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A Closer Look at the Life of a Young Conservative, Anna Maria Hoffman

Source: A Closer Look at the Life of a Young Conservative, Anna Maria Hoffman


With the help of a science lab, Casey Neistat finds that calorie listings on food labels can be highly inaccurate.

via The Problem with Counting Calories — TwistedSifter

Another peer reviewed science failure — Watts Up With That?

From the Ed Begley Jr. department: “If these scientists have done something wrong, it will be found out and their peers will determine it,” insisted Ed. “Don’t get your information from me, folks, or any newscaster. Get it from people with Ph.D. after their names. ‘Peer-reviewed studies is the key words. And if it comes […]

via Another peer reviewed science failure — Watts Up With That?

Exclusive: The Arming of Benghazi

Disappointment That Is the F-35 vs F-22 Raptor

First of all, be aware that strange things happen in the U.S. military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about.  Take the example of the M1 Abrams tank.  The U.S. Army has an inventory of 6,300-odd of these tanks, including 4,000 in storage in desert.  It doesn’t need any more, but Congress keeps voting to keep the production line going, churning out unwanted tanks.  Ironically, that means that funds aren’t available to upgrade the gas turbine engines of its existing tanks to make them more efficient.  The M1 Abrams gets half the fuel mileage of the German Leopard II tank of similar capability.

But this is a tale about the F-35.  It has been said that the story of the F-35 begins in 1942 in the Battle of Guadalcanal.  The U.S. Marines, doing the ground fighting, were upset that the other services weren’t providing enough air cover.  The pounding they got from the lack of air cover is part of their institutional memory.  So when the U.S. Defense Department decided to build a 5th-generation stealth fighter to replace the F-16, the U.S. Marines insisted that this include a short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant.  The trade-offs necessary to effect this fatally compromised the whole project so that none of the variants do their job adequately.  Specifically, the requirement to have a lift fan 1.27 meters in diameter on the centerline of the aircraft behind the pilot resulted in two bomb bays instead of just one on the centerline.  This made the aircraft wider, draggy, slower, and less maneuverable.  In short, the F-35 can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.

In fact, it isn’t a fighter aircraft in the first place.  It is really a light bomber, designed as such from the get-go.  The recently retired head of Air Combat Command for the U.S. Air Force, General Mike Hostage, has been quoted as saying, “The F-35 is geared to go out and take down the surface targets.”  The original requirement that evolved into the F-35 was “Battlefield Interdiction and Close Air Support” with the intent being to deal with lightly defended ground targets after the F-22 knocked out the really dangerous air defenses.  That assumes that a lot of F-22s are available.  They aren’t because of one of President Bush’s poorer staff choices, that of Robert Gates as defense secretary.  Retained by President Obama in that role, the beginning of the end was signaled when he noted that the F-22 wasn’t being used in Afghanistan.

In the air combat role, Hostage says that it takes eight F-35s to do what two F-22s can handle.  He has said further of the F-35: “Because it can’t turn and run away, it’s got to have support from other F-35s. So I’m going to need eight F-35s to go after a target that I might only need two Raptors to go after. But the F-35s can be equally or more effective against that site than the Raptor can because of the synergistic effects of the platform.”  He has also been quoted as saying that an F-35 pilot who engages in a dogfight has made a mistake.  Further from General Hostage, “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22. Because I got such a pitifully tiny fleet [of F-22s], I’ve got to ensure I will have every single one of those F-22s as capable as it possibly can be.”

The F-35’s primary role in ground attack is confirmed by its weapons bays, which each have room for a 2,000-lb. bomb and one air-to-air missile.  It could carry more bombs and missiles on its wings at the cost of stealth.  At the same time, stealth against radar isn’t the be-all-end-all of aerial combat.  The F-35 can be spotted by low-frequency radar a hundred miles away, as all aircraft can be.  Infrared detection can also work at a considerable distance under the right atmospheric conditions.  For example, all Sukhois after and including the Su-27SK  have Infra Red Scan and Track (IRST) that keeps getting better.  The latest IRST – the OLS-35 – will detect, track, and engage the F-35 at about 45 miles.

