Saturday, January 28, 2006

The "War on Terror"

Stupid Is As Stupid Does?

By Gerry Dantone

    Recent events in the Middle East, including the election of an extreme, even for Iran, Islamist President, the victory of theocratic Shiite religious parties in Iraq, the political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the victory of Hamas in the first elections in 10 years in the Palestinian controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza have shocked and dismayed the West, including the Bush Administration.  Of course, they have no right to be shocked.

Back in the January 2004 edition of the CFI-LI INQUIRER, an article entitled “It’s Freedom, Stupid,” made note of the inadequacy of democracy alone in leading the way to a better world.  The following excerpts are from that article:

“In a speech in early November 2003, President Bush called for more progress towards democracy in the countries of the ?

Bush, as usual, is uninformed and has not thought his ideas through - what a shock!  Bush's calls for “democracy” are indeed not very credible when he has treaded lightly on tyrannical allies such as Saudi Arabia and has pushed for regime change through violent means inothers - and became President himself in a somewhat un-democraticmanner!  At least he did come in second in the election...

Bush's lack of understanding and religiously dogmatic nature has blinded him to what his real cause should be: the real cause is freedom of the individual, of which democracy is but one necessary component.

Iran is a democracy without freedom, since it is a theocracy as well.  “Democracies” where only one party is allowed to exist are not free.  Countries where some individuals have significantly less rights than others are not free.  Wherever the individual freedom of all or a certain portion of its citizens is seriously compromised, freedom is absent, or at best, compromised.  Germanypretty much elected Hitler - but freedom was absent.

In the US, Pres. Bush has no problem with a tyranny of the majority (when it suits him) or limiting individual freedom (when it suits him.)  This ignorance of the real values of the United States cripples him in almost every endeavor he pursues, and makes his call for “democracy” that much more empty.  He is hardly the person to lead the way for the rest of the world.”

Although the preceding may seem incredibly prophetic, particularly in light of possible extra-legal activities on the part of the Administration involving privacy rights of Americans, the truth is that it was painfully obvious at the time.

For the reason-challenged, here is what is obvious: Increasing freedom should be the stated goal of foreign policy – and domestic policy as well.

Another obvious fact: a citizenry unable to reason or without the means to obtain the most objective facts possible about the state of the world cannot be expected to make good choices even if given the chance to choose.

Another obvious fact: faith will often trump reason, until reason is more widely cherished.  Similarly, myth will trump truth (with a small “t”) until truth is more widely valued (as Oprah has recently learned).

Every intractable problem in the Middle East revolves around the triumph of faith over reason, myth over truth and, unfortunately, is aided and abetted by a democracy that allows for the tyranny of the majority.

The United States has not taken even the initial step in solving any of these primary causes of most of the misery in the world because even its own citizenry and ruling government donot value reason, truth and equal rights for all.  This may sound harsh, but in a country where the average citizen believes in the Virgin Birth but not evolution, and was easily convinced of an Iraqi-Al Qaeda connection in 9-11, and prefers state-sponsored prayer inPublic Schools, it is clear we have not yet begun to accept the ideas that would be necessary to spread freedom here, let alone around the world.  Instead, we only tolerate and often look for ways around the safeguards to freedoms that our Founding Fathers so wisely put in place in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The first step in the “war on terror” has not yet been taken: the first steps are putting in place the building blocks for freedom which include an appreciation of reason, truth and equality for all under the law, and not the institution of democracy alone.  We are not even close to getting started.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Item: (New Dehli, Christian Science Monitor) - Banned by Indian law for more than a decade, the practice of prenatal selection and selective abortion remains a common practice in India, claiming up to half a million female children each year, according to a recent study by the British medical journal, The Lancet.

The practice is common among all religious groups - Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Muslims, and Christians - but appears to be most common among educated women, a fact that befuddles public health officials and women's rights activists alike.

"More educated women have more access to technology, they are more privileged, and most educated families have the least number of children," says Sabu George, a researcher with the Center for Women's Development Studies in New Delhi, who did not participate in the study.  "This is not just India. Everywhere in the world, smaller families come at the expense of girls."

According to the official Indian Census of 2001, there were 927 girl babies for every 1,000 boy babies, nationwide. The problem is worst in the northwestern states of Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, and Gujarat, where the ratio is less than 900 girls for every 1,000 boys.

Against common expectations, female feticide is not a crime of India's backward masses. Instead, it is most common among India's elite, who can afford multiple trips to an ultrasound clinic, and the hushed-up abortion of an unwanted girl.

