But nothing that comes out can be more dispiriting than the simple truth that Democrats and Republicans are both happy to love Big Brother as long as he’s got the right party affiliation.
In late 2005, The New York Times and others exposed broad-based, constitutionally dubious NSA surveillance programs of American citizens. If memory serves, there was a Republican in the White House, and the GOP held both houses of Congress too.
In January 2006, Pew Research asked whether it was OK to collect info on “people suspected of involvement with terrorism by secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading emails between some people in the United States and other countries, without first getting court approval to do so.” A slim majority of all respondents—51 percent—said yeswhile 47 percent said no.
The partisan breakdown, however, was vastly different, with 75 percent of Republicans finding it acceptable and just 23 percent dissenting. When it came the Democrats, only 37 percent of Democrats signed off on NSA snooping, with a whopping 61 percent saying screw off.
Fast-forward to June 2013, when a Democrat occupies the Oval Office after an easy reelection and his party controls the Senate. Pew asked respondents whether it’s OK that the NSA “has been getting secret court orders to track telephone calls of millions of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism.” This time around, it’s Democrats who overwhelmingly support collecting collecting yottabytes and exabytes of metadata on us all, with 64 percent saying they are totally fine with NSA surveillance programs and a measly 34 percent disagreeing. Among Republicans, enthusiasm for eye-in-the-sky surveillance has taken a major hit, with only 52 percent agreeing and 47 percent saying no.
(Don’t let the constitutional fig leaf about “secret court orders” in the newer version of Pew’s question fool you. To the extent that anyone knows anything about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, they know it’s a freaky hybrid of a kangaroo and a rubber stamp that even Dr. Moreau couldn’t have conceived at his most demented. In roughly 34,000 requests spanning 33 years, FISA courts have turned down applicants for surveillance orders a total of 11 times.)
attacked anyone who “would scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty,” Pew asked, “Should the government be able to monitor everyone’s email and other online activities if officials say this might prevent future terrorist attacks?” To our credit as the Land of the Free, more Americans said no (47 percent) than yes (45 percent). In the latest tally, the nos have increased by 5 points, to 52 percent while the yeses have stayed at the same level.The same predictable, partisan-fueled march of the lemmings shows up in questions about monitoring email. In 2002, when wisps of smoke still rose silently from the World Trade Center’s wreckage like lost souls in search of some beggared form of heaven and Attorney General John Ashcroft still
Among Republicans and Democrats, however, situational ethics runs the show. Fifty-three percent of Republicans said yes and 38 percent said no. Now, 45 percent say yes and 51 percent say no. Democrats present a mirror image. Back in 2002, just 41 percent said yes and 51 percent said no. Now, the corresponding figures are 53 percent and 43 percent.
Such inarguably party-fueled reversals are nothing new—go Google the ideological contortions related to changing views of pols and pundits on whether Bush’s predilection for indefinite detention is worse than Obama’s fondness for presidential kill lists if you’ve got enough Prevacid in your medicine cabinet.
To be fair, sometimes partisans really do have a Damascus Road experience and change their ways of thinking. By all accounts, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), who grabbed headlines a decade ago by rechristening Congress’s spuds as “freedom fries,” really has scrapped his interventionist positions despite a strongly negative effect on his electability. But for the most part, reboots are little more than cynical ploys that are hard to take seriously even when they are as entertaining as postcoital pressers by fallen ministers. That includes the recent and largely unconvincing repudiation of the Patriot Act by its original sponsor, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
More to the point, though, the virtually unyielding preference for partisanship over principle explains why regardless of which party controls the government, the surveillance state continues to grow. It’s totally different, don’t you see, when my guy is running the show!
If you can stand on principle only when it is violated by party A, but not party B, or vice versa, you’re part of the problem.
Hoover’s signature cost rather more—even though the direct effect on American trade was limited. The average rate on dutiable goods rose from 40% to 48%, implying a price increase of only 6%. And most trade, Mr Irwin points out, was free of duty (partly because high tariffs discouraged imports). He estimates that the new tariff reduced dutiable imports by 17-20% and the total by 4-6%. Yet the volume of American imports had already dropped by 15% in the year before the act was passed. It would fall by a further 40% in a little more than two years.
