Monthly Archives: August 2016

New and pending laws protect rights of students who write

NOTE: This post is for anyone who once lived life as a beat reporter, editor or even beleaguered adviser on a high school or college newsletter – daily or bi-weekly, print or digital.

The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) has just adopted a resolution that supports pending state legislation designed to protect the ability of high school/college journalists to write about issues of public concern without restraint or retribution.

The resolution states unequivocally:

A free and independent student media is an essential ingredient of a civically healthy campus community, conveying the skills, ethics and values that prepare young people for a lifetime of participatory citizenship.

ASNE action responds specifically to Illinois’ enactment of the Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act. Illinois is the tenth state to pass laws that support students’ freedom of the press. Legislation is pending in Michigan, New Jersey – and yes, Minnesota.(

The ASNE action is the tip of a grassroots movement. Other professional associations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Council of Teachers of English and the Journalism Education Association, have passed similar resolutions to support the rights of student journalists.

In fact, the support was coalesced into a national movement known as New Voices (, a project of the Student Press Law Center ( The mission of New Voices is “to give young people the legally protected right to gather information and share ideas about issues of public concern.”   New Voices “works with advocates in law, education, journalism and civics to make schools and colleges more welcoming places for student voices.”

Responding the support from the journalism professions, Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the SPLC, observes that “the consensus of those most knowledgeable about how journalism is practiced and taught is overwhelming: Students can’t learn to be inquisitive, independent-minded journalists – or inquisitive, independent-minded citizens – when schools exercise total control over everything they say and write.”

The history of the Student Press Law is interesting in itself. It actually grew out of the work of journalist Jack Nelson, best known for his coverage of the Watergate mess and the Civil Rights movement. In a revealing book entitled Captive Voices, based on interviews with student journalists and their teachers, Nelson contended that censorship in schools was pervasive; the book was actually commissioned by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Fund. Nelson’s findings influenced national awareness of student journalists’ rights, which led to a partnership between the RFK Memorial, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to create the Student Press Law Center.

Today, the SPLC, headquartered in Washington, DC. provides free legal assistance and training for student journalists and their teachers. More about the SPLC, including a library of free legal research materials, can be found on the SPLC website (



Open invitation to Maptime MSP – Open Street Map + Open Data

The most recent post from Maptime MSP prompts a reminder to share the word about this unique resource – something I have intended to do for some time.   It turns out that planners for this month’s map hack night have issued a special invitation to newbies to the group, with stress on the fact that the invitation is open to all — everyone from fledgling mappers to seasoned experts.

The next Maptime MSP hack night is set for Thursday, August 18, 5:45 – 7:45 PM at the Washburn Library, 5244 Lyndale Avenue South. (No surprise – there’s a map on the website

Joe Sapletal, Dakota County GIS expert, will demonstrate techniques he has used for bringing in large open source datasets to Open Street Map so that local mappers can showcase “great local data.” Following the presentation the group will “dive in and edit Open Street Map together, explore some open source datasets we could import into Open Street Map, and have some time to network.”

The invitation underscores that no previous Open Street Map experience is necessary.   If you’re not registered you are welcome to do so at If you have a laptop, bring it – if not, not to worry, mappers share more than data.

The agenda includes pizza and beverages, courtesy of CARTO Graphics.

For an earlier, now somewhat dated, post about Maptime MSP click here:


Sharing the right to vote — The right, the reason, some resources

Intentional suppression of the right to vote is an overt travesty we abhor; as a democratic society we establish laws and regulations that facilitate, not impede, access. Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act over a quarter century ago has open the election process to millions of Americans by requiring physical accommodations ranging from ramps to Braille ballots to wider voting booths and audio instructions.   Over the years, focus has been on reaching the disabilities community with information about their voting rights and accessibility.

The great good news is that, in its first 26 years ADA has changed the lives of millions of Americans. More good news is that the changes implemented by federal mandate reap powerful benefits for all Americans. In some ways we are just beginning to realize the broader implications of ADA – the 2016 Election offers a challenge and an opportunity to build on ADA as a powerful tool for universal suffrage.

The first challenge is to assure that everyone who needs accommodation is aware of the range of possibilities and their legal right to expect access. Clearly, focus of ADA is on the disabilities community, a community that is itself expanding as Americans age and incur physical challenges that go with the territory.’