The F-35 has one system, still in development, that has considerable potential if it ends up working as promised.  This is the Distributed Aperture System, which allows the pilot to see all around the aircraft in every direction.  The view is displayed inside the pilot’s visor using data from cameras around the aircraft.  Each helmet is made to fit the head of the pilot who will use it.  The system allows the pilot to see through the floor of the aircraft and see the ground underneath.  It also analyzes all the other information coming in from the radar and the infrared cameras around the aircraft and presents it on the field of view, along with similar data from other F-35s our pilot is flying with.  The system determines what each threat is, ranks them all in priority, and recommends what countermeasure should be used.  The F-35 can fire air-to-air missiles against aircraft flying behind it that the pilot cannot see.

Flying as a pack of at least eight, F-35s in theory should be able provide mutual fire support and do pretty well.  The situational awareness of the F-35 could be good enough that the aircraft could be a sort of mini-AWACS directing 4th-generation fighters such as the F-18 onto targets.  That said, other aircraft, already in service, do the same thing.  All the Sukhois and the Swedish Gripen have intra-flight data-sharing and are truly mini-AWACS.  Gripens are optimized for “cloud shooting,” so one aircraft targets and another passive aircraft shoots.

The F-35 is a complicated aircraft, though, and may prove to have been just too ambitious.  Its software includes over 30 million lines of code, which is six times more than that of the F-18E/F Super Hornet.  There are plenty of bugs in the software and the aircraft’s other systems that will take years to work through.

One of the more important bugs is the helmet vision system, which isn’t as seamless as it needs to be and produces too many false alarms.  And if the helmet isn’t fixed, it definitely won’t be a fighter, because the aircraft’s bulkhead behind the pilot continues at the same height as the canopy.  The pilot won’t be able to see what’s behind him if the helmet is not working.  He also won’t be able to see below him, because the aircraft is too wide.  Most fighters have the pilot sitting up where he can see as much as possible.  The F-35 pilot’s head is down in the fuselage, as in a bomber.

With respect to close air support of ground troops, the A-10 aircraft, dedicated to that role, carries 1,350 rounds of 30-mm ammunition.  By comparison, due to the compromises necessary to get the STOVL version to fly, the gun of the F-35 STOVL version is carried externally in a pod.  It will hold 180 rounds of 25-mm ammunition weighing about 200 pounds.  The gun could burn through its ammunition load in three seconds.  The STOVL F-35 is an expensive way of carrying 200 lb of ordnance into battle.  It carries two 1,000-lb bombs instead of the 2,000 lb bombs on the air force version, once again due to weight limitations.  There are likely to be far more cost-efficient ways of providing fire support to the troops.  While we are the subject of the F-35’s gun, the software for the aircraft to be able to fire it won’t be ready until 2017, and possibly 2019 by some reports.  The software to enable the STOVL F-35 to drop the Small Diameter Bomb II (short enough to fit the bomb bay) won’t be uploaded until 2022.

A good summary of the current status of the F-35’s bugs and shortcomings is provided by the U.S.-based Project on Government Oversight (POGO), from a Department of Defense report.  The U.S. defense procurement system requires that weapons development programs remain on schedule or they become in danger of being scrapped.  The F-35 is well behind schedule, but production has begun before testing has been completed.  POGO’s analysis shows that Lockheed Martin, the aircraft’s developer, has been cooking the test results to meet project milestones.  The effect of that will be an expensive retrofitting of completed aircraft estimated at U.S. $60 billion.

There is an incident in the POGO report that suggests that the F-35 might be fatally flawed because of the compromises made to get the thing to fly in the first place.  In June 2014, there was an engine fire in an F-35 that was taxiing that resulted in the aircraft being lost.  The aircraft that blew up was damaged, three weeks earlier, during two seconds of flight when the test pilot, operating well within the safety envelope of the aircraft’s abilities in a ridge roll maneuver, put G forces, yaw, and roll stresses on the aircraft all at the same time.  The F-35’s engine is said to have the problem of being too flexible.  That may be because the airframe is too light, in which case this is a problem that is baked in the cake.  There are severe flight restrictions as a result.  If you put a fighter into a snap-turn to (say) avoid a missile, the gyroscopic forces within the large diameter engine are huge.  Both the engine and the aircraft have weight problems, and beefing up either or both compromises the already overweight aircraft.  The practical outcome of that will be that the F-35 will be restricted in its maneuverability by its software.

