Why It Shouldn’t be Called a “Stimulus”

Rather, it should be called a “laying of the groundworks for future economic expansion that benefits everyone.”

I know, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, and perhaps a syllable or two too long, but calling it a “stimulus” is rather misleading in my opinion, because the ordinary usage of “stimulus” implies that it is a short burst, not a sustained effort. And a short-effort is, to use the cliche, to let a crisis go to waste.

But first, let me try to address some of the claims that the GOP has been making regarding both the nature and the content of the economic recovery plan. First, the claim that the whole thing is just going to create an unsustainable budget deficit in the future is sort of like worrying about the wine spill on the carpet while the house is on fire. Currently, the US economy is experiencing a significant shortfall between what it is capable of producing and what it is actually producing, and this gap has to be made up somehow or else the economic contraction becomes permanent. In other words, the whole pie shrinks, and everyone gets less. Deficit spending should not be on the top of the list of things to worry about it, because an economic depression shrinks government revenues as well, thus making the deficit even harder to pay off in the future. And all this zeal about balancing the budget is really rich, coming from a party that lowered government revenue by cutting taxes while simulantenously carrying on not one, but TWO, wars.

So yes, in order to counter the economic contraction, someone has to make up the gap between potential and actual economic output, and the private sector has proven to be unable to make up that gap. And since we’ve pretty much blew our wad in terms of monetary policy (the Fed interest rate is effectively at zero), fiscal policy is all that we have left. And it is not as if government fiscal spending will have no multiplier effect, so we are getting more in return than what we spend. In addition, making up the gap, through job creation and income supplements means more tax revenue, which means we ultimately save more money in the long run.

Now, onto the content of the economic recovery plan that the GOP opposes. First, the GOP believes that more tax cuts is the answer, and this is just so wrong on so many levels. First, there is no multiplier effect associated with tax cuts, so you are not getting as much back as you could. Second, tax cuts don’t ultimately close the gap between potential and actual economic output. Companies won’t be hiring new people or using their capital (both fixed or not) because there isn’t enough demand in the economy for the products and/or services companies produce. And there isn’t enough demand because people are losing jobs, so they are cutting back on consumption. And if they are cutting back on consumption, the demand for products and services decreases. Thus, a contractionary cycle emerges. So giving tax cuts to businesses doesn’t solve the underlying problem with our economy. What about giving tax cuts to individuals? Such a move could make some sense, provided that its progressive: meaning that the poorest people receive the most tax cuts, because poor people have a higher marginal propensity to consume than rich people, so they are more likely to spend that tax cut in the economy itself. But that’s not what the GOP is advocating: it is advocating across the board payroll tax cuts that don’t discriminate between various income levels, thus making the tax cut less effective than it could be. Second, compared to employment creation, income tax cuts do not have that multiplier effect, because a tax cut is simply pocketed, whereas creating a new job means producing additional economic activity on top of what the individual is making while working on that job.

And if the GOP is serious about the quickness of the turnaround, then it ought not to be opposed to assistance to state and local governments, because they provide services and entitlements for the poor much quickly than the federal government can. States are being hard with new found burden on their unemployment and insurance welfare rolls because of huge unemployment numbers. So the quickest way to  make sure that the most vulnerable members of society do not suffer that much is to keep them solvent by giving them federal assistance.

The GOP is arguing that compared to infrastructure projects, tax cuts is a much quicker stimulus. They are right insofar as tax cuts are quicker, but they are not “stimulating” in any meaningful way for the reasons listed above. And this is where the choice of words become important, because if the chosen word is “stimulus,” people will focus on how quickly this policy will “work,” not on how effectively it will work.

I make this argument because to me, government spending should produce economic benefits that are 1) public in nature and 2) equally beneficial to all, because after all, we are using public funds for this. In that regard, spending on infrastructure (whether it be physical or human), healthcare, and the environment all qualify because all three are public or semi-public goods, their economic benefits are enjoyed by all, and all private economic activities in the future will benefit from their expansion. Improvements in our physical infrastructure is a public good because everyone will benefit from better roads, bridges, ports, airports, rail, and transit. In terms of human infrastructure, all private economic activity in the future will benefit from a better educated workforce. Same with lowered healthcare costs and better coverage. This is not to even mention the environmental benefits, which everyone gets to reap in the future.

