Washington Syrahs all rely on moist, temperate winters and dry, sunny summers. Change that routine, and everything becomes unpredictable.

That's exactly what this year's harvest is.


Former USA Today reporter Doug Levy has lived in Marin since 2004 and spends a lot of his free time searching for great food and wine in Marin, and around the world. He is a free lance writer and public relations consultant, specializing in health care and life sciences. He'll be writing about wine in MoreMarin in a column called Living The Wine Life. Doug enjoys sharing his culinary observations which you can also read on his personal blog at http://wineandfoodworld.com/.

Posted by Pam Gould at 08:30 AM in Living The Wine Life, Wine, Beer and Cocktails | Permalink

This also was published to SFGate.com at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/inmarin/detail?entry_id=70670.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Is the "Ground Zero Mosque" a national issue? New Yorkers react.

I'm not sure this really should have been a "breaking news alert" from the Washington Post, but the story has important points. The elevation of the mosque debate onto the national stage is misplaced for so many reasons. And I sure wish more people understood what freedom of religion meant to our Founding Fathers (and Mothers.)

News Alert: New Yorkers react to Muslim center debate
09:23 PM EDT Thursday, August 19, 2010

The national debate over the center near Ground Zero bears little resemblance to the reality on the ground in New York, where the local political establishment, from opponent Rep. Peter King (R) to supporter Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D), all agree that it would be better if the national, non-New York critics knew what was happening, both politically and spatially.

For more information, visit washingtonpost.com:

Copyright 2010 The Washington Post Company

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

MoreMarin Buzz Home: Tam High reunion invitation brouhaha

« SubUrban Legend - The day of the locust | Main | Video of the Day - Doga »

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tam High reunion invitation brouhaha

An invitation to a local high school reunion has caused the fur to fly in Marin.

(Click to enlarge)

The invite for a class reunion for Tamalpais High School class of 1980, contains images that are offensive-- or at the very least-- insensitive. The invitation in question has a graphic of the now-banned former school name and mascot, the Tamalpais High Indians. In addition, an old image of a flirty Indian maid is also pictured. The mascot was changed to the Red Tailed Hawks in 1990.

The Pacific Sun's Nikki Silverstein mentioned the invite in her Hero and Zero column chastising the senders of the invitation for their insensitivity to Native Americans.

But it didn't end there.

What followed were a torrent of commenters on the Pacific Sun website slamming Silverstein for being too PC in her condemnation. A sample of some of the comments--

"Wow! When did Ms. Silverstein become the annointed moral barometer for Marin?"
  • "We were the TAMALPAIS INDIANS you and your PC NAZIS, yes nazis, can't change that and if you weren't a TAM INDIAN, why do you care"
  • "Dear Ms. Silverstein, what is wrong with the country quite frankly is...YOU! You and all the crones that harbor this politically correct agenda that is primarily designed to control people."

    Several commenters defend Ms. Silverstein, but they seem to be far fewer. We agree with the detractors in that it's one thing to use the images in a historical context; it's quite another to use them for marketing purposes. But what is really upsetting, are the vitriolic comments aimed at Silverstein.

    The story is beginning to make its way into the blogosphere. The reunion takes place at the end of August which means there is enough time for it to really heat up.

    Posted by Pam Gould at 10:55 AM in Mill Valley, What's With That?! | Permalink



    GO Indians! Schools - probably their coaches picked original team names I guess, and I doubt any were ever chosen to degrade
    or defame the people who's images were used.
    To the contrary, warriors, and indians and
    fierce animals were chosen to instill a spire of respect, dignity, and even admiration for the culture of ancients and native peoples. The fact that a few indians
    or others are personally offended by teams
    using their names is really unfortunate. I think they would be happier with a more positive attitude! Posted by a old Woodrow
    Wilson HS, Warrior(Greek style)70'

    Posted by: Tonyboysf | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    Tam Indian

    Go Indians! Class of '85.

    Thinking I'll attend this reunion to honor our mascott.