Another restriction is a limit of Mach 0.8-0.9 at low altitude because the F-35 cannot dissipate its heat.  Its competitors are limited to about Mach 1.2, so if there is a low-altitude engagement, “can’t run” becomes a serious threat to its survival.  In fact, in battle simulations of the F-35 against the Su-35, 2.4 F-35s are lost for each Su-35 shot down.  Pitting the Gripen against the Su-35 results in 1.6 of the Sukhois shot down for each Gripen lost.  The loss exchange ratio of the Gripen against the F-35 is said to be breathtaking – in the Gripen’s favor.

There is potentially a positive outcome out of all this.  The coming war in the Pacific will have a need for an aircraft that can fly long distances straight and level without stressing the airframe – to fulfill the maritime strike role in delivering anti-ship cruise missiles.  The best of these is the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) with a range of 575 miles.  The F-35 would have a useful role while staying out of harm’s way.

There is one view in the defense community that the F-35 program will die of embarrassment before the production of about 500 aircraft.  This will leave a gaping hole in many countries’ procurement schedules, and there will be a mad scramble for supply from the European fighter makers.  The F-16 and the F-18 are still being produced, though the latter’s production line closes in 2017.  The tooling to make the F-22 has been kept, and the production line could be restarted.  That is looking like the best option.

David Archibald, a visiting fellow at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., is the author of Twilight of Abundance (Regnery, 2014).

Why Islam Needs a Reformation

Why Islam Needs a Reformation.

“Islam’s borders are bloody,” wrote the late political scientist Samuel Huntington in 1996, “and so are its innards.” Nearly 20 years later, Huntington looks more right than ever before. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, at least 70% of all the fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims. In 2013, there were nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks world-wide. The lion’s share were in Muslim-majority countries, and many of the others were carried out by Muslims. By far the most numerous victims of Muslim violence—including executions and lynchings not captured in these statistics—are Muslims themselves.

Not all of this violence is explicitly motivated by religion, but a great deal of it is. I believe that it is foolish to insist, as Western leaders habitually do, that the violent acts committed in the name of Islam can somehow be divorced from the religion itself. For more than a decade, my message has been simple: Islam is not a religion of peace.

When I assert this, I do not mean that Islamic belief makes all Muslims violent. This is manifestly not the case: There are many millions of peaceful Muslims in the world. What I do say is that the call to violence and the justification for it are explicitly stated in the sacred texts of Islam. Moreover, this theologically sanctioned violence is there to be activated by any number of offenses, including but not limited to apostasy, adultery, blasphemy and even something as vague as threats to family honor or to the honor of Islam itself.

It is not just al Qaeda and Islamic State that show the violent face of Islamic faith and practice. It is Pakistan, where any statement critical of the Prophet or Islam is labeled as blasphemy and punishable by death. It is Saudi Arabia, where churches and synagogues are outlawed and where beheadings are a legitimate form of punishment. It is Iran, where stoning is an acceptable punishment and homosexuals are hanged for their “crime.”

As I see it, the fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts. It simply will not do for Muslims to claim that their religion has been “hijacked” by extremists. The killers of Islamic State and Nigeria’s Boko Haram cite the same religious texts that every other Muslim in the world considers sacrosanct.

Instead of letting Islam off the hook with bland clichés about the religion of peace, we in the West need to challenge and debate the very substance of Islamic thought and practice. We need to hold Islam accountable for the acts of its most violent adherents and to demand that it reform or disavow the key beliefs that are used to justify those acts.

As it turns out, the West has some experience with this sort of reformist project. It is precisely what took place in Judaism and Christianity over the centuries, as both traditions gradually consigned the violent passages of their own sacred texts to the past. Many parts of the Bible and the Talmud reflect patriarchal norms, and both also contain many stories of harsh human and divine retribution. As President Barack Obama said in remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast last month, “Remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Islamic State militants marching through Raqqa, Syria, a stronghold of the Sunni extremist group, in an undated file image posted on a militant website on Jan. 14, 2014. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Yet today, because their faiths went through a long, meaningful process of Reformation and Enlightenment, the vast majority of Jews and Christians have come to dismiss religious scripture that urges intolerance or violence. There are literalist fringes in both religions, but they are true fringes. Regrettably, in Islam, it is the other way around: It is those seeking religious reform who are the fringe element.

Any serious discussion of Islam must begin with its core creed, which is based on the Quran (the words said to have been revealed by the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad) and the hadith (the accompanying works that detail Muhammad’s life and words). Despite some sectarian differences, this creed unites all Muslims. All, without exception, know by heart these words: “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah; and Muhammad is His messenger.” This is the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith.

