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The Daily Journal
Candide’s Latest: December 27, 2006

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Recruitment Fix
The Pentagon's Foreign Mercenaries

The Vatican recruits foreigners too

From the Boston Globe: "The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of noncitizens in the ranks -- including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and putting more immigrants on a faster track to US citizenship if they volunteer -- according to Pentagon officials. Foreign citizens serving in the US military is a highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries to defend the country. Other analysts voice concern that a large contingent of noncitizens under arms could jeopardize national security or reflect badly on Americans' willingness to serve in uniform. The idea of signing up foreigners who are seeking US citizenship is gaining traction as a way to address a critical need for the Pentagon, while fully absorbing some of the roughly one million immigrants that enter the United States legally each year. The proposal to induct more noncitizens, which is still largely on the drawing board, has to clear a number of hurdles. So far, the Pentagon has been quiet about specifics -- including who would be eligible to join, where the recruiting stations would be, and what the minimum standards might involve, including English proficiency. In the meantime, the Pentagon and immigration authorities have expanded a program that accelerates citizenship for legal residents who volunteer for the military. And since Sept. 11, 2001, the number of imm igrants in uniform who have become US citizens has increased from 750 in 2001 to almost 4,600 last year, according to military statistics. [...] There are currently about 30,000 noncitizens who serve in the US armed forces, making up about 2 percent of the active-duty force, according to statistics from the military and the Council on Foreign Relations. About 100 noncitizens have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. A recent change in US law, however, gave the Pentagon authority to bring immigrants to the United States if it determines it is vital to national security. So far, the Pentagon has not taken advantage of it, but the calls are growing to take use the new authority. Indeed, some top military thinkers believe the United States should go as far as targeting foreigners in their native countries. [...] Other nations have recruited foreign citizens: In France, the famed Foreign Legion relies on about 8,000 noncitizens; Nepalese soldiers called Gurkhas have fought and died with British Army forces for two centuries; and the Swiss Guard, which protects the Vatican, consists of troops who hail from many nations." The full story...


It’s Settled
West Bank Mephisto

Let’s see. What was yesterday’s lead post in the Daily Journal? Oh, right: Israel’s alleged good gesture—removing twenty-seven roadblocks in the West Bank, where they don’t belong in the first place, and where five hundred and fifteen roadblocks will remain—being quite the PR move, but little else. Today came the proof. From The Times:

For the first time in 10 years, Israel said Tuesday it will build a new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, prompting Palestinian anger and American concern. The announcement, by the defense ministry and settler groups, seems to run counter to the prevailing effort by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has offered a series of gestures to the Palestinians after a meeting with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, several days ago. The Palestinians want build an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and consider any Israeli building there an act of thievery. Israel says it accepts the idea of a Palestinian state but that its exact contours have to be negotiated. […] One Israeli official hinted that the new settlement may be part of a deal with West Bank Jewish settlers to get their tacit acceptance of the removal of illegal settlement outposts there.

Funny way of bargaining. Build new settlements in order to win acceptance for the removal of other settlements.


L’Infâme: Atheism’s Enemies
Myths of Disbelief

Even John Locke got it wrong

Religions are usually and vastly misunderstood, especially by those who practice them most fervently. The misunderstandings only get worse when religionists of one stripe claim to know something about religionists of another. Religions are inherently hellish on each other primarily because those who practice them can’t stand those who don’t. Even among Westerners, Catholics think Protestants practice a form of devil worship, and vice versa. The contempt is just more polite than when it comes to, say, Shiites and Sunnis in the heart of Iraq, where there are no institutional bonds to keep the two from reveling in their mutual disdain, violently and enthusiastically. We do have a version of that latent violence in the West. Pious people commonly consider atheists worse than devil worshippers, since they supposedly worship no one, nothing, nada. The myths surrounding atheism (or rather, the myths that those who know nothing about atheism love to wave about as fact) speak volumes about the kind of infantile prejudice that can so effectively grip otherwise relatively intelligent, educated, self-styled civilized people. Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation, did a nice piece on the subject for the LA Times—outlining the myths and, bit by bit, shattering them:

