Saturday, June 9, 2007

Passings

Philosopher Richard Rorty passed away Friday. Let's just say that if you were a philosophy major in the late 1980s or early 1990s, you had at least some exposure to his work.

In an act of Zen-like blogging prowess

Jon Swift declares himself to be Paris Hilton. If that isn't inspirational, I don't know what is.

As the old saying goes, you learn something new every day

Thanks to Planet Grenada, we are treated to a lesson on the connections between existentialist philosophy and the Muslim faith (in this case the focus is on Islamic poets).

Some Saturday Reading

Here are a few items to check out:

First, read the open letter to the American Psychological Association's president signed by over 40 psychologists. A few clips:

It is now indisputable that psychologists and psychology were directly and officially responsible for the development and migration of abusive interrogation techniques, techniques which the International Committee of the Red Cross has labeled “tantamount to torture.” Reports of psychologists’ (along with other health professionals’) participation in abusive interrogations surfaced more than two years ago.

While other health professional associations expressed dismay when it was reported that their members had participated in these abuses and took principled stands against their members’ direct participation in interrogations, the APA undertook a campaign to support such involvement. In 2005, APA President Ron Levant created the PENS Task Force to assess the ethics of such participation. Six of the nine voting psychologist members selected for the task force were uniformed and civilian personnel from military and intelligence agencies, most with direct connections to national security interrogations. Perhaps most problematic, it is clear from the OIG Report that three of the PENS members were directly in the chain of command translating SERE techniques into harsh interrogation tactics. Although we cannot know exactly what each of these individuals did, their presence in the chain of command is troubling.

[snip]

Not surprisingly, given its membership, the PENS Task Force report concluded that “[i]t is consistent with the APA Code of Ethics for psychologists to serve in consultative roles to interrogation and information-gathering processes for national security-related purposes….” The Task Force report further echoed the Department of Defense cover story for employing BSCT psychologists: “While engaging in such consultative and advisory roles entails a delicate balance of ethical considerations, doing so puts psychologists in a unique position to assist in ensuring that such processes are safe and ethical for all participants.”

Since the release of the PENS report, numerous articles in the press have documented that psychologists at Guantánamo and elsewhere have utilized abusive SERE techniques on detainees. (Jane Meyer’s New Yorker article appeared one week after the PENS report.) All the while, the APA leadership has ignored the mounting evidence to the contrary and reiterated this flawed PENS premise, as you yourself did in response to such an article in the Washington Monthly: “[t]he Association’s position is rooted in our belief that having psychologists consult with interrogation teams makes an important contribution toward keeping interrogations safe and ethical.”

Every report of horrific abuses occurring at Guantánamo and elsewhere has not only cast doubt upon this basic premise of APA policy, these reports have repeatedly highlighted psychologists’ abuse of psychological knowledge for purposes of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Yet the APA has never made any public attempt to investigate such reports. Even if certain psychologists attempted to “keep interrogations safe and ethical,” the OIG report demonstrates once and for all that BSCT and SERE psychologists, among others, were responsible for the development, migration, and perpetration of abuses.

It is time for the APA to acknowledge that the central premise of its years-long policy of condoning and encouraging psychologist participation in interrogations is wrong. It has now been revealed by the DoD itself that, rather than assuring safety, psychologists were central to the abuse. This remains true even if some psychologists made efforts to reduce such harm during their involvement in these interrogation contexts at some point in time. It is critical that APA take immediate steps to remedy the damage done to the reputation of the organization, to our ethical standards, to the field of psychology, and to human rights in this age where they are under concerted attack.
See also Mark Benjamin's latest article, The CIA's Favorite Form of Torture. Some excerpts:

If waterboarding goes the way of the Iron Maiden, what "tough" techniques will the CIA use on its high-value detainees?

The answer is most likely a measure long favored by the CIA -- sensory deprivation. The benign-sounding form of psychological coercion has been considered effective for most of the life of the agency, and its slippery definition might allow it to squeeze through loopholes in a law that seeks to ban prisoner abuse. Interviews with former CIA officials and experts on interrogation suggest that it is an obvious choice for interrogators newly constrained by law. The technique has already been employed during the "war on terror," and, Salon has learned, was apparently used on 14 high-value detainees now held at Guantánamo Bay.