Which leads to the need to share information about the right to access with a broader public. This demands collaboration with agencies of every stripe that is in a position to share information about access with members of the public who do not identify with the disabilities community. There are countless Americans who do not identify as “disabled” for whom physical and mental challenges present unrecognized impediments to voting.

Basically, we all need to know more about the laws and procedures that ensure that every American is free and able to exercise the right to vote – and that all Americans are aware of the legal rights and accommodations accessible to every citizen for whom physical or mental access may present a barrier.

A basic step is to ensure that every eligible voter is registered. An earlier post describing the REV-UP initiative focused on voter registration as an Election 2016 priority. ( Sponsored by the American Association of People with Disabilities the REV-UP campaign continues to hone in on public awareness and support materials – a great starting point for learning what’s happening this election season.

Voter registration not only opens the door but also offers the ideal opportunity to share the vast information resources about the voting rights of people with disabilities. It’s important to remember, too, that absentee voters who may not need information about access at their precinct, still need to have ready access to registration procedures.

The general public and agencies that serve people with access challenges need to know the law.

The legislation that codifies the voting rights of people with disabilities is the Help America Vote Act. (HAVA) Enacted in 2002 HAVA can seem as complex as it is fundamental. The straightforward basics are spelled out here: ( For more comprehensive information on background and provisions of HAVA check Ballotpedia, the indispensable guide to all things voting related. Ballotpedia offers a good overview of the law and the process of implementation – a solid starting point for understanding the intent and the possibilities ensured by this federal legislation:

At the state level the right to vote for people with developmental disabilities is contained in Minnesota State Statute §204C.15, subd. 1. The basics are spelled out in detail in this publication from the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities:

Municipalities have created their own systems for meeting the needs of voters who need assistance. As an example, Minneapolis residents who are visually impaired or hard of hearing are given this directive: For reasonable accommodations or alternative formats please contact the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department at 612-673-3737. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to call 311 at 612-673-3000. TTY users call 612-673-2157 or 612-673-2626.

The U.S Department of Justice offers a useful guide more specifically geared to the information needs of those charged with responsibility to implement HAVA: Written for compliance people, this may be more than mere mortals need to know about HAVA….

During the past election Access Press ran a very accessible guide on the topic of voting rights and accommodations for people with disabilities. It’s a great introduction, the only problem being that not everyone who serves the disabilities community reads Access Press or knows the story

In spite of legal requirements and the unstinting work of the disabilities community it remains to the vigilant to monitor the implementation of federal, state and municipal laws. There is concern among these groups that people with disabilities are “invisible,” thus not included or even identified in exit polling or election analyses. Another concern is that absentee voting solves all the voting problems for the disabilities community. The contention of some polling monitors is that, if people with disabilities were to vote at the same rate as non-disabled, there would have been 10 million more votes cast in the past election.

The fact is that the responsibility to know and share information about the voting rights of and accommodations for people with disabilities is “everybody’s business and nobody’s business.” The general public who are not immediately affected must begin to take a more active role in reaching a broader constituency who may not be fully aware of the comprehensive legislative requirements that accommodations be made for voters who face physical or mental barriers to voting.

As always, ignorance of the law is no excuse. In truth we as a society have not harnessed the human, political and communications resources at our disposable to inform people who need assistance to exercise their right to register and to vote.  It is only through broader understanding of the law and the possibilities that we can share the basic facts about the registration/voting assistance to which every voter has a right. We also need to acknowledge – and counteract – the sad fact there are some Americans who think that their vote doesn’t really matter!

During this election season we need to ramp up the pitch, to share the word with and through mainstream agencies.   Those who serve the public – which includes just about everyone — need to seize the opportunity to learn about HAVA and the accessibility of registration/voting resources. It will take the combined energy and attention not only of the disabilities community but also of institutions, e.g. neighborhood associations, health care providers, small businesses, libraries, the faith community, advocacy and good government groups, to assure thatchallenged voters know their rights and needs, that mandated accommodations are readily accessible to every potential voter, and that every voter knows how much his or her vote counts!

Election officials who take their positions seriously are committed to conforming to the law and meeting the needs of every voter.   The missing link seems in many cases to be that people with disabilities, their families, care providers, and others in their lives don’t fully understand, and thus do not make fully clear, that access to the polls is within the reach of every eligible voter.