Other, bigger forces were at work. Chief among these was the fall in American GDP, the causes of which went far beyond protection. The other was deflation, which amplified the effects of the existing tariff and the Smoot-Hawley increases. In those days most tariffs were levied on the volume of imports (so many cents per pound, say) rather than value. So as deflation took hold after 1929, effective tariff rates climbed, discouraging imports. By 1932, the average American tariff on dutiable imports was 59.1%; only once before, in 1830, had it been higher. Mr Irwin reckons that the Tariff Act raised duties by 20%; deflation accounted for half as much again.
Smoot-Hawley did most harm by souring trade relations with other countries. The League of Nations, of which America was not a member, had talked of a “tariff truce”; the Tariff Act helped to undermine that idea. By September 1929 the Hoover administration had already noted protests from 23 trading partners at the prospect of higher tariffs. But the threat of retaliation was ignored: America’s tariffs were America’s business. The Congressional Record, notes Mr Irwin, contains 20 pages of debate on the duty on tomatoes but very little on the reaction from abroad.
A study by Judith McDonald, Anthony Patrick O’Brien and Colleen Callahan* examines the response of Canada, America’s biggest trading partner. When Hoover was elected president, the Canadian prime minister, Mackenzie King, wrote in his diary that his victory would lead to “border warfare”. King, who had cut tariffs in the early 1920s, warned the Americans that retaliation might follow. In May 1930, with higher American tariffs all but certain, he imposed extra duties on some American goods—and cut tariffs on imports from the rest of the British empire.
He promptly called a general election, believing he had done enough to satisfy Canadians’ resentment. America, wrote the New York Times, was “consciously giving Canada inducements to turn to England for the goods which she has been buying from the United States.” Canadians agreed. King’s Liberals were crushed by the Conservatives, who favoured and enacted even higher tariffs.
All this, of course, is history. There are plenty of reasons to think that the terrible lesson of the 1930s will not have to be learnt again. Governments have reaffirmed their commitment to open trade and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The complex patterns of cross-border commerce, with myriad stages of production spread over so many countries, would be enormously costly to pull apart.
And yet. Tariffs can be increased, even under the WTO. The use of anti-dumping is on the rise. Favours offered to one industry (farming then; cars now?) can be hard to refuse to others. And the fact that politicians know something to be madness does not stop them doing it. They were told in 1930: 1,028 times over.
There are two ways we can produce automobiles. We can build them in Detroit or we can grow them in Iowa. Everyone knows how we build automobiles. To grow automobiles, we first grow the raw material from which they are made – wheat. We put the wheat on ships and send the ships out into the Pacific. They come back with Hondas on them.
From our standpoint, growing Hondas is just as much a form of production – using American farmworkers instead of American autoworkers – as building them. What happens on the other side of the Pacific is irrelevant; the effect would be just the same for us if there really were a gigantic machine sitting somewhere between Hawaii and Japan turning wheat into automobiles. Tariffs are indeed a way of protecting American workers – from other American workers.
La Défense is a major business district near Paris, in France. With its 560 hectares (5.6 million square metres) area, its 72 glass and steel buildings and skyscrapers, its 180,000 daily workers, and 3.5 million square metres (37.7 million sq ft) of office space, La Défense is Europe’s largest purpose-built business district. Around its Grande Arche and esplanade (“le Parvis”), La Défense contains many of the Paris urban area’s tallest high-rises, and is home to no fewer than 1,500 corporate head offices, including those of 15 of the top 50 companies in the world.
If there’s an intractable urban problem, whether involving housing thousands of people or preparing for an attention-grabbing event, there is always a one-step solution: Make it float!
This is Qatar’s plan, at least, for the 2022 World Cup. Faced with mounting criticism of its preparations for the event, and worries that it will not be able to manage hosting the thousands of attendees, the Gulf state has decided to look into several floating hotels that together would be capable of handling upwards of 25,000 people.