A former top CIA official predicted to Salon that sensory deprivation would remain available to the agency as an interrogation tool in the future. "I'd be surprised if [sensory deprivation] came out of the toolbox," said A.B. Krongard, who was the No. 3 official at the CIA until late 2004. Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has written extensively about the history of CIA interrogation, agrees with Krongard that the CIA will continue to employ sensory deprivation. "Of course they will," predicted McCoy. "It is embedded in the doctrine." For the CIA to stop using sensory deprivation, McCoy says, "The leopard would have to change his spots." And he warned that a practice that may sound innocuous to some was sharpened by the agency over the years into a horrifying torture technique.

Sensory deprivation, as CIA research and other agency interrogation materials demonstrate, is a remarkably simple concept. It can be inflicted by immobilizing individuals in small, soundproof rooms and fitting them with blacked-out goggles and earmuffs. "The first thing that happens is extraordinary hallucinations akin to mescaline," explained McCoy. "I mean extreme hallucinations" of sight and sound. It is followed, in some cases within just two days, by what McCoy called a "breakdown akin to psychosis."

[snip]

But the CIA's reliance on sensory deprivation goes all the way back to the early days of the Cold War. It is a big part of the CIA's 1963 "KUBARK" interrogation manual, obtained in 1997 by the Baltimore Sun. That agency manual describes sensory deprivation as a central tenet of coercive interrogations. For particularly rapid results, the manual endorses the use of a "cell which has no light (or weak artificial light which never varies), which is sound-proofed, in which odors are eliminated, etc." Following that plan, the manual says, "induces stress; the stress becomes unbearable for most subjects." The manual adds, "The subject has a growing need for physical and social stimuli; and some subjects progressively lose touch with reality, focus inwardly, and produce delusions, hallucinations, and other pathological effects."

As proof, the KUBARK manual refers to a raft of CIA-sponsored Cold War research on sensory deprivation, including studies at McGill University in Montreal and the National Institute of Mental Health. Subjects in that research were placed in isolated water tanks or confined to silent rooms on soft mattresses, wearing blacked-out goggles and earmuffs. In one study, subjects experienced "visual imagery somewhat resembling hallucinations" within three hours. In another study, only 6 of 17 subjects could last 36 hours on a mattress in a quiet tank that prohibited movement. The stress is described in the KUBARK manual as "unbearable."

The dark world of CIA-sponsored sensory deprivation research is plumbed in depth in the book "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation From the Cold War to the War on Terror," written by McCoy. "They've been doing this for 50 years," McCoy explained. His book discusses more CIA-sponsored research at McGill by Dr. Donald O. Hebb, who during the same era placed 22 college students in small, sound-proof cubicles, wearing translucent goggles, thick gloves and a U-shaped pillow around the head. Most subjects quit within two days and all experienced hallucinations and "deterioration in the capacity to think systematically."

The theory behind the CIA's fascination with sensory deprivation, McCoy said, is that subjects are so starved for stimulation that they will even crave interaction with their interrogator. "The idea is that they break down and then they cling to the interrogator, because you are hungry for stimulus," McCoy explained.

And of course, Report Gives Details on CIA Prisons:
The CIA exploited NATO military agreements to help it run secret prisons in Poland and Romania where alleged terrorists were held in solitary confinement for months, shackled and subjected to other mental and physical torture, according to a European investigative report released here Friday.

Some of the United States' highest-profile terrorism suspects, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, considered the prime organizer of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, were detained and interrogated at the facility in Poland, according to the 72-page report completed for the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights agency.

Dick Marty, a Swiss lawyer hired by the council, said the CIA conducted "clandestine operations under the NATO framework," providing military intelligence agencies in member countries -- including Poland and Romania -- the cover to assist the agency in disguising the use of secret flights, operations and detention facilities from the days immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks until the fall of last year.

[snip]

The report was also critical of European governments for having allowed the prisons or the transport of prisoners through their airspace. Many did not cooperate with the investigation, the report said, nor did NATO or the United States.

Investigators relied primarily on sources they did not identify in the report, but Marty said they spoke to more than 30 serving or retired members of intelligence services in the United States and Europe as well as civilians performing contract work for intelligence agencies.

The report provided new details about the CIA's purported methods of operation, detention tactics and detainees in the secret facilities. The report said evidence indicated that in order to bypass civilian authorities the CIA used emergency provisions approved by the NATO alliance after the Sept. 11 attacks to partner with European military and intelligence agencies.

"The CIA's clandestine operations in Europe -- including its transfers and secret detentions of HVDs [high-value detainees] -- were sustained and kept secret only through their operational dependence on alliances and partnerships in what is more traditionally the military sphere," the report said.

