Malcolm X challenged America’s vast political and social jailhouse

Fifty years ago today, assassins killed black power activist Malcolm X during a speech to the Organization for Afro-American Unity at New York City’s Audubon Ballroom. Although they ended the life of one of the 20th century’s most dynamic leaders, they did not kill his impact. His insights into racism and freedom are as necessary today as when he first spoke them. A half-century after his murder, Malcolm X may still be one of our best guides for making sense of American racism, the evil that once again roils the country in unrest.

Malcolm X’s enduring influence owes in part to the truth of his metaphors, his way with words and the relentlessness of his criticism — in particular, his depiction of the United States as a prison. In making the comparison, he gave voice to the confinement he saw in a white supremacy still evident.

“Don’t be shocked when I say I was in prison,” he often told his audiences. “You’re still in prison. That’s what America means — prison…”

To Malcolm X, prison was more than its bricks and mortar. It was a metaphor for racism. Prisons use armed force to deny the mobility, insult the integrity and restrict the civic and political participation of its captives. And for the black audiences who heard Malcolm X speak — men and women who went to underfunded schools, worked dangerous and low-paying jobs where they could find them, faced harassment in employment lines or welfare offices, were forced to live in only certain neighborhoods and in many parts of the country were barred from voting by police and vigilante organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan — the United States did mean prison.

Prison, then, was an exaggerated form of the daily indignities black women and men faced. What made this metaphor ring so true is that black communities — years before the launch of the war on drugs — were already heavily policed and disproportionately incarcerated…

Imprisonment was the price of blackness. It respected neither class nor crime: Black people were incarcerated for protesting racism, engaging in antisocial activity or simply living in a neighborhood subject to pre-emptive policing.

At the time that Malcolm X began to challenge the prison of America in the late 1950s, the United States incarcerated fewer than 200,000 people in prisons and jails. Today, that number has metastasized to more than 2.3 million people, almost half of whom are black. Accounting for a mere 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States has 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

I was lucky to hear, to listen to this wonderful voice calling for freedom. The idiots who rail against Malcolm’s message as intimidating to whites illustrate their own guilt, their fears of being found out. Too ignorant to see that class is as critical as color.

I stood in the middle of hundreds of Black residents of Harlem in the 1950’s. Took the train to New York, to Harlem, to get to Lewis Micheaux’s National Memorial African Bookstore once every month or so. The only white face in a crowd filling an intersection and stopping all traffic from proceeding while a slender giant stood elevated on one corner. He spoke of freedom and justice. And more than once he recognized this class brother willing to stand and say, “Fix it, brother!”

Some of the best early days of my personal awakening.

Golly — Climate change denier only received $1.2 million in payoffs

For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress…

The documents were obtained by Greenpeace, the environmental group, under the Freedom of Information Act. Greenpeace and an allied group, the Climate Investigations Center…

Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.

Fossil-fuel interests have followed this approach for years, but the mechanics of their activities remained largely hidden…

Environmentalists have long questioned Dr. Soon’s work, and his acceptance of funding from the fossil-fuel industry was previously known. But the full extent of the links was not; the documents show that corporate contributions were tied to specific papers and were not disclosed, as required by modern standards of publishing.

Hypocrites and liars defame their scientific credentials – while scumbag politicians who never have deserved respect use them to justify corrupt practices. There are damned few of the former – witness the overwhelming majority of collective and individual researchers who have defined the problems of climate change we face. The latter? Well, Congress and especially the majority of Republicans in that cesspool have a lower acceptability rating than Adolf Hitler and Bubonic Plague.

And the plague is innocent of decision-making.

Who can sort out your online world after you shuffle off this mortal coil?

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Facebook…has finally decided how to handle the photos and friend requests of its deceased users. In Facebook’s settings, people can now appoint a friend or family member to be in charge of their legacy. The person gets to make one last public post, download all their loved one’s Facebook photos, and respond to friend requests.

The decision was applauded by estate planners—especially because it gets around the issue of needing a password to get into people’s accounts. Yet it doesn’t solve all the problems around online information after death.

For example, what happens if a user dies, and family members want to see private messages to get clues about whether it was a suicide? Using their password to get into the account, which is banned by Facebook’s terms of service, would violate federal privacy laws, says James Lamm, a principal at a Minnesota firm in charge of estate planning. Appointing a legacy account handler on Facebook also isn’t legally binding and doesn’t transfer any of the intellectual property on videos or poetry the person may have posted, he said.

For attorneys such as Lamm…the infrastructure of the digital world has created countless barriers for clients seeking to access bank accounts, find answers surrounding a death, or simply collect all the memories they can about the person they lost. Passwords, terms of service, encryption, and cloud storage all complicate the search for information required after a death.

Inconsistency – therefore uncertaincy – remains through the breadth of online providers. The article goes on to note a few and makes suggestions. My own unqualified advice is to sort out reponsibility, administrative rights, by assigning someone the rights to your intellectual property just as you would with real property.

It’s a new world; so, a new set of questions has to be answered. As usual in our society, the questions become pointed when dealing with something of value.