Monday, April 28, 2014

Leftist lies and egotism again


Review by John Preston

During the early months of 1937, a very strange collection of people descended on a rundown hotel in central Madrid.

On the face of it, they had come to report on the Spanish Civil War in which General Franco's fascists were trying to topple the democratically elected Republican government.

But reading Amanda Vaill's riveting and richly atmospheric account of their time in the Hotel Florida, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that they had also come to have the mother of all parties.

Among them was the writer Ernest Hemingway. For Hemingway, the war offered him a chance to revive his career as a novelist. His last few books had been flops and he was desperate to find a subject that would re-ignite his imagination.

Other guests included American journalist Martha Gellhorn. She, too, had come in search of inspiration, but she also wanted to envelop her idol, Hemingway, in an escape-proof bear hug.

Also there was a young Hungarian and his Polish girlfriend. The Hungarian had been born Endre Erno Friedmann, but in Spain he and his girlfriend hatched a brilliant plan.

They decided to re-invent themselves as 'Robert Capa', a rich, famous and entirely fictitious American photographer. Friedmann would take the photos while his girlfriend would sell them, asking for three times the going rate on the grounds that Capa was a reclusive genius.

Other unexpected characters wandering through the Florida's lobby included the spy Kim Philby, the Hollywood actor Errol Flynn and the British poet Stephen Spender. All claimed to have come to find the truth of what was happening in the civil war, but as Vaill reveals - with a lethally sharp scalpel - most of them were far more at home with falsehood than they were with truth.

Martha Gellhorn had plenty of form here. She had made her name as a journalist with a piece about a lynching she’d witnessed in Mississippi.  The piece was full of vivid little touches - the victim 'making a terrible sound like a dog whimpering' - and various magazines bid handsomely for the right to publish it.

The trouble was that Gellhorn had never been anywhere near a lynching - she had pinched a few details from here and there, and made the rest up.

Then disaster struck. Greatly moved by her account, the House of Representatives invited her to testify at a Senate committee.  Faced with the prospect of lying under oath, Gellhorn was forced to come clean.

Not that this dented her self-regard for long. Soon afterwards she ran Hemingway to earth in Florida, where she employed the classic vamp's trick of befriending his wife in order to get to him.

Amid great subterfuge, Hemingway and Gellhorn set off for Spain. Disturbed by reports of food shortages, Hemingway arrived laden with tinned ham, prawns and pate to ensure he didn’t go peckish.

Ensconced in the Hotel Florida, he began sending back reports of what he'd witnessed, or claimed to have witnessed - Hemingway was just as prone to embellishing stories as Gellhorn.

As for Robert Capa, he hadn't been there long when he took one of the most famous of all war photographs - of a Spanish soldier at the moment of death. Except that this, too, was a lie, or very close to one.

One morning, Capa asked a group of Republican soldiers if they would simulate being hit by gunfire. A man obligingly ran down a hillside with his rifle in his hand, then dropped to the ground as instructed.

But when Capa asked if he wouldn't mind having another go, the man stayed where he was. It turned out that he really was dead, shot by a sniper on the other side of the valley.

This, at least, was Capa's version of events. But 80 years on, there's still speculation that the soldier wasn't shot at all.   Instead, it's claimed, he simply stood up, dusted himself down and carried on his way. Whatever the truth, Capa was made.

While Hemingway was in Spain, he wrote the commentary for a documentary intended to alert the American people to the reality of what was happening there.

But even this was a con. The footage was cut together with no regard for accuracy, but simply to look as dramatic as possible.

Worried that the roar of real bombs didn't sound scary enough, the director used a recording of earthquake rumbles that he took from an old film called San Francisco and ran backwards.

Yet however ludicrous the experience may have been, for Hemingway at least it worked.

He returned to Spain in September 1937 - this time armed with tins of salmon and ham as well as a poulet roti en gelee - and began work on what many consider to be his masterpiece, For Whom The Bell Tolls.

'The best book he has written,' declared the New York Times when it was published. 'The fullest, the deepest, the truest.'



How do we solve unemployment?

Written by Tim Worstall

It appears that the correct method to reduce unemployment is to reduce unemployment benefits, increase in work benefits, abolish the minimum wage and insist that those unemployed take a job, any job, at any price.

After all, that's what Germany has done and the German unemployment rate fell dramatically as a result of doing just that. Scott Sumner has the detail:

"So what's the real explanation for the German success? That's pretty obvious; the Hartz reforms of 2003 sharply reduced the incentive to not work, and sharply increased the incentive to take low wage jobs. As a result, today Germany has lots of very low wage jobs of the type that would be illegal in France or California. ....So the one major success story among developed countries has achieved its success by doing essentially the exact opposite of what progressives want. Germany has no minimum wage, reduced its incentives to live off welfare, and has a level of wage inequality that is increasing even faster than in the US. It's no wonder that progressives prefer to focus on things like "vocational training programs," which were just as common during the 30-year period of steadily rising German unemployment."

That's a fairly forthright explanation of what has been going on. And the real annoyance of that Progressive stand (what we over here might call Guardianista), that we must raise the wages of the lowly paid, not reduce them, that no one should be forced to work to gain benefits, is that you can derive the Hartz reforms from the work of Richard Layard. Indeed, even the timid attempts we do have to get people to work, any job at all at any price, even if the pay must be topped up with benefits, can be derived from Layard's work. For what he's actually saying is that long term unemployment puts people on the scrap heap. Thus there have to be sticks and carrots to drag them, screaming wildly if need be, back into the labour force.

