wild child wisdom

"You've had too many mountains moved in your life.

You've never had to make mountains move shovel full by shovel full.

You have just always pushed...and they have moved.

You need to look at things in terms of the real world...not in the terms of how our lives have been"

Friday, July 9, 2010

Protests make for strange bedfellows. (The Craigslist Protest)

Thursday afternoon, with reluctance and curiosity I joined a few dozen people who were protesting against Craigslist and the role their Adult Services advertisements play in the human trafficking of women and children.

My curiosity was generated by the press release from CATW (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women) which claimed over 75 advocacy groups were sponsoring the protest.  With a single exception, I had quite frankly never heard of any of them.

My reluctance partially stemmed from the same.  Over 75 advocacy sponsors,  but the list did not include Polaris Project, Gemsgirls or the DNA Foundation,  groups I consider to be working on the forefront against domestic human trafficking.  (IJM and Restore International being two leaders from an international standpoint.) 

Additional reluctance slowed me, as I am really not a march and protest type.  My experience has been that the participants include, but are not limited to, professional protesters (who will show up to protest anything and everything) a handful of extremists whose intensity overshadows reality, and an army of media with cameras.

But, I had the time…I was curious…and as a bonus, I could hang out for a day or two with my daughter who lives in The City.  I ignored the raised eyebrows of speculation from my beau and both my daughters, and decided to attend.

The protest was scheduled to run from noon to two o’clock pm.  Not being familiar with that part of The City, I headed out a little early.  Craigslist Headquarters is in a San Francisco house wedged in a row, on a typical street with homes, shops, and cafes all side by side.
CLHQ reg

CL HQ on a typical day
(photo taken from the internet)

As I approached the building I noticed they had changed its appearance.  Scaffolding had been erected and draped, blocking the upper stories from view.  A temporary makeshift sign depicting an insurance company hung above the gated, locked entrance.  Two professionally attired painters were up on ladders painting over the Craigslist.org logo on the front of the building.

2 scaf 3 CL sign 4 paint

People began arriving around 11:30.  Equipped with microphone, loudspeaker, and protest signs they began to chant slogans and encourage the growing crowd.  Those running the show seemed professional and organized, so I walked up to the edge of the action.

5 mc 
The chants were a bit juvenile and interspersed with shout outs to Craig Newmark and CEO, Jim Buckmaster. I figured we were less than a mile from Haight Ashbury…and this was a protest after all. Chants and name calling were to be expected.

However, at this point, it went completely off the rails for me.  A comedienne (who apparently wrote for Rosanne Barr) had dressed herself up as a parody of Craig.  Pillow stuffed shirt, painted on facial hair, and some sort of pretend bald cap she strutted around calling herself a pimp and mocking just about every publicly known factoid about the founder of Craigslist.  It was neither effective, nor entertaining.

7 clown 6 clown (2)

Several of the legitimate speakers were excellent, although each only spoke for a couple of minutes. (see photos and links below)  It became apparent that the large majority of protestors were there to speak to the issue of prostitution, both trafficked, and consensual.  Ahhh…no wonder I was unfamiliar with the sponsors.

8 jf b 
13 TJ

Joy Friedman (link)                         Terria Joseph

9 VM 

Victor Malarek (link) I’m going to read his books.

10 ac 11 speak

Aaron Cohen (link)               President Elect of Soroptimists (link) 

12 dir DSC_0069
director of local shelter                                             survivors

Two women were there to loudly protest the protest. They were in support of prostitution and claimed removing the Adult Services section from Craigslist would drive prostitutes to more dangerous and less beneficial avenues.

13 W CL

In addition there were three or four “filmers” who appeared to be documenting the crowd.  On the ground, up above, and maybe in the window across the street.

14 up a

The assumption was they were there on behalf of Craigslist. (btw, Jim and Craig…as you review the footage, I am the one with the long dark hair, Ray-Bans, wearing a long black shirt and sweater with blue jeans.)

This woman:
15 bN
stuck her camera and microphone in my face and at others who were obviously merely spectators, while we were watching from the very back of the crowd.  She also made a point of sticking her camera into children’s strollers. (If those had been my babies in those strollers, I would have broken her camera beyond repair…just sayin’)

There was plenty of media.
16 cams

17 other media

Halfway through the list of speakers, the loudspeaker went dead.  Those who could speak without amplification, made a valid attempt.  However, they were difficult to hear over the protestors and the street traffic. 


Attention started to splinter into side conversations, and the protest lost its momentum. A representative from Congresswoman Speier was to read a message, but chose not to at that point.

