Debunking Forwards: Direct Access Stimulus Grants To Muslims

There seems to be an email making the rounds that offers a link to an article on titled, “Coming August 31: ‘Direct Access’ Stimulus Grants for the Muslim Brotherhood and the writer, Christine Brim, makes her case purely from a misrepresentation of an email announcement (sent by the ISNA) about an upcoming workshop for other Muslim community groups to attend, hosted by the CCMO (Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations).

The biggest problem with her case is that she leads off with the erroneous introduction suggesting the Federal government is offering “direct access” to Federal funds and defends her case with interpretations that are further ambiguous at best.

The announcement itself (found it its entirety at the bottom of the “Coming…” article) contains language that indicates the workshop will be informational about opportunities and techniques to apply for funding — but nothing about how to actually get it. It’s pretty much the same ploy used by the old infomercial Matthew Lesko advertising his book about government grants, with big question marks all over his sport coat. The workshop is essentially information about government grants to apply for, that might not be otherwise known about.

Her claims that Muslim groups are getting “direct access” to Federal funding comes from the following paragraph in the email announcement —

According to a representative of CCMO, this workshop is designed to clarify how Muslim nonprofits, mosques, Islamic centers, and social service organizations can strengthen their communities through more direct access to opportunities provided to social service agencies at the Federal level. “It will hopefully help cut through some of the red tape and shine light on the many opportunities for funding, government assistance, and resources that we just don’t know about at the local level,” said Elsanousi.

(Mohamed Elsanousi is the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)’s Director of Community Outreach, stated earlier in the announcement. The passage is partially bolded by me, for emphasis)

In the sentence that contains “direct access” the word direct modifies couples with more instead of access. The sentence therefore (perhaps ambiguously) reads [“more direct” access] rather than [more “direct access”].

If access is “more direct” it could simply mean that there is one less application process to be made before a grant is signed — but in no way suggests that grants will be signed.

Secondly, the phrase about funding is worded, “…to opportunities provided to social service agencies at the Federal level.”

Opportunities doesn’t necessarily mean “we will grant you money if you apply for it.” A job opening in the paper is an opportunity, but applying for it doesn’t mean you’ll get it.

Also, “social service agencies” could be agencies that have received a Federal grant, through which the Muslim community groups submit their applications. To automatically believe that Federal money will be distributed directly to Muslim community groups that ask for it is outright absurdity and alarmist nonsense.

Thirdly, and perhaps more subtly, the workshop is hosted by an Islamic organizing party (the Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations, which is having guest speakers from government agencies come to talk at the event. It’s not said whether those guest speakers will be paid by the CCMO or by their own respective government entities, if even at all.

Fourthly, the allegation is made that the funds would be distributed to the “Muslim Brotherhood” (hence, MB, which is the largest political group in Arab states, and formally opposes violent means to achieve goals since its inception in 1928 but is banned in Egypt for supposedly defying that position) and tries to make the case for each organization that’s invited, to have ties with MB somehow. Brim also claims that the MB is an “unindicted co-conspirator” of the Holy Land Foundation, believed by the Federal government to raise funds for Hamas. However, “unindicted co-conspirator” has to be the lamest phrase I’ve ever heard used to assign blame to anything.

If you’re unindicted, it means that you have not been formally charged with a crime. A suspect who has convincing evidence against him to be charged with murder is “indicted” with murder when the crimes are formally charged against him — but it doesn’t suggest that the trial has even occurred yet so he’s still technically innocent. If you don’t have any evidence against you that could bring a trial against you, you’re unindicted. Little Susie and Billy from next door are unindicted on murder charges from the 9/11 attacks.

“Co-consipirator” for that matter is rather redundant. If you conspire to commit a crime (in a conspiracy) then you’ve agreed to carry out an illegal deed. Everyone who conspired would simply be conspirators. A co-conspirator would make you someone who conspired with conspirators, although perhaps not necessarily on the same crime that other conspirators did for which those other conspirators are accused. If you conspired to not-stop at a stop sign, with conspirators in another state who conspired to call 911 and ask about the weather, then you could then be called a co-conspirator I guess.