    Posted by: Tam Indian | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:38 PM


    Yeah, enough of this crap. Let's get down to a real politics of change. Give money to a land trust, volunteer to help others, work on a campaign to balance city and county budgets, serve your darn jury duty. This endless cultural politics is tiresome.

    Posted by: icarus13 | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    An Indian From The Class of 1980

    Additionally: Go (Fremont High School, S'vale) Indians!

    Screw PCism!

    Fremont Firebirds ... sheesh! What a joke.

    Posted by: An Indian From The Class of 1980 | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:50 PM


    LOLZ - Are they gonna open up a Casino Night and sell discount cigs? Get Lives people! Where's the outrage over Obambi and Boosh letting the Mexi's over the border like it ain't even there?

    Posted by: m | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    In God we Trust

    This non-substantive PC crap is getting old. Focus on substantive issues like the economy, the quality of the educations our children are receiving, and the cost of government.

    Posted by: In God we Trust | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:53 PM


    Pekin High School in 1980 changed their mascot from the Pekin Chinks to the Pekin Dragons.

    If people can only understand that with the naming of a mascot by using only certain ethnic groups, demeans the people as non-human.


    Posted by: DPendragon | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 01:11 PM


    Clearly the commenters above have never been on the other side of a stereotype or discrimination. This isn't just some "PC crap." Harmful stereotypes continue to be taught in schools and homes throughout the country, and this has real consequence to people like me.

    First off, I am not saying that we should act as if the "Indian" never was the Tam High mascot. The problem is specifically the way the mascot is depicted (on a "Wanted" poster.)

    But the defenders really have me concerned. You could use the same rationale to support celebrating other "charming traditions" -- like the one at my high school where African-Americans had an "exclusive" seating area at lunch and on the football bench (they were kept off the field.) Or the tradition of a publicly funded organization in my former east coast community that blocked any minorities from applying for membership, in honor of their town's history of KKK activity.

    The way the Indian mascot is shown on the Tam High reunion flyer perpetuates such harm. I had hoped that at least in Marin we had evolved enough to recognize that such stereotypes are part of our history, not our present.

    Posted by: SFDoug | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 01:15 PM


    You can't re-write history. This is what the team was called, and no amount of touchy-feely PC "sensitivity" can change that. Nikki, shut up! Teams use powerful images for their team names. Naming a team "Indians" was an homage to Indians, who most people I know would consider to be brave and resourceful and tough. It's like the Fighting Irish or the Boston Celtics. It's a honor, not an insult. Maybe Nikki S. doesn't like sports or just doesn't understand that. The images, like all team mascot images, are cartoons or caricatures, which are not always flattering, but look at the look of fierce resolve on the mascot's face shown in the picture. It's meant to be a young Native American who is tough and determined. That's what comes through when I look at it. The little girl in the bottom corner is just plain cute.

    Posted by: Mike | Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 01:18 PM

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    The comments on this are getting really nasty. It would be great if more people would chime-in so that the extremists don't think they are correct.

    Posted via email from Doug's posterous

    A conversation worth joining: sad signs of insensitivity in Marin

    The Pacific Sun's latest "Heroes and Zeroes" column mentions the invitation for a Tam High reunion that prominently features the school's former "American Indian" mascot on a wanted poster. That mascot was replaced a while back because it was recognized as insensitive to Native Americans, among others. Using an "Indian" on a wanted poster may have been tasteless enough, but what really worries me is that the writer of the column, Nikki Silverstein, has gotten absolutely appalling criticism for it.

    People are defending it because it was "part of their history." As Nikki has responded, we could use that same basis to bring back such "charming" icons as "Little Black Sambo." (The comments publicly on PacificSun.com are disturbing. Some comments made by Nikki's "friends" on Facebook are even more so.)

    I wrote a letter to the editor citing "charming traditions" that could be "celebrated" using the same rationale, like the "exclusive" seating area at lunch for African-American students at the high school I went to, or the fire department in a rural Maryland community that blocked any minorities from applying, in honor of their town's history of KKK activity.