Fortunately, there are rich resources for people with disabilities and for election officials who want to better meet the requirements. Though my interest is as a concerned citizen, not an expert, my shallow dive into the possibilities came up with some, certainly not all, helpful resources that demand to be known and shared by more public and nonprofit agencies:

United States Election Assistance Commission

National Disabilities Rights Network

Center for an Accessible Society

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Other Federal Laws Protecting the Rights of Voters with Disabilities


Minnesota Council on Developmental Disabilities:

National Federation for the Blind – Voting, Accessibility, and Law

National Association of the Deaf

Voting and Alzheimer’s Disease



Zinesters share ideas and zines at TC’s Zine Fest 2016!

Zines are not a new idea. They have been around under different names (ChapBooks, Pamphlets, Flyers). People with independent ideas have been getting their word out since there were printing presses. ~~ Mark Todd

We have all thumbed through, or picked up, or sat down to peruse a zine – whether or not we know that that unprepossessing “pamphlet” we picked up at the bookstore was a “zine.”

The tome might have been hand lettered, hot off the laser printer, stapled or hand sewn. What makes it a zine is that it’s the original work of a zine creator who had ideas or images to share. Most important, as Mark Todd notes, zines – by whatever name – have flourished alongside mainstream press for centuries. Consider the impact of Thomas Paine’s pamphleteering…..

The roots of zines are often traced to the sci fi community that flourished in the 1920’s and later. The format was later adopted by the punk generation. Clearly, the options exploded as technology reshaped the options for production and distribution! 

For over a decade the Twin Cities Zine Fest has flourished as a celebration and showcase of the local zine scene.   Final preparations are in high gear for the 2016 Twin Cities Zine Fest set for Saturday, September 24. The day-long (11 AM-5 PM) event will gather fans and producers who will meet, greet and explore a unique exhibit of zines on display at the Walker Community United Methodist Church, 3104 16th Avenue South in Minneapolis. (

Zines are now so mainstream that there is actually a ZineWiki where fans will find – or may submit – articles on what’s happening in the Zine World. Check this entry for a good intro to the land of zines.   (’N’_Roll)

For another good backgrounder go to the article on “Fan Zines” written by Susan Leem, then an intern at the Utne Reader. Leem’s excellent essay was published in Do It Green! Minnesota ( Don’t miss it!

Follow ZineFest 2016 on social media – and check online for the great promotional materials you’ll want to post in your local bookstore, library, and coffee shop!





Sharing a vision – The art and ideas of people with disabilities


The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. ~~ Aristotle

 Seen from the philosopher’s perspective, visual artists whose life experiences with mental of physical challenges are uniquely equipped to create art that represents the inward significance of things. This is the vision that inspires two related and unique art exhibits ongoing and forthcoming in this area.

“Brushed Back to Life: Healing from Illness through Intuitive Painting and Poems” reflects the artistic work of a single artist, Ron Duffy. A well-known figure in the worlds of politics and business, Duffy contracted Lyme Disease in 2010. Depressed and discouraged, he turned to art, written and visual, to lift his spirits.

The artistic expression of Duffy’s evolving feelings – anger, isolation, then hope, joy and peace – are on exhibit at the University of Minnesota Bio-Medical Library as part of a rotating Art@Bio-Med exhibition series. Open through September the exhibit includes 34 paintings and 31 poems Duffy has created, now shared with visitors to the Library. For details including map, parking, hours click,

The work of mentally or physically challenged artists is also the focus of ZagZum, a division of Imagine a World Productions. Recently ZagZum has issued a call for physically or mentally challenged artists to share their visual work in a unique public exhibit. The exhibit is the highlight of a day-long conference to discuss art and disabilities set for Saturday, September 10, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Planners invite visual artists with disabilities to submit work for display and sale. Deadline for submission is Wednesday, September 7; submission details on everything from framing to size to selling original art are posted here: (

The ZagZum program on Saturday, September 10, also features a packed agenda of speakers and discussion. The day will conclude with an evening reception at the Convention Center. Attendees at the exhibit, program and/or reception will be asked to make a free will donation.

Details of the day continue to be posted on Facebook;  background information at, 612 836 9303 or


Drawing a blank – Verse, that is?