Sumner is depressed at the way that the American left insists on counterproductive policies on unemployment. And we are here about the British left. If the market for low skill labour isn't clearing then that must mean that the price of low skilled labour is too high for the market to clear. If you're really worried about getting people into jobs you've therefore got to accept that wages will fall. If you then want to top them up with in work benefits then that's intellectually at least, just fine. But wibbling on about how the minimum wage must rise because inequality is just condemning ever more people to lives wasted on the dole.



Inspector General Shock:  Homeland Security Watchdog delayed and deleted info embarrassing to Obama Administration

Under Obama the watchdog has become a watchpuppy

The integrity of the government watchdog system has been called into question by the revelation that the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security bowed to political pressure within the Obama Administration by delaying and withholding information on three separate reports.

The Office of the Inspector General is an independent watchdog within each Department and Agency charged with the responsibility to investigate allegations of malfeasance and corruption.  Recently, the Inspector General of the IRS uncovered and reported the finding that IRS employees had been illegally targeting tax exempt applications from conservative groups.  That allegation led to congressional investigations and the resignation of Lois Lerner, the IRS’ head of exempt organizations.

Americans for Limited Government’s Nathan Mehrens warned back in July, 2011 about the danger of not having fully confirmed Inspectors General in place in every Agency and Department, and unfortunately the DHS revelations proved him to be prescient.

In a statement released in reaction to a Washington Post report on the DHS scandal, Mehrens reiterated the need for appointed and confirmed Inspectors General throughout the government,

“Today’s revelation in the Washington Post that the acting Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security delayed and withheld information that was damaging to the Obama administration confirms our worst fears that the President’s failure to fill IG positions damages the integrity of this important public watchdog function.  The Inspector General of a Department is charged with protecting the public from government corruption, misspending and malfeasance independently of the political appointees who run the Department or Agency that they oversee.

“The fact that Obama Administration officials even dared to try to pressure an acting IG to skew his report shows a contempt for the watchdog process that is unparalleled.  Congress needs to immediately eliminate the salary and pension for the acting IG who violated his public trust, and learn who in the Administration pressured this supposedly independent corruption investigator to violate his public trust.  Whoever is involved in this manipulation of three separate IG reports should be immediately called to testify to learn if they were directed to do so by other political appointees.

“This report goes to the heart of the public’s right to have an independent watchdog protecting them from abuse, and is why Americans for Limited Government has repeatedly called for the appointment of permanent IGs across the Administration.  Currently, there are eight Inspectors General’s offices that are being led by acting officials who, as was the case in the Department of Homeland Security, are subject to the additional pressure of seeking to please those they are overseeing as they seek appointment to the permanent position.  Here is the list: ”

The incredible aspect of the scandal at the Department of Homeland Security is that the former Acting head of the Inspectors General office was transferred from that post to another high paying career civil service job within the Department just days prior to his being scheduled to testify before a Senate Committee on the allegations of malfeasance.  Upon the transfer, the Democratic Party controlled Senate Committee cancelled the scheduled hearing.

There is no excuse for political pressure to ever be applied to those who are charged with exposing waste, fraud and abuse in our federal government.  While the former Acting IG should be held accountable for his failing to uphold the public trust, it is even more important to learn who within the Obama Administration directed the politically motivated delays and cover up.

Those involved in applying this political pressure are the ones who need to be forced to testify before Congress to determine if there is any White House involvement in this cover up scheme, or if it was the work of rogue political appointees.

Failure for Congress to step up and hold those responsible for impugning the integrity of the Office of Inspector General would create a permanent stain on the supposed impartiality of the Office’s future findings.  And that would be bad for both those accused, but also those exonerated of future public corruption charges.


Jodi Arias vs. Kermit Gosnell: You’ve Probably Heard of One, Why Not the Other?

Jodi Arias became a household name during her trial for the murder of boyfriend Travis Alexander. His death and her conviction turned into a media circus, even prompting a daily show on HLN.

Filmmaker Phelim McAleer took note of the media coverage and interviewed people on the streets of Hollywood to find out just how much they knew about Arias.

In the subsequent video McAleer released, participants were shown a photo of Arias, and then a photo of another convicted murderer. Everyone recognized Arias. One of the participants said, “It felt like you didn’t really have to deliberately look her up to find something about her.”

No one had heard about Kermit Gonsell, however. Even when McAleer prompted participants with Gosnell’s name, they “never heard it.”

Arias was convicted of first-degree murder on May 8, 2013. Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion doctor, was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter on May 13, 2013, just five days after Arias. He’s suspected of killing thousands of babies over his 40 years in the abortion business.

Why had so many of McAleer’s interview subjects heard of Arias but not Gosnell, whom he calls “the most prolific serial killer in American history”?

It’s the reason why McAleer and co-producers Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda decided to make a movie. The film, titled “Gosnell,” has raised more than $1.3 million on Indiegogo. That’s 65 percent of the $2.1 million goal it must reach by May 12.

At the end of his man-on-the-street video, McAleer informs a person about Gosnell’s crimes. Her response, “That goes to show you that the media focuses on the trials they want us to be concerned about.”



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