    It might be nice if others would join the conversation and help educate these "history buffs." Visit PacificSun.com to submit comments for the web site or letters to the editor for possible publication. As I said in my comments, there are ways the old mascot could have been used without being offensive, but the wanted poster -- and its defenders -- are just plain wrong.

    Columns - Friday, July 23, 2010

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    Hero and Zero


    HERO: The sudden onset of vertigo incapacitated Eric Overholt last Saturday as he walked home from the Marin City Library. Barely able to stand, he grabbed onto a street sign. A woman waiting at the nearby bus stop took his number and contacted his wife. She then gave him water and found a man to help her get Eric over to a bench. The pair waited with him until his wife arrived. Although Eric doesn't have their names, he wants to thank the kind people who assisted him. "For all the bad press Marin City receives, I am glad that I live in a community where strangers are still willing to help others," said Eric. We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

    ZERO: What happened to progressive, tolerant Marin? Last week, a former San Marin High student and his friend allegedly committed a hate crime by spray-painting racist graffiti on school walls. This week, an invitation to the Tam High Class of 1980 reunion came our way—the invite uses an image of the school's now-banned American Indian name and mascot—posted onto an Old West "Wanted" poster of all things—as well as a sexed-up caricature of a female Native American. We hope this insensitivity doesn't become a weekly occurrence in our fine county.—Nikki Silverstein

    Posted via email from Doug's posterous

    Sunday, June 6, 2010

    Excellent piece explaining why targeting Craigslist won't end underage prostitution, and could backfire | AlterNet

    June 4, 2010  |  

    You’d be hard-pressed to find any media-aware person who has never used or heard of Craigslist, the online classifieds that enjoy a uniquely ubiquitous Internet presence all over America and increasingly around the globe.

    Craigslist serves 700 cities in 70 countries. It’s the 11th most visited website in the U.S. and it’s used by 50 million unique users a month, who make 423 million monthly visits and generate billions of page views. Chances are, you or someone you know has bought a used couch, looked for a job, found true love, or tried to get laid using Craigslist.

    These days, Craigslist is getting a different, far less desirable kind of attention: The site’s personal ads have come under aggressive scrutiny and attack from law enforcement officials all over the country. Predictably, a media feeding frenzy has ensued.

    Anti-human trafficking advocates, frustrated by the horrific and seemingly intractable problem of sex trafficking in the U.S., have accused the site of facilitating forced prostitution.

    Meanwhile, for several years, a pack of Attorney Generals, led by Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, has targeted Craigslist with lawsuits and threats, claiming that the site features ads for underage prostitutes and sex trafficking victims. Several have demanded that Craigslist entirely drop their Adult Services section.

    Most recently Jackie Speier, a member of Congress from the Silicon Valley area, held a press conference where she asked Craigslist to halt Adult Services. Speier raised the publicity stakes further, asking the House Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on how Web sites like Craigslist are being used to "facilitate criminal activity."

    You read that right: Speier is not asking for a hearing about the problem of underage sex trafficking. She’s asking Congress to investigate Craigslist, despite the fact that the site has not broken any laws and has made countless changes to address the concerns of law enforcement officials, politicians and human rights activists.

    Here’s how Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster responded to Speiers’ attack:

    I'm confident you will soon realize shutting down portions of Craigslist is no answer, and in fact would be a big step in the wrong direction with respect to the very issues you have raised ... Trafficking and child exploitation are despicable, and while exceedingly rare on Craigslist, any ad facilitating crime is utterly unacceptable, and we work tirelessly with law enforcement to ensure any such victim receives the assistance they deserve and anyone responsible is prosecuted. With 50 million Americans engaging in billions of human interactions each month, the overwhelming majority of which are well-intentioned, the incidence of crime on Craigslist is exceptionally low. However, our tolerance for crime is zero … 

    So what’s the real story here? Do Craigslist’s critics, who seem to have singled out the site as their focus in the fight against teen prostitution, have a point? Or is Craigslist merely a convenient scapegoat?