Brim uses “unindicted co-conspirators” in a blame-assignment technique (which is not even advised for use by the United States Attorney’s Manual) to vaguely link the ISNA to MB. ISNA (which has its share of controversy) is not even the one sponsoring the workshop and is merely quoted in the announcement.

So, (a) the government isn’t announcing the event, (b) the government isn’t hosting the event, (c) the government isn’t giving out funds, per se, and the (d) government also isn’t giving access to funds directly. Speakers who are from the government, however, are attending a workshop for how community leaders (who at this event happen to be Muslim) can apply for grants.

That’s all it looks like, to me.

Sept 19, 2010 Note I just struck out the word “modifies” and replaced it with “couples with” in the paragraph above about direct access to clear up a little confusion.

Persons Unknown s01e01 Episode Review

A Facebook friend of mine posted a blurb on his status about the show, so I sought out and found the first episode of the first season, without even looking for commercials or previews of any kind. And as it turns out, that’s how most of the characters got introduced to the show themselves. I have not seen any other episodes to know any context, so here is my review as a brand new viewer to the series.

It opens with a woman who vaguely resembles Jennifer Garner but cuter, and her 5-yo daughter at some kind of public park with metal-and-plastic stuff to climb on, filled just enough to lose track of someone. While the daughter is playing, a man who knows the woman approaches her and the talk briefly. He seems to be a personal investigator who she has hired to find her husband, who may be being paid by the husband to not find him. During the conversation she loses track of the daughter, and when she turns back around, eases deeper into the swirling cluster of kids playing on the tall playground things calling out to her, without success.

She thinks she sees a balloon-animal type set of wings the girl was wearing disappear around a corner, and goes after them — but is promptly abducted by 2 or 3 relatively non-descript men who put something over her mouth and cart her away. A security video camera with grainy lines across it captures the abduction. Later the kid emerges from the play things calling to her mommy, who has been taken away.

Cut to next scene where the mother wakes up in a fairly fancy hotel room with blinds drawn, at possible early morning or late evening by the light tone from them. She’s locked inside and trying to get out calls for help, and sees a security camera inside a tinted dome on the ceiling. She pleads for help from the camera in a sappy way, and we see from the camera’s perspective with the same lined grainy quality with no response, but she then starts dumping things out on the floor from drawers and such. One thing she dumps is a bible, but she doesn’t bother with it. She breaks a dresser drawer into pieces and gets what seems like a nail to try to pick the door lock, without success because she clearly has no idea how a lock even works and was probably trying to unlock it with her motherly freak-out emotions instead of actually moving pins or anything resembling helpful to her cause.

Outwitted by a simple keyhole and unreasonably frustrated, she starts scream-bawling for please-help, and someone thumps on the door from the outside. There’s a male voice outside calling in, who eventually thumps enough to bust the door in. The woman is now holding a chair and screams at him. His name is Joe and has no idea where he is either.

He got out of his room because he flipped through the bible and found a key taped to the inside back cover and unlocked it. He just woke up himself, previously in New York and wants to figure out what’s going on also. The ungrateful woman (from San Francisco) employs her stupid-woman logic to start throwing around worst-case scenarios, what-if-it’s-them, and he jabs back, “Well I could have just left you, too.”

They walk out and it seems like a decent oldschool hotel with hardwood floors and wide hallways. There’s an elevator in the center of whatever floor they’re on and a nice lobby with couches and coffee tables, all with a fairly pleasant atmosphere. Other doors start rattling after they call out, and they tell people to find the key in the bible. Other people emerge —

[x] Charlie, a middle aged and slightly graying investor who has money and will give it if needed.

[x] A timid somewhat unattractive short lady with short dark hair and is a domestic counselor emerges shyly but with the air of possibly knowing something.

[x] Suddenly another door opens and a tallish black dude in light beige military camo takes Joe by the neck and demands answers, soon to discover nobody really knows what’s up and that he was prematurely aggressive.

