March 22, 2012

GAO latest to attempt to shoot down the F-35

Filed under: Australia, Cancon, Japan, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

The situation is looking grimmer for all potential purchasers of the F-35, not just the RCAF:

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the supposed backbone of the Pentagon’s future air arsenal, could need additional years of work and billions of dollars in unplanned fixes, the Air Force and the Government Accountability Office revealed on Tuesday. Congressional testimony by Air Force and Navy leaders, plus a new report by the GAO, heaped bad news on a program that was already almost a decade late, hundreds of billions of dollars over its original budget and vexed by mismanagement, safety woes and rigged test results.

At an estimated $1 trillion to develop, purchase and support through 2050, the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 was already the most expensive conventional weapons program ever even before Tuesday’s bulletins. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are counting on buying as many as 2,500 F-35s to replace almost every tactical jet in their current inventories. More than a dozen foreign countries are lined up to acquire the stealthy, single-engine fighter, as well.

[. . .]

If cuts do occur, the U.S. will be in good company. Australia, Canada and Japan have already begun backing away from the troubled JSF as the new plane has gradually exceeded their budgets. For these countries, alternatives include the Super Hornet and an upgraded F-15 from Boeing, Lockheed’s new F-16V and the European Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen fighters. But so far the U.S. military prefers the F-35, even if the stealthy jet is more than a decade late, twice as expensive as originally projected and available in fewer numbers. “We will remain committed to the long-term success of the F-35 program,” Air Combat Command asserted.

Update, 23 March: The summary of the GAO report with a link to the PDF version for download.

Trends in education: “We are cultivating vulnerability in the classroom”

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Education — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:16

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on teachers discouraging students from having best friends, here is an article in the Independent by Amol Rajan on the same topic:

Some people argue this is all part of the feminisation of schooling. A reduction in the number of male teachers, as a proportion of the overall teaching population, has led to a greater emphasis on emotions and feelings in the classroom. I think this analysis is patronising, rude to women, and intellectually limited.

What we do know is that over the past few decades, there has been a gradual voiding of knowledge from our schools. Academic education has been systematically attacked, and while proper schooling — in the traditional sense of passing bodies of knowledge down the generations — has been preserved for the rich, what the poor have been given instead of schooling is skilling. The rise of vocational education and the rise of emotional literacy in the classroom are both a consequence of the flight from academic education.

But there is something more fundamental going on too, which Professor Frank Furedi, pictured, described in Paranoid Parenting more than a decade ago. We are cultivating vulnerability in the classroom, just like we’ve long cultivated it in the playground. “The teaching profession is being reformed as a therapeutic profession,” Dr Hayes, a close associate of Furedi’s, writes, “often prioritising the delivery of therapy over education to ‘vulnerable’ children and young people.”

The emotional policing of school children, including various bans on best friends, is designed to protect them from each other. Its main effect may ultimately be to stop them from protecting themselves.

Syria is a “nation made up of little pieces, and they all are about to fall to the floor”

Filed under: History, Middle East, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:02

Geoffrey Clarfield on the history of Syria and the possible future of the region:

From outside Syria, it appears that a government is waging war against citizens who are demanding change and democracy. That is certainly how many media outlets are reporting the ongoing violence in that country. But as many Syrians know, this war is about something else entirely. Something much larger.

A century ago, Syria was still part of the Ottoman Empire. Although the administrative sub-districts of what is now called Syria changed many times under the Turks, by the early 20th century they comprised a number of distinct administrative units that centred around key cities, such as Damascus and Aleppo. Beginning in 1874, they also included the areas around Jerusalem (which had a Jewish majority). The British called the area “the Levant.”

The area was, and still is, made up of a number of occasionally co-operating, occasionally competing ethnic groups: Sunni Arabs, Maronite Christians, Arabic-speaking Greek Orthodox Christians, Aramaic-speaking Christians, Arabic-speaking Alawis, Muslim Gypsies, Armenians, Jews, Yezidis, Kurdish-speaking Sunnis and nomadic Sunni Bedouin — each with their own distinctive history, loyalties and competing interests.