    The Unique, Unorthodox Power House that is Craigslist

    Over the past decade the wildly successful Craigslist has wreaked havoc in the media industry. The site’s hugely popular free ads have undermined a newspaper industry financially dependent on paid advertising. The online classifieds have hastened the decline of dailies as well as alternative weeklies, creating many unhappy – and more than a few unemployed – people.

    Founder Craig Newmark is a well-known figure that attends many conferences, making himself quite accessible in his own inscrutable way. He is the earnest nerd, the shy eligible bachelor, the non-partisan good-government and journalism advocate who at times as referred to himself politically as a Whig. With characteristic modesty, Newmark says his title is "customer service rep.” Yet Newmark sits atop a potential goldmine. If Craigslist is ever taken public or is sold, Newmark could make billions. Hell, the New York Observer recently listed Newmark as the 14th most powerful real estate figure in NYC, ahead of Donald Trump and Andrew Cuomo, likely the next governor of NY.

    But Newmark is not interested in using the site to turn massive profits. And part of the reason for the media frenzy always surrounding Craigslist is the site’s unorthodox business model, which seems to cause equal parts fascination and frustration.

    The site’s lack of interest in making a huge profit, as well as in offering the latest bells and whistles of the sophisticated technophiles, has made it a target of the business-oriented tech press, led by Wired, which is owned by the mega publishing company Condé Nast. 

    A recent Wired story by Gary Wolfe was headlined "Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess." The article criticizes Craigslist for not trying to up its profits the old fashioned way, by improving services, adding technology fixes, and charging money.

    Wolfe writes that Craigslist reaches nearly a fifth of the nation's adult population every month. "It is the most important community site going and yet the most underdeveloped. Think of any Web feature that has become popular in the past 10 years: Chances are Craigslist has considered it and rejected it. If you try to build a third-party application designed to make Craigslist work better, the management will almost certainly throw up technical roadblocks to shut you down."

    CEO Buckmaster makes it clear why Wired and many seem frustrated: "Craig Newmark and I have been called communists and socialists for putting community ahead of financial considerations. After 15 years of focusing on public service, 50 million people now rely on Craigslist each month for their everyday needs. To the eternal amazement of financial analysts we have never sought to maximize our personal gain. Not because we’re saints, but because valuing service over money is more fulfilling and enjoyable, and has always felt like the right thing to do.”

    Wolfe seems frustrated that Craigslist is free: "Besides offering nearly all of its features for free, it scorns advertising, refuses investment, ignores design, and does not innovate. Ordinarily, a company that showed such complete disdain for the normal rules of business would be vulnerable to competition, but Craigslist has no serious rivals. The glory of the site is its size and its price.” Wolfe and Wired seem exasperated by Newmark's and Ceo Jim Buckmaster's philosophy. "People are good and trustworthy and generally just concerned with getting through the day," Newmark says. Continues Wolfe, describing Newmark’s worldview: “If most people are good and their needs are simple, all you have to do to serve them well is build a minimal infrastructure allowing them to get together and work things out for themselves.” 

    Craigslist’s 50 million users don’t seem to mind.

    The Trafficking of Children

    As for the giant, ongoing flap about Craigslist's Adult Services section: for reasons that seem to reflect how poorly our society deals with its fundamental problems, Craigslist is blamed for crimes committed by people who use their services.

    Craigslist has broken no laws. Not only that, but the site has taken many significant steps to help law enforcement officials capture those who are selling stolen goods, causing physical harm, and engaging in illegal sex acts. Craigslist doesn’t actually have to do any of that, because they are not liable for what appears on the site (the 1996 Communications Decency Act immunizes providers from content posted by users) – but they choose to collaborate with law enforcement anyway. Nevertheless, legal officials and advocates continue to scapegoat Craigslist.

