Monday, February 27, 2017


After weeks of being strung along by Feinstein's office regarding the potential of her or her aide holding town halls, we're no closer to one happening now than back in January.

That is why Ben and I are shifting tactics and location for pressuring her local staffers to get with the direct democracy program. This note was emailed this afternoon to these addresses:

Dianne_Feinstein@feinstein.senate.gov; Sean_Elsbernd@feinstein.senate.gov;
Ashley_Schapitl@feinstein.senate.gov;
Caitlin_Meyer@feinstein.senate.gov;
Peter_Muller@feinstein.senate.gov;
Tom_Paulino@feinstein.senate.gov

FYI, her state director served on the Board of Supervisors before continuing his public service career with the senator. When and if we hear back from him, we'll share the info. Here's our letter:

State Director
Sen. Feinstein's Office
San Francisco, CA

Dear Sean Elsbernd,

Over the past six weeks, we have attempted two-way communication with you regarding our demands that Sen. Feinstein hold town halls, and since she's unwilling to do so, for you to organize weekly open meeting for we, the constituents.

Unfortunately, our emails, vmails and snail-mailed messages have not prompted you to engage in conversation with us.

We are tired of waiting more than 26-years for Feinstein to engage in direct democracy via town halls and it's unacceptable that you have not seen fit to rectify the lack of town halls.

Our disappointment on Friday, when Feinstein at her PPIC conversation hinted she might hold such an event during the next recess but gave no date or location for it, was kicking the proverbial democratic can down the road. This is unacceptable to us.

These are some of the reasons we will stage a town hall at your home at 75 Molimo Street this Sunday, March 5th.

We are quite willing to cancel the speak out at your residence this weekend, should you put in writing that you are committed to organizing weekly town halls and announce a date, time and place in San Francisco for the first listening session with constituents.

Our deadline for receiving such written commitments is the close of business on Tuesday, February 28.

We request that you acknowledge receipt of this letter by the close of business today, Monday, February 27.

Your prompt attention and response are appreciated and anticipated, in the spirit of direct democracy between the Senator and we, her constituents.

Best regards,
Ben Becker and Michael Petrelis
Co-Organizers
The People's Town Hall Project

Monday, February 20, 2017


DCCC & Feinstein/Pelosi Proxies Not for Me!

The local Democratic County Central Committee meets this Wednesday, Feb 22, starting at 6:30 pm at the African American Cultural Complex, 762 Fulton Street, and the proxies of Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Nancy Pelosi will be attendance.

So will the proxies of Rep. Speier, CA Sen. Wiener and Assembs. Ting and Chiu. Six federal and state electeds.

And seven members of the Board of Supervisors who are also members of the DCCC are showing up: Breed, Cohen, Farrell, Fewer, Kim, Peskin and Yee.

A total of thirteen electeds and not one of them deigns to hold regular town halls, nor directs their handsomely paid, with our tax dollars, aides to conduct weekly public forums.

There's a few Trump Administration and local crises all around and the message of it's not business as usual in terms of citizen engagement, is lost on the Democrats.

Wednesday's DCCC meeting is the only opportunity to address the Feinstein and Pelosi proxies, but you'll only one short minute, yeah, sixty-seconds, of mike time. Not for me, but I'll you'll attend and use the public comment time.

I'll be outside with my bullhorn to greet the proxies and all the electeds, and shaming them for not already holding Question Time on a consistent basis.

Direct democratic engagement with our public servants, from the elected boss to the many aides, is quite controlled by the party and various Democratic clubs. Been through their bullshit. Over it.

My intent on Feb 22 is to disrupt the political struts of the electeds as they enter the African American complex. Then leave without going in.

Let's not mistake San Francisco City Hall leaders and Democratic operatives' call for unity against Trump divert our eyes from the lack of town halls with *any* elected in this town.

Leave a comment if you're planning to be at the DCCC meeting.



75 at 2-Hour March on Feinstein & Pelosi Homes: Town Halls Now!

Despite fearful predictions of stormy and wet weather that didn't prove true, approximately seventy-five direct democracy community activists came together outside of Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Pelosi’s manors in San Francisco's wealthy Pacific Heights district, organized by the People's Town Hall Project.

The primary message for them and their dozens of publicly-funded aides was we demand public engagement they should already be doing: hold formal and consistent town halls.

We gathered first at the public garden in front of Feinstein's mansion, our third time, where a one-hour town hall was held.

A diverse roster of speakers addressed concerns including blocking all Trump nominees especially to the Supreme Court, voter suppression, getting friends out on the streets, supporting the water protectors at the Standing Rock, and resisting Democratic Party lethargy.

The most popular chant of the day was "Money Out, Votes Count!" and a few pushed Rep. Keith Ellison as head of the Democratic National Committee. 

Afterward, we marched along Broadway to Pelosi's manor where we were greeted by two members the Capital Police of Washington, DC, on duty to protect the Minority Leader of the House, who were stationed on the street in a four-door, tinted-glass Suburban SUV. Also present were seven members of the local police force.

