Muslim 101 (5×8 – 9/15/11)

Teaching religion the FBI way, the life of the hikers families, in Alzheimer’s and in health, the dollar coin, and your Minnesota moment of zen.


1) TEACHING RELIGION THE FBI WAY

As I relayed in yesterday’s 5×8, there’s certainly plenty of evidence to suggest that the people hustled off a Frontier Airlines jet in Detroit on 9/11 were mostly guilty of — as James Fallows put it — “flying while brown.”

Now there’s some evidence that’s just the way the FBI wants it.

Wired.com reports it has received training materials used by the FBI to teach counterterrorism to its agents. The data, the site’s Danger Room blog reports, was turned over by whistleblowers, and purports to show the FBI is teaching that Muslims are violent.


At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent.” Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: “Any war against non-believers is justified” under Muslim law; a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

Focusing on the religious behavior of American citizens instead of proven indicators of criminal activity like stockpiling guns or using shady financing makes it more likely that the FBI will miss the real warning signs of terrorism. And depicting Islam as inseparable from political violence is exactly the narrative al-Qaida spins — as is the related idea that America and Islam are necessarily in conflict. That’s why FBI whistleblowers provided Danger Room with these materials.

An FBI presentation titled “Militancy Considerations” measures the relationship between piety and violence among the texts of the three Abrahamic faiths. As time goes on, the followers of the Torah and the Bible move from “violent” to “non-violent.” Not so for devotees of the Koran, whose “moderating process has not happened.”

9/11 Followup: You may have seen the story from the Washington Post last week (it was reprinted in local papers) about the F-16 pilot who was prepared to bring down United Flight 93. What the story didn’t say, because the Post didn’t find out about it until yesterday, was that the pilot suspected her father might have been flying the airliner.

2) THE HIKERS

The human yo-yos — the two American hikers, one of whom is a Minnesota native — are waking up again in an Iranian prison, their families back home learning that what appeared to be a done deal to spring them is falling apart because of a political war among Iran’s leaders.

The two — Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal — have been held on spy charges since July 2009.

What’s it like to have your kid in a far-off prison for no good reason? The Daily Beast looks at the prison the families are in…


A few weeks later, Shane’s mother, Cindy, greets me at her farm outside Pine City, Minn. She used to have a business here as a sled-dog trainer, but she closed it down after her son was taken captive. As the seasons change, she imagines what he would say if he were there, able to smell the fresh air. “I have dreams about Shane,” Cindy says. “We’re sitting and talking. He’s sharing things with me, and I’m sharing things with him. When that happens, it’s a relief for me because it’s feels like we’re really having a conversation.”

3) IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH, UNLESS IT’S ALZHEIMER’S

Pat Robertson has invoked enough goofy things over the years — suggesting the earthquake in Haiti might be “a good thing,” for example — that people might stop paying attention to him, but people can’t stop paying attention to him (see Ventura, Jesse for more about this phenomenon).

The matrimonial world is atwitter today after a caller to his show — the 700 Club — asked about “a friend” who is “stepping out” on a spouse who has Alzheimer’s.

“I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again – but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her,” Robertson said.

His co-host asked about the typical wedding vows — in sickness and in health, which, appear to be mostly ignored by most people getting married these days:

“If you respect that vow, you say ’til death do us part,’” Robertson said, adding that Alzheimer’s “is a kind of death.”

“Families typically respond the way they do to any other fatal disease,” an executive with an Alzheimer’s group said.

If your relationship doesn’t work out, maybe you need Tu Weiming, 25, who has started a service to handle the dirty part of breaking up with a lover. It was mostly a joke, but then — according to China Times, people started actually paying him to actually handle the breakups.


Among his clients, he remembers most clearly the case of a young woman. He was originally paid by her boyfriend to tell her that their relationship is over. As he delivered the news to her however, the girl threw him 500 yuan (US$78) and told him, “I am the one who wants to finish it, not him.” Thus, like an emotional version of Lee Van Cleef’s mercenary in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he collected from both parties and broke both hearts.

4) THE DOLLAR COIN

People are never going to love a dollar coin, so why does the U.S. keep making them? Several attempts to get people to accept them over the years have failed miserably.

The law requires the Federal Reserve to keep buying the coins, McClatchy reports (first reported this summer by NPR), even though few people want them. So they’re piling up in warehouses.


Inside, coin bags are piled into row after row of shelves. In addition to the presidential coins, the bank also stores Susan B. Anthony dollar coins, which the Mint is no longer producing, and also the gold-colored coins that feature Sacagawea, the Shoshone Indian who guided Lewis and Clark on their 19th-century expedition to the Pacific Northwest.

It’s cheaper to make a dollar coin than it is to make a paper dollar, and its supporters say the problem is the government isn’t promoting its use enough.