[snip]

The report went on to describe conditions in the CIA secret detention cells, based on interviews with "former or current detainees, human rights advocates, or people who have worked in the establishment or operations of CIA secret prisons." The report said the descriptions were not based on a single prisoner or cell, but on a compilation of accounts. It did not specify which country's prison was being described.

According to those accounts, detainees were often kept naked in their cells for several weeks and endured up to four consecutive months of "solitary confinement and extreme sensory deprivation in cramped cells, shackled and handcuffed at all times." Temperatures in the cells were often kept at extreme levels: "sometimes so hot one would gasp for breath, sometimes freezing cold."

Finkelstein denied tenure at DePaul

You can read about it here. I can't say I'm entirely surprised. As one of the commenters noted, the US intellectual tradition is servility to power, and that is something that Dr. Finkelstein has betrayed.

Friday, June 8, 2007

In case you didn't already know:

Davey D sez, "Hip-hop has been vocal about the war":
While debates raged in Congress recently about funding the war in Iraq, the Source Magazine, which has long been considered the bible of hip-hop, published an article asking why more rap artists haven't spoken out against the war. It also profiled Oakland rapper Boots Riley of the Coup and Mississippi rapper David Banner, because both have been vocal from Day One about their opposition to U.S. intervention in Iraq and assertions that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Ironically, the Source article hit the newsstands at the same time as a Chicago Tribune column by Grammy-nominated rap superstar Twista, who took the president to task for his veto of an early bill that attached war funding to a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Twista urged fans to speak up and do whatever they could to bring the troops home.

"They didn't attack us, so why should we have to attack them?" he wrote. "Sometimes I don't know what to think."

I'm certain Twista was offended by the Source article, just as I was, because his position on the war was similar to that of countless hip-hop artists who have expressed vehement opposition and have taken action.

In the Bay Area, three anti-war hip-hop compilation albums have been released: Hard Knock Records' critically acclaimed "What About Us," which featured Zion I, Blackalicious, Michael Franti, the Frontline, Piper of Flipsyde, Rico Pabon and Hobo Junction, among others; "War (if it feels good do it!)," a compilation by Bay Area music veteran Billy Jam, which features sound montages skillfully mixed by the DJs of Mass Destruction and songs from Public Enemy, Mr. Lif and local artists Azeem and Aya de Leon; and "War Times - Reports From the Opposition," put out by Oakland's Freedom Fighter Music, hosted by political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and featuring anti-war songs by local artists Goapele, Hanifah Walidah, Felonious and Red Guard and tracks by nationally known spoken-word artists Danny Hoch and Suheir Hammad. Many of the artists on "War Times" also organized and participated in anti-war rallies around the country.

We would be remiss not to mention Bay Area rapper Paris' album "Sonic Jihad," which was probably the first disc addressing the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq. Featured on this landmark LP were dead prez, Kam and Public Enemy. The album was accompanied by a 10-page essay and, later, a DVD breaking down the politics behind Sept. 11 and the war on terror. It sold more than 300,000 copies worldwide.

Also deserving a mention is San Francisco's Rappin' 4-Tay, who teamed with then-presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich to do the song "Weapons of Mass Distraction."

These examples represent just the tip of the iceberg. To date, more than 100 anti-war songs have been put out by hip-hop artists.

They range from Snoop Dogg's insightful "Brothers and Sisters" to Nas' Tears for Fears-inspired "Rule," Eminem's groundbreaking "Mosh," Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mele-Mel's "Tha Bushes," and KRS's heartfelt track "Soldier." Even the Ying Yang Twins released an anti-war skit, "We at War." These are just a few of many that stand out.

Former San Jose producer Fredwreck brought together some of the biggest acts on the West Coast, including Mack 10, WC, Dilated Peoples, Defari, Cypress Hill and Daz, to do two anti-war songs, "Down With Us' and "Dear Mr. President." Radio stations were afraid to touch these politically charged songs, even though they were available for free.

Lupe Fiasco, Jay-Z, Cypress Hill, Mobb Deep, Wyclef Jean and Talib Kweli are also among those who have recorded, or were featured on, anti-war songs.

So let it never be said hip-hop has been silent about the war. We need to ask why we haven't heard more of these voices in the mainstream.

