Thursday, May 09, 2019

My brush with Facebook censorship

Anyone who reads my posts knows I don't hold back from criticizing my country and its elected/appointed officials. I've been writing to newspapers since 1966 and posting online since 2006, approaching 2,000 missives. I strive for fact based, reasoned opinions and have never had to either retract or regret a single post. But just in the last month Facebook twice advised me that a recent post had been blocked for 'violating community standards'. The notification did contain a link to appeal the block which I immediately did. In both cases the appeal was granted in short order.

But that still gave me a chill. I don't stick my neck out lightly, always contemplating unforeseen consequences of speaking my mind on subjects critical to me. And as as a free speech advocate going back to '67 when I joined ACLU, I oppose any censorship of speech which violates some group's community standards as long as not advocating violence. I can't support Facebook's tossing Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan, Infowars' Alex Jones and others from it's platform, as offensive as some of their comments are. The power to censor must be used used with extreme caution. Our nation has a history of marginalizing, if not outright banning worthy free speech which would elevate the public debate if allowed. The folks in power often don't want such inconvenient truths from becoming public pixels.

Come on Facebook, drop the decency police and let the public decide.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Hooray for legal recreational cannabis in Illinois

I raise my voice against the nervous Nellies decrying the legalization of recreational cannabis in Illinois. They are hurling gloom and doom predictions in a likely futile attempt to prevent the reformation of the century long criminalization and demonization of a plant used for medicinal and recreational purposes for newly five centuries. Cannabis was legal in every country in the world up to the 20th century. Criminalization of cannabis in early 20th century America is steeped in racism against people of color. Millions have been imprisoned or had their lives otherwise needlessly ruined as a result. It's been 108 years since the first state banned cannabis and 82 years since the federal government did so nationally. Illinois banned it in 1931. Decriminalization has been going on for 46 years, medical cannabis for 23 years and recreationally starting with Colorado and Washington for 7 years. Ten states plus Washington DC have legalized it and none will ever go back to the dark ages of ignorance and folly.

Kudos for Illinois legislators Heather Steans and Kelly Cassidy for their long and reasoned work to bring recreational cannabis to the brink of passage in Illinois. Thanks to Illinois voters who turned out Nervous Nellie in Chief Bruce Rauner for wise and courageous leader J. B. Pritzker who has championed and will sign the long overdue legislation. Once enacted and implemented, the million or so regular Illinois cannabis users can begin switching suppliers from the underworld or states where it's legal, to licensed Illinois entrepreneurs, a quarter of which will represent minority communities.

Progress is never inevitable. But with hard work and perseverance, it can happen.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Light the fuse

Secretary of Perpetual War (A.K.A. State) Mike Pompeo told ABC yesterday that US imposed regime change in Venezuela is "inevitable" with or without a US invasion. He wouldn't commit to consulting with Congress should the US launch an invasion. Fresh off Trump's veto victory over the congressional resolution demanding an end to the Yemen war, Pompeo's rush to war without congressional approval has been bolstered.
Meanwhile, Juan Guaido, the US backed puppet leader designated to replace the hated Venezuelan socialist president Nicholas Maduro, confirmed he's considering asking the US to invade to install him in power.
Since every other US backed effort to oust Maduro has failed, direct US military intervention is becoming more likely. With the stock market soaring and unemployment at a 50 year low, the vast majority of the Americans couldn't care less about another criminal US war. For Trump, getting rid of the hated socialist regime in Venezuela at gunpoint is just a prelude to getting rid of the hated democratic socialist opposition at the ballot box next year. Go back to sleep America...the worst is yet to come.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Echos of Henry Wallace smear in opposition to Bernie

Folks from right to moderately left are lining up to derail through fear and smear the democratic socialist campaign of Bernie Sanders. To them, he's not promoting drastically needed structural changes to elevate the tens of millions shut out from rapacious capitalism benefiting the upper 10%. He's a godless communist out of touch with the American miracle that trickles down to the lowest rung of society, making America the Shining City on the Hill.
The Bernie pushback brings to mind Henry Wallace, the greatest visionary of 20th century America who was shoved out of the vice presidency in 1944, denying him the presidency upon the death of FDR, and changing America and the world for the worse.
Who's Henry Wallace, you might ask? Sadly, he's been largely written out of the American Story told to succeeding generations of Americans by the protectors of the American Myth. Born in 1888 to an affluent Iowa Republican farm family, Wallace increased family wealth with his Hi-Bred Corn Company. But the Depression turned Wallace into an zealous champion of the common man, landing him the Secretary of Agriculture post in FDR's first term. Possibly the most effective New Dealer, Wallace championed the broken American farmer using curtailed production and price supports to ameliorate catastrophic rural poverty. His unbridled democratic socialism of the 30's garnered him FDR's reverence and the 1940 third term vice presidency.
Wallace transformed the vice presidency for the good, long before Dick Cheney transformed it for evil. FDR made him what journalists tabbed the 'Assistant President' in his role mobilizing war production during WWII and championing FDR's vision for a truly peaceful post WWII world working in partnership with critical war ally Russia, and ending European colonialism in Asia and Africa. In 1942 he gave his famous "Common Man" speech, declaring the 20th century must celebrate the common man, not just, as Time publisher Henry Luce postured, only America. In 1943, he joined with the black community following the Detroit race riot, arguing "We cannot crush Nazi brutality abroad and condone race riots at home."
His near FDR like popularity made him a lock for VP on the '44 Democratic ticket, but party leaders abhorred his unvarnished progressivism and willingness to partner with godless Russia. They closed the late night convention session that would have nominated Wallace for a second term; then made deals with the other candidates to move the acceptable Harry Truman from last to first in the final VP tally.
Three months into term four, FDR died, Truman became president and the Cold War was on due to Truman's capitulation to the neo-conservatives of his day who demanded a fresh enemy to keep the newly emerged Military-Industrial Complex in business. The chance for a truly peaceful post WWII world was irrevocably lost.
The hardliners had won out over Wallace. He launched a 3rd party progressive campaign in 1948 to unseat Truman, but the red smears and personal attacks on his progressive philosophy doomed him to just 3% of the '48 vote, ending his career.
Seventy-one years on we see a bit of the anti Wallace hysteria directed at Bernie. There may be 21 Dems in the field but only one is speaking directly to my progressive ideals with authenticity and courage that earns my vote. And up in political heaven I'll bet he's got the vote of Henry Wallace as well.