    Craigslist is blamed for serious and intractable social problems like forced prostitution and child sex trafficking, stubborn and disconcerting problems that those actually responsible for making and enforcing laws can't solve – or perhaps have yet to find the will and resources to seriously try.

    The sexual trafficking of young girls is a despicable crime, and increasingly prevalent in our cities and communities. In many cases this horrific problem is going on unchecked. Here is what veteran reporter Dan Rather has to say: "In covering news for more than 60 years, I'd like to think that few stories shock me anymore. But this is one of them. We ran across it late last year and the more we dug, the more disturbing it became. Eighty-year-old men paying a premium to violate teenage girls, sometimes supplied by former drug gangs now into child sex trafficking big time? You've got to be kidding. Nope. That's happening and a lot more along the same lines. The business is booming. One of the worst areas for it runs along lines running roughly from Seattle to Portland, to San Francisco and Los Angeles, to Las Vegas. But no place in the country is immune."

    It’s difficult to assess how many children are involved in underage prostitution -- some conservative estimates peg the number in the range of 100,000 American children who are involved annually, while others say they believe it's closer to 300,000 or more. As one example, in a long investigative report at a micro news site Oakland Local, author Barbara Grady estimates that on any given night there are 100 underage prostitutes on International Boulevard, the main thoroughfare for finding prostitutes in this medium-sized California City.

    Portland, Oregon, one of America's favorite cities and one known for civic pride and great public transportation, is surprisingly also a hot bed for child prostitution, ranking second in the number of child prostitutes that are rescued. The much-admired Portland actually presents a sad example of law enforcement’s failure to attack child trafficking head on.

    Supply and Demand ... and Easy, Safe Money

    Like most illegal activities, prostitution in general, and the trafficking of underage girls specifically, is fundamentally a question of supply and demand. In the case of teenage trafficking, supply may be increasing due to complex social and law enforcement factors. For example, it has been reported that increasingly, men in the drug trade are switching to human trafficking. Some speculate that many dealers have left the drug trade for pimping because more money could be made in trafficking, but also because there’s far less pressure from the cops --- there is little risk of arrest, and most prostitutes are unwilling to testify against their pimps.

    It is a very lucrative business, according to Doug Justus of the Portland police department, who is quoted in Rather’s story. 

    An average pimp with one kid will make between $800 and $l,000 a day. That's seven days a week, 30 days a month," he said. And the pimps usually have a stable of young girls. No wonder so many criminals in the drug trade have turned to it which they have in droves. There's less chance of being caught, less chance of being prosecuted if caught, lighter sentences -- if any -- if convicted.

    In his recent TV show and article, Dan Rather took a look at the effort that Portland puts into this issue, when compared with the drug war. He notes:

    There is, and has been for a long time, a national "War on Drugs." There isn't one on child prostitution and what amounts to a slave trade. Only feeble efforts at best. Justus, the Portland police detective is frustrated that the Portland police have only two full-time vice investigators, compared to dozens of drug investigators ."I'm not a politician. I'm just a cop. But if I'm a criminal and I got busted for drugs and I had a regional (drug) task force over here. And there's another task force over there, and there, and then I know there's only two vice investigators in the city of Portland, let me think. I think I'll sell women because what are the chances of me being caught?"

    Consider the billions of dollars that are invested in the drug war, and the militarization of police departments across the land as a result of the overwrought fear of terrorism that has spread into towns and small cities all across the land. And consider the firepower: Our cities and communities are armed to the teeth to bust pot and cocaine dealers, and be prepared for the extraordinarily unlikely chance that they will be involved with terrorism. Meanwhile, a huge number of vulnerable kids are being violated and abused every day. Might we also consider what would happen if some of police departments’ firepower were aimed at pimps? If cops broke down doors of pimps that abuse kids with AK 47s in the dark of night in full combat gear? Might that not help slow down sex trafficking (not that I think it is a good idea to use that kind of police tactics in general)?  But where are our priorities?