Discussion point: What would it take for you to use a dollar coin?

5) SO LONG, SUMMER

Here it is, your moment of Minnesota zen:

(h/t: Perfect Duluth Day)

As for you, autumn, welcome! I say “welcome” in a Minnesota sort of way. What I actually mean is “you should die.”

welcome_autumn.jpg

Bonus: Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez show their off-the-cuff acting chops.

TODAY’S QUESTION

This week at a Republican presidential debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer offered this hypothetical:


“A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens. All of a sudden he needs it.”

Today’s Question: Who should pay for his health care?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Where are the green jobs?

Second hour: The Jayhawks (rebroadcast from last winter).

By the way, here’s a video from a segment of Tuesday’s night’s Jayhawks appearance with Mary Lucia at the Fitzgerald.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: U of M medical ethicist Dr. Steven Miles, on HPV vaccine and other medical ethics issues in the news.

Second hour: Live broadcast, Westminster Town Hall Forum, featuring Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute on “broken government.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: What if Greece defaults?

Second hour: Rewriting your life story, at the end of life.

  • bench

    Bob, you video link for “Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez show their off-the-cuff acting chops.” isn’t working.

    As for the dollar coins? If vending machines and grocery stores and gas stations gave out coins as change I might start using them… but then again I also rarely use cash. However, maybe if we had a $2 coin also like Canada people might like the idea better (I hear the Canadian dollar isn’t doing too bad these days).

  • Bob Collins

    It’s working at this end, but I added a text link.

    Re: dollar coins.

    The Ohio Turnpike (I think it was Ohio) gives dollar coins as change in their automated exit toll booths. We’d intended to foist them off on Indiana the next day, but there they sit on the top of the dresser, where they will probably sit for a good long time.

  • Another Bob

    I love the dollar coin. I want more dollar coins. I use them whenever I can in vending machines and parking meters: much easier to carry around one dollar coin instead of four quarters.

    But the only way to get them to catch on is to stop making dollar bills. And why not? Dollar bills are more expensive to make than coins, the government is facing a huge deficit, so isn’t this the logical thing to do?

    While we are at it, get rid of the penny too.

  • lucy

    There are probably a handful of things, experiences left in the Cities that make me smile.

    Watching this Jayhawks clip would be one of them. The good people really aren’t all gone.

  • Josh

    Stop making dollar bills and get the coins in circulation.

    People will complain, but they will get over it I am sure. People complain about everything.

  • Hillary

    What would it take for me to want to use dollar coins? They’d need to weigh less.

    I try to use cash for my small transactions, especially if they’re at a small business. I take 4-6 ounces of change out of my purse every week. It’s amazing how much heavier that quarter pound makes my bag feel.

  • Sareen D

    Stop making the $1 bill and the penny. Just as Josh said, get over it.

  • John p.

    “unalterable word of Allah”

    When belief replaces critical thinking we have a dangerous situation. It does not matter if the belief is in Allah, God, or privatization.

  • Greta B

    @ John p.

    Is that privitization with a big P or a little p

  • matt

    @John p.

    Forgot govt in that list

  • precious

    @ matt

    is that ‘matt’ as in door matt?

  • matt

    I was shooting for mattador but door matt works as well :-)

  • jon

    In my economics class they said “bad money will replace good money.”

    the idea being that if people have a solid currency they will hold on to it, and instead spend a less solid currency. Money that isn’t circulated doesn’t serve it’s purpose, and will get replaced by the less solid currency on a macro economics scale.

    So clearly it isn’t that people don’t like the dollar coin, it’s that they like it to much.

  • precious

    @ mattador,

    Please excuse my feckless assertation.

  • matt

    Never insult a man who is to dumb too understand it or too smart to care.

  • matt

    based on me flipping my to and too around there should be no doubt which one I am…

  • bench

    There’s always the gold standard…

    I feel like any change will bring criticism. If we completely get rid of dollar bills there will be quite an uproar. Just look at how many people complain and say they will leave Facebook when it announces new changes*.

    *Note- may need to be under 30 to understand

  • precious

    clearly written in black and white and defintely to-too circumstances.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Matt -

    “Never insult a man who is to dumb too understand it or too smart to care.”

    A great line, in spite of the to/too confusion.

    It got me thinking. Is it a call for civility, or a recommendation that one only fight in his own weight class?

  • matt

    A call for civility. Being called names doesn’t bother me in the least but would prefer to debate ideas rather than argue or personalize.

  • lucy

    “but would prefer to debate ideas ”

    “@John p.

    Forgot govt in that list

    Posted by matt | September 15, 2011 10:51 AM ”

    matt,

    So we are back to where we started right? I don’t know that anyone thinks of gov’t as almighty, but due to the shift of power causing the chaotic economy and greedy wealth many have been forced to depend on gov’t assistance in order to survive.