Will these things take time? Well, compared to tax cuts, yes, but they will ultimately expand the whole economy and thus making the pie larger for everyone. So to me, it is a danger to overuse the word “stimulus,” because that would ignore the beneficial long-term economic effects of this proposed economic recovery plan. Is the plan ambitious? Without a doubt, but ambitious public programs have helped our economy expand in the past: the Tennesse Valley Authoriy modernized the Southern economy, we still utilize buildings built by workers in the WPA, our private sector R&D was spurred on by government programs that produced both the nuclear bomb and the computer, so on and so on. And all of these programs have made our economy grow, so we have to keep an eye on the long-term effects of an economic recovery package.

Well, I guess I’m just pissed off at all the fallacious, empirically unsound arguments that have been made by the GOP on the economic recovery package. Sometimes that anger really gets the best of me.


John Yoo is an Embarassment to Asian Academics Everywhere

Although there aren’t many prominent/publicly-recognized Asian American academics, the two who are the most prominent–Francis Fukuyama and John Yoo–do not present what I call a “sterling” reputation. Fukuyama, at the end of the Cold War, proposed the ridiculous and oh-so-empirically-wrong “end of history” thesis that claimed that ideological struggles are over and that liberalism has won. And Fukuyama also was one of the earliest supporters of the Iraqi War, lending some resemblance of academic credibility to that ill-fated endeavor. But at least he changed his position once he realized that the “end of history” thesis is wrong, and he also changed his position once he realized just how the Bush Administration managed to bungle up the post-war occupation.

But John Yoo remains unrepentant and unapologetic about his role in enabling torture as an official US policy in the war on terror. It’s bad enough that he authored the legal basis for toture while working for the Office of Legal Counsel, he won’t shut his mouth after he left OLC and went back to academia. Now, if I were an enabler of torture with tenure, I would keep my mouth shut and hope this thing blows over.

But no, even after he left, John Yoo continues to defend this extreme legal position, whether it’s through op-eds or at Congressional hearings. The latest example is his op-ed in the NYT today, co-authored with John Bolton. The op-ed urges Obama to not skirt around the treaty-clause in the Constitution, which says that two-thirds of the Senate must ratify a treaty before it can have force of law. The conclusion is follows:

“By insisting on the proper constitutional process for treaty-making, Republicans can join Mr. Obama in advancing a bipartisan foreign policy. They can also help strike the proper balance between the legislative and executive branches that so many have called for in recent years.”

This is such a disingenous and hypocritical conclusion! So Yoo is arguing that Obama must work with Congress in order to not upset Constitutional check-and-balance? Where the fuck was this line of thinking when Yoo wrote the torture memo, which essentially argued for a completely unitary executive? The double standard practically screams out of this conclusion.

This is just un-fucking-believable: I can’t believe John Yoo has the balls to write something like this after everything he’s argued for while he worked for the Bush Administration. There is no absolutely no credibility here, and Yoo should be embarassed for himself.

When are we going to get some Asian American academics who aren’t either warmongers or torture-enablers? I guess we’ll find out someday.

Busboys and Poets: Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit

What is Busboys and Poets? The answer, at least the one that the store provides, is this:

“Busboys and Poets is a community gathering place. First established in 2005 Busboys and Poets was created by owner Anas “Andy” Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, activist and restaurateur. After opening, the flagship location at 14th and V Streets, NW (Washington DC), the neighboring residents and the progressive community, embraced Busboys, especially activists opposed to the Iraq War. Busboys and Poets is now located in three distinctive neighborhoods in the Washington Metropolitan area and is a community resource for artists, activists, writers, thinkers and dreamers.”