    Why Scapegoating Craigslist Is Dangerous

    Scapegoating Craigslist while ignoring more significant problems is not only misguided – it’s also dangerous. The publicity creates the illusion that the problem of trafficking is being addressed, when it's not. Focusing on Craigslist avoids real and substantive solutions to the problem, and obscures what appears to be our society's fundamental inability to deal with child prostitution.

    The reasons for the social failure to attack trafficking are no doubt multifaceted, though they probably have at their core elements of sexism and racism. A San Francisco psychologist, who preferred to remain anonymous, suggested that male ambivalence or outright avoidance of dealing with illegal sex issues can be in part explained by the high number of men of all classes who have had sexual relations with prostitutes at one time or another. According to the recent survey data (University of Chicago Life and Health Study), about 16 percent of men in the US have visited a prostitute at least once in their lifetime. According to Dr. Teela Sanders, a senior lecturer at the University of Leeds, and the author of Paying For Pleasure: Men Who Buy Sex, nearly one in three men will buy sex at some point in his life ... and we're not talking porn.  These numbers suggest that somewhere between 15 and 40 million men have used a prostitute at some point in their life. That is quite a sizable market. Perhaps some feel culpability. 

    Many elected officials seem addicted to explaining and addressing problems with press releases, which are cheap and require very little work. I don't doubt that they are outraged by what they hear and see -- and of course it is disturbing to hear detailed stories of pimps who have benefited from Craigslist.   But do these media hounds really think that with all of the money being made, and the hundreds of other sites where prostitutes advertise, undermining Craigslist, or getting them to abolish adult services, will seriously address the problem? In fact, all it could accomplish is make it a little harder to catch abusers and harm Craigslist, seemingly the only online classifieds acting in the public interest. It may even send the problem deeper underground, where it will be less visible.

    In fact, hundreds of other sites on the web feature sex ads, the most prominent of which is BackPage, owned by the Village Voice company -- more on that in a moment. These other sites get very little attention, in part because Craigslist is a kind of media goldmine for those in search of publicity to pump up their career or their cause. The media seems little more than a Pavlov dog when it comes to Craigslist. Piling on Craigslist has become a bit of a national sport – but one that represents a dangerous trend for teens and adults forced into sex slavery.

    AG Blumenthal and His Fellow Attorney Generals'  Embarrassing Ignorance of the Law

    The most visible, and perhaps influential national law enforcement official going after Craigslist has been Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who just happens to be running for the Senate. The Blumenthal candidacy is filled with hope for Democrats, who are desperate to hang on to a significant majority in the Senate. Chris Dodd, the incumbent, retired, presumably because he couldn't get reelected, paving the way for Blumenthal in a a super high priority race. Blumenthal also happens to be the candidate who has lied repeatedly about his service in Vietnam, claiming he was there during the war as a Marine, when he actually avoided the draft for 5 years, signing up at the last minute for the Marine Reserves when he became vulnerable to the draft. In the end he never left Washington, D.C .

    Most recently Blumenthal, who has led overzealous AGs into battle against Craigslist many times, subpoenaed the company for information regarding their finances, dramatically declaring, "The Craigslist brothel business seems to be booming."

    His tactics were questionable to say the least.

    "The Attorney Generals' war on Craigslist is a"bit embarrassing," says Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Matthew Zimmerman, given that their position requires familiarity with existing laws. "They're engaging in an easy PR move where they get to look tough on crime. Problem with that is, it's not the law."

    According to Zimmerman Craigslist is protected from liability even if they know that the content posted is illegal, and even if they profit from it. "The subpoena is a trumped up excuse to go in and harass Craigslist and continue to make their life difficult," says Zimmerman.

    In 2008, Blumenthal sent a letter to Craigslist signed by 40 AGs demanding the site crack down on ads for illegal activities. After negotiations with Blumenthal, the company instituted several changes to combat illegal uses of the site: users would have to provide a working phone number and pay a 5-10 dollar fee with a valid credit card. Craigslist also agreed to collaborate with law enforcement and the National Center for Missing or Exploited Kids to help hunt down illegal traffickers.