At Pelosi's house, we again assembled on the sidewalk and claimed public space with an enormous rainbow flag, displaying our signs and hold another open mike session.

Calls were made for the congresswoman to fully back the legislative and social organizing agendas of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Activists addressed her tightly scripted Feb 18 Saturday morning chat before a friendly audience packed with local Democrats, where she selected fans to make statements.

Pelosi was roundly booed for this charade of public engagement that in no way qualifies as a genuine town hall.

A super yuge thanks to all our friends and cohorts for braving the threatening skies to keep the pressure on our federal public servants to better represent San Francisco progressive values. This is what direct democracy looks like, as shown in our photos and videos.

More info on the People's Town Hall Project: https://www.facebook.com/PeoplesTownHall/

View the two videos from today here: https://www.facebook.com/benjamintbecker/videos/10101210757988575/

and here:
https://www.facebook.com/benjamintbecker/videos/10101210781536385/ 

Signed,
Ben Becker, Brandon Harami, Agatha Varshenka
Co-Organizers
The People's Town Hall Project




Sunday, February 19, 2017

NARA's 18-Page FBI File on 'Russia Today' Declassified

The FOIA I filed with the FBI in January requested all records pertaining to the Kremlin's propaganda arm Russia Today, was for any materials from January 2000 through the present.

The FBI said it couldn't confirm or deny existence of any responsive records and if they existed, they'd be at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Last week, NARA emailed me an 18-page file containing files from the 1940s through 1960s. Noting after that.

Are there really no pertinent Russia Today files in the FBI vault?

Here are the page of the old records and the NARA letter: "I am writing in response to your Freedom of Information Act request for records in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration. Your request was received in this office on February 6, 2017 and assigned FOIA case number 52164.

"You request access to FBI case file 100-HQ-330063, subsequently identified as responsive to your request for records concerning Russia Today. "I have completed a line-by-line review of FBI case file 100-HQ-330063 and released the information in full. As the file contained a small number of pages, I have attached a complimentary copy to this correspondence.

"You may contact me at (301) 837-0774 or noah.shankin@nara.gov if you have any further questions regarding FOIA case number 52164.

"This concludes the processing of your request."

Friday, February 17, 2017


March on Feinstein & Pelosi Mansions: 2/19 at 3 pm
A diverse coalition of individuals from the People's Town Hall Project, in connection with the Not My President Weekend, will hold a protest that targets San Francisco's Members of Congress during their February recess:

WHAT: March on Homes of Sen. Feinstein & Rep. Pelosi
WHEN: Sunday, February 19
TIME: Starting at 3:00 pm & ending at 6:00 pm
WHERE: Feinstein's mansion
LOCATION: 2470 Lyon Street, at the corner of Vallejo Street.
SCENARIO: At 3:00 PM we'll assemble at the bottom of the steps at the intersection of Lyon and Vallejo Streets.
A 30-minute town hall will take place and at 3:45 pm we walk up the steps to Broadway and Lyon Streets.
At 4 pm, the march kicks off and will proceed down Broadway to Pelosi's mansion at 2640 Broadway, arriving by 4:45 pm.
From 5 pm to 6 pm, there will be an open megaphone event. A two-minute time limit per speaker will be our guiding rule.
ACCESSIBILITY: The assembly point and the area in front of Feinstein's residence are not accessible. However, the starting point for the march is, as is Pelosi's home.
BACKGROUND: As far as we can determine, Feinstein has never held a town hall event as senator. Pelosi's last town hall in her San Francisco district was held in January of 2006 -- over 11 years ago. Both have failed to direct their aides to hold weekly open forums for public engagement. Our efforts at communication with their aides to schedule town halls have been rebuffed.
ACTIVIST QUOTES: "Feinstein and Pelosi's pro-Trump voting records and refusal to meet face-to-face with constituents force us to bring our town halls to their Pacific Heights mansions," said march co-organizers Claire Lau, an Asian-American immigrant, and Agatha Varshenka, a transgender Muslim musician.
"The U.S. Congress has a 'State Work Period' (https://www.senate.gov/legislative/2017_schedule.htm), recess during the week of February 20th to return to their districts to hear from their constituents. This will not be a vacation-from-Washington time for Feinstein and Pelosi at their residences," promise Lau and Varshenka.
For more info on our group and actions, visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PeoplesTownHall/

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


National Park Service: No Trump Emails for Inauguration Pics

My FOIA request earlier this month for any and all emails from the EOP.gov domain, belonging to the Executive Office of the President, to the National Park Service from January 20, 2017, to the present.

I was thinking that even though Donald Trump telephoned the NPS for photographic proof of enormous crowds at his inauguration, he or others at the White House must have emailed the NPS about the matter.

Heck, I would think since the inauguration that the folks with EOP.gov email addresses would have been in touch with the park's folks about something.