Having answered this metaphysical question, we have to ask the normative question about Busboys and Poets: what does it seek to do? Again, the answer from the source:

“Busboys and Poets is a restaurant, bookstore, fair trade market and gathering place where people can discuss issues of social justice and peace. Each Busboys and Poets location should enhance the community — allowing us to bring together a diverse clientele reflective of the surrounding neighborhoods. Busboys and Poets creates an environment where shared conversations over food and drink allow the progressive, artistic and literary communities to dialogue, educate and interact.”

Prima facie, Busboys and Poets is the kind of place that could be an concrete manifestation of Jurgen Habermas‘ concept of the “public sphere” as it is articulated in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. According to Habermas, the “public sphere” is

“the idea of inclusive critical discussion, free of social and economic pressures, in which interlocutors treat each other as equals in a cooperative attempt to reach an understanding on matters of common concern.” (from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry)

By this definition, Busboys and Poets seems to qualify as just such a particular instantiation of the concept: it advertises itself as a place in which people of a certain political persuasion can come and gather to discuss matters of common concern.

But what is wrong with Busboys and Poets is exactly what eventually caused the decline of the ideal of the public sphere: “ideas became commodities, assimilated to the economics of mass media consumption.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Busboys and Poets, first of all, seems to be designed as to check off items on the list that must be approved by bourgeoise sensibilities: it is multicultural, it clearly notes which items are vegetarian and which are vegan, it only uses fair trade coffee, it sponsors events by non-mainstream artists, it promotes local agribusiness, it sells politically left-leaning books, and so on and so on. In other words, someone read the whole list on Stuff White People Like and designed a bar/coffeeshop/lounge/restaurant around that list.

Like the modern liberal political movement, especially in its more youthful segment, Busboys and Poets is all style, no substance. Like I said, it has all the visual trappings of a “progressive” place to hang out with other young progressives, and together we will all rise up and change the world. But nevermind the fact that Busboys and Poets is located on, and both a cause and effect of, one of the quickest gentrification areas in Washington DC: the U Street Corridor. Nevermind the fact that out of the many times that I’ve been there, I’ve yet to hear an exchange that has any intellectual rigorous content.

What is most odious to me about this is that real progressive ideas, supported by logically rigorous ideas and arguments, have themselves become the social equivalent of fashion accessories. The idea of “progressivism” has become just another commodity to be purchased and displayed as signs of group membership and exclusion.

Not that I blame the owners, because they are merely appealing to the youthful “progressives” of our day and their sensibilities. Apparently, it is more important to be seen as “progressive” and to be seen hanging out at the “right” places (by other “progressives” no less!) than it is to actually have an intellectually substantive conversation about what is going on in the world. But then again, I have been disenchanted with people my age who claim to be part of the “movement,” mostly because most of them are not really serious, on a philosophical level, about ideas that animate their supposed movement. (See this post by Brian Berkey for an insightful and cutting analysis of the intellectual vacousness that characterizes most people who belong to the youthful progressive movement).

In the end, we are all poseurs with an “u.” So let us not pretend that having a coffeeshop is going to change the world, and let’s just all admit that some of us go to Busboys and Poets, not because we are so passionately committed to progressivism (not that many of us would even know the intellectual arguments anyways), but because we want to be seen at the “right” kind of place and be seen by the “right” kind of people.

The sooner we face up to our rampant consumerism and identity-construction through consumption, the sooner we can go back to discuss the disproportionate Israeli response to Hamas’ rocket-firings and display our solidarity with our Palestinian brothers by purchasing a cup of fair-trade coffee and vegan panini.

Dick Cheney and Justice

My standard procedure for reading anything written by Bill Kristol is to dismiss it, but even I can’t dismiss this claim he made about Dick Cheney in today’s New York Times:

“You gotta love Dick Cheney.

O.K., O.K. … you don’t have to. But consider this exchange with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday”:

WALLACE: Did you really tell Senator Leahy, bleep yourself?

CHENEY: I did.

WALLACE: Any qualms, or second thoughts, or embarrassment?