As the crowd began to thin, a male prostitution rights advocate (who is apparently well known to the organizers) was engaging a couple of the speakers in some rather heated debate. 


As the event was winding down he had an altercation with a woman he was arguing with.  Maybe she had a camera.  Maybe he smacked her had away. Maybe she was scratched by him.  Either way the police got involved and a dozen people were filling out police reports several doors down from Craigslist Headquarters.  Words were used like “assault” and “injury” and “traumatized”.  It was overplayed drama, for very little reason.

I took this opportunity to introduce myself to the woman who was one of the main organizers, asking her name and which group she affiliated with.  Incredibly defensive she gave me no straight answers.  She asked me to repeat my name…three times over ten minutes.  Kept asking me to spell it. (did she forget…or was she testing me?) She gave me someone else’s business card.

I understand that she thought I could have been with the opposition.  However, I made it pretty clear I’d just come to see what it was all about.  You’d think that I’m exactly the type of person she would want to join her cause. I have time, resources, and am already wanting Craigslist to change.  Instead she was accusatory and rude. 

Aside from the event organizers, the speakers, and the mass of media, there was no real turnout. Certainly not attended by all 75 sponsors.  It came across as merely a photo op for a couple of the speakers.  While it seemed to have been well planned, the execution was poor.  Not a lot of local pre-publicity.  (I looked for it over several days.) I’m guessing most of the post event coverage will be overshadowed by today’s Mehserle verdict.  I think the use of the comedienne was ill advised.  It made the protest silly and insulting. While most of the information delivered was factual, many statements made by the organizers were complete hyperbole. Several of the facts were slanted so extreme they were ridiculous.

Still…Craigslist needs to figure out a way to eliminate the advertisements which sell children, women and men, against their will. It could probably be achieved by a gifted code warrior or two. And they will need to be ever vigilant, because the sellers will keep finding a way around any barrier.

No matter your stand on the legality of prostitution, Craigslist is being used by criminals. Craigslist is profiting from the fees the criminals are charged, and that looks bad.  I’m aware of the changes Craigslist has made and steps they’ve taken.  But they’ve got to do more.

If it were “katherineslist”…there is no way I would allow it to be used by, or associated with, criminals who advertise to forcibly sell anyone for sexual exploitation.  It appears Craig doesn’t mind.

A few other places where you can read about it: (edited)










Friday, May 21, 2010

So…there was this boycott of Craigslist….

Did you participate in the boycott?
Did you even know about it?

There is a lot going on in the United States with the effort to abolish human trafficking and child prostitution right now.  One of the key issues continues to be the use of Craigslist for nefarious purposes by those who make a profit in forcing women and young children to have sex with strangers.

Last month’s article in the NY Times and subsequent report on The Today Show  sparked the boycott. An effort to convince Craigslist to tighten their scanning of adult services ads…and if they couldn’t do that….to discontinue all of the Craigslist Personal Ads. 

The move to boycott included a few high profile voices as back up,  including
Troy and Sara Groves, as well as Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.  

Personally,  I don’t think a boycott is going to make any difference whatsoever with the actual Craig (Newmark) of Craigslist, or his CEO and designated responder, Jim Buckmaster. 

Mr. Newmark (Craig) has referred all  inquires and entreaties to Mr. Buckmaster.  Mr. Buckmaster has lashed back at the boycotters, not always accurately. 

Mr. Buckmaster does have a legitimate gripe that the Connecticut Attorney General tried to use Craigslist as a target in his bid for a senate seat.  AG ​Richard Blumenthal has been anti-Craigslist for a while, with a slimy sort of campaign gibberish.  Blumenthal is the same AG who has recently been out-ed for lying about being a Vietnam Vet.  More slime.  Pretty much his credibility is zero. 

However, Mr. Buckmaster is completely off base in his efforts to deflect the real issue by implying that the Boycott Craigslist posse is a moralistic group of fanatics who are campaigning to eliminate sex out of wedlock.    He objected to what he called the “cynical misuse of a cause as important as human trafficking as a pretense for imposing one’s own flavor of religious morality” as if all the people objecting to the sale of children’s bodies were also claiming “casual sex is evil.”  Not true Mr. Buckmaster.  Perhaps you were trying to paint the boycotters with the right wing tea party brush to garner support?   Fail.

Huffington Post ran Rachel Lloyd’s open letter to Jim Buckmeister objecting to his mischaracterization.   Miz Lloyd is the founder of GEMS, an organization dedicated to helping sexually exploited girls from the age of 12 to 21 escape from the sex trade and empowering their full potential in a new life.  She had communicated with the Craigslist high command some eighteen months ago, resulting in significant changes in Craigslist service procedures.