[. . .]

As the Sunni Arab elites of Aleppo and Damascus clamoured for independence from the French, they became enamored with three overlapping ideologies. The first was that of Pan-Islam, which many rejected because it was seen as too similar as that of the defunct and discredited Ottoman Empire. The second was Pan Arabism, which held that the Arab world was once one country, and was destined to become one again. (This school of thought would survive until Nasser’s era in the 1950s and 1960s, but no one talks about it anymore.)

The third was “Greater Syria.” This theory held that the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean were all members of one unit — including present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and southwestern Turkey. Extreme versions of the “Greater Syria” ideology include Cyprus and the Sinai desert. In none of these worldviews is there any room for an independent Jewish homeland, a Christian Lebanon or, in the masimalist cases, even a Greek Orthodox Cyprus. Unlike Pan Arabism, the ideology of Greater Syria still has some resonance in the region.

More on the New Orleans Saints

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:30

Skol Girl” writes at Daily Norseman on the less obvious victims of the bounty program defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran:

A few years back a close friend of mine was working in France and she said that one of the business metaphors frequently used to try to encourage a sense of working together was American football. She said the French business people used American football as a metaphor because they felt it was one of the best examples of nothing getting accomplished truly on one’s own. Even the most novice football fan would probably agree, nobody in American football carries the show single-handedly. Just as a combination of players can help a single player make a play, so too can a single player undo the work of everyone else on the field.

Well, in New Orleans, the defense just tainted and, basically, undid everything that the other players on the team worked for during that Championship* season. Drew Brees may have had nothing to do with the bounties, heck, he might not have even known about the bounty program, but his legacy as a player has the same asterisk next to it that Darren “X Marks the Spot” Sharper has.

A lot of players talking about what they miss after they retire from football say they miss the camaraderie of the locker room. That’s one of the reasons Brett Favre gave for returning to the Vikings in 2010 after the pounding he took during that NFC Championship game against the Saints. But the non-bounty program players on the Saints have to be feeling like their comrades just dinged them in the nuts.

The same goes for the Saints’ fans. In 2006 New Orleans was still fresh from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina when the Saints brought Drew Brees in from sunny San Diego. Brees and Payton had a great connection that produced some great on-field play and it gave Saints fans something to enjoy, something good to identify with–the sense that their team was coming back swinging just like they were. The team might not have originated all the messianic overtones that went along with choosing to stay in the rebuilding city, but they certainly benefited from them. So did the NFL, which loved and promoted the inspirational storyline that mirrored the Saints journey with that of the damaged, but recovering, city.

US Marine Corps facing 9% cut in troop strength and aviation

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:18

Strategy Page has the details:

Because of budget cuts, the U.S. Marine Corps is losing four (of 27) infantry battalions and twelve (of 70) aircraft squadrons over the next five years. About half the marine aviation squadrons operate transport helicopters. Most of the fixed wing squadrons are bombers and fighters.

These cuts will result in jobs for 20,000 marines being eliminated, shrinking the marines to 182,000 personnel. Most of the units lost are from marine bases on the east coast. The Pacific, and China, is seen as the focus of Marine Corps attention in the future.

In effect the marines will lose nine percent of their personnel strength by the end of the decade. The marines want to do that without losing their most experienced and effective people. The idea is to keep officers and NCOs best able to expand the corps in the event of a national emergency, while at the same time maintaining, for as long as possible, a force that has lots of combat experience.

Reason.tv: Jim the Realtor

Filed under: Economics, Humour, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:01

“When I come into a house with buyers, I start picking it apart,” says San Diego’s Jim Klinge, known on the internet as ‘Jim the Realtor,’ a wise-cracking real estate agent who posts his honest, painful, and sometimes hilarious assessment of bank-owned properties on his Youtube channel: youtube.com/jimtherealtor.

While both the Bush and Obama administration have advocated programs aimed at keeping people in their homes, Klinge argues that this is the exact wrong approach and is only prolonging the agony in the housing market.

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