Monthly Archives: November 2016

November 22, 1963 – Reflections

John F. Kennedy, May 29,1917-November 22, 1963

Though the assassination of President Kennedy is ancient history to most Americans, the day lives on in history – and in my memory. I was working in Washington, DC, a short walk from the White House. I remember only too well catching the frenzied rumors out of Dallas, hearing the devastating words of Walter Cronkrite, hearing the helicopter land near the White House, joining the days-long procession of mourners passing through the Rotunda, perching in the window box at the Mayflower to get a better view of the endless walk to St. Mathews. Thanksgiving weekend 1963 was a time of unmitigated pain that has left an indelible mark on everyone who lived through the experience. That day and weekend live on in the collective memory of this nation.

I cannot let the day go by without reflecting on the grief and awareness we shared that weekend. More than a half century later the words of Martin Luther King Jr. ring true:

We were all involved in the death of John Kennedy. We tolerated hate; we tolerated the sick stimulation of violence in all walks of life; and we tolerated the differential application of law, which said that a man’s life was sacred only if we agreed with his views. This may explain the cascading grief that flooded the country in late November. We mourned a man who had become the pride of the nation, but we grieved as well for ourselves because we knew we were sick. (MLK, Why We Can’t Wait,1963)

Some resources that shed light on the John F. Kennedy and his era:

Videos that share the spirit of JFK – skip the ad –  http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/john-f-kennedy/videos

From the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum: https://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/Life-of-John-F-Kennedy.aspx

https://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/November-22-1963-Death -of-the-President.aspx

From the White House archives: https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/johnfkennedy

Honoring the heritage of Native Americans at Thanksgiving

As too few Americans are aware, the day after Thanksgiving is not only about excessive mindless shopping, it is the day on which thoughtful Americans pause to celebrate National Native American Heritage Day. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_Heritage_Day)

The origin of Native American Heritage Day goes back to President George W. Bush who signed the legislation that designated the day after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. With time the Day has morphed into the establishment of the month of November as Native American Heritage Month. Though the distinction between the month and the day is nuanced, November 25, 2016 offers a timely opportunity to pause, learn and reflect on the narrative and heritage of Native Americans.

President Obama’s proclamation declaring the month of November 2016 is an excellent starting point for understanding the import of the day and/or the month. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/10/31/presidential-proclamation-national-native-american-heritage-month-2016

Numerous federal agencies have contributed to a mother lode of resources ranging from descriptions of parks to art to poetry to personal memories of Native Americans’ life experiences. Though the content is presented in calendar format, the films, audiotapes, photos and stories are not date specific. Let your fingers to the walking this amazing wealth of authentic resources! http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov

Related info:

A guide with specific relevance to individuals interested to explore their personal American Indian heritage: A Guide to Tracing American Indian & Alaska Native Ancestry http://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/text/idc-002619.pdf

A hot-off-the-press report with great relevance, less than mass reader appeal, is a report rom a recent conference related to Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums organized by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums https://www.imls.gov/news-events/upnext-blog/2016/11/synergy-southwest-reflections-international-conference-indigenous

 

To disempower disinformation focus on the “missing link”

Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored – American Library Association

Mark Zuckerberg is between a rock and a hard place, or at least a cushy version thereof. Though FB is not the source, it is the ubiquitous channel through which floods of disinformation flow. Now his empire is at the epicenter of post-election blame. Entrepreneur that he is, Zuckerberg proposes the classic quick fix, i.e. to label fake facts and bar the malevolent sources of the bald-faced lies that disinform public thought and discourse.   (http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/19/mark-zuckerberg-outlines-how-facebook-plans-to-tackle-fake-news.html)

It’s the predictable feel-good, shift the blame, and invariably ineffective fix – a move that denies “the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.” (American Library Association) — digital age throwing out the baby with the bath.

Placing the power and responsibility in the medium disrespects the individual’s inalienable right “to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.” Furthermore, it won’t work.

The information chaos of the day demands a return to First Principles, in this case the core values of our political system. A fundamental tenet of this nation is respect for the responsibility of citizens to know how to self-govern.   The founders recognized that, in order to rule, citizens would need to depend on the free flow of information and ideas – thus, they stipulated the inalienable right to know coupled with the right to share thoughts and ideas. In the 18th Century that meant freedom of the press and free speech.

Ay, there’s the rub.