The Shahada might seem to be a declaration of belief no different from any other. But the reality is that the Shahada is both a religious and a political symbol.

In the early days of Islam, when Muhammad was going from door to door in Mecca trying to persuade the polytheists to abandon their idols of worship, he was invitingthem to accept that there was no god but Allah and that he was Allah’s messenger.

After 10 years of trying this kind of persuasion, however, he and his small band of believers went to Medina, and from that moment, Muhammad’s mission took on a political dimension. Unbelievers were still invited to submit to Allah, but after Medina, they were attacked if they refused. If defeated, they were given the option to convert or to die. (Jews and Christians could retain their faith if they submitted to paying a special tax.)

No symbol represents the soul of Islam more than the Shahada. But today there is a contest within Islam for the ownership of that symbol. Who owns the Shahada? Is it those Muslims who want to emphasize Muhammad’s years in Mecca or those who are inspired by his conquests after Medina? On this basis, I believe that we can distinguish three different groups of Muslims.

The first group is the most problematic. These are the fundamentalists who, when they say the Shahada, mean: “We must live by the strict letter of our creed.” They envision a regime based on Shariah, Islamic religious law. They argue for an Islam largely or completely unchanged from its original seventh-century version. What is more, they take it as a requirement of their faith that they impose it on everyone else.

I shall call them Medina Muslims, in that they see the forcible imposition of Shariah as their religious duty. They aim not just to obey Muhammad’s teaching but also to emulate his warlike conduct after his move to Medina. Even if they do not themselves engage in violence, they do not hesitate to condone it.

It is Medina Muslims who call Jews and Christians “pigs and monkeys.” It is Medina Muslims who prescribe death for the crime of apostasy, death by stoning for adultery and hanging for homosexuality. It is Medina Muslims who put women in burqas and beat them if they leave their homes alone or if they are improperly veiled.

Muslim children carry torches during a parade before Eid al-Fitr, at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, on July 27, 2014, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

The second group—and the clear majority throughout the Muslim world—consists of Muslims who are loyal to the core creed and worship devoutly but are not inclined to practice violence. I call them Mecca Muslims. Like devout Christians or Jews who attend religious services every day and abide by religious rules in what they eat and wear, Mecca Muslims focus on religious observance. I was born in Somalia and raised as a Mecca Muslim. So were the majority of Muslims from Casablanca to Jakarta.

Yet the Mecca Muslims have a problem: Their religious beliefs exist in an uneasy tension with modernity—the complex of economic, cultural and political innovations that not only reshaped the Western world but also dramatically transformed the developing world as the West exported it. The rational, secular and individualistic values of modernity are fundamentally corrosive of traditional societies, especially hierarchies based on gender, age and inherited status.

Trapped between two worlds of belief and experience, these Muslims are engaged in a daily struggle to adhere to Islam in the context of a society that challenges their values and beliefs at every turn. Many are able to resolve this tension only by withdrawing into self-enclosed (and increasingly self-governing) enclaves. This is called cocooning, a practice whereby Muslim immigrants attempt to wall off outside influences, permitting only an Islamic education for their children and disengaging from the wider non-Muslim community.

It is my hope to engage this second group of Muslims—those closer to Mecca than to Medina—in a dialogue about the meaning and practice of their faith. I recognize that these Muslims are not likely to heed a call for doctrinal reformation from someone they regard as an apostate and infidel. But they may reconsider if I can persuade them to think of me not as an apostate but as a heretic: one of a growing number of people born into Islam who have sought to think critically about the faith we were raised in. It is with this third group—only a few of whom have left Islam altogether—that I would now identify myself.

These are the Muslim dissidents. A few of us have been forced by experience to conclude that we could not continue to be believers; yet we remain deeply engaged in the debate about Islam’s future. The majority of dissidents are reforming believers—among them clerics who have come to realize that their religion must change if its followers are not to be condemned to an interminable cycle of political violence.

How many Muslims belong to each group? Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations estimates that only 3% of the world’s Muslims understand Islam in the militant terms I associate with Muhammad’s time in Medina. But out of well over 1.6 billion believers, or 23% of the globe’s population, that 48 million seems to be more than enough. (I would put the number significantly higher, based on survey data on attitudes toward Shariah in Muslim countries.)

In any case, regardless of the numbers, it is the Medina Muslims who have captured the world’s attention on the airwaves, over social media, in far too many mosques and, of course, on the battlefield.