  • matt

    @Lucy

    True, people don’t think of govt the way they think of God but they react/defend govt the way they would God. So we get belief replacing critical thinking. There was no well reasoned debate about bombing in Libya, we just saw someone trying to overthrow Gaddafi who we don’t like (well we liked him for a while, then we hated him, then he wasn’t so bad and towards the end he was a pain but tolerable) and now we find out that his replacement might look a lot like the guys we are fighting in Afghanistan. We use govt to protect the interests of drug makers, hospitals and insurance companies creating an unmanageable health care system that delivers less care, with less quality, for a higher price and then throw more govt at it (and who writes the legislation…those who have their interests protected in the first place). Then anyone who says get the govt out is labeled as uncaring because we cannot solve the problem without govt.

    How is that different than believing God determines the harvest and we must accept his providence and try harder to please him next year?

    Why do I have to have a prescription for insulin?

    Why do we fine people for speeding on an empty road where they pose no danger?

    Why can’t I deliver personal letters for a fee?

    Why can’t I bet on the Gophers game in Minnesota?

    Why can’t Jim marry Paul?

    Why can’t I promise to pay all of Sally’s medical bills in exchange for $50/month without forming a licensed insurance company that would cost $millions?

    Why do we lock a person up for selling drugs to a willing buyer and then double punish prisoners for not taking drugs that they don’t want?

    All of these would be easier to swallow if when govt provided something they had the means to pay for it. If you want to kill brown people in far off lands make me pay for it not my kids. It would be easier if they said “If you don’t agree with this you can opt out”, that is where God and religion beat govt hands down. I can walk away from the Catholic church anytime I want to.

    All my complaints are heresy but maybe if I nail them to enough doors a few people listen.

    In the end govt is just people and resources – there is no pixie dust, all the miracles that are performed can be explained away with simple science, it can all be done without govt – but people refuse to accept that just like people refuse to accept that the earth is older than 6000 years or that homosexuals won’t burn in hell for all eternity.

  • lucy

    @ matt

    “True, people don’t think of govt the way they think of God but they react/defend govt the way they would God”

    Well, I don’t

    and

    I think you are making a sweeping generalization. I give people more credit that they know the ‘bad things that happen on our planet’ such as those that you mentioned are at the hands of other people and not God.

  • matt

    To the second and more important point about depending on govt when times are tough, it is truly the only game in town right now so I have no problem with that. My hope is that we move power back to social institutions so that they are not the only game in town. It worked, with many many flaws, in the past and can work again. Most of those flaws that people will be quick to point out are less of a problem now, we have technology, global communications and have matured as a species. We have figured out things like micro-finance and job sharing, we have largely put away racism (always the anarchist I will point out that putting away the racism became much easier once govt stopped institutionalizing it). Still not a perfect world but govt provided social care still fails countless people every single day as well for more nefarious reasons.

  • Susan

    Dollar Coin: I seem to recall that the paper industry lobbied successfully to retain the paper dollar. I use dollar coins whenever I can and pick up 10-20 at the bank periodically.

  • matt

    The sweeping generalization was only directed towards those who hold govt in the highest esteem. There are evangelical fundamentalist govt worshippers, Christmas/Easter govt worshippers, lapsed atheist govt worshippers and those who trust and rely in govt because they were taught that as children and never thought to question it.

    As for bad things happening throughout the world being the works of men true but remember the works of men can be punished as criminal acts, but done in the name of govt they are allowable. If I were to walk into Afghanistan and shoot a man who did not put his hand on his head when I said to I would be a murderer, if I was still a Marine it would be okay. That is the the dark, dark, evil of govt, the part that really makes me angry. Those people are dying in my name because I am part of “We the people”. I didn’t pledge allegiance to that flag.

  • I can’t believe it’s not butter

    and have matured as a species.

    is that a joke?

    Privatization is scary. The only obstacle between corporations and running the US is the government, although they have a pretty strong influence as it is right now. Privitization would allow those private business-corporations- to decide who survives, where they survive and how theey survive.

    The corporations have sucked much of the revenue out of the government as it is and it would make sense that they would prefer to have the government out of their way as opposed to making campaign donations during elections.

    So is that a big P or a little p there matt?

  • JackU

    The dollar coin vs the dollar bill. Cash register design is one of the things that keeps things other than penny, nickel, dime, quarter and $1, $5, $10, $20 bills from being more readily accepted. Every cash drawer in the country would need to be redesigned in order to get the two most under utilized pieces of American money into greater circulation. (The dollar coin and the $2 bill.)

