Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Casualty

Bay Area Iraq Veterans Against the War staged a mock raid in San Francisco's Union Square Friday. You can watch the slideshow of Operation First Casualty here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Don't Expect Much

I used to walk past the federal building housing the US Court of Appeals in the Tenderloin to catch my bus to work, and never gave it much thought until my friends came from Alaska a few years back to listen to arguments by Exxon attorneys about why they should be allowed to continue withholding payments to Alaska's fishermen and tribes, devastated by the wreck of the Exxon Valdez. My friends were disappointed by the court's ruling, yet again, in Exxon's favor, but today I notice that the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of environmental and native plaintiffs contesting Shell's bogus permit to drill in the Beaufort Sea. Of course, not long ago the Ninth ruled against Native American sacred sites in the San Francisco Peaks, so on the whole I don't expect much from a bunch of white guys when it comes to protecting indigenous interests, which pretty much goes for the entire Justice Department, especially the US Supreme Court.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where's Harry?

San Francisco Bay Guardian asks, "Where's Harry?" According to San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, the main man pulling the city's gay community together when Harvey Milk was assassinated was Harry Britt. Yet Britt doesn't appear in the new feature film Milk.

Britt doesn't seem concerned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Talking it Through

Vanity Fair hosts a conversation between its in-house Mormon and an LGBT spokeswoman on Proposition 8 in California.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Living in Bondage

In his article Let's Harness Prostitutes, San Francisco Weekly's Benjamin Wachs nailed the human rights angle on prostitution, trafficking and organized crime. As an immigrant rights issue -- seeing how most of the prostitutes living in bondage in Fog City are trafficked from Asia -- perhaps the newly-elected San Francisco Supervisor and immigrant rights attorney, Eric Mar, can convince his fellow supervisors, Mayor Newsom and DA Harris to support effective local solutions to the problem. After all, it isn't like we don't know what works.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Window of Opportunity

The San Francisco ordinance restricting new licensing of massage parlors following on the heels of the 2005 raids by federal agents was a step in the right direction, but the problem of trafficking young women and girls for prostitution didn't go away with the headlines. Indeed, as the recent electoral campaign to legalize prostitution in the city of love made clear, the trafficking for prostitution industry is often misunderstood--so much so that even some of San Francisco's most progressive politicians still get it wrong.

With the sound rejection of legalizing prostitution by San Francisco's voters in 2008, there is a chance to generate some momentum toward offering real solutions through local government, rather than relying on sporadic efforts by federal agencies that round up criminal networks every now and then. In fact, with the strong support shown by the governor, the mayor and the district attorney against human trafficking, it would seem that the time is right for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to move forward a plan to address the human rights tragedy taking place on its doorstep every day.

Windows of opportunity to do the right thing don't come that often in politics; San Franciscans would be wise to take advantage of this one while they can.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Latter Day Saints?

Real News looks at Prop 8, the Mormon-sponsored, California initiative to deprive homosexuals of equal rights.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


It wouldn't be the first time organized labor got into bed with organized crime, but the unions licking their chops to get a piece of the action from prostitution might be biting off more than they can chew. Taking a lesson from the SEIU nursing home scandal a few years back, CLUW and other AFL-CIO affiliates might want to think twice about the blowback -- let alone ethics -- of making their bed with the capos.

If for no other reason, at some point the membership of San Francisco's labor union women in the hotel and restaurant service industries, for example, might take issue with union bosses using their dues to lobby for legalizing an industry that traffics other immigrant women of color (and girls) to be held in bondage as prostitutes. While it may be a lucrative attraction for bolstering union coffers, the morality of unions abetting crimes against humanity, in the city where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, somehow seems out of synch.

San Francisco's working women might want to talk about that.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Organized Labor Supports Slavery

The defeated Prop K sponsors highlighted an endorsement by Coalition for Labor Union Women, an AFL-CIO organization with national, state and local chapters. Some might reasonably ask why such a group would support the enslavement of women and girls. I can't answer that, but maybe the San Francisco CLUW contact person, Rosa Faye Marshall-Thomas, (510) 658-4988, can.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Dead on Arrival

San Francisco's Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein explain why the promises made by Democrats during the campaign are DOA.