Some activists say it is wrong to blame Indian society for the incidents of female feticide. The main cause for the "girl deficit," they say, is the arrival of ultrasound technology, and the entrepreneurial spirit of Indian doctors.

"This is not a cultural thing," says Donna Fernandez, director of Vimochana, a women's rights group based in Bangalore. "This is much more of an economic and political issue. It has got a lot to do with the globalization of technology. It's about the commodification of choices."

Comment: In a perfect world, no one becomes pregnant unless they want to become pregnant.  In a near perfect world, if one becomes pregnant, the decision to terminate is based on a rational basis.  In the real world however, decisions are irrationally made quite often.  In promoting choice, one necessarily promotes the right to make a bad choice.  Society then must look at the results and decide whether the consequences are acceptable or potentially disastrous and are in need of some regulation.

It must be noted however that the “commodification” of choice does not seem to explain why “girls” would be singled out over boys.  A doctor would make as much money no matter which gender was aborted, no?

Item: (AP) Mayor Ray Nagin suggested on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2006, that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America" and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.

"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country," Nagin, who is black, said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Day.

"Surely he doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he is upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves."

Comment: Everyone seems to know what God’s intent is for every natural disaster that strikes anywhere in the world.   A non-scientific poll by America Online indicated that 29% of responders agreed that God is mad at America!  Personally, I think we’re still being punished for the results of the 2000 Presidential election – but not necessarily by God.


Item: (AP) The Vatican says sexually active homosexuals and those who support "gay culture" are unwelcome in the priesthood unless the candidate has overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years, according to a church document posted Tuesday on the Internet by an Italian Catholic news agency.

Comment: This is how low the Roman Catholic Church has sunk: Not only are gays unwelcome in the priesthood, but merely “supporting gay culture,” whatever that is, is grounds for dismissal!  Priests around the world are probably burning their Village People CDs as we speak.

Item: ( Human rights abuses in Iraq are as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein if not worse, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawu has said.  The remarks follow the discovery of an Iraqi government prison facility holding 170 prisoners, including some showing signs of torture.  Allawi said, “We are even witnessing Sharia courts based on Islamic Law that are trying people and executing them.”

Comment: Freedom on the march!

If that’s too glib an answer for this tragic situation, then consider that this may be a glimpse into the “best” of all possible outcomes for the Iraq adventure.

At best, a democratic government will be elected and although the insurgency will continue, particularly onthe part of the “jihadists,” and thousands of Iraqis will die; the foreign religious fanatics will not win, nor will they give up.  This will go on for many years though US troops will be out by the end of 2006 or early 2007.

The government, though elected, will not guarantee freedom; there will be sharia law in many parts of Iraq, if not all.  Islam will be the official religion and other religions may not be tolerated.  Women will have fewer rights in the future than they had in the past.

The government will condone torture and it is most likely that civil war between Sunnis and Shiites will continue, running hot and cold.  Iran and Iraq will be allies.

Again, this is the best case scenario.

The worst case?  The insurgents gain control of parts of the country, ethnic cleansing begins in earnest; sharia law is instituted, period; torture is commonplace; Iraq aligns with Iran becoming a greater threat than Hussein ever was.  The Iraqi government institutes Death Squads.

The Kurds are likely to secede from this nightmare arousing the ire of Turkey which would likely then attack.

The US, after spending billions of dollars and losing thousand of lives, American and Iraqi, have a unstable Islamic tyranny in place, and have created a breeding ground for terrorists beyond the scope of whatever had been the case in Afghanistan.

Item: (Daily Star, Lebanon, go to

The Bush administration has taken promotion of (political hacks) to embarrassing extremes, selecting unqualified people for posts because of their political loyalty and ideological persuasion.  The most recent example of this was the appointment of Paul Bonicelli to be deputy director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is in charge of all programs to promote democracy and good governance overseas.

Like FEMA’s “Brownie” and Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, Bonicelli has little experience in the field he has been tapped to supervise.  More significant to the administration, perhaps, is the fact that Bonicelli is dean of academic affairs at tiny Patrick Henry College in rural Virginia.  The fundamentalist institution's motto is "For Christ and Liberty."  It requires that all of its 300 students sign a 10-part "statement of faith" declaring, among other things, that they believe "Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, is God come in the flesh;" that "Jesus Christ literally rose bodily from the dead"; and that hell is a place where "all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity."

What's wrong with this picture is that the USAID programs Bonicelli will run are important weapons in the arsenal of Bush's new public diplomacy czarina, White House confidante Karen Hughes.  These programs are intended to play a central role in boosting Bush's efforts to foster democracy and freedom in Iraq and throughout the broader Middle East.