The response from the NPS yesterday states:

"A search of the emails for the staff in the National Park Service Director's office returned no responsive records. Should you consider this NO RECORDS response to be a denial of your request, you have the right to appeal."

I wouldn't be surprised if the folks running the White House are not using an official addy when communicating with the NPS or other federal agencies. Better that way to avoid scrutiny via FOIA requests.

That, or maybe the officials just haven't figured out how to set up email accounts and use them, as required by federal laws, to communicate.

Sunday, February 12, 2017



Pelosi's Home is Site of Robust People's Town Hall

On a brisk and sunny San Francisco Saturday, February 11th, about 75 activists gathered outside of Rep. Nancy Pelosi's mansion in San Francisco for a lively 90-minute direct democracy action.

Speakers included ordinary citizens new to street activism and seasoned political organizers. Many folks were from the San Francisco Berniecrats, the No Dakota Access Pipeline network and the People's Town Hall Project.

"Pelosi hasn't held a town hall since 2006 so we took it upon ourselves to show her how to conduct a forum in her district. If she can stage a scripted town hall on CNN in Washington, she must also hold weekly listening sessions with we, the people and her constituents," said Brandon Harami, one of the organizers of today's action.

"When Pelosi finally hosts a town hall in San Francisco, I will be there to say she doesn't represent her constituents when she accepts money from Wall Street financiers," said Claire Lau, another of the organizers.

This is the third such town hall organized by the People's Town Hall Project, and the first at Pelosi's home.

Join us on "Not My President's Day," February 20th at 3:00 pm, as we revisit both Feinstein's and Pelosi's mansions in Pacific Heights and demand they hold formal town halls.

Please watch the video of the Pelosi home visit here: https://www.facebook.com/seejake/videos/10158434301175647/

More info: https://www.facebook.com/PeoplesTownHall/

Friday, February 10, 2017

National & Global Attn: Trump Pinata & 9th Circuit's Decision

Resisting Fake President 45 takes many forms and I wish to encourage experienced hands and emerging direct democracy to be creative.

Join a group with a committee structure, attend a large rally, write emails and letters, and also consider putting yourself in front of cameras and reporters.

I'm experiencing tremendous satisfaction knowing images of my #TrumpNever pinata, with the text TRUMP and KKK easy to read on it, outside where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals conducts judicial matters, are getting before the eyeballs of the Trump White House.

You too can also generate this sort of mainstream press and social media attention. Act up and resist Trump, please.



The Associated Press


The Atlanta Journal & Constition


Bloomberg News


French site of Getty Images


Honduras' El Heraldo



Jordan's Al Bawaba



Lebanon's Ya Libnan



The Los Angeles Times



The New York Times


The San Francisco Examiner



Malaysia's The Sun Daily

Thursday, February 09, 2017

KPIX: #TrumpNever Pinata & 9th Circuit Decision

If nothing else, my hope is that the images of my pinata and the words TRUMP and KKK and SEXIST are irritating the White House, especially adviser Steve Bannon.

One lesson I'd like to share with emerging activists eager to resist Trump and creatively attract mainstream and social media, is this.

A single individual with a good prop, easy to read text, a fun attitude and punchy comments to make about Fake President 45, can feed two birds with one seed.

Got to where you know the cameras will be looking for great visuals, give them want they crave, even if you're the only citizen acting up.

Here is the excerpt of yours truly using the pinata to send a visual message and I also demand Bannon and his puppet respect the rule of law and respect judges. Pointed out that Trump's sister is a sitting jurist.

This story reported by Melissa Caen aired on KPIX in San Francisco on Feb 9, 2017:



NY Times: #TrumpNever Pinata & 9th Circuit's Ruling

Muchas gracias to the Mexican immigrant taxi driver who got me to the federal courthouse today, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, at 7th and Mission Streets in San Francisco. He heartily approved of my plan to denounce Donald Trump's policies to any cameras and reporters.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this rainy afternoon issued a ruling against the Trump travel ban and as I took a paper version of the decision from a clerk of the court, the federal marshals guarding the building said I couldn't stand on their steps with my pinata.

As I argued with the marshals, photographers and camera from various news agencies - the New York Times, the SF Examiner, Getty Photos, the Associated Press, Al_Jazeera, CNN, KPIX, Chinese TV, et al - recorded the scene.

The Times' opening page's main story this afternoon was by their Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak and a photo of yours truly with the #TrumpNever pinata was featured. Gratitude goes out to photographer Jim Wilson for the fab foto!

Gotta say, nice to be identified and described as the activist Petrelis.

My #TrumpNever pinata was ruined in the rain and hope to raise funds to purchase another very quickly.

Donations of any amount for the new pinata, actually, two or three would make for better visuals at the People's Town Hall Project events, can be made via PayPal using my addy: MPetrelis@aol.com.

And be sure to follow and like my new community activist campaign: the People's Town Hall Project. It's all about getting out on the streets, where the powerful live and/or work, practicing civic engagement via town halls.

Join us: https://www.facebook.com/PeoplesTownHall/.