[x] Another door slowly opens and a slinky, leggy inebriated blonde stumbles out and just wants to find a phone but can offer no answers.

After a slow zoom-in on a security camera, end scene.

New scene where black military dude is banging on a stairway door to get out, but Joe observes it’s magnetically sealed so highly unlikely to bust down. They finally notice the elevator, and try the down buttons without any response except the down arrow light coming on. The oldschool level indicator (with a half-clock shape and a hand that moves to show which floor the compartment is at) is at 1, out of 6.

Investment guy Charlie emotes a miniature rant and kicks the elevator door, but black dude grabs him and shoves him to the side saying that behavior is contagious and to keep his “powder dry”. Charlie apologizes and black dude gives him a weird look. Charlie explains he’s on edge because his wife is absurdly emotional and he means survival for her.

Joe (who looks a little like Christian Bale with a buzzcut) observes there is a smoke detector, and that setting it off might trigger the magnetic locks to disengage. Charlie wonders aloud if there are any matches, but Joe grabs some wood from the broken drawer (I guess) and starts spinning a piece over another piece to start one. Even though that technique won’t actually work by just rolling it in your hands like you’re making dough, they try it. Randomly throughout, some shots are from lined, grainy security camera angles. End scene.

New scene, where a late 30s woman reporter discusses random story details with a nerdy male reporter, who next mentions about a kidnapping story where police have offered grainy-line footage of the woman’s capture from the playground area. She’s bored with the idea, but accepts the story idea as fine whatever.

Next scene, and Charlie’s trying to look out the window through the blinds, without touching the blinds in any way but to press his face up against them like a retard, HERP DERP I don’t see nothin’, and Joe is stupidly trying to start a fire by twirling a piece of wood in his hands over a flat piece. They kinda introduce themselves, counselor lady is not worth much as far as net worth, nor is souljah boy, nor Joe but Joe doesn’t want to say what his past is.

The “bad guy could be any of us” idea comes up, and never really addressed. Joe, by the magic of television, is able to start a fire way too quickly and impossibly, and gets up on a small end table to hold it up to the smoke detector. By then, the elevator starts moving up, and they abandon that plan.

There’s no one in the elevator, but everyone gets in and travels down to the ground floor, to find an empty Dominion Hotel lobby with dark hardwood floors and the same general design, with unlocked glass front doors. They open the doors and walk out to a nice-ish small town that appears to have been newly built, but no other people around. Black dude yells hello, only to hear empty echos in response.

They see a Sheriff’s office and go inside, noticing that the front door’s glass has a hole knocked into it as if someone broke in. The check the phones to find them all dead, and when looking around notice a broken-into gun cabinet, when Loose Cannon Car Salesman Bill appears from nowhere and tells everyone to shut up and get on the floor.

After a brief moment of tension, the gun is wrestled away and Car Salesman is wrestled down like the freak that he is, to discover that he also knows nothing about where they are. They gripe about the we-could-all-be-one-of-them nonsense, before Joe finally decides to just walk out of the town to find help.

Joe walks out the door, and stupid-logic mother follows him although short counselor woman asks her not to, which she rejects. Brief heart-to-heart on the way out of the town, which is only about a block or two wide where the street just ends right at dirt, and then Joe collapses in mid-sentence weirdly. Stupid-logic woman asks what’s wrong, and faints out weirdly also.

Souljah boy and Charlie dash out to check things out, wondering if they were shot, and Charlie tries to see if they can find where the shot came from if Black guy also falls. Black guy picks up stupid-logic woman, but soon tumbles weirdly to the pavement. The rest of the group scamper back inside the hotel like infants, and scene ends.

New scene where nerdy journalist is interviewing stupid-logic woman’s mother. Five-yo daughter is safely with her, and there is a brief sappy moment where grandmother gives granddaughter one of her old dolls and gently tells her to go away so she can keep talking to nerdy journalist. Grandmother seems vaguely suspicious and relatively unconcerned that things might go sour, noting that stupid-logic woman doesn’t talk to her anymore but that she gets a silver lining by getting to raise the granddaughter perhaps. There’s a camera angle of the grandmother, in her house at a weird angle, as nerdy journalist walks away, with the same line, grainy footage, and scene ends.