The first thing I thought of when I read this was that one can find anti-war songs in hip-hop going back well before the current US eternal war on terra. There's a tune called "Niggas Wanna Rap" by Mystik Journeymen from their late 1990s album The Black Sands ov Eternia that touches on the exploitation of young men in impoverished conditions in the service of American hegemony. Probably should make mention of poet Saul Williams' album Not in My Name, which was a powerful anti-war statement recorded and released at the height of America's pro-war hysteria. AWOL Magazine (sponsored by Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors) has been weaving an anti-war stance with hip-hop since the turn of this decade. The anti-war narrative in hip-hop is arguably as old as the form itself (check the spoken word artists such as Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron for example). Seek and ye shall find.

A shout-out to Left I for the tip.

A 21st Century "Praetorian Guard" in the Making

Some excerpts:
Armed units from the private security firm Blackwater USA opened fire in Baghdad streets twice in two days last week. It triggered a standoff between the security contractors and Iraqi forces, a reminder that the war in Iraq may be remembered mostly in our history books for empowering and building America's first modern mercenary army.

[snip]

The privatization of war hands an incentive to American corporations, many with tremendous political clout, to keep us mired down in Iraq. But even more disturbing is the steady rise of this modern Praetorian Guard. The Praetorian Guard in ancient Rome was a paramilitary force that defied legal constraints, made violence part of the political discourse, and eventually plunged the Roman Republic into tyranny and despotism. Despotic movements need paramilitary forces that operate outside the law, forces that sow fear among potential opponents, and are capable of physically silencing those branded by their leaders as traitors. And in the wrong hands, a Blackwater could well become that force.

[snip]

Mercenary forces like Blackwater operate beyond civilian and military law. They are covered by a 2004 edict passed by American occupation authorities in Iraq that immunizes all civilian contractors in Iraq from prosecution.

Blackwater, barely a decade old, has migrated from Iraq to set up operations in the United States and nine other countries. It trains Afghan security forces and has established a base a few miles from the Iranian border. The huge contracts from the war - including $750 million from the State Department since 2004 - have allowed Blackwater to amass a fleet of more than 20 aircraft, including helicopter gunships. Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, points out that Blackwater has also constructed "the world's largest private military facility - a 7,000-acre compound near the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina." Blackwater also recently opened a facility in Illinois ("Blackwater North") and, despite local opposition, is moving ahead with plans to build another huge training base near San Diego. The company recently announced it was creating a private intelligence branch called "Total Intelligence."

Erik Prince, who founded and runs Blackwater, is a man who appears to have little time for the niceties of democracy. He has close ties with the radical Christian Right and the Bush White House. He champions his company as a patriotic extension of the U.S. military. His employees, in an act as cynical as it is dishonest, take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution. But what he and his allies have built is a mercenary army, paid for with government money, which operates outside the law and without constitutional constraint.

Mercenary units are a vital instrument in the hands of despotic movements. Communist and fascist movements during the last century each built rogue paramilitary forces. And the appearance of Blackwater fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, may be a grim taste of the future. In New Orleans Blackwater charged the government $240,000 a day.

" 'It cannot happen here' is always wrong," the philosopher Karl Popper wrote. "A dictatorship can happen anywhere."

The word contractor helps launder the fear and threat out of a more accurate term: "paramilitary force." We're not supposed to have such forces in the United States, but we now do. And if we have them, we have a potential threat to democracy. On U.S. soil, Blackwater so far has shown few signs of being an out-and-out rogue retainer army, though they looked the part in New Orleans. But were this country to become even a little less stable, outfits like Blackwater might see a heyday. If the United States falls into a period of instability caused by another catastrophic terrorist attack, an economic meltdown that triggers social unrest, or a series of environmental disasters, such paramilitary forces, protected and assisted by fellow ideologues in the police and military, could ruthlessly abolish what is left of our eroding democracy. War, with the huge profits it hands to corporations, and to right-wing interests such as the Christian Right, could become a permanent condition. And the thugs with automatic weapons, black uniforms and wraparound sunglasses who appeared on the streets in New Orleans could appear on our streets.

Such mercenary corporations under the right (or shall I say, wrong) conditions could devolve into death squads and the like - at least that would be my take based on a reading of some of sociologist Martha Huggins' work (e.g., Political Policing). Using the Brazilian experience with military dictatorship during the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Huggins lays bare the process by which that nation's various military and paramilitary forces spun off various rogue groups who managed to become increasingly involved in terrorizing the masses. Oddly enough, although these death squads seemed to operate under the aegis of consolidating control and restoring order in an increasingly chaotic social and political situation, these death squads ultimately sowed the seeds of further disorder and ultimately the demise of the very regime they presumably served.