That was pre-social media, a time when information seekers were links in a more-or-less tangible – and linear – information chain that linked communicator and receiver. Though publishers and editors could filter the flow, their positions and proclivities were overt. Receivers of the information and ideas knew and considered the source, then exercised their right to adopt or discard the content and to talk back to the source. Though the system was far from inclusive, the basics were straightforward.

The information age expands access, gives voice to the masses, restructures the nature and power over the tools, removes the filters, and ultimately places unprecedented responsibility on the end user – who is also a sender – of the message. What is happening now is that the source holds the balance of power – receivers are uncritical accepters, frequent spreaders, of disinformation who have mastered the malevolent art of disinformation power.

As information receivers aid and abet the flow the power of information is magnified beyond calculation – the power to determine the content and manage the flow of information is nearly

Predictably, when the coin of the political realm is information – control of information corrupts and absolute control of information corrupts absolutely.

And yet, in the ongoing flap about fake news, focus remains on the sender end of the once linear information chain.   Though quick to fault the press for failure to fact check or other abuse of power, we instinctively avert attention, and thus fail to consider the power that rests with the receiver of disinformation.

Labeling fake facts — or blaming the press — fails to dig deep enough to get at the root of the pervasive and pernicious power of disinformation. The complexities of the digital age demand a radical [“of or growing from the root of a plant”] look at the linear information chain that no longer exists. What we have today is a distributed information mesh with sources welded into the links, a brilliantly designed system that, unchecked, wraps the receiver in a dark web of disinformation.

Info Power to the rest of us

Radical thinking demands a hard look at the “missing link” – the receiver of information. It is the receiver who is responsible for evaluating the message, for turning information into action. The first step is to understand and act on the fact that fabrications are powerless if critical receivers resist, dismiss or eschew the sources or content of fake facts.

Recent history suggests that we are ill equipped to ward off disinformation. Back in pre-FB days Franklin Roosevelt declared, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely” adding that “the real safeguard of democracy, is education.” The digital age challenges us to rethink the safeguards within our reach – to expand K-12 and lifelong learning options to encompass critical thinking skills that adapt with the times, to nurture a healthy dose of perceptive paranoia, to understand the power of information and the disastrous potential of disinformation.

No matter how well crafted or effectively spread disinformation is, lies are lies. Lies hide in the weeds, impotent until and unless they exercise their power to influence the thoughts or actions of the receiver. It will take creative thinking, coupled with bold action, to get ahead of disinformation.

As a democratic society under stress we need to focus unprecedented attention and energy on the receiver link of the information chain – how people know what they know, believe what they believe. Labeling or otherwise limiting propaganda at the head end is ineffective and short-term.

The best offense is a strong defense. The best defense against disinformation is a nation of voters with the skill and the will to defend ourselves against the irresistible lure of brilliantly packaged disinformation. As a democratic society we need to understand the intent of the forefathers, then decide if we are up to the radical action it will take to face the challenges of the Information Age.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Thomas Jefferson

Facing the facts about facts

I’m telling you a lie in a vicious effort that you will repeat my lie over and over until it becomes true. Lady Gaga

There are longer, but no more compelling, characterizations of the scourge of disinformation – so serious that the sitting President of the United States brought up the subject just this week – notably at a joint press conference with German President Angela Merkel.  In that meeting President Obama spoke of the perils of  “active disinformation, very well presented.”

The heart of the matter, the President said, is that, “if we are not serious about the facts, about what is true and what is not, and especially at the time of social networks, when so many people receive the information in one sentence on their phone, if we cannot tell the difference between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have a problem.”

The power, influence and tenacity of disinformation is evident – everyone has a story of having been duped, even having shared or acted on a kernel of disinformation planted with malice aforethought to skew public perception and action. We are conditioned to believe what we read or see, particularly if the information is well presented by “credentialed” spokesperson and/or, better yet, backed up by inscrutable, and thus infallible, metrics.

Disinformation is no respecter of receiver: Did any of us believe, if just for a minute, that Pope Francis favored a presidential candidate in the recent election? Or that that climate change might be just an overblown theory? or that the CIA was somehow behind the Malayzia Airline crash? Or that Ford Motors was planning a major move to Mexico?

Back in the pre-social media day the term “information literacy” was fashioned to put a name on an emerging Information Age challenge. Last month we even offered a hasty nod to Information Literacy Month. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/information-literacy-universal-challenge-of-the-digital-era/

The fact is that efforts to build information literacy skills lag far behind the ubiquity, fluidity and instant gratification of social media.   Far more insidious is the harsh reality that the wizards of disinformation have mastered the tools to manufacture palatable lies, to present the fake information in irresistible nibbles, to package propaganda a fact — then “repeat the lie over and over until it becomes true.”