CHENEY: No, I thought he merited it at the time. (Laughter.) And we’ve since, I think, patched over that wound and we’re civil to one another now.

No spin. No doubletalk. A cogent defense of his action — and one that shows a well-considered sense of justice. (“I thought he merited it.”) Indeed, if justice is seeking to give each his due, one might say that Dick Cheney aspires to being a just man. And a thoughtful one, because he knows that justice is sometimes too harsh, and should be tempered by civility.”

I just couldn’t believe what I was reading: did Bill Kristol really set out to defend Cheney as a man aspiring for justice? Surely even someone as preposterous as Kristol cannot write something this preposterous?

Let’s break this thing down. First of all, it’s really incredible that Kristol claims that Cheney has no spin and doubletalk because, for crying out loud, Dick Cheney claimed that the Vice Presidency belongs to neither the legislative nor executive branch, but is instead its own fourth branch of government! How is this not doubletalk?

Second, just because Dick Cheney thought that Patrick Leahy deserved to be verbally abused does not make so that Patrick Leahy actually deserves to be verbally abused. Dick Cheney merely made an assertion about what Leahy deserved without justifying that assertion with any kind of evidence. How is that a display of a “well-considered sense of justice?”

…unless what Bill Kristol assumes is that whatever Dick Cheney thought is just, is in fact just.

This is just too much to accept. It kind of reminds me of Nixon’s assertion that whatever the President does, it is not illegal. Similarly, Bill Kristol seems to be attributing to Cheney this kind of power: whatever Cheney thinks is just, is just. In this respect, both Nixon and Cheney operate outside and above law and justice: they dictate what is legal and what is just.

This, in fact, seems to be Kristol’s overall argument in writing this column. In the last part of his column, Kristol quotes Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If“:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;”

In quoting this poem, Kristol seems to suggest that Dick Cheney somehow possesses wisdom that is unknowable to other people who disagree with him, like on Iraq, like on the surge, like on pretty much everything that Cheney has had a hand in (which is a lot).

It’s actually kind of scary how much Kristol is towing the line for the Bush Administration here. The central Bush doctrine, one that isn’t even about foreign policy, is far more dangerous: it’s the doctrine of unlimited executive power. Somehow we, as citizens, are supposed to give up our democratic process and delegate all power to an all-powerful, well-intentioned executive, and trust that he’ll protect us and do the right thing.

This is patently bullshit, but it’s bullshit that has been perpetrated throughout the eight years of this Administration. Cheney doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that maybe the Administration is wrong, that maybe the dissenters actually have good points to make, that disagreement isn’t treachery. But no, Cheney assumes that whatever the executive does, it is just and it is legal, even if it goes against existing laws and morality (like torture, like illegaly wiretappings, like starting a war on false pretext).

And somehow the Adminsitration and its cronies, among whom Kristol is a prominent member, still think that history will redeem their doctrine of unlimited executive powers.

To defend Cheney in the name of Justice is to sully the very concept. Sometimes, and it’s becoming most of the time, I’ve stopped having any kind of faith in the New York Time’s ability to have a real columnist (aside from Paul Krugman).

Bill Kristol is a Fucking Warmonger

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the face of warmongering, and not just any kind of warmongering, but an especially stupid one.

To wit, Kristol’s op-ed column in today’s NYT, in which he attacks the liberal academia for being pussies (not his words, mine) on how to react to the terrorist incident in Mumbai:

“Consider first an op-ed article in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times by Martha Nussbaum, a well-known professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago. The article was headlined “Terrorism in India has many faces.” But one face that Nussbaum fails to mention specifically is that of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic terror group originating in Pakistan that seems to have been centrally involved in the attack on Mumbai.

This is because Nussbaum’s main concern is not explaining or curbing Islamic terror. Rather, she writes that “if, as now seems likely, last week’s terrible events in Mumbai were the work of Islamic terrorists, that’s more bad news for India’s minority Muslim population.” She deplores past acts of Hindu terror against India’s Muslims. She worries about Muslim youths being rounded up on suspicion of terrorism with little or no evidence. And she notes that this is “an analogue to the current ugly phenomenon of racial profiling in the United States.”