Designed by Sigge Architects in collaboration with Global Accommodation Management, the floating hotels would be linked to the mainland by boats and new transit lines. Ostensibly temporary, they would sit just offshore from Doha but would be equipped with their own utilities and power supply. Though this would undoubtedly be an expensive project, Qatar definitely has the resources to accomplish it. Just look at the plans for the Zaha Hadid-designed stadium—very spendy indeed.
While the designs may be luxurious, and their interiors draped in chic leathers and brocades, floating buildings are an inefficient solution to a temporary problem. When the event is over, will the hotels be towed to another location? Or will they sit offshore, slowly rusting like abandoned oil rigs?
Early in 1991, the Decca record company took what may go down as the most enlightened decision in a century of commercial music. Awash with profits from “The Three Tenors in Concert” (1990), executives were wondering how to invest the windfall when a young American producer, Michael Haas, came up with a dazzling concept: bring back the music that was banned by the Nazis.
This was not going to be an easy sell. Hitler had damned as entartet, or degenerate, music by Jews, atonalists, modernists, jazz-makers and political enemies. Dozens of composers were erased from history, never to return. Some were murdered, others were pushed into the oblivion of exile. After the war, former Nazis held influence in German music and young musicians, unwilling to look back, upheld the banishment across the classical-music spectrum. Mr. Haas was proposing an act of cultural restitution on a scale never attempted before.
Decca’s president at the time was a German, Roland Kommerell, whose uncle had worked with the profoundly compromised philosopher Martin Heidegger. Komerell got the point and gave Mr. Haas the green light for a series titled Entartete Musik.
Where to begin, among the long-forgotten? Mr. Haas collected 300 composers’ names from prewar publishers’ catalogs but struggled to find scores and assess merit. Who knew if such 1920s hits as Ernst Krenek’s blackface jazz opera “Jonny spielt auf” and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s “Das Wunder der Heliane” would appeal to modern ears? Why did Walter Braunfels, a devout Catholic, get banned? Did the expressionist Franz Schreker deserve the punning epithet schrecklich (dreadful)?
Mr. Haas took his lists to Berthold Goldschmidt, an octogenarian living near Hampstead Heath in London, only to discover that this long-neglected composer, besides having perfect recall of Weimar-era music, was one of the unluckiest victims of the ban. Hailed by a critic in 1932 as “the white hope of German music,” with an opera premiere heading for Berlin the following year, Goldschmidt lost everything when Hitler came to power. In his English refuge, he was known chiefly for helping to complete Mahler’s 10th symphony. Entartete Music reversed his fortunes. By 1996, when he died at age 93, Goldschmidt had heard all of his forgotten music recorded and was busy composing more.
Decca’s restitution was an extraordinary adventure into the unknown. Almost everything that Mr. Haas recorded was novel, unexpected, often unbearably poignant. At a Prague recording of Pavel Haas’s effervescent opera “The Charlatan,” none could ignore the proximate facts of the Czech composer’s fate—incarcerated in the nearby Terezin camp, then gassed, age 45, in Auschwitz. By the time classical recording hit a mid-1990s downturn and cost-cutters pulled the plug on the series, Mr. Haas had produced 31 albums and rewritten a sizable chunk of the verdict of history.
The scale of dispossession defies belief. Goldschmidt told me that he was personally acquainted with more than 100 composers who fled Germany. My hope was that “Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis” would tell the romantic story of Mr. Haas’s quixotic mission. Perhaps prompted by an academic publisher, he decided to cast his net wider and seek to place the Nazi prohibition in a broader context of German cultural anti-Semitism. The first third of the book tell us little that we have not read elsewhere. Oppression begins with the appalling pamphlet “Das Judenthum in der Musik,” issued by Richard Wagner under a pseudonym in 1850 and again under his own name 20 years later. In it Wagner claimed that Jews could not achieve originality in German art. Hitler used this charge as his manifesto for cultural cleansing.