New scene where Joe, stupid-logic and souljah boy are still lying in the street, and the others are discussing how there’s no food in the stores in town. They see headlights, and a van is driving around a corner, and people get out and start unloading the trio that fainted. The people are all asian and don’t speak English but give the shotgun back that Souljah boy had and then run off to a Chinese food building and close the door.

The bunch talk to the woozy trio, and ugly counselor woman Moira demands Joe take his shirt and pants off, and doesn’t explain why until after the fact, to check for marks if they were injected with drugs or something. They discover Joe has a weird implant-looking, pill-shaped raised area on his back thigh, and everyone else checks and notices they also have them (although ugly counselor doesn’t check herself). They suspect a drug might be injected remotely if they go out of bounds.

One of the asians tells the group to come in the restaurant to eat, so they head that direction and for some really stupid reason they give Car Salesman the gun again and he reveals his inner retard and starts point it at them demanding answers. They just make food, they say, they have no idea what’s going on either. So they make food and the bunch reluctantly eat it.

Fortune cookies are brought out, the lazy susan in the middle is spun and each of them read aloud their fortunes. Most of them are generic things, one is just numbers, one is in Chinese, one of them is an Irish saying (claims the stupid-logic woman), and Charlie’s vaguely seems like it might apply to his wife but could just be generic. A grainy, lined security camera angle watches over them, and scene ends.

New scene where the group re-enters the Dominion Hotel, to find there is a desk manager waiting behind the counter, so they grill him about this and that —

Did you enjoy your meal?
Who are you?
I’m the night manager.
What are you doing here?
I manage the hotel. At night.

He was told he was hired for a job, woke up in the apartment behind the hotel, and got to work and for some reason he’s “used to it by now” and isn’t surprised by the way he got there, but doesn’t explain further. Everyone’s name is checked into the registry at 6pm the day before, with the same calligraphic script and their assigned room numbers.

Stupid-logic woman takes a few steps away from the group to re-examine her “Irish” Chinese fortune cookie, which actually says, “Kill your neighbor and you’ll go free” instead of whatever she said before. She stupidly doesn’t tell anyone that, and gets a glazy look in her eyes as the camera zooms backwards out of the plaza and into the night sky.

Additional commentary — Although I’d still like to keep watching this show, pretty much none of the characters do anything that seemed much at all reasonable to me. If I woke up in that room, I’d probably wonder silently why I was there, and then thoroughly examine everything in the room. I’d check the contents of all the drawers, pull open the blinds to get a look outside, see if the water runs, see if light switches work, if the toilets flush, flip through the bible for anything stuck in the pages, pull down the sheets for anything hidden, look under the bed, look behind the dresser, try to get a closer look at the security camera to see if it’s even on (may have a red light) and several other things before I start screaming my head off like Stupid-Logic Woman does, and without breaking things. If it even occurred to me to get a nail out of one of the drawers, I would actually try picking the lock instead of randomly jamming it in there like an emotional wreck.

Once we discovered everyone and made sure all the doors are open (there are several doors that are left unopened that they never bother to check) I’d inventory every room. We could always break a window and tie all the sheets together to make a rappel rope or something.

I would also suggest that no one ever give the Car Salesman Bill the shotgun again, ever. He is obviously just a big fat baby and will start crying his widdle baby eyes at random people out of frustration like he’s seven or something. If there’s a car somewhere he may perfectly be allowed to try to sell it to me, but until then I’d like to stay away from his antics. I would also be offering plenty of optimistic observations that, well, we’re not in a Romanian gulag or something being drawn and quartered that we very well could have been for all we know. At worst so far, we are in that Twilight Zone episode where the people find themselves on a giant playset that an enormous baby is playing with. I’d also have started an inventory of everything in all of the shops, way earlier than just whenever they started feeling hungry.

I’m a little bit more irritated than interested with what happen next, but I think I’ll keep going just to see if one of the more retarded characters dies.