February 26, 2013

Kipling rediscovered

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 17:27

In the Guardian, Alison Flood talks about the newly discovered Rudyard Kipling poems:

Kipling scholars are celebrating the publication of lost poems by the author whose exhortations in “If” to “keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you” are regularly voted the nation’s favourite poem. Discovered by the American scholar Thomas Pinney in an array of hiding places including family papers, the archive of a former head of the Cunard Line and during renovations at a Manhattan house, more than 50 previously unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling will be released for the first time next month.

The collection includes several poems dating from the first world war, which Kipling initially supported, helping his son John to gain a commission in the Irish Guards.

A short poem, “The Gambler”, finishes with the couplet: “Three times wounded; three times gassed / Three times wrecked – I lost at last”, while another fragment runs: “This was a Godlike soul before it was crazed / No matter. The grave makes whole.”

After his son’s death at the Battle of Loos in 1915, Kipling regretted his earlier enthusiasm for the conflict, writing in his “Epitaphs of the War”: “If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied”.

Budget cutting gets real in Ottawa

Filed under: Cancon, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:11

David Akin tweeted some news about upcoming budget cuts for various Canadian government agencies:

Why did Machiavelli write The Prince?

Filed under: Books, History, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:45

In History Today, Alexander Lee discusses the situation in Florence leading up to the time when Niccolò Machiavelli wrote his (in)famous work:

In 1512, however, everything fell apart. After a series of military defeats, Soderini was forced from office. With the help of Pope Julius II, Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici was installed as the de facto ruler of Florence. The Republic collapsed.

Immediately, Giuliano purged the government and instituted a city-wide witch-hunt. As a prominent republican, Machiavelli was summarily dismissed from his positions in late 1512, and in 1513, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Accused of plotting against the Medici, he was tortured using a cruel technique known as the ‘strappado’ — which left his shoulders dislocated, and his whole body in excruciating pain — before being released and exiled to his country estate.

It was at this point that Machiavelli penned The Prince. Broken, depressed, and penniless, he saw it as his best chance of getting into the Medici’s good books, and of recouping his losses. Dedicating the book first to Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici — the very man who had destroyed his life — and, after Giuliano’s death, to his nephew, Lorenzo, Machiavelli set out to provide not just a guide to princely government, but a positive justification of all of the terrible things to which he had fallen victim. Much like a fallen Politburo members at a Soviet show trial, Machiavelli defended his persecution in the hope of securing favour. Only later did he feel safe enough to express his republican sympathies more openly.

Defence industry lobbyists versus actual USAF needs

Filed under: Business, Government, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:35

Strategy Page talks about the ongoing drama of the Global Hawk UAV and the US Air Force’s attempt to get rid of the weapon:

The U.S. Air Force recently disbanded a Global Hawk UAV squadron. The reserve unit contained 200 personnel and operated an aircraft the air force is getting rid of. This is in spite of political opposition to the move (helped along by the manufacturers many lobbyists).

This all began last year when the U.S. Air Force cancelled all orders for the Block 30 Global Hawk because of reliability issues. This renewed Department of Defense threats to cancel the Global Hawk program entirely. In response Northrop Grumman (the RQ-4 manufacturer) lobbyists made sure that key members of Congress knew where Global Hawk components were being built and how many jobs that added up to. Elected politicians pay attention to that. This move delayed the RQ-4 Block 30 until there was enough political support to convince Congress to order the air force to accept the Block 30 RQ-4s and shut up.

The air force can take some comfort in the fact that Northrop Grumman fixed some of the problems (some of which the manufacturer said don’t exist or didn’t matter). The Block 30 was supposed to be good to go but the air force was not convinced and decided that Block 30 was just more broken promises. Congress was also tired of all the feuding and being caught between Northrup lobbyists and exasperated air force generals. The lobbyists, as is usually the case, eventually won. But the air force is not required to pay for operating the Global Hawks, thus the disbanding of the Global Hawk unit.

UN mistake costs 8,000 Haitian lives, UN refuses to compensate or even apologize

Filed under: Americas, Asia — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

A mind-numbing case of bureaucratic error, death, and ass-covering in Haiti:

International affairs can be complicated, but sometimes a case comes along that’s so simple it’s almost absurd. In 2010, the United Nations made a horrendous mistake that, so far, has claimed more than 8,000 lives. Its officials tried to cover it up. When the evidence came out anyway, lawyers for victims’ families petitioned the U.N. to end the crisis, pay damages, and apologize. For a year and a half, the world’s leading humanitarian organization said nothing. Then, last week, it threw out the case, saying, “The claims are not receivable.”

The background should be well-known by now. But despite the fact that American taxpayers have footed the lion’s share of the bill for the U.N. peacekeepers responsible for this disaster — to the tune of roughly $1.5 billion since 2004 — the story remains largely unknown in the United States.

The place was Haiti. The mistake: a killer combination of cholera and gross negligence. The peacekeeping mission, known by its French initials, MINUSTAH, had been in country since 2004, when it was authorized to protect an interim government installed after a coup. Six years later — thanks to a healthy dose of mission creep — the peacekeepers were still there. While rotating troops into what was now post-quake Haiti, the U.N. neglected to adequately screen a contingent of soldiers coming from an active cholera outbreak in Nepal. Upon arrival, the soldiers were sent to a rural U.N. base, outside the quake zone and long known for leaking sewage into a major river system that millions of Haitians used to drink, bathe, wash, and farm. Within days of their arrival, people downstream began to die. The epidemic then exploded, sickening more than 647,000 people, and killing in its first year more than twice the number of people who died on 9/11.

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