Buckmaster came back with an open invitation to Miz Lloyd.   He detailed the changes that have been made.  He listed the attributes of the service Craigslist does indeed offer.  He asked her to come meet with him. 

I would guess Miz Lloyd will take him up on his offer.  Demi and Ashton tweeted they would meet with Mr. Buckmaster at their anti-trafficking tech conference at the end of April at Google HQ.   To date, no word on what was discussed.  But I did notice that the DNA Foundation doesn’t seem to be supporting the Boycott of Craigslist.

Now I’m rambling.
Let’s get to a few quick points on Boycotting Craigslist.

The intent of a boycott is to impact the company’s bottom line. 
A boycott is about bringing financial pressure to bear. 
(I’m unconvinced a boycott will ever pressure Craigslist financially.) 
A boycott threatens advertisers and worries investors.
( Craigslist doesn’t have any of those. They are proud of that fact.  Gleeful even.)

Every single article, interview, and industry insider comes to the conclusion that those in charge at Craigslist really aren’t in it to make astronomical fortunes.  So tell me how a boycott does any good?

It’s not like the people who are boycotting are big users of the paid personal services ads.  Most of them hadn’t even read the ads in those sections until now. If they boycott Craigslist, it won’t even be a minuscule blip on Craig and Jim’s radar.

I did a quick scan of Twitter.  Only about half a dozen tweets in the past week include the #boycottcraigslist tag.  A quick search of articles and blogs in the past week returns only a few dozen mentions of the boycott…including some opposing it.

I think the boycott idea, while well intentioned, has pretty much fizzled out.

But the fact remains an alarming number of people are being sold.
What can we do?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Heavy Lifting

In response to the NY Times article, a few webloggers and tweeters have started a small campaign to boycott Craigslist.  It is an understandable reaction to the outrage many people felt when they learned how traffickers are using Craigslist.  But I think rather than hurl insults and boycotting the site, we could start with a reasonable dialog as if we are friends.

At the bottom of this post you’ll find a link to an interview that Charlie Rose did with Craig Newmark.  Pretty much a love fest, you can tell right away that these two men have formed a mutual admiration society.

But the interview gives some very important insights into the actual Craig of Craigslist and what makes him tick.  Those of you who endeavor to convince him to make changes to the Craigslist Adult Services, might want to take notes.

The interview is a few years old, and there is chitchat about how Craigslist impacts media and fights spam.  You’ll hear plenty of insight into Craig’s passion for accountable politicians, journalistic fact checking, and public diplomacy.

Truly…It’s all good.

In fact, it is so cool, that one may almost overlook Craig’s pride in his luxury of a total lack of concern over “this profit margin thing”.

And that is where I want you all to pay attention. 
Craig doesn’t pay attention to how much money the company is making.

He is proud…if not gleeful to remind us that Craigslist does not owe anything or answer to investors or venture capitalists or advertisers.

In Craig’s own words:
”We get to dictate what we do based on our own values”

Which begs the question,
“Craig, what are your core values?”

And this is what he says:
“Treating people like we want to be treated.  That is our core value set. 
We listen, we get suggestions from people.  We try to act on them. 
And then we listen some more.”

At the end of the interview, Charlie Rose asks,
“What’s the most important way that you believe you’re making a difference?”

To which Craig responds:
“Hard to say. Maybe the company is in some sense just a good example of giving people a break. And again, treating people the way you want to be treated.”

So here I am, again.  Asking you Craig.
How does the role Craigslist plays to help and enable the trafficking of women and children sit with you?   How does it mesh with your core values?  

Can you just allow something that bears your name to be cited as “the biggest online hub for selling women against their will” ? 

And Craig, even If you are as you claim, not smart enough or energetic enough,  you still recognize that tendency you have to save the world.  Maybe we could channel that effort toward eradicating human trafficking on Craigslist? 

You say you want to help the people who are doing the heavy lifting.

Fighting the sale of children for sexual exploitation is about as heavy as it gets.

We need your help with the lifting on this one.

Charlie Rose: A conversation with Craigslist.com founder, Craig Newmark
19 July 2007

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

picking up the shovel

This is a brand new weblog.  The sidebars are blank for the moment.  I don't have a color scheme or interesting photographs, yet. In the past couple days, my thoughts have been pinball-ing around in my brain and I wanted to get them into words while they are still relevant. I'll fix up the place later.