One can only wonder how Muslims, the target audience for these USAID programs, will react to the view that "all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity."

Comment: It is remarkable how oblivious the religious are to the offense to others inherent in some of their own basic beliefs!

Item: (AP) Belgium has been shocked by revelations that Muriel Degauque, an unassuming woman who grew up near the rust belt city of Charleroi, had entered Iraq from Syria and detonated explosives strapped to her body in a failed attack against U.S. troops.

The 38-year-old woman's mother, Liliane Degauque, told local TV networks that her daughter was "so nice'' - but began to change when she married an Algerian man and turned to Islamic fundamentalism.

Authorities say Degauque went on to become a member of a terror cell that embraced al-Qaida's ideology. It included her second husband, a man of Moroccan origin who died in a separate terror attack in Iraq.

Comment: What a shock!  Religious fundamentalism leading someone to commit heinous acts!  Who would’ve guessed?

Item: (NY Daily News) Rev. Pat Robertson said in early January 2006 that Ariel Sharon’s massive stroke was God’s way of punishing him for surrendering parts of the Gaza strip to the Palestinians.

Also, Israeli Rabbi David Batzri, a kabbalah advocate, though praying with Sharon’s children for Mr. Sharon, had said in the past that Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to punish the US for pressuring Israel to give up Gaza.  “Just as Jews were forced out of their homes… so too are Americans being forced out of their homes.”

In the past he also proclaimed a curse on Israeli gays, declaring they were destined to be reincarnated as rabbits.

Officials among the more militant Palestinian factions were elated that their longtime nemesis, Ariel Sharon, might finally be neutralized.  News reports from the Syrian capital, Damascus, quoted Ahmed Jibril, the leader of one such faction, as saying: "We say it frankly that God is great and is able to exact revengeon this butcher. We thank God for this gift he presented to us on this new year."

Comment: It’s official; God is killing Sharon because he’s been too cruel to the Palestinians and also because he’s too generous to them as well!


Item: (Christian Science Monitor) Stretching newfound democratic muscle upon their first chance to elect a full-term government, Iraqis overwhelmingly threw their support behind religious parties defined along sectarian lines and ethnicity.

A bloc of Shiite religious parties close to Iran has, according to results released Tuesday, attracted the largest percentage of voters.

Here in the capital, a national barometer because it is the most diverse of Iraq's 18 provinces, the United Iraq Alliance - religious Shiites who dominated the interim government formed in May - won about 58 percent of the vote.

A Sunni Islamist alliance comprised of politicians who have defended the insurgency campaign against US troops came in next, with close to 19 percent.

Trailing in third is Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite who was favored by the US and Iraqi moderates hoping to rise above the country's rising sectarianism. Mr. Allawi, billed as a man who could unite parties and crack down on terrorism, received less than 14 percent of the vote.

Comment: Let’s get this straight; we’ve fought, died, killed and spent in Iraq for the end result that the two groups most opposed to what many of us in the US take for granted as the essence of freedom, gain the majority of power in Iraq.  Yes, Shiite Islamists friendly to Iran and the political supporters of the insurgents are in the best position while secular, US-friendly parties are a small minority.

Truly, is this an outcome worth what we and Iraqis (particularly Iraqi women) have gone through?  Answer: Not likely.  The ultimate answer will need to be tested in time, but the odds are good that theocracy and patriarchy, alignment with Iran and civil war are in the cards for I raq.

Item: (AP) Indian tennis star Sania Mirza insists she opposes premarital sex, a statement that came as crowds burned effigies of the 19-year-old Muslim over her earlier remarks advocating safe sex.

Mirza already has been criticized for her tennis clothing, usually a short skirt and midriff-revealing T-shirt.  Sections of orthodox Muslim clergy say she is leading astray young Muslims, especially girls.

The protests were triggered by her remarks at a leadership summit earlier this week in New Delhi.

"So there are two issues here, safe sex and sex before marriage," she said. "You don't want me to tell you that you have safe sex, whether it is before or after marriage.  Everyone must know what he or she is doing."

Her statement angered Muslim clergy.

"If she has said these things, she would have nothing to do with Islam," Haseeb Hasan Siddiqui of the Sunni Ulema (religious leaders) Board was quoted as saying by the Pioneer newspaper.

Earlier in the day, small groups of protesters from the student wings of mainstream Hindu nationalist political parties demonstrated and burned paper effigies of her in Hyderabad and three other towns.