Several polls indicate that the term "atheism" has acquired such an extraordinary stigma in the United States that being an atheist is now a perfect impediment to a career in politics (in a way that being black, Muslim or homosexual is not). According to a recent Newsweek poll, only 37% of Americans would vote for an otherwise qualified atheist for president. Atheists are often imagined to be intolerant, immoral, depressed, blind to the beauty of nature and dogmatically closed to evidence of the supernatural. Even John Locke, one of the great patriarchs of the Enlightenment, believed that atheism was "not at all to be tolerated" because, he said, "promises, covenants and oaths, which are the bonds of human societies, can have no hold upon an atheist." That was more than 300 years ago. But in the United States today, little seems to have changed. A remarkable 87% of the population claims "never to doubt" the existence of God; fewer than 10% identify themselves as atheists — and their reputation appears to be deteriorating. Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society, it seems important to deflate the myths that prevent them from playing a larger role in our national discourse.

The 10 myths:

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.
2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.
3) Atheism is dogmatic.
4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.
5) Atheism has no connection to science.
6) Atheists are arrogant.
7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.
8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding.
9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.
10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.

See Harris’s deconstruction of the myths here. By way of example, here’s what he says about the claim that atheism provides no basis for morality: “We have made considerable moral progress over the years, and we didn't make this progress by reading the Bible or the Koran more closely. Both books condone the practice of slavery — and yet every civilized human being now recognizes that slavery is an abomination. Whatever is good in scripture — like the golden rule — can be valued for its ethical wisdom without our believing that it was handed down to us by the creator of the universe.”


Democracy In Asia
Some Like Their Juntas

No democracy here

From the Pakistan Daily Times: “People in South Asia overwhelmingly support democracy, except in Pakistan, where about half the respondents in a survey said that democratic or non-democratic forms of government made no difference to them. Sri Lanka emerged as the country where democracy was most popular, while India was third after Bangladesh in terms of the percentage of people expressing support for the democratic system in the study, ‘State of Democracy in South Asia’. “The people not only approve of democratic arrangements, they find it suitable for their own contexts. Seven out of eight responses in the region, higher than in East Asia, held that democracy was ‘suitable’ or ‘very suitable’ for their own country,” the report said. The study found that the citizens of South Asia do not simply like democracy; they prefer it over authoritarian rule. “With the exception of Pakistan, about two-thirds of those who responded preferred democracy over any other form of government,” the report said. For every one response that endorses dictatorship, there are six that prefer democracy, which compares favourably with the ratio obtained in East Asia, Latin America and post-Soviet era countries of Europe. However, about a quarter in other countries and half the respondents in Pakistan said democratic or non-democratic forms of government made no difference to them. Also, there is majority support for army rule in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the two countries in the region with a record of army rule. “The idea that the country should be governed by the army was endorsed by six out of every 10 responses in Pakistan and Bangladesh,” said the report prepared by the CSDS in collaboration with the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Stockholm and Department of Sociology, Oxford University.”


Betty Friedan in India
Alimony's Next Frontier

Enlightened West? Try again: From the Calcutta Telegraph: “A woman in a live-in relationship should be allowed to seek maintenance if she is deserted or shunned by her partner, the National Commission for Women has recommended. Citing instances where women living in relationships “in the nature of marriage’’ were left with little or no sustenance after being deserted, the commission has suggested an amendment to the CrPC to allow them to claim monthly allowance. A person with sufficient means is bound to maintain his wife, children or parents who are unable to support themselves. If he fails in his duty, a magistrate can order him to pay a monthly allowance under Section 125 of the CrPC. According to the recommendation, women in a live-in relationship should be eligible for the same allowance. Advocate and women’s rights activist Kamini Jaiswal said the suggestion recognised the “realities of today”. She, however, suggested that live-in relationships should be defined so that a woman was not caught up in legal wrangles. The commission is silent on the duration of such a relationship to qualify for maintenance.” The full story…


The Great One
Letterman's Tribute to Johnny Carson

Artist of the Day
Beppe Giacobbe
See Beppe Giacobbe's Web site here

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