So jihadists kill innocents in Mumbai — and Nussbaum ends up decrying racial profiling here. Is it just that liberal academics are required to include some alleged ugly American phenomenon in everything they write?”

Then Kristol tries to nail Jim Leach:

“Jim Leach is also a professor, at Princeton, but he’s better known as a former moderate Republican congressman from Iowa who supported Barack Obama this year. His contribution over the weekend was to point out on Politico.com that “the Mumbai catastrophe underscores the importance of vocabulary.” This wouldn’t have been my first thought. But Leach believes it’s very important that we consider the Mumbai attack not as an act of “war” but as an act of “barbarism.””

Well, I guess it’s not only “unpatriotic” to point out the terrorism has been used in America to justify all kinds of civil rights violation and a war underwent for a false pretext, it is apparently also “unpatriotic,” according to Kristol, to warn against the same phenomena in other countries.

It is such a fucking dirty, ignoble right-wing move to call any criticism of government policy “unpatriotic,” as if any caution about not overreacting in the face of crisis is somehow treachery. And worst of all, Kristol’s suggestion is highly militaristic, as he says:

“But if terror groups are to be defeated, it is national governments that will have to do so. In nations like India (and the United States), governments will have to call on the patriotism of citizens to fight the terrorists. In a nation like Pakistan, the government will have to be persuaded to deal with those in their midst who are complicit. This can happen if those nations’ citizens decide they don’t want their own country to be dishonored by allegiances with terror groups. Otherwise, other nations may have to act.”

Some five years after Iraq, Kristol has failed to see that counter-terrorism is not primarily a strategy that is aimed towards SOVEREIGN nations. Sure, terrorists, by virtue of being human, necessarily resides somewhere, as a matter of ontological necessity. But just because they reside somewhere does not mean that the proper response is to wage all out war against that country.

But why am I even spending effort on this shit? Is there not anything better to do on a post-Thanksgiving Monday? I’ve learned to attenuate my rage towards the NYT columnists, but once in a while, when one of them writes something THIS retarded, I have to respond.

It’s like a gag reflex.

Who’s Nailin’ Paylin?

Who indeed? (totally safe for work, trust me):

Better watch it fast, because the original link on Digg is no longer valid, as Google says that “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Larry Flynt Publications.”

So as a responsible citizen who is interested in how politicians are portrayed, and as a connoisseur of all things strange and amusing of pop culture, I just HAD to find the full copy. It really isn’t hard at all to locate if you know where to look…

Now, onto the video itself: suffice to say, the fictional “Sarah Paylin” (I’m guessing the name is changed for copyright issues) amply demonstrates her ability to deal with our Russian enemies (who is so closely located to her mansion that they snuck in)…through a variety of physical means.

And I’ll just leave it at that.

But seriously folks, is this stuff really surprising? I mean, for Christ’s sake, the instant that Sarah Palin was nominated, her looks were brought into discussion. This is merely the logical extreme of that train of thought. Someone should send the full video to Chris Matthews: maybe he’ll get an even bigger thrill up this leg this time.

This is what I don’t understand: during Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign, her physical appearance was, for the most part, not part of the diarrhea ejaculated by the punditry, in part because I think people thought that commenting on her physical appearance seriously denigrates her skills and expertise and is condescending to her as a woman. But when Palin gets nominated, suddenly her physical appearance was not only not off limits, but became part and parcel of the narrative about her.

Now what kind of bullshit is this? Why does the fact that Sarah Palin can somewhat qualify for MILF (or even GILF) status count for fucking shit?!?! In what way, shape, or form is her appearance relevant for her potential position as Vice President? But no, people couldn’t stop drooling all over themselves, especially Bill Kristol, that lascivious asshat.

