Friday, March 17, 2017

The Indivisible SF chapter is part of the political problem. It's not been fully transparent from its inception and recent steps by leaders of the group need to be question.

First, after weeks of a few folks pushing for ISF to tape or stream their meetings and getting rebuffed, told that the privacy needs of a few outweigh the transparency practices of effective direct democracy, so no videotaping allowed.

Notes from a recent weekend session, and let's remember the advocating behind getting simply minutes, report that a crew from Japanese TV was allowed to tape and folks who had privacy concerns (is there something wrong with being at an ISF meeting?).

Local democracy activists who simply don't have the time to attend ISF meetings but want to know what transpires and request taping are told no, but foreign television reporters' requests equal a yes.

Second, ISF continues to never identify who the heck the aides are that they are regularly meeting with from the Feinstein, Pelosi and Harris offices. It's a serious problem when activists don't identify the public servants who give them meeting-time.

ISF shares fotos from the meetings, everybody all smiles and no one from the group or the electeds' office is named in the caption. What's wrong with including the names, known facts, of at least the public servants?

Btw, ISF says they now have weekly meetings with Feinstein and Harris aides. Fine enough, but as we enter the third month of pressuring these officials to be accessible to all not just a handful of ISF members, I don't see any movement from the electeds committing to town halls.

Why should they agree to open forums when they have ISF showing up every week and doing a lot of PR for the electeds?

Third, after weeks of asking ISF if they are demanding, or even politely asking for, their meetings with the aides to be streamed or taped, I've still received an answer. Actually, the answer is in the failure to be accountable to the larger citizenry on ISF's part.

Are they too giddy having regular access to the aides and they don't want to jeopardize having their regular sit-downs and foto-ops.

Since the launch of the Indivisible project, started and controlled mostly by former and current aides to Members of Congress, there's been much laudable engagement by a lot of folks. Many quite new to serious political organizing and maybe deeply unaware of the frustrations long-time activists have with the officials whose aides they meet with.

Fourth, ISF announced yesterday that an unnamed aide to Harris agreed to attend one of their Sunday meetings. Great, while Harris aides fail to hold a single town hall of their own, they'll be making an appearance at one of the ISF sessions.

Is there any quid pro quo involved with the Harris aides or not?

I believe naivete on the part of ISF folks leads the Feinstein, Harris and Pelosi aides to string them along about potential and genuine town halls for all, and co-opt their anger. Access diminishes anger and demands, in my view.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Office of Govt Ethics: About's Emails . . .

My recent FOIA request for copies of all emails the senior managers at the Office of Government Ethics received or sent from anyone using the domain since Team Trump was installed in the Executive Office of the President on January 20th generated a response yesterday.

They are "taking a 10 working day extension of time to respond . . . in order to consult with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request. Accordingly, you may expect our reply by March 22, 2017."

Since the OGE FOIA officer was vague about if there are actual responsive public records and was coy about the identification of that other agency, I replied asking her to be more definitive.

They emailed this answer today: "Good morning, OGE anticipates consulting with EOP component agencies on responsive emails originating from those agencies. Thank you."

Sounds to me like pertinent records were located and need vetting by the Executive Office of the President, actually, a few components with that office must be consulted.

We'll see what the next response from OGE says after they've heard from the EOP leaders.

I must point out the OGE, like the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, were able to search for email exchanges with the domain but the FBI, with it's vast cyber-technology capabilities claims they can't perform a similar search of their senior managers' emails. That needs to be addressed by the like of the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation and their ilk with more resources than I possess.

Stay tuned and do American democracy a yuge favor - file a FOIA today!

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Laura Nyro and Billy Childs fans, rejoice and applaud. The combination of her songs and his musicianship delivered a truly magnificent concert presented by SF Performances on March 4 at the Herbst Theater.

Titled "Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro," the concert featured singers Becca Stevens and Alicia Olatuja, the Quartet SF and Childs's band.

They had me at their opening number, "New York Tendaberry." Among the other Nyro songs on the program were "Gibson Street," "I Confess," "Map to the Treasure," "Been on a Train," "Save the Country," "And When I Die" and the show concluded with "Stone Soul Picnic."