Advertising Crime

Craigslist cuts prostitution advertising. Maybe the Bay Guardian and California Attorney General can follow their lead.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

November 5

Nader/Gonzalez launch the November 5th movement.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Side Effects

I was attempting to limit my focus on San Francisco's Prop K to the influence of organized crime on a community where trafficking in prostitution is allowed to run rampant, but the endorsement of Prop K by the San Francisco Democratic Party led me to look into how side effects of trafficking (like racketeering) can corrupt more than morals. While I doubt that the SFDP will post "SF Dems Welcome Organized Crime" on the marquee at their convention, the fact that the city hosts a lot of conventions from which the party gets donations through the still strong local unions, is enough of a connection to not rule it out. Fog City may not be able to compete with Las Vegas in recruiting criminal enterprise to service tourists and conventioneers, but then, why would they want to? Unless the Democrats figure a piece of the action is worth a few thousand adolescent immigrant girls living in slavery in their city.

Open Arms

As one of the most profitable industries of transnational criminal networks, trafficking humans for prostitution brings a host of other violent crimes along for the ride, especially drugs and racketeering. Inviting this milieu into one's community with open arms is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes a community can make. As they said in Veronica Guerrin, "Things can always get worse".

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Ballot measures like Prop K are rarely what they seem. Seeing how one of the proponents is Margo St. James (COYOTE), I gotta ask, what's the real deal? Are madams and pimps behind this proposition trying to cut out payoffs to dirty cops from their take? If so, how high do the payoffs go? And why are high class hookers so willing to sell out their low life sisters?

Knife to Their Throats

The number of prostitutes who are free to join unions, or to quit the industry is miniscule. The majority are either held in slavery or under threat of extreme violence, even death.

The fact that this situation is allowed to exist in the present won't be changed by Prop K. Expecting law enforcement to become more vigorous in protecting underage immigrant girls -- now abused by pimps and traffickers -- just because a handful of upper class prostitutes ask them to, is delusional.

Rights on paper mean nothing to these children with a knife to their throats.

Poverty Pimps

Now we know who stands to benefit from Prop K: pimps (union and non-union), traffickers, and local media promoting prostitution. There are probably a few dirty cops and politicians on the take as well, but we'll stick with the focus on the organized crime aspect for now. Poverty pimping is a big industry, but selling the bodies of the most defenseless humans on earth is about as low as it gets.

Obscene Gesture

Joining a union might be nice for the handful of privileged prostitutes who aren't living in daily terror and trauma. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of prostitutes -- living the nightmare of violence and fear trafficked humans worldwide experience -- they just want out. Telling these immigrant girls to join a union is obscene.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Salmon People

The American Carver, a documentary feature film about Lummi carver Jewell James, debuts at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, Sunday, November 9. In the early 1970s, I worked alongside Jewell's father and brother harvesting salmon in the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and the Cascade Mountains. Jewell is also a fellow associate of the Center for World Indigenous Studies in Olympia, Washington.

A Grim Reality

In How Prostitution Works, we learn about the grim reality of organized crime and public indifference to the brutality forced on women and children in American cities--including San Francisco. A grim reality largely ignored by the US Department of Justice.

While there appears to be support from the US State Department to stop the trafficking in humans for prostitution, we never hear of US Attorneys initiating a task force on organized crime to deal with this most abominable crime against humanity. Why is that? Is it the ingrained racism of the institution that allows DOJ to be insensitive to Asian and indigenous girls transported to American brothels and massage parlors to be serially raped for profit?

Whatever the answers to these pressing questions, there is nothing stopping local communities, mayors, and district attorneys from investigating organized crime in their cities. Nothing other than a lack of courage and will to do the right thing. Does San Francisco have what it takes?