India's Sunni Ulema Board, a Muslim organization, issued an edict in October demanding Mirza cover up during matches.  The group described her tennis clothes as "un-Islamic."

"As long as I am winning, people shouldn't care whether my skirt is 6 inches long or 6 feet long," Mirza said at the leadership forum.

"How I dress is very personal thing," she added.  "It is scary that every time I wear a T-shirt, it becomes a talking point for the next three days."

Comment: Such is the state of open debate for many Islamic women!  All this and Ms. Sania Mirza has harmed no one!  In Islam in many places men can have multiple wives and easily divorce them, women often have fewer rights, and, though not limited to Islam, many women are subject to FGM in the name of religious purity.  And of course, in many places, it is a crime to leave Islam or speak out against it.  Morality loses all its meaning in the hands of the zealously devout of any stripe.

Sunday, January 1, 2006

President Bush & Atheists

Written 1/13/05


President Bush Doesn’t See How an Atheist Could Be President

By Gerry Dantone

In a Washington Times article ( ), President Bush said yesterday that he doesn't "see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord…” but that he is always mindful “to protect the right of others to worship or not worship.”

Apparently this right is not applicable when it comes to the Pledge of Allegiance or Creationism in public schools, for taxpayers who have to pay for faith-based charities and for government vouchers for religious schools.

"I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person," Mr. Bush said.

"I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit," Mr. Bush said. "That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban.  The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit.

"On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord," he said.

Of course, this has the veneer of respectability but is outrageous at the core.  Just substitute “Allah” or “Jesus” for “the Lord” and decide whether this is pure bigotry or not.

I’ll do it for you: "On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with Allah."

And THIS is what distinguishes us from the Taliban?  The truth is the opposite: that this unfortunately is what is common to most religious groups – intolerance.

Is this making too much of this quote?  The Washington Post offered an insightful viewpoint: “Bush has often said that he is a religious man who supports freedom of religion, but yesterday may be the first time he has so clearly suggested in his use of words that he harbors the feeling that these two principles are to some degree in conflict.  You don't use the "other hand" construction for two concepts that complement each other.  And his suggestion that someone is not qualified to be president unless they are religious is sure to spark some further discussion.”

President Bush may give lip service to religious rights, but like most Americans, would not consider voting for a nonbeliever.  And with this utterance he has given the Religious Right even more cover to promote this bigoted point of view.

If only the President had said: "On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with reason, logic and compassion."

We will not be holding our breath.

Darwin Day - O'Reilly Style!

Written 1/5/05


The O’Dantone Factor: 

Somewhere Darwin Is Weeping...


By Gerry O’Dantone (with apologies and inspiration to Bill O’Reilly, go to,2933,142171,00.html  for an alternative version.)

Revenge of the theocrats: That is the subject of this "Talking Points Memo."

Well, the giant has awakened.  Millions of Americans are now aware that the traditions of Darwin Day are under fire by committed theocrats, people who do not want any public demonstration of scientific inquiry.  The situation is, of course, absurd.  Department stores refusing to post Merry Darwin banners, Denver and numerous other cities having holiday parades that refuse to have a float honoring Darwin, and schools everywhere refusing to teach evolution.

"The O’Dantone Factor" has been exposing these anti-Darwin people and they are under heavy fire.  The Museum of Creation actually asks, "Does Darwin Need to Be Saved?"  Here's a shock: They don’t think so.

The Museum director Ken Ham blames the dreaded evolutionists for causing the entire ruckus.  He then tries to demean the folks who think Darwin should be publicly respected, writing, "Everyone who rejects his history – including six-day creation and Noah's flood – is `wilfully' ignorant.''  (Go to .)

My favorite Darwin attack comes from writer Tim LaHaye, who claims that evolution is “a major component of this secular humanism…  The humanistic doctrine of evolution has naturally led to the destruction of the moral foundation upon which this country was originally built.  If you believe that man is an animal, you will naturally expect him to live like one.  Consequently, almost every sexual law that is required in order to maintain a morally sane society has been struck down by the humanists, so that man may follow his animal appetites."

No, it hasn’t, Mr. LaHaye.  There has been no loss of order, for example, in Massachusetts where gay couples may now wed or around the country now that sodomy laws have been struck down.  You, sir, are not telling the truth.  And again, we can prove it, thanks to those judges enforcing the Constitution.  And it proves Mr. LaHaye, a writer hiding under his desk until the rapture, is being dishonest, flat-out dishonest.

So why is this stuff happening?  Two reasons.  First, my argument that Darwin Day is a tradition that belongs in the public arena is a strong one.  If these smear merchants can diminish Darwinists personally, they don't have to deal with the argument.