On Thursday, August 18, 2016, the world of letters will rise on its iambic, trochee, dactyl and/or spondee feet to celebrate Bad Poetry Day. (

According to the Official Rules of Bad Poetry Day, “poetry can be any literary work written or spoken, composed in metrical form.” Horrifying as this may be horrifying to purists, these are The Rules.

The ubiquity of Bad Poetry is legendary – whether a lame limerick, a banal biblical verse, hokey haiku or an odious ode. You can’t define it but you know it when you try to read or recite  it. And you know you are capable of an equally egregious elegy yourself.

So mark the calendar, think deep thoughts, then turn those images and phrases into the baddest of the bad.  Arrange a reading, preferably with libations, to share your personal paean to Bad Poetry Day 2016.

Still plenty of time ~ To fashion a rhyme

Eat My Words features Mail Art Beyond the Fringe

Though “Beyond the Fringe” may be easily misinterpreted during the 2016 Campaign MinneDaDa1984 is only peripherally political.   MinneDaDa1984 might be characterized as the outer fringe of the Minnesota Fringe Festival that rolls out August 4 at venues throughout the Twin Cities. MinneDaDa1984 is actually an exuberant tribute to the centenary of Dada and the anniversary of the 1949 publication of Orwell’s iconic 1984.

More to the point this post is about the MinneDaDa1984 MailArtShow The Mail Art Show features avant-garde poets, filmmakers, neo-Dadaists, noise artists and a host of local and out-of-town alternative artists.

Newbies to the Mail Art Movement (like me) may need some background. According to this brief entry, the name pretty much says it all. Wikipedia, the infallible source of the recorded knowledge of humankind provides this brief definition:

Mail art (also known as postal art and correspondence art) is a populist artistic movement centered on sending small scale works through the postal service. It initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950’s and 60s, though it has since developed into a global movement that continues to the present.

Now on a mission to learn I clicked to find out about the Fluxus movement, thus defined by the oracle infallible Wikipedia:

A network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines in the 1960s. They varied in performance, Neo-Dada noise music and visual art, urban planning, architecture, design, as well as literature.

Because Mail Art is best understood and appreciated close up and personal, Eat My Words Bookstore in Northeast Minneapolis ( will feature a Mail Art exhibit throughout the month of August. EMW will also host a special Mail Art reading on Thursday, August 11, 7:00 p.m.  

The exhibitor and featured guest for the evening at Eat My Words is local Mail Art aficionado Tom Cassidy. Cassidy has been in the Mail Art, underground and avant communities since the 70’s.   Last spring he put out a call for Mail Art to be exhibited in conjunction with the Fringe Festival. So far he has received over 100 pieces of art from over sixty artists whose postmarks reflect the global reach of the call and the interest in mail art.

Cassidy boasts that “submitted works include Dada and antiDada tributes, zines, collages, performance instructions, subversive and satiric pieces with a healthy dose of ‘politically-engineered sanity’”. The unique collection will be on display in binders and in the windows at Eat My Words throughout the month of August. Both the exhibit and the August event are free and open.

Special note: The Eat My Words bookstore offers a warm welcome and a delectable feast of rare and lightly used books!   The bibliophile owner and staff feature special exhibits and unique public programs akin to this one on an ongoing basis! Sign up for email updates on the EMW website.




Unlearning the narrative of Minnesota’s rural heritage

In the past 40 years, the United States lost more than a million farmers and ranchers. Many of our farmers are aging. Today, only nine percent of family farm income comes from farming, and more and more of our farmers are looking elsewhere for their primary source of income. ~~ Tom Vilsack 

Though I didn’t grow up on a family farm my life was enriched by weeklong stays and Sunday dinners with relatives who tilled the legacy acres. As a kid, I marveled at how the family worked as a collaborative – if occasionally reluctant – team. Rising before dawn the members of the team managed to cope with the weather, rotating crops, fluctuating markets, neighbors’ disasters, Koolaid deliveries to field workers, egg picking and the insatiable appetites of the threshing crew – not to mention the fragile finances of the operation.

In spite of the fact that I knew or cared nothing about agricultural or political forces – much less global economics – I did realize that it was not an easy lifestyle – early mornings, a non-negotiable milking routine, pumping water, de-tasseling in the summer heat, all with one ear cocked to Maynard Speece. Still, from my limited perspective as a city kid it seemed that my cousins enjoyed significant benefits – corn on the cob, real fried chicken, vast space for running free, tractor rides and a haymow with endless possibilities.