The Medina Muslims pose a threat not just to non-Muslims. They also undermine the position of those Mecca Muslims attempting to lead a quiet life in their cultural cocoons throughout the Western world. But those under the greatest threat are the dissidents and reformers within Islam, who face ostracism and rejection, who must brave all manner of insults, who must deal with the death threats—or face death itself.

For the world at large, the only viable strategy for containing the threat posed by the Medina Muslims is to side with the dissidents and reformers and to help them to do two things: first, identify and repudiate those parts of Muhammad’s legacy that summon Muslims to intolerance and war, and second, persuade the great majority of believers—the Mecca Muslims—to accept this change.

Islam is at a crossroads. Muslims need to make a conscious decision to confront, debate and ultimately reject the violent elements within their religion. To some extent—not least because of widespread revulsion at the atrocities of Islamic State, al Qaeda and the rest—this process has already begun. But it needs leadership from the dissidents, and they in turn stand no chance without support from the West.

What needs to happen for us to defeat the extremists for good? Economic, political, judicial and military tools have been proposed and some of them deployed. But I believe that these will have little effect unless Islam itself is reformed.

Such a reformation has been called for repeatedly at least since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent abolition of the caliphate. But I would like to specify precisely what needs to be reformed.

I have identified five precepts central to Islam that have made it resistant to historical change and adaptation. Only when the harmfulness of these ideas are recognized and they are repudiated will a true Muslim Reformation have been achieved.

Here are the five areas that require amendment:

1. Muhammad’s semi-divine status, along with the literalist reading of the Quran. 
Muhammad should not be seen as infallible, let alone as a source of divine writ. He should be seen as a historical figure who united the Arab tribes in a premodern context that cannot be replicated in the 21st century. And although Islam maintains that the Quran is the literal word of Allah, it is, in historical reality, a book that was shaped by human hands. Large parts of the Quran simply reflect the tribal values of the 7th-century Arabian context from which it emerged. The Quran’s eternal spiritual values must be separated from the cultural accidents of the place and time of its birth.

2. The supremacy of life after death. 
The appeal of martyrdom will fade only when Muslims assign a greater value to the rewards of this life than to those promised in the hereafter.

3. Shariah, the vast body of religious legislation. 
Muslims should learn to put the dynamic, evolving laws made by human beings above those aspects of Shariah that are violent, intolerant or anachronistic.

4. The right of individual Muslims to enforce Islamic law. 
There is no room in the modern world for religious police, vigilantes and politically empowered clerics.

5. The imperative to wage jihad, or holy war. 
Islam must become a true religion of peace, which means rejecting the imposition of religion by the sword.

I know that this argument will make many Muslims uncomfortable. Some are bound to be offended by my proposed amendments. Others will contend that I am not qualified to discuss these complex issues of theology and law. I am also afraid—genuinely afraid—that it will make a few Muslims even more eager to silence me.

But this is not a work of theology. It is more in the nature of a public intervention in the debate about the future of Islam. The biggest obstacle to change within the Muslim world is precisely its suppression of the sort of critical thinking I am attempting here. If my proposal for reform helps to spark a serious discussion of these issues among Muslims themselves, I will consider it a success.

Let me make two things clear. I do not seek to inspire another war on terror or extremism—violence in the name of Islam cannot be ended by military means alone. Nor am I any sort of “Islamophobe.” At various times, I myself have been all three kinds of Muslim: a fundamentalist, a cocooned believer and a dissident. My journey has gone from Mecca to Medina to Manhattan.

For me, there seemed no way to reconcile my faith with the freedoms I came to the West to embrace. I left the faith, despite the threat of the death penalty prescribed by Shariah for apostates. Future generations of Muslims deserve better, safer options. Muslims should be able to welcome modernity, not be forced to wall themselves off, or live in a state of cognitive dissonance, or lash out in violent rejection.

But it is not only Muslims who would benefit from a reformation of Islam. We in the West have an enormous stake in how the struggle over Islam plays out. We cannot remain on the sidelines, as though the outcome has nothing to do with us. For if the Medina Muslims win and the hope for a Muslim Reformation dies, the rest of the world too will pay an enormous price—not only in blood spilled but also in freedom lost.

This essay is adapted from Ms. Hirsi Ali’s new book, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now,” to be published Tuesday by HarperCollins (which, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp). Her previous books include “Infidel” and “Nomad: From Islam to America, A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations.”