And second, intimidation.  The CFI-LI INQUIRER (go to ) and its commentators stand in the way of the theocrat agenda.  Demonizing us sends a message to others who may challenge the theocratic cabal.  Do it and we will slime you badly.  So that's what's going on.  Another vicious battle in the American culture war.  Somewhere Darwin is weeping.

And that's the "Memo."

Why Would God Allow Such Journalism?

Written January 12, 2005:


Tsunami Coverage: Why Would God Allow Such Journalism

By Gerry Dantone

Newsday recently published a number of articles and columns that attempted to make sense of the tsunami tragedy in Asia.  Other media outlets have done much the same in their own field.  In most instances, only religiously based viewpoints were given a forum, and the resulting explanations were at best feeble and at worst self-serving.  Objectivity and critical inquiry were not only missing but avoided at all costs.

For example, in the Newsday “Faith” section on 1/10/05 the question posed was “Why would God allow such pain and suffering?”  Only clergy were asked in a column called appropriately enough, “Ask the clergy” (,0,2990398.story ).  Their answers were varied but uniformly unsatisfying.  A Church of Christ minister offered that if God eliminated pain and suffering it would become impossible for us to change or heal suggesting that God could prevent tsunamis but has chosen not to.  Yet she also said that God does not directly will tsunamis which kill some but not others and is not an omnipotent puppet master that pulls the strings of the universe.  That would imply praying for some outcome to be changed by God wouldbe futile and that God is not omnipotent!

A rabbi offered that God was similar to the God of deists: God created the universe and then allowed to run it on its own.  Tragedies occur because they are an inevitable part of this world, which would imply God is not either omniscient or omnipotent!  If God were, then he/she would have known this would happen when the universe was created - that's what it is to be omnipotent and omniscient, isn't it?

The Catholic priest simply denied God’s responsibility but did not analyze any theological implications.

The best was saved for last, however.  The pastor of the Center of Excellence Church International in Copiague noted that Jesus could and did calm storms and earthquakes, for example on the Sea of Galilee.  God then allows tragedies to happen in his “permissive will.”  Miracles are possible through his “perfect will.”  It was Adam’s sin that caused “nature” to fall into “chaos.”  Yes, the tsunami is the result of human sin!


In another Newsday article, on page 2 1/9/05, more of the same followed.  Another rabbi offered that God allowed it but did not cause it, but empowers us to deal with it.  This seems like a weak excuse for a God that presumably could have, if he had wanted to, prevented it altogether.  But if God wants to test us, why empower us afterwards?

A minister at the “Circle of Love Ministry” suggested that the tsunami was a fulfillment of the bible and a portent of the second coming of Christ.  So the tsunami was a “good” thing!

A Muslim cleric suggested that the tsunami could be seen as a punishment to disobedient people or a tragic event to test them.  Without realizing it, this cleric has admitted that one could apply a universe of meaning to any random event.

Star Jones suggested on her TV talk show “The View” that God delayed the tsunami until after Ms. Jones had vacationed in the area, claiming she was "blessed" (and implying that the victims were not).  Yes the deity is mindful of the vacation plans of the “blessed!”  Does Ms. Jones understand the stupendous ego that is needed to make the claim that SHE is “blessed” and the victims were not?  (It was later discovered that Ms. Jones vacationed in the Middle East - somewhat near the afflicted areas but NOT in any such area!  She still had the need to insert herself and her buddy, God, into the story, though.)

On CNN an religious orphanage operator claimed God spared his children (but not others).  Once again, this implies that God saw fit NOT to spare other children of the wrong faith.  Would this God be a monster?

At the same time, some clergy have suggested that God was not responsible for the tragedy but WAS responsible for the outpouring of charity in its wake.  Why God couldn't have used his magic to prevent the tsunami in the first place instead of making people respond kindly after the fact?

Newsday columnist Raymond Keating even went so far as to call an existence without a God belief "an empty, hopeless existence" but then immediately admits that "man simply lacks the capacity to fully grasp God's purpose."  How does Mr. Keating remain so confident that there is a purpose at play in the universe and that a God is directing anything when he cannot identify the purpose?

Is there a journalist or employed commentator that dares to objectively look at what happened and ask and (God forbid!) attempt to answer these questions reasonably?

Probably somewhere there is, but objectivity and skepticism is still rare.  It is this continuing gullibility and credulity that will plague American journalism and the American public and lead us into poor understanding and decision making.  In other words, business as usual.