I ask you, gentle and decent readers, which is the more vulgar: that Sarah Palin and certain elements of the political punditry have exploited her physical appearance for electoral appeal, or a fictious film of pornographic nature inspired by the former?


Apparently there is a script available for your perusal (this is definitely not safe for work), and as Brian Griff once said: I won’t do it!…unless I see a script first. So I’ll be back once I plow through the script (pun definitely intended).

Why the New York Times Should Not Write about Hip Hop

“Back in the days when I was a teenager
Before I had status and before I had a pager
You could find the Abstract listening to hip hop
My pops used to say, it reminded him of be-bop
I said, well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles”

-“Excursions”, from The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest

Jon Caramanica has apparently discovered the fact that hip hop artists sometimes make explicit references to canonical works in the tradition and capitalizes on them. Like, woah. The way he sees it:

“Increasingly, the Cool Kids are not alone. They are part of a small but newly influential hip-hop subculture — call it meta-rap — created by a generation of artists raised wholly within hip-hop culture, making music that is a commentary on what came before it. In hip-hop, which can be ruthlessly forward-looking, this is a novel development, and it has made for compelling and diverse music from acts like the Cool Kids, Pacific Division, the Knux, Kidz in the Hall and Plastic Little.”

So first, we have a sociological claim about hip hop. But then Caramanica goes on to make an aesthetic claim about this supposedly “new” genre:

“But while intragenre nostalgia figures regularly in other styles of pop — rock has a long history of sifting through its past for new inspiration — it has never had a place in hip-hop. It’s not that rap never looks backward. Thanks to its innovations in sampling, it has helped keep various other styles prominent in the collective pop memory. But borrowing from other rappers has traditionally been considered taboo. And largely it still is, so many of these artists use elements of the past as building blocks, which they then reconfigure to their own ends. Though the music shares many characteristics with hip-hop from decades past, “in the climate of the industry right now, it’s considered experimental,” said Be Young, 22, of Southern California’s Pacific Division.”

How does one respond to these two different kind of claims? With facts, that’s how! Surely, this piece is so ignorant of hip hop’s history that it deserves to be spanked a bit. In fact, when I read the piece tonight, I had a strong feeling of deja vu: it turns out that I had already written a post, from the earliest days of my blogging, on the inter- and intra-texual qualities of hip hop. And I’ll be quoting from it, and also modifying some of it to update my thoughts a bit.

I. The Sociological Claim:

Caramanica makes it seem like the rise of a sub-genre niche movement is a new movement when in fact hip hop has a long and storied history of intra- and inter-textual references, a quality that would make it “meta” by Caramanica’s definition. In my original post, I write:

“What do I mean by that? Hip hop is intra-textual in that it is constantly self-referencing, whether it’s referencing a previous verse, the rapper’s previous albums, or even a concept that was employed in a previous work (see Dr. Dre’s update on “Next Episode” in 2001, referencing back to “The Chronic”).

Hip hop is also inter-textual in that it is not a self-contained, hermetically sealed work: it constantly makes allusions to other hip hop. For example, just listen to any dis-rap: it is all about referencing and putting down other people’s work. Hip hop artists are also obsessed with the legacy of hip hop: their place within the pantheon, their relative worth compared to the legends, etc. Finally, hip hop is known to reference pop-culture extensively, like movies, cartoons, musicians, etc.

Finally, hip hop is a self-mythologizing art: great hip hop artists have always constructed their own meticulous life story. For an extreme example of hip hop mythologizing, one only needs to look at the Wu Tang Clan. A whole back-story was created, intact with its own self-referencing iconology and symbols, known only to people who are already familiar with the mythos.”

The substantive claims, I think, are still valid. Hip hop artists reference their own works all the time, thus making them “meta,” in the sense that they are constantly self-referential and commentaries on themselves. If I were to offer a somewhat Heideggerian account of this quality, I might say that hip hop is constantly engaged in hermeneutics: it is self-interpretation through commentaries on previous works which help listeners to interpret both the subject of the reference and the work making the reference.