By the turn of the 20th century, in Mahler’s Vienna, Jews were identified in the public mind with ultra-modernist tendencies, an antidote to the romantic nationalism that had fueled the rise of German music. Arnold Schoenberg’s atonalities were an affront to middle-class ears, contradicting the expectation of pleasure. Jews were blamed for the destruction of German certainties. Cleansing was loudly demanded. Mr. Haas finds the term entartet applied to music, perhaps for the first time, by the venerable scholar Guido Adler, a close friend of Mahler’s. Adler, in a 1917 essay, calls for “musical boils to be lanced’ to stop the spread of “degeneration.” By 1920, most of Vienna’s leading “degenerates” had fled to liberal Berlin.
There, Franz Schreker, a writer of emotionally overwrought operas, shared with Schoenberg the job of teaching a new generation of German composers. Half-Jewish and unpopular in his profession, Schreker inspired Krenek, Goldschmidt, Max Brand and others to launch a genre of Zeitoper—operas that tackled contemporary social issues. His own operas were overloaded with sexual complications. On his death in exile in 1934, a Nazi critic called Schreker “the Magnus Hirschfeld of music” (a reference to the prominent liberator of sexual minorities) and a man “for whom no sexual perversion could not be set to music.” Schreker, his operas first recorded on Entartete Musik, is now enjoying a small revival in decadent 21st-century German Regietheater (i.e., “directors’ theater”).
Hanns Eisler, raised in Vienna, is a more elusive victim of the era. Moving to Berlin in 1918 after his brother and sister founded the Austrian Communist Party, Eisler fell out with his teacher Schoenberg and succeeded the irascible Kurt Weill as Bertolt Brecht’s chosen composer. In exile, he wound up working in Hollywood. There, his sister, Ruth, having rejected her earlier sympathies, denounced him to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, forcing him eventually to flee to East Germany, where he composed the national anthem. Eisler, disillusioned at his death, is slowly making a comeback in German concert halls.
Ernst Toch, once Paul Hindemith’s rival for German prizes, joined the flight to Hollywood, where he wrote music for Shirley Temple films. Korngold, who set the benchmark for film music with Errol Flynn swashbucklers and psychological thrillers, was by far the wealthiest and most successful of émigrés. But he never got over his erasure from classical concerts. I have in my possession a letter from his wife, as he lay dying in 1959, begging the BBC to perform his forgotten, forbidden, music.
Mr. Haas crams a vast amount of material into a complex argument that is at times marred by disconcerting leaps back and forth in chronology. He bypasses the foremost exiles—Weill, Schoenberg, Hindemith, Alexander Zemlinsky—and sometimes overstates the value of neglected composers. His chronicle is nonetheless a valuable compendium of untold stories, a corrective to standard histories of music and an essential reference point for anyone engaged in the culture and politics of the 20th century.
Be warned that the risk in reading “Forbidden Music” is that you will lose many hours of your life relistening to the Entartete Musik series and its triumphant restorations. Korngold’s violin concerto is now, finally, at the center of concert repertoire. The works of Terezin composers Pavel Haas, Viktor Ullman and Hans Krása are widely played. Hans Gál’s symphonies are appearing on record. Eisler is sung all over, and once-forbidden music is seeping into the musical DNA of the 21st century, the Nazi purpose defeated.
Black holes are no mere curiosities; they are the keys to a deeper understanding of the universe. No theory of physics can yet say what is happening inside a black hole.
General relativity suggests that Schwarzschild’s event horizon is an invisible boundary that can be crossed without consequence but never returned from. Recently, however, quantum mechanics make it look as though the event horizon could be a real boundary and that crossing it will result in destruction. This has been dubbed the firewall.
Both cannot be right. One must be wrong. Whichever one is right points us towards a greater understanding of gravity and how it behaves on small scales.
While these new black holes may not immediately help in the quest for a new theory of gravity, they are nevertheless extraordinary. The more black holes astronomers identify, the more they will be able to study them and learn their secrets.