Childs told us Nyro was a major influence on his life, growing up in Los Angeles. His love of her and the music she left us was abundantly clear in his reinterpretations of her work. Sure wish there were a second concert with him performing more of her music.

He and the other musicians on stage turned each song into short story, complete in its own vibrant and colorful world.

Mike and I felt the exhilaration of being alive in the company of fabulous folks on both sides of the limelight and hearing "Save the Country" bringing us to our feet in cheering adulation for the hope and love the song shares with listeners.

All in all, a wonderful cultural evening we'll long remember and play over in our heads.

We lack video from Saturday's concert but we want to share some of Laura Nyro with you, since we're embedding the clip of Bette Midler inducting her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nyro's son accepts the induction for his late mother and snippets of her performing her work are included.


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Veep Pence Must Reply to My Indiana Emails Complaint

In early February, I filed a public records request with the state of Indiana for copies of all emails sent or received by former First Lady Karen Pence, her husband Mike's most-trusted adviser.

The current governor's office claimed I didn't adequately define the records sought and refused to begin a search, so I filed a complaint with the Indiana Public Access Counselor. Any and all emails, regardless of topic, is clearly identifying known records.

Today, the PAC informed me of the following:

"The Public Access Counselor is required to issue an advisory opinion within thirty (30) business days of receipt of the complaint . . . As such, the response of the Honorable Mike Pence; Former Governor of Indiana . . . must be received by this office no later than March 17, 2017."

Stay tuned for his response and advisory opinion from the counselor.

I must praise the state of Indiana for creating this public access officer and giving the public an advocate to turn to when government officials withhold public records or otherwise violate transparency laws.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

FBI v Privacy Board: Searches for Any Emails?

Despite millions of taxpayer dollars for the most advance computers and programs anywhere on the planet, the Federal Bureau of Investigation can't search for Executive Office of the President emails from the White House domain.

Excerpted from the FBI's February 16 response:

"This is in response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding copies of all email from domain to Senior FBI managers.

"The FOIA provides for access to Government records where the records sought are 'reasonably described' . . . Your letter does not contain enough descriptive information to permit a search of our records . . . please provide us more specific information."

I'm able to search my emails using only a domain, so why can't the FBI with all it's cyber-capabilities and large staff look for emails to or from the since January 20?

The same FOIA request for all emails since Trump was inaugurated as president was submitted to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a body with important oversight of American intelligence departments and a much smaller budget for simple computer functions like searches. A February 27 letter said:

"Please be advised that a search was conducted and there are no records responsive to your request."

It says a lot about what is wrong with the FBI and how it (doesn't) conduct searches of its own senior managers' emails, but an obscure and woefully underfunded agency can carry out a search with the same terms.

A trusted FBI watcher source told me it would take litigation to force the agency to search for emails from the POTUS staff at the Trump White House, a possibility beyond my reach.

Btw, here are more details about the PCLOB from Jenna McLaughlin over at The Intercept site, published on March 3:

"There's a little-known federal agency whose job is to ensure U.S. spy agencies protect privacy and other civil liberties even as they work to defeat terrorists and criminals, and to blow the whistle when that doesn’t happen. But the agency, known as the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, is down to just a single voting member — which means it has been stripped of nearly all its powers, according to emails obtained by The Intercept.

"The board was created by Congress in 2004, at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, to help the executive branch balance national security priorities with individual rights. After Bush administration officials heavily edited PCLOB’s first report, one member resigned, and Congress in 2007 turned it into an independent agency and expanded its writ to include oversight of congressional action.

"Still, the board remained obscure; some members of Congress seemed unaware of its existence even as documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden produced more privacy scandals."