For me the spark of hope that springs eternal ignites when Gaga and Obama sound the same alarm – that the power of disinformation is real, pervasive and a threat to this democracy.

The forefathers established a nation built on the premise of an engaged citizenry.   Informed voters (as narrowly defined by the white men who wrote the rules,) would have access to information by and about their government and the skills to consider both the source and the content of information. Relevant, valid information would be communicated to the citizenry not in 140 character blips but in pamphlets, newspapers, orations, even books! http://www.constitutionfacts.com/founders-library/founders-reading-list/

Disinformation is hardly a new idea. In 1710 Jonathan Swift penned The Art of Political Lying” in which he expressed his dim view of fake information:

Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.

Northeast artists roll out holiday welcome mat!

Neither snow nor cold nor political upheaval will stay these local artists from their appointed rounds

The hundreds of artists of every stripe who live and work in Northeast Minneapolis face every challenge – economic, social, artistic or political – with abundant creativity and boundless hope. In the weeks to come the artists of this vibrant community will share their words, works, vision and hopes through a host of venues scattered throughout the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Area.

Following are just some of the highlights of what’s to come – all are free and open unless noted.

November 17 – Janaya Martin hosts the popular “Writers Read + Open Mic” readings and discussion at Coffeehouse Northeast http://thecoffeeshopne.com at 29th and Johnson NE. Learn more about the popular local series in a recent issue of the Northeasterhttp://www.mynortheaster.com/wp-content/news-archives/161102Northeaster/

November 18-20 — Visit Artblok Open Studio and Sale in the former General Mills labs, 2010 East Hennepin near Stinson. http://www.minneapolis.org/calendar/2016-art-blok-open-studio-tour/ Meet and learn about the work of a host of local visual and literary artists – painting, paper arts, drawing, printmaking, jewelry metalwork, ceramics, woodworking, sculpture and more.

November 19– Opening event at The Public Functionary, 1400 20th Avenue North. (http://publicfunctionary.org) The Feminist highlights the interdisciplinary work of Charles Phillipe Jean Pierre.   (http://publicfunctionary.org/charles-philippe-jean-pierre-the-feminist/ Following the opening reception, Public Functionary will host Disrobing Masculinity: An Artist Talk and Discussion on Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 1:00 PM.

November 25 – Release Party for writer Penny Johnson’s The Forget-Me-Nots at Eat My Words bookstore, 13th and 2nd Streets NE. (http://www.eatmywordsbooks.com) Billed as a “counterpoint to the madness of Black Friday” the event features homemade cheesecake and cookies and seed packets of forget-me-not flowers.

November 26 – the fun goes on– topped with discounts — at Eat My Words. It’s the Annual Corporate Excess Sale, a highlight of Shop Small Saturday. At 3:00 historian and former Army musician Bruce P. Gleason will share a reading and discussion of his book Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drum: Horse-Mounted Bands of the U.S. Army, 1820-1940, an exploration of the distinctive role that mounted bands played in American military history.

December 1 – First Thursday – A Northeast Minneapolis Arts Area tradition – Open Studios 5:00-9:00 PM on (virtually) every street corner – Some highlights:

  • Artspace Jackson Flats, 901 18½ Avenue Northeast
  • Casket Arts Building, 681 17th Avenue NE
  • Casket Arts Carriage House, 1720 17th Avenue NE
  • Grain Belt Studios, 77&79 13th Avenue South
  • Northrup King Building, 1500 Jackson Street NE (http: Northrupkingbuilding.com)
  • Q.arma Building, 1224 Quincy Street NE (http: quarmabuilding.com)
  • Solar Arts Building, 711 15th Avenue NE
  • Thorp Building, 1618 Central Avenue NE

December 3, 11:00 AM-5:00 PM –The American Craft Council, located in the iconic Grainbelt Brewery on Broadway and Marshall, hosts a Craft Sale+Open House in the Library. Featured artists will be on hand to describe their unique crafts. Archival materials on display, a used book sale, topped by complimentary hot cider! Shopping starts at 10:00.

December 3, 10:00-4:00 – Betty’s Holiday Bizarre Bazaar at Betty Danger’s Country Club, 2501 Marshall. Artists, crafters and artisans are invited to display and sell their “quirkiest and garish” handcrafted holiday gifts and decoration. Emphasis at Betty’s Bazaar is clearly on the bizarre-ness of the item.