Somewhere in the back of my aging head the utopian dream lived on. Though I regretted country school and rural library closings and lamented the death of main streets, nostalgia blinded me to deep reality. I didn’t see that foreclosures, auctions, collapsed barns and outhouses were but symptoms of a fundamental – and intentional – reordering of society.

Reality insinuated its ugly head into my dream world when I inherited the “food and ag beat” at, the DC-based advocacy group where I recently did a stint as outreach coordinator. That was when I learned that the USDA doesn’t even collect rural statistics at a level that would reflect a small family-owned farm. While working inside the Beltway I saw the power wielded by the well-heeled agribusiness lobbyists who strut and sip on K Street.

At the same time, I observed the indefatigable work of those who speak for small, minority, women and immigrant farmers and for land stewardship and the imperative of sustainability.

In this open government advocacy role I had the good fortune to meet the visionary folks at the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy, the Minnesota-based think-tank that monitors national and global policy. IATP opened my eyes to the interconnectedness of the forces of trade and agriculture, ongoing now as global trade deals are negotiated behind a veil of secrecy.

And yet, reality struck like a bolt of lightening just last week when I realized that there was just one farmer representing the Democratic Farmer Labor Party at the recent Democratic National Convention. (

My knee-jerk thought was that the metro politicos – more likely to be “labor” than “farmer” representatives, had simply outnumbered rural delegates – to which there may be some truth. The fact that Debra Hogenson, family farmer from Nobles County was standing alone to represent the interests of rural Minnesotans within the Democratic-Farmer Labor Party blew any fallacies still stagnating in my mind.

Who does have a voice in the political arena? Who is calling the political shots? Why? Who is reaping the financial rewards of land ownership and food production?

The deep reality of rural Minnesota circa 2016 dawned — the mega-farms that don’t just “dot the landscape” but control and benefit from the land. I began to perceive what lies behind the mansions, the driverless tractors, the ubiquitous GPS systems, the PETA proofed hatcheries that light up the night.

A cryptic quote from rural sociologist Linda Loboa came to mind: “Land makes power. And power often doesn’t want change.” T

As I considered the Big Picture, the implications surfaced. I read the Rural Blog with new understanding:

The farms that once generated wealth for entire communities are now creating a new class of super-farmers who rely on machinery and don’t hire many new farmhands…the big farmers’ wealth is usually not highly visible, except to those who know who owns the land, the oldest class divide in rural America….Much money probably goes into intangible investments, no tangible goods that testify to wealth. But money continues to buy power….”

Correspondent Patrik Jonsson, writing in The Christian Science Monitor Jonsson underscores that “as this wealth accumulates, it is being spread to fewer and fewer people. The midsize to very large operations represent less than 8 percent of the 2.1 million farm households in the U.S., most of which rely on income outside agriculture for their livelihood.”

Jonsson goes on to quote Jonathan Bryant, a history Professor at Georgia Southern University: “A typical (large) farmer is not going to admit that they’re making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, in part because nowadays…those who have traditionally performed jobs on the farm are left out of any sort of share in the wealth that’s being produced.”

Quoting Iowa State rural sociologist David Peter, Jonsson adds: “It’s not just concentration of wealth, but it’s also what happens at the bottom. The upshot (of this concentration of wealth at the top) is that the trend of the withering middle class has occurred in rural areas much further and quicker than in urban and metro communities in general.”

Clearly it falls to those of us who depend on a robust supply of nutritious food – not to mention a healthy economy –to care mightily about the fragile chain that links urban consumers with the sources of food,

As consumers we boast of our wise decisions about what’s immediate — food safety, GMO’s, pesticides, additives, what’s on the school lunch menu.

And yet we are not as quick to open our minds to the Big Picture – the economic and agricultural policies and administrative forces that determine reality. As individuals and as a society we face the awesome challenge to wake up – to take time to learn even a bit about the complexities of the rural economy, land ownership, the influence of agribusiness, humane treatment of animals, sustainability, the role of federal government, the welfare of farm workers upon whom the entire system depends.

We must make the effort to be more aware that the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the political arena. DNC delegate Debra Hogenson can’t do it alone.