    The agreement did not dissuade Cook Country Sheriff Thomas Dart from suing Craigslist a mere 4 months later. Dart not only asked the court to shut down the "erotic services" (predecessor to “Adult Services”) section, but demanded the site pay the Sheriff department's $100,000 investigation into illegal activity on the site. U.S. District Court Judge John Grady was not impressed, throwing out the suit and saying that Craigslist was not to blame for users violating the site's policies.

    Undeterred by precedent, South Carolina AG Henry McMaster decided to one-up Dart in May of 2009 by threatening to prosecute Craigslist executives if they refused to drop "erotic services". Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster replied in a blog post that McMaster's suit was baseless. Nevertheless, bowing to pressure after the highly publicized murder of a 26 year old massuesse who'd advertised on the site, Craigslist agreed to scrap Erotic Services and replace it with a new section called Adult Services that would be closely monitored for illegal content. McMaster wasn't satisfied, insisting he'd go ahead with his "investigation." When Craigslist slapped the AG with a counter-suit and a restraining order, McMaster improbably declared victory, saying the site would now adhere to higher standards.

    Many advocates for exploited children and trafficking victims are fiercely fighting forced and under-aged prostitution any way they can.

    But like the AGs, in order to get their issue in the news, to sound the alarm, to increase their fundraising potential, they primarily go after Craigslist. Amanda Kloer, an anti trafficking activist, who has a petition up at Change.org to pressure Craigslists about Adult Services, told AlterNet "Craigslist is by no means the only group that human trafficking victims are advertised through. The Washington Post still has huge sections of advertisements for Asian massage parlors that are shut down for trafficking. Yet WP hasn’t responded to requests to get rid of those ads. Backpage also run sex ads." So why focus on Craigslist?

    "I think Craigslist is not the only one, but they’re the best known. I can’t say there are more ads for trafficked people on Craigslist than other places. But it’s a big organization, and getting them to change their policies would effect more change."

    The Craigslist Response and Those Other Sites

    One of the stranger aspects of attacks on Craigslist is the fact that traffickers are often caught through the site.

    Craigslist emphasizes that it has gone out of its way to work closely with law enforcement to crack down on illegal sex ads. (It must be said here that adults voluntarily engaging in sex work – though there’ also opportunity for exploitation there – are in a totally different realm than children or those forced into prostitution. In fact, it has been argued that sites like Craigslist may provide a safer venue for adult sex workers.)

    When I ask Jim Buckmaster why Craigslist is being targeted so frequently, his response was this:

    No good deed goes unpunished! It's surprising that after all the improvements we have made Craigslist continues to be singled out for criticism (much of it directed at those very improvements!) while countless sites specializing in utterly unmoderated adult ads continue to get a free pass from politicians and advocacy groups. It leads us to wonder whether, if we hadn't issued a Joint Statement with the Attorneys General, and had refrained from adopting all of the protective measures we've taken, whether all of this could have been avoided.

    Buckmaster adds: "Why is it of no interest that companies other than Craigslist, with far more such ads, graphic and unmoderated, are not screening them at all, nor have they taken any of the other protective measures we have taken? Lagging behind (to mention but a few) are the large mainstream internet portals, the major search engines, large telephone companies (yellow pages), major newspapers, chain operators of alternative weeklies, etc — which derive vastly more revenue from adult service ads than Craigslist, while doing far less than Craigslist to combat exploitation/trafficking.”

    Buckmaster insists: "Each ad submitted to adult services on Craigslist is manually screened by one or more human reviewers. Ads that blatantly advertise prostitution are summarily rejected. For example, most if not all of the adult services ads featured by the Village Voice Inc. Backpage ( which carries more adult ads than Craigslist in most US cities) would be rejected by our manual reviewers, and in fact quite a few of them would be submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Kids cyber tipline "

    It should be noted that the Village Voice Co. was taken over in 2006 by New Times, a company which owned 10 weekly newspapers, operating out of Phoenix Arizona, and owned by Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. The owners of the Voice, primarily David Schneiderman, sold their 5 papers to New Times, giving the company unprecedented consolidation of 14 papers in most key US markets including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Houston, Seattle. New Times decided that the Village Voice brand was stronger than theirs and called the consolidated new company Village Voice Inc.