December 10-12 — 2nd Annual A-Mill Maker’s Market, 10:00AM Saturday to 5:00 PM Sunday. Hosted by BridgeArts. A-Mill Artist Lofts, 315 Main Street SE. Sculpture, photography, fiber arts, millinery goods and more. Refreshments and pastry items, hourly raffle, entertainment by resident musicians, fashion show on Saturday.

And there is so much more to explore, enjoy, learn and even purchase in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Area — check it out online or, better yet, on foot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High expectations+vigilance will preserve 1st Amendment rights

Of those to whom much is given, much is expected **

Though of disputed origin, the quote reflects my deep faith in the guiding premise of the First Amendment that affirms the fundamental role of a free press in a democracy.   The digital age presents a mighty challenge to both – in terms of role, economics, technology, critical thinking and attitudes. As the role and power of a free press is tested at this hour it behooves those who depend on the free flow of information and ideas to exercise what a wise mentor described as “perceptive paranoia”.

Journalists have spoken, perhaps most adamantly in the letter that a host of professional journalism associations have sent to the President-Elect. Because the thrust of their letter is press access to the Executive Branch, the writers note that “this isn’t about access for the press itself; it’s about access for Americans in diverse communities across the country.” To read the full text of that letter click here: http://www.poynter.org/2016/journalism-organizations-call-on-trump-to-uphold-traditions-of-white-house-coverage/439519/

Suffice to say, the press, a bit mollified by recent miscalculations, is roiled up and divided in their prognostications of what’s to come. In yesterday’s WaPo David Drezner describes the contrast between Obama’s “no drama” mantra, the “tight-lipped” approach of both Bush administrations, and that, which is to come.  Drezner concludes that, though “many will fret that this is just the beginning of an administration that will test the constraints of the First Amendment…if the past week suggests anything, it is that the Trump team will need the press just as much as it claims to loathe it.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/11/16/the-outsized-role-of-the-press-in-the-trump-administration/?utm_term=.42f3180cd910

Today the forces of information and communication technology are one and the same, the reality of which is not lost on Steve Bannon who has long worked off the grid to share information/misinformation that has clearly shaped and reinforced public opinion and voter behavior.

Lip service to a free press will not suffice today. Nor will passive inaction assure that the First Amendment remains as the core tenet of the democracy, given the prominence imbued by the founding fathers as first among the inalienable rights afforded citizens of the new nation.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That’s the story of my lofty expectations for a free press and an informed citizenry. As always, it is up to the body politic to maintain constant vigilance, even as political reality, coupled with communication and information technology, challenge our assumptions about how and why we know what we know about our government.

** The origin of the adage is a story in itself:  http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004100.html *

 

Leaders invite civil discourse on divisive issues

Forecast Public Art and ACLU-MN have joined forces to sponsor a timely opportunity for civil discourse on this critical question: What is the role of free speech and creative dissent in our country’s future? Planners generously invite “anyone interested in the topic to join us in exploring the questions presented, as well as the many issues it brings out.”

The facilitated discussion is set for December 7, 4:00-7:00 p.m.

Forecast is providing a safe place for the open exploration of ideas and opinions – the organization’s offices at 2300 Myrtle Avenue South, Suite 160 https://www.mapquest.com/us/mn/saint-paul/55114-1814/2300-myrtle-ave-44.962023,-93.196009

The conversation will be followed by a happy hour.

Space is limited and RSVP’s are required. Participation in the event requires that participants be present for all the discussion from 4:00-6:00

For more information and/or to RSVP click here: http://forecastpublicart.org/forecast/events/calendar/

Give thanks by sharing access to ideas and information

Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does. Stella Young

This quote popped to mind this week as I pored through the most recent issue of Access Press. (www.accesspress.org) I remember reading the quote a couple of years ago in an obituary for Stella Young, a physically challenged Australian journalist and advocate for people with disabilities. Her observation may help explain a fact that perplexes me, i.e. why so many people miss the wealth of information and ideas that Access Press generates and every month at free and handy newsstands we pass by every day.