Under a scenario in which the US is facing large-scale social unrest, the temptation among the nation's to impose some form of regimentation would be great. Hence the attractiveness of so-called "private contractors" operating in the service of those elites, presumably in conjunction with local police forces and National Guard units. Before too long, there will be a good deal of infighting regarding turf among these various militarized forces as they vie to justify their existence at taxpayers' expense. That will lead to temptation to cut legal and ethical corners in order to demonstrate the necessity of maintaining and increasing funds to these various enterprises. No doubt that mass protests touched off by death squad activities could provide some "cover" for the need to beef up security forces - and besides, the death squads would merely be written off as "bad apples" (albeit useful "bad apples"). We might also expect that should a despotic regime bolstered by increasingly rogue mercenary forces fall, that the cycle of violence would not necessarily end as the inevitable reprisals are meted out by victims of mercenary violence (and often done so in vigilante fashion in frustration resulting from failures to sufficiently prosecute the various mercenary perpetrators).

Thursday, June 7, 2007

America is a Fair and Just Nation

We even let people out of prison when they become unable to sleep and otherwise are reduced to "sniveling messes" - as long as the people in question are named "Paris Hilton." The classic quote attributed to her lawyers is worth sharing:
“She provides hope for young people all over the U.S. and the world. She provides beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives.”
Her lawyers should try out comedy writing as a profession. I gathered Al Sharpton was not amused, however, and he did make some salient points regarding the role of race and economic privilege that would lead the likes of Ms. Hilton to get released from prison early due to insomnia and anxiety while most others who might have actual legitimate health problems would surely be left to suffer.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

4.2 million Iraqi refugees and displaced

One of the consequences of the US war against the Iraqis:

The number of Iraqis who have fled the country as refugees has risen to 2.2 million, said Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. A further 2 million have been driven from their homes but remain within the country, increasingly in "impoverished shanty towns," she said.

Pagonis said UNHCR is receiving "disturbing reports" of regional authorities doing little to provide displaced people with food, shelter and other basic services.

[snip]

Forced evictions from public buildings are common, Pagonis added. Almost half of all displaced people have no access to official food distribution programs, according to U.N. estimates.

Most of those uprooted from their homes come from Baghdad and its surrounding districts. More than 85 percent of the Iraqis displaced within the country have moved to central and southern regions, Pagonis said.

She said about 30,000 Iraqis continue to flee each month to Syria, which is now housing 1.4 million Iraqi refugees. Another 750,000 are in Jordan.

While Iraq's neighbors are bearing the bulk of the refugee burden, few Iraqis are being welcomed into countries further afield, particularly in Europe, Pagonis said.

Among the displaced are the Mandaeans, an indigenous Gnostic community that had survived for many centuries prior to the US wars against Iraq, starting with the 1991 Gulf War. There is a strong probability that this particular culture will not survive the ethnic cleansing that has embarked in earnest in the intervening years.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Miss the CNN Dem Debate?

a la gauche has an apt summary. While we're at it, check out the talk clock graphic that gauges the amount of speaking time each of the eight candidates received. The most vocally anti-war candidate, Gravel, received the least amount of time (big surprise there).

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Say Hello To

Green Left Infoasis. Tim has decided on a name change for the blog formerly known as Democratic Left Infoasis. Same great content.

A postscript to the "spam" blog idiocy

I am apparently not the only one to have problems with the dumb fucks at Blogger, although perhaps I should count my blessing as at least Blogger/Google hasn't locked me out of my own blog (at least yet):
An email from WIIIAI:
Blogger has struck again, and decided that I run a spam blog. It may be days before they let me back in. I can't post, but I have limited control over the template, so for the time being I'll post on my archives blog, and leave links to those posts in the right-hand column of WIIIAI. The problem is that RSS users, which amount to at least 10% and for all I know half of our readers, will never see that.

But a pretty high percentage of my readers also read your blog. Could you post a notice asking my RSS readers to check the actual site and follow the links to new posts? Thanks.
At the blog Whatever It Is, I'm Against It, there is the following statement:
They locked me out of my own damn blog! I'll be posting, temporarily I hope, over on my archives blog and I'll put links to those posts right here until this is sorted out
As of today, WIIIAI is in day three of the Blogger-imposed exile. Sad thing is, while Blogger/Google has decided to harass some leftist bloggers, there are probably thousands of spamblogs that go about their sordid business unabated.

Jazz fans decry exclusion

When Yoshi's jazz club in Oakland released its much-anticipated 10-year anniversary CD last month, local jazz aficionados were outraged that no African American musicians were included.