There was a piece in the New York Times this week which caused a lot of outrage in my sphere.The article (
which you can read here) made a big deal out of the amount of money Craigslist makes from their "sex ads".  There were profit projections with estimates of millions of dollars being pocketed by Craigslist as a direct result of their sex ads. It linked Craigslist advertising to 14 members of the Gambino family mafia who were arrested by the FBI, for selling young girls (15 to 19 years old) for prostituted sex.

I'm not jumping on the band wagon to vilify Craig or Craigslist.
I use Craigslist.  My kids use Craigslist.
I think Craigslist is wonderful.
I saw the interview a couple years ago with Charlie Rose...
I’m guessing Mr. Newmark is probably one of the good guys.

By far, the vast majority of the NY Times article was not about the atrocity of forcing young girls to have sex with strangers.  This article was mostly about how much money the company makes...and a whole lot of speculating on how much of that comes from their "sex ads." There was plenty of complaining by the author and those quoted because they are not privy to the private financial statements of a private company and private people.  Not a whole lot of complaining about those who profit by forcing young girls to have sex.

Where was the outrage over those who place the ads?
Where was the outrage over men who answer those ads?  
Not so much in this article by Brad Stone.

There was a time when Craigslist offered to donate all or part of the profit generated from sex ads to charity. Last year Craigslist stated it would no longer commit to donating these profits to charity.  For this the AG in Connecticut claims Craigslist is irresponsible. Craigslist didn't say they were no longer donating.  Neither did they say they were keeping all the profits to themselves. They don't have to say. They are not a public company.  Nothing from Connecticut on the men who take sexual advantage of children.

I stand firm that Craig Newmark, his employees, and his company should keep or spend every cent they make as they see fit.  I certainly don't want to be told how to spend my money...do you?  Truthfully, I am getting a little tired of the trend where one of the smart-kids comes up with a great idea which makes a ton of money and then the not-so-smart-kids think they have a say on how that money should be spent ....but that's a different post.

I was not surprised by the responses posted by Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, yesterday and today. He's one of the smart-kids.  It is part of his job to defend the legality of Craigslist.  It is part of his job to object to Craigslist being singled out. Take the time to read Misdirected Outrage and Sad State of Affairs at the New York Times. These and others can be found on the CEO’s Craigslist Blog.

Ya know….Craigslist is not breaking the law.

The people pimping these girls are breaking the law.
The people answering these ads are breaking the law.

On the other hand, Mr. Newmark and Mr. Buckmaster...I'm one of the smart-kids too.  I've been on Craigslist.  And while you may have discontinued the "Erotic Services" category, plenty of ads for paid sex can be found. Even the not-so-smart-kids know that "100 Roses" and "100 Kisses" means a cash payment for sex in the "Misc Romance" or "Casual Encounters" or "[whomever] seeking [whatever] sections of the Craigslist Personals. And…if each of the ads are "manually screened by one or more human reviewers" as Mr. Buckmaster claims, then perhaps Craigslist needs to fire those screeners and hire people who are a bit more clued in.

Me personally...I am not so adamant against adult prostitution where the seller has made their own decision and profits fairly from it.  I don't like it.  I am sorry their circumstances have come to that.  But overall, adult consensual prostitution is not a hot button for me. And I totally agree that there are many other places where illegal classified ads for sex are placed.  Maybe there is a website or publication which has even more of these ads than Craigslist. 

But right now, I'm asking you Mr. Newmark.  ‘Cause I use Craigslist and I want to continue to like Craigslist.  I'm led to believe that one of your core values is to be community minded with a heavy emphasis on customer service.

Does not your outrage burn when there is force and coercion of children to perform sexual acts?  When young children whose circumstances result in adults selling the child's body to be used, often violently, for sex, several times every day, to different men. Most times these children are beaten and drugged into submission. They are not choosing to have their bodies violated by men with money. These children are not profiting or saving up for a better life.  Their young bodies are being brutalized by strangers in the most physically painful and mentally damaging way...so that someone else can make a bunch of money.

And Mr. Newmark, it appears that your incredibly successful website is inadvertently helping that to happen.  I'd be willing to bet you aren't so proud of the role your website plays in the trafficking of children and women.  The coverage and attention to Craigslist and its contribution to the situation have got to be disturbing, to say the least.

Mr. Buckmaster is quoted as saying, "Misuse of Craigslist for criminal purposes is utterly unacceptable, and Craigslist will continue to work with its partners in law enforcement and at nongovernmental organizations until it is eliminated.”  

That sounds great...and well crafted by well paid lawyers. 
But I am not clear on exactly what that means you are doing.

So, I am asking…as a loyal customer...what are you willing to do to significantly lessen the role your website and your company play in the sale of children for sexual exploitation