Though this great resource is targeted to the disabilities community, the content is relevant to a broad circle of readers who need to know, to take action and to share with a friend, family member or neighbor. If there’s a missing link in this information chain it’s that too many people just don’t understand the depth and breadth of this robust resource that hides in plain sight on local newsstands or with a click on the keyboard. (http://www.accesspress.org/the-real-story/about/)

With Thanksgiving on my mind, it seems a good time to share some of the treasures found on the pages of Access Press. As a regular reader I know AP as a unique, comprehensive and an untapped community resource – unrealized because folks don’t know what lies within the literal or virtual pages of the monthly journal. The potential readership of AP extends to individuals challenged by physical or psychological barriers, to those who would love to learn and enjoy activities – and have their ideas shared — without nighttime driving, climbing steps, and to those whose eyesight, hearing or stamina are not what they once were, That reach extends to anyone who knows someone who has yet to discover the resources featured in AP.

So, with thanks to Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief Tim Benjamin and to all who create and support AP, what follows are random links to what I gleaned from the November 10, 2016 issue which is still on the newsstands and forever online:

  • An example of calendar updates are regular updates from the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living that offers skills classes, events and more, all of which are listed on their website. The note in AP includes something I hadn’t seen elsewhere “MCIL activities are “free, accessible and mostly scent-free – the sort of inside scoop readers need to know (mcil-mn.org))

There’s much more, but you get the idea – AP is a dependable, accessible, affordable gift to all of us. The unique treasure trove of information and ideas will be of interest to you and to many in your circle who aren’t yet aware of what they’re missing.

Face it, you’ll be looking for conversation starters during the coming holiday season. Those gathered will thank you in the moment for changing the conversation and in the long-term for sharing Access Press.

 

Stroll, shop, save and socialize on Shop Small Saturday

On November 26, local storekeepers roll out their red carpets for Shop Small Saturday 2016. (https://www.sba.gov/about-sba/sba-initiatives/small-business-saturday) Chosen to counter the excess of Black Friday, the day offers a great excuse for smart shoppers to hook up with a lifelong friend, an elderly resident, a grandchild, or a new neighbor to enjoy, explore, graze, shop, share a long chat over tea or coffee, and give thanks for our neighbors and neighborhoods.

Though I’ve explored a host of vibrant neighborhoods that put a unique spin on shopping small and shopping local today’s post adheres to the “write what you know” adage. The hope is to prompt shoppers to prep for Shop Small Saturday by poking around the world that may well be within walking distance.

A subliminal suggestion is to make a day of it so the essence of neighborhood sinks in and sustains, at least through the holiday shopping season – by which time shopping small will be habitual.

Here are some suggested Shop Small Saturday strolls through my Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood. The listings are uneven – some link to websites, others to Facebook descriptions and reviews; in several cases these may be familiar from past Poking Around posts. A check of the websites and Facebook entries will alert readers to last minute Shop Small Saturday specials, discounts, shopping and socializing options!

Let your fingers do the walking through this sampler of Northeast options – with equal attention to shopping and socializing. Then do an armchair tour of your own locale to see what’s happening closer to home.

St Anthony Shopping Center

29th and Johnson Northeast

Sheridan neighborhood – near Broadway & 2nd Street NE

Central and Lowry neighborhood

^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Walk till you’re weary, shop till you drop – then stop for coffee

 

Tuning in to infinite hope

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Vincent Harding knew, worked with and was a lifetime follower of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Harding followed Dr. King by sharing and keeping hope alive for decades as he wrote, spoke and founded the Veterans of Hope Project at Iliff School of Theology in Denver. http://www’veteransofhope.org.   Dr. King’s message is echoed in the words and emulated in the work of  Vincent Harding.   Those words brought much-needed hope to me this morning as I learned of Harding’s life, leadership and shared wisdom.

For this awakening I am indebted to Dr. Harding who died two years ago at age 82. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/us/vincent-harding-civil-rights-author-and-associate-of-dr-king-dies-at-82.html. I am also indebted once again to Krista Tippett who shares the wisdom of guests through her weekly radio series on Minnesota Public Radio. (http://www.onbeing.org) Today’s conversation with Vincent Harding teaches me truths I had not seen and reminds me of forgotten roots of ideas that shape my life.

What the world needs now is to hear, learn, think and hope to understand the wisdom of those who have walked the walk and held on to “infinite hope.”   Listening to Vincent Harding this morning inspired me to keep hope alive. My hope this evening is that others will find time to listen and to maintain and pass on the flame of “infinite hope.”  Take time to listen to the conversation and to read the comments of other listened —  http://www.onbeing.org/program/vincent-harding-is-america-possible/79