Monday, March 28, 2011

more on SGLI v Pru

Lucey v Prudential made it to the next round as the court took a step in the right direction and recognized it as a valid class action.  In the logic of business, Prudential probably believes it makes more sense to to fight than to admit to rapacity, but in all other universes, they're on ground about as solid as that of Japan's nuclear plants.  I assume the Lucey et al lawyers are hoping for negotiations and maybe they're already underway.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Talk about burying the lead!

     It took nearly 17 months and a 7-page letter for the Dept. of Homeland Security to determine that I really am a journalist and am entitled to a fee waver on my FOIA requests.  (Actually, the Coast Guard, who seems to be pinch hitting for DHS, issued the decision.)  The determination came halfway down the third page of the letter, embedded in stultifying prose.  Most of the rest of it was quoting long passages of my appeal letter back to me.  Not that DHS ever sent me anything of use, but all FOIA roads seem to lead there (requests to other agencies were forwarded or documents were vetted) so I thought I'd better establish my bona fides.   Then, in the same day's mail, I received official notification that my appeal to the Marines would be taken in the order in which it was received.  (I'd like a dozen bagels and a danish?)  And, by the way, they had no idea when that would be. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

shoutout for a century of women (only a century?)

Marion McDonald (whom I don't know) replied to all us recipients of Margaret Randall's annual Women's Day greeting by noting that today, March 8, 2011, is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. 

She writes: "The day was agreed to at the first-ever international women's conference in Copenhagen in 1910 at a meeting in which Clara Zetkin, among others, provided leadership.  The first commemoration was the following March, on March 19, 1911--just days before the Triangle Shirtwaist fire on March 25, 2011, in which over 140 women died from smoke inhalation, fire, or falling to their deaths as they tried to escape the horror. The bosses had locked the doors of the factory, knowing that the women were organizing to improve their conditions. The shirtwaist workers' deaths galvanized support for women workers in New York City and the world."

So a happy day, women the world 'round.  Not sure how one celebrates, but I do wonder: Does having a women's day imply that every other day of the year is a men's day?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

FOIA redux

So I requested info from the Marines through FOIA -- this was last October -- and a couple of months later, got a CD of personnel files about 2 ex-Marines with anything that might be mildly interesting blacked out.  I've been told by a high-ranking officer that you're never an ex-Marine and I don't think I should have unfettered access to someone else's personnel file, but the accompanying letter went on to explain that I was being denied any information about a 2007 separation hearing for Adam Kokesh, one of the veterans I'm writing about, because even to acknowledge that such records exist would "constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of that member's personal privacy."  Also, he wasn't important enough to be "of sufficient public interest to outweigh" his privacy interest.

Okay.  How about that Adam waived his privacy rights at the hearing precisely so it could be covered by the press?  Or that my cursory Lexis Nexis search came up with at least 100 stories about the hearing and events leading up to it?  Or that the hearing had to do with downgrading his discharge status because he was participating in antiwar activities, purportedly while wearing his uniform, after he had completed the active-duty portion of his contract and was on the inactive roster?  Or that the national commander of the WFW (with 2.4 million members) made a public statement in support of Adam’s First Amendment rights?

All together now: Can we say, "embarrassing"?

So, just within the 60-day window to appeal that decision, I did.  Adam, adamant that he wanted this info made public, wrote a letter of consent to release the documents to me; his lawyer suggested a list of specific records I should request; and in my neat little bundle, I included a page of 20-odd headlines about the case.  The Marines (who come under the Navy Dept. in the bureaucracy) are supposed to reply within 20 days, though all they have to do by then is say they're on the case.  After that, who knows?  But I too am adamant that, not only the information, but the process of obtaining it, should be made public, so I'll keep posting.