To include some additional relevant examples that counters Caramanica’s claims: hip hop has commented on the music industry (“Labels” from GZA’s debut solo album, Liquid Swords), hip hop itself (“I Used to Love H.E.R.” by Common), one’s own position within the canon (“Til I Collapse” by Eminem, “What More can I Say” by Jay-Z), the influence of the canon on one’s own hip hop career (“Juicy” by Biggie, “Old School” by 2Pac), and so on and so forth. In fact, just see Nas’s Hip Hop is Dead is an entire album dedicated to the commentary on hip hop tradition and its state in the contemporary hip hop space.

So I find it quite absurd when Caramanica makes the sociological claim that somehow “meta” rap is a new genre movement, when in fact what makes hip hop “meta”–namely, its self-referential and inter-textuality–has a long tradition in hip hop. In fact, it would not be implausible to argue that this is the very essence of hip hop’s aesthetics.

II. The Aesthetic Claim:

As to Caramanica’s claim that finding inspiration from older sounds “has never had a place in hip-hop,” I find the claim so absurd as to reject it prima facie. After all, has Caramanica never heard of a little thing called “influence?”

But just to be sure: hip hop is filled with instances in which individual actors and sounds have influenced subsequent actors and sounds. If this does not constitute instances of finding inspiration from the past in hip hop, then I wonder what does?

The examples are so many as to be countless, but I’ll just give a salient few. Dr. Dre created that classic g-funk sound which became the foundation upon which west coast hardcore rap became popular. Similarly, the body of work created by the Native Tongues Posse cemented the role of jazz in hip hop. Another example would be RZA’s production styles on the first Wu-Tang created and influenced that dirty/gritty, spare East Coast hardcore rap sound. The Beastie Boys alone were responsible two kind of subsequent sounds: its rock-rap sound (with Rick Rubin’s help) had an indelible influence on the develop of nu-metal; its innovative sampling work (with the help of The Dust Brothers) changed the role of sampling and led to DJ Shadow. And to use a very contemporary example: just look at how producers like Kanye West, Timbaland, the Neptunes, and Lil Jon put their sonic fingerprints on subsequent works in contemporary mainstream hip hop.

Thus, to suggest that somehow hip hop does not take inspiration (or, to put it more bluntly, lift) from the past is patently absurd. One need not be an expert or have extensive knowledge of hip hop’s branching genealogy and paths of influence to know this very simple fact. Of course it is true that some sounds become hot while others fade depend on a number of factors, but this, as the lyrics quoted at the beginning suggests, is probably just another phase of the cycle.

III. Conclusion:

Therefore, Caramanica’s major narrative in the NYT article is contradicted by the history of hip hop: “meta” rap, as exemplified by the artists he refers, does not represent a distinctly new sociological phenomenon in hip hop’s development, and neither is it a real meaningful break from hip hop’s aesthetic. Or, if such a movement really does represent a genuine break, Caramanica does not really make it clear why this is the case.

One might object that I’m taking this way too seriously, and that I am demanding too much: after all, this is a story that ran in a mainstream newspaper that is not particularly devoted to hip hop and thus not targeted towards people like me who are already very much invested in hip hop and its history. Sure, on a certain level, I concede the point: if I really wanted to read detailed/insightful analysis on hip hop, I’d hop on over to OhWord instead to the pages of the New York Times.

But I believe that one can write a general, survey-level story on hip hop without showing glaring evidence of the author’s blatant ignorance. This to me is a gross misrepresentation of what is actually going on in hip hop, and since I am very passionate about hip hop, I get pissed off when someone tries to pass off this ignorant shit to millions of readers who are probably not as knowledgable and thus rely on mainstream publications like the NYT. That the article seems to make a number of sophisticated claims about hip hop (both its aesthetics and its history) can only be more deceptive to people who don’t know.

Yet, is anyone harmed by this misinformation? I don’t know, but I know that I’d be equally pissed if someone wrote a general story about the history of Philosophy and made the claim that the problem of the mind-body duality represents a new branch of inquiry in the history of philosophy.