    Here are some ads from BackPage, supplied by Buckmaster:

    Here’s an ad with photos (NSFW) of bare genitalia (Craigslist reviewers reject ads with nude pictures), describing specific sex acts offered (Craigslist reviewers reject ads with sexual language or code words):
    ******Ev3Ry !!! M@N’s!///!!% W3tt ***Dre@M __ CuM%TruE*** - 24
    Watch closely as i bounce my fat luscious, juicy apple bottom booty up & down ure big c*ck!!! 80Roses** Quk $e$$ion 100Roses** Half Hr 140Roses** Full Hr200 Roses.

    This ad offers “greek” in exchange for 100 “kisses” in the ad title (Craigslist reviewers reject such ads):
    ♥ ♥ SexY EXxXOTiC BuSTii B@RB!E (( g/r/3/3/k)) ♥ ♥ 100 kisses - 21

    The following ad, if submitted to CL’s review team, would have been reported to NCMEC’s cybertipline:
    ** I JuST TuRNeD 18 YeSTeRDaYY** FiNaLLY LeGal - 18
    my parents are at work and im all alone jus waiting for someone to cum inside and invade my young, barely legal, juicy, suculant love nest. 

    In addition to the many steps the site has taken to discourage illegal postings (Buckmaster has listed their policies here) Craigslist helps law enforcement by creating the opportunity for stings that have helped take down human trafficking operations.

    As Valleywag  pointed out during the Sheriff Thomas Dart's lawsuit, Dart's department used Craigslist to bust a prostitution ring, leading to the arrests of 254 women and men. Komo news reported that Everett Washington's Vice Squad depends on Craigslist to help find and arrest sex workers. All officers have to do is answer the ads, set up a meeting and make an arrest if sex for money is offered. A Canadian police chief has said that his regularly uses Craigslist to investigate ads they find suspicious, leading to stings that find girls as young as 15-16 being pimped out.

    In an open letter Buckmaster pointed out that dropping the adult services section would actually hurt more than help curb illegal activity: "For the sake of rescuing victims and prosecuting criminals, is it really a good idea to eliminate the only venue for adult service ads that is highly responsive to law enforcement? The only venue that seeks out nonprofit groups and readily adopts their suggestions?"

    Scapegoating Is Not the Answer

    Blaming Craigslist for the problem takes those responsible for fixing the problem off the hook. Political opportunists of every stripe go after Craigslist because it is an international brand with instant recognition, and the corporate media tends to salivate when it comes to stories about sex and law breaking related to Craigslist.

    It is hard to understand how people think that coming down on Craigslist or having them eliminate their adult personals will solve sex trafficking. Unless more resources are invested in making life difficult for the johns who use underage prostitutes, and until heavy heat comes down on the pimps who seduce, manipulate, and sometimes kidnap young girls and make them perform against their will, this problem will grow. That is where the focus, the energy, and the resources must be applied.

    If public officials don't target the abusers more aggressively, or intervene with the kids, nothing will change. Craigslist is only the intermediary, as are all personal ads. Does anyone really think if there was no Craigslist, suddenly child prostitution will go away? Not likely. With the large amounts of profit in play, there will always be a marketing, advertising, communication strategy to match the supply with the demand. In the end, primarily going after Craigslist probably makes the pimps very happy.

    Full disclosure: AlterNet was the recipient of one general support contribution from Craigslist in 2009. Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

    This is a really good article that explains the real role of classified ads in general, and Craigslist in particular, in human trafficking and other abhorrent crimes. It also cogently explains why politicians who are trying to blame Craigslist are sadly misguided.

    Posted via web from Doug's posterous