The folks at SF Performances present jazz musician Billy Childs' tribute to the incredible talent of Laura Nyro tomorrow, Saturday, March 4th at the Herbst Theatre. There's an earlier than usual curtain time of 7:30 pm and I won't be late.
Curious and anxious with expectations of greatness to hear Nyro's songs interpreted and reimagined, performed live with an appreciative audience.
The soundtrack of my teenage years in New Jersey was heavy on her albums. As I got older, I listened to "New York Tendaberry" and "Eli and the 13th Confession" on CDs, and nowadays on YouTube.
I've focused on vids of her live shows this week and she when she hits certain notes, my skin gets goosebumps of glee.
An excerpt from SF Performance's promotion materials:
"Jazz pianist and Guggenheim Fellow Billy Childs was 11 years old when his older sister introduced him to the work of singer-songwriter Laura Nyro (1947–1997), and her blend of Broadway-inspired melodies, jazz improvisation and socially conscious lyrics has stayed with him throughout his acclaimed career.
"Childs recreates his 2015 Grammy-winning tribute, Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro, with new generation artists rediscovering Nyro’s songs made famous by Barbra Streisand, The 5th Dimension, Patti LaBelle, and Blood, Sweat & Tears."

Friday, March 03, 2017

What's in Karen Pence's Emails as Indiana's First Lady?
Last month, after reading how Karen Pence has long served as her husband Vice President Mike Pence's closest and most trusted adviser, I filed a public records request with the current Indiana governor's office for all of her emails.
She served as the Hoosier State's First Lady from January 2013 up to January 2017 and used government infrastructure, electronic communication, during this time creating public records.
The governor's public info officer claims I need to narrow my request and they allege "merely requests" that I amend my request, yet rejected my argument that there's no legal basis to not start a search for specified records. They've also not provided me a figure for how many emails were retained by Karen Pence. Crucial and necessary info, IMHO.
Today I filed a new request. Just for two months of her emails. Restricting the time period should be less of a burden for the state. I'll let you know how Indiana respond when I hear from them. The written exchange thus far:
Sent: Tue, Feb 14, 2017 3:49 pm
Dear Mr. Petrelis:

This correspondence is in regard to your request for the following:

1. All emails sent or received, on any topic, by First Lady Karen Pence from January 1, 2013 through January 20, 2017.

Upon further review, the Governor’s Office has identified certain legal deficiencies in your request.  As required by APRA, a request for public records must be made with reasonable particularity.[1]  Though “reasonable particularity” is not defined under APRA, Indiana’s Public Access Counselor (“PAC”) has advised that a reasonably particular request will include the sender, recipient, date range of no more than six months, and key search terms.[2]  To be clear, the Governor’s Office is not denying your request; to the contrary, this office merely requests that it be amended to satisfy basic legal requirements.

Upon receipt of your amended request, the Governor’s Office will commence identifying and gathering all responsive records, and subsequently produce to you such records that are not confidential, deliberative or otherwise subject to withholding under Indiana law. [snip] We appreciate your patience as we work to complete your request.

Cynthia V. Carrasco
Deputy General Counsel
Office of Indiana Governor Holcomb


Sent: Fri, Feb 17, 2017 2:39 pm
Hi Cynthia,

I contend that my request is very specific and particular, clearly identifying known public records for a defined period.

As you may know, in the matter of Secretary Hillary Clinton's emails from the State Department, FOIA requests were made for any and all of her emails and eventually released to the public.

While the federal FOIA has no application in Indiana, I would hope the precedent with Clinton's emails would serve as guiding best practice for your agency.

Further, you state reasonable particularity is not define in state law and the PAC has issued only guidance, which is not legally binding.

I am requesting that you at least determine the number of emails in question pertaining to Mrs Karen Pence. Let's learn what that number is, please.

Also, if need be, I can submit the same request but in six-month chunks of time if that will produce a search and eventually responsive records released to me.

Your thoughts?



Sent: Wed, Feb 22, 2017 3:02 pm
Mr. Petrelis,

I am in receipt of your emails dated 2/17 and 2/21.  As indicated in my previous communication to you, we are not denying your request, but Indiana law requires that requests for public records be made with reasonable particularity as explained previously.  We look forward to receiving your amended request that complies with state law at which time we will proceed to process it.

Thank you,
Cynthia V. Carrasco


Sent: Fri, Mar 3, 2017 2:39 pm

Dear Cynthia Carrasco

This is a public records request for copies of all emails sent or received by Karen Pence from January 1 through February 28, 2013, along with a request for the number of all sent emails and numbers received for this time.

My hope is that this short period will allow you to began a search for relevant records.

I wish to receive all responsive public records in digital format via email, if possible.

Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Please confirm receipt of this request by the close of business today. Thanks.

Michael Petrelis