The tension grew days later when the Bay Area's jazz community learned that the Berkeley Downtown Jazz Festival had invited only six African American musicians to perform at the five-day event in August.

Together, the two revelations upset musicians, club owners and fans, some of whom say racism is at play in the local jazz scene. Anna DeLeon, owner of Anna's Jazz Island in Berkeley, complained to organizers when she learned who was scheduled to play at her club during the festival.

"There were 17 musicians in four bands, and none were black," said DeLeon. "It is hard for me to imagine how this could happen, how they could not notice."

Word spread quickly as people voiced outrage via e-mail over a problem many said had been simmering for a long time. Jazz professionals met to plan a response. Club owners and musicians went on Doug Edwards' "Music of the World" show on KPFA-FM on May 19. A week later, Susan Muscarella, who books the jazz festival and runs Berkeley's Jazzschool, appeared on the same show to respond.

[snip]

Many artists said that holding black heritage in high esteem is not the point. Inviting six African American artists to a major jazz event that includes dozens of performers and excluding black artists from a selection of 10 performances at the East Bay's most prominent jazz venue is simply unacceptable, they said.

"It is like going to a Chinese restaurant and there are no Chinese people," said Howard Wiley, a local saxophonist. "It is very disheartening and sad, especially from Yoshi's, which calls itself the premiere jazz venue of the Bay Area.

"I mean, we are dealing with jazz and blues, not Hungarian folk music or the invention of computer programs."

Jazz grew out of the African American experience, and many historians call it the most significant contribution from the United States to the music world.

Well-known jazz artists, festival organizers and academics say the two incidents show how African Americans are being squeezed out of the art form more broadly.

"This is stemming from a much larger dynamic with regard to jazz and what is becoming a legitimized and institutionalized lack of inclusion of African Americans," said Glen Pearson, a music instructor at the College of Alameda and a full-time musician. "Jazz was once looked at as inferior music from an inferior culture, and now it has become embraced socially and academically, so there has been some revisionism."

[snip]

"I am comfortable saying that every significant white contributor to jazz studied from someone of African American descent," Pearson said. "So for a world-class jazz venue to not include an African American performer in a 10-year tribute is just so sideways."

[snip]

"The Bay Area is a jazz mecca, considered one of the top three or four markets in the country, so for its premiere venue to leave out African American artists is amazing," said Herve Ernest, executive director of SF Noir, an arts and culture organization that highlights African American contributions, and a co-founder of the North Beach Jazz Festival.

"From what I have perceived and what I've witnessed, there is a certain whitewashing of jazz both locally and nationally," Ernest said. "I think it is done from a marketing standpoint and is a response to the largely white audiences that patronize an establishment."

Ernest said one of the reasons he founded SF Noir was that he noticed the jazz festival audiences were 90 percent white, and he wanted to try to appeal to a more diverse crowd and put a stronger focus on black contributions to the art.

"It really gets me upset that people like Norah Jones (who is white and East Indian) get pushed through with heavy marketing when there are dozens of African American female jazz vocalists who, in my opinion, are 10 times better," he said. "I'm not sure if the exclusion is intended or an honest overlook, but we created jazz and we are still playing it, so we should not be overlooked."

Local jazz artists said they see the discussion as positive in that it is offering a chance to address an issue that has been stewing for some time. A desire to organize has been lacking, said local jazz singer Rhonda Benin, but now a number of musicians are ready to take action.

"It's an ongoing problem that was brought to a head by these two events," said Raymond Nat Turner, an Oakland-based jazz poet. "That set in motion a chain of e-mails and unleashed an energy that had been dormant for years.

"People who had not been communicating have started talking and networking," Turner said.

At a forum at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music last month, about 35 people discussed how better to support black-owned venues and artists and recruiting more African American children into the world of jazz.

"We are becoming the minority as Europeans and Caucasians take over," Turner said.

Those who attended the forum plan to meet again Sunday to develop a long-term strategy.

"This is an African American art form, and they are excluding the very people who created it and continue to play it," said Benin. "It's a travesty."
Nerdified link. Hat tip to IntelligentaIndigena.

The idiots at Blogger have decided this is a spam blog

This is now the second time I've had to deal with this idiocy. To repeat myself:

A real person (me) maintains this blog and posts the bulk of the blog's content. Three other real human beings periodically contribute content. Why this blog got flagged as spam is unclear to me. I would suggest to the folks at Blogger to get it together or I will likely be moving this blog to another host.

BOO!

Your government is trying to scare you again.