- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lying on the street

“[Author John] McWhorter’s animus is reserved for those pundits and intellectuals who see in hiphop the makings of a social revolution, guided by rappers whose outspoken commentaries on race, poverty and violence have made them, in the famous words of Public Enemy’s Chuck D, ‘Black America’s CNN.’

“Nothing could be further from the truth, McWhorter argues. Far from being truth-tellers, he says, so-called ‘conscious’ rappers recycle endless cliches and conspiracy theories about inner-city blight, the drugs trade and AIDS.

“Instead of generating a desire to change the system, rappers and their acolytes in the media and academia simply encourage a sense of passivity. ‘Insisting that things are still so simple that black people need to get together and rise in fury against an evil oppressor makes for entertaining hiphop … . But this way of parsing things does not correspond to what black America really needs today, as opposed to what it needed 50 years ago.’”

- Clive Davis, writing on “John McWhorter: the most unpopular black man in America?” in the July 13 issue of the Sunday Times of London

Inevitable outcome

“Yet it is worth pointing out that [Austrian economist Friedrich] Hayek understood at least one very big thing: that the vision of a perfectible society leads inevitably to the gulag.

“Experience should have taught us by now that human societies are jerry-built structures, rickety towers of ad hoc solutions to unforeseen problems. Their development is evolutionary, and as in biological evolution, they do not have natural end-states. They are what they are continuously becoming.

“Comprehensive models of how society should work reject the wisdom of solutions that work and deny the legitimacy (indeed, from Lenin to Mussolini to Mao to Ho to Castro to Qutb, deny the very right to exist) of individuals who demonstrate anti-orthodox wisdom. Defenders of these models are required by their own rigidity to invent the category of the counterrevolutionary.”

- Jesse Larner, writing on “Who’s Afraid of Friedrich Hayek? The Obvious Truths and Mystical Fallacies of a Hero of the Right” in the winter issue of Dissent magazine

Chinese Gotham

Beijing is flat and sprawling and smoggy and jammed with traffic and nearly all new, which is why an American friend who’s been working there for the last couple of years calls it ‘the People’s Republic of Houston.’

“When it comes to urban analogies, though, New York City actually seems more apt. Beijing’s historic core - the area with Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the main national government buildings, and some of the few remaining hutong neighborhoods - contains 1.3 million people in its 24 square miles, almost exactly the same as Manhattan; fully urbanized Beijing closely tracks the five boroughs of New York City in area and population; and the greater Chinese capital is about the same size as metropolitan New York.

“But having just visited for the first time, I realized that what early-21st-century Beijing even more deeply resembles is New York at the turn of the 20th century. That’s the moment at which modern New York was inventing itself by showstopping leaps and bounds - swallowing adjacent cities and towns and farms, booming in population, and erecting what would become its defining landmarks.”

- Kurt Andersen, writing on “From Mao to Wow!” in the August issue of Vanity Fair

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