  • matt

    @butter,

    I do not advocate privatization, never said I did, never will. That is simply giving govt assets or monoplies to a selected few, that would be the republican (not sure if that is big R or little r) gig not mine.

    As for your fear of the market the only way you can be forced to buy from a company is if the govt makes it so. Absent the government there is always free exchange. Maybe you imagine a Bond-esque villain who buys all of the dairy cows in the world and will only sell milk for $100/gallon. I guess that could happen but at some point, if Bond doesn’t interfere, our villain realizes that all the milk is spoiling and he is spending huge amounts to maintain his vast dairy herd. Either he maintains his meglomania and keeps the price high amassing huge amounts of cottage cheese or he drops the price to the market clearing level. 7000 years of economic history show us which has happened everytime in the past.

    7000 years of economic history also shows us that free markets* perform far superior to restricted markets. Bread lines in USSR = yes, USA others = no.

    *Free markets being actually free markets not restricted, subsidised, regulated and interfered with by govt and their guns…so the housing market and its collapse in 2007-present would be a proof of this argument rather than a counter as is often the way it is presented.

  • Kassie

    When I used to work directly with clients I would often tell them that divorce was probably their best option when one half of a married couple suddenly became disabled. Not that they should break up, but they should legally be divorced so the disabled person could get health care and other benefits. It usually did not go over well, but it was the best advice I could give.

    As for dollar coins, I LOVE them. Seriously people, give me all your dollar coins. Anyone who parks at meters should have the same love affair I have with them. Who wants to have to find 4 quarters when 1 dollar coin will do?

  • Jamie

    // *Note- may need to be under 30 to understand… //

    Your youthism is showing. There are people of all ages on Facebook, people of all ages masterfully using computers.

    // “the housing market and its collapse in 2007-present would be a proof of this argument rather than a counter as is often the way it is presented.” //

    On the contrary, the housing market collapse, as well as the whole economic collapse, were caused mostly by the under-regulated (greedy) free market.

  • Jamie

    // “We use govt to protect the interests of drug makers, hospitals and insurance companies creating an unmanageable health care system that delivers less care, with less quality, for a higher price and then throw more govt at it…” //

    Government has only a small but critical role in this and all the other industries and their greedy management who control our country. There are of course a few pockets of ineffective and even corrupt government oversight of these industries, but we are MUCH better off than if we didn’t have any government overseers at all. We would do well to have MORE oversight/regulation, as long as it’s effective.

    And, incidentally, just because someone doesn’t trash “the government,” it doesn’t mean that it’s a religion to them. That’s absurd and insulting.

  • Jack

    Dollar coins? I love them. Use them every day in the parking ramp just north of downtown Minneapolis. I never have to worry that they are too crumpled/old (unlike the bills) to be accepted by the machine.

    Time to retire the dollar bills.

  • Jack

    @Kassie – swing by the bank and get a roll for $25. Maybe if enough of us start asking for them, the banks will always have them on hand (not just when the new ones come out).

    Amazing how the bank assumes that I always want the new ones when I stop by. Give me any old ones – I’m not admiring them, I’m spending them.

  • Matt

    @Jamie,

    I never said someone who doesn’t trash the govt makes it a religion. I said there are people who look at govt the same way they look at god. Just because someone doesn’t trash the pope doesn’t make them catholic.

    I appreciate your opinion on govt but disagree with your conclusions. If you would like I can point out the govt created framework that allowed the greedy corporations to be in a position of influence. I would assume we have no disagreement that biggest winner in the aftermath has been greedy corporations and there is no dispute as to the arbiter of the aftermath…govt.

  • lucy

    Not all government Matt, just the bought-out, misguided representatives that were hired to serve the people and not themselves.

    (Nice job, Jamie)

  • Paul J

    I am going to reveal my ignorance here and admit that I have no idea why those 3 people were strolling an unfriendly border in a war zone and why so much attention should be paid when they encountered trouble because of it. Were they delivering life-saving medicine to remote villages? I paid no attention when it happened, and now nobody discusses that part any more — I only hear about their unjust captivity.

    Uninformed as I am, I have the same opinion as I do about extraordinary measures/expense taken to rescue mountain climbers, etc. If they do something extreme to “risk their lives” for no real reason other than bragging rights, I don’t see the need for “heroic” (sorry, Jim) efforts to rescue them.

    Educate me, please?

  • Paul J

    Oops. Shot my mouth off too soon. Now after having read the linked article, I am slightly more informed. Apparently Kurdistan is the new garden spot for mountain camping — Just keep a safe distance from the Iranian border. Perhaps such worldly folks as these should have known that?

  • Matt

    Lead story in my NYTimes update this morning tells how the administration is debating over whether to only kill high level targets in Yemen and Somalia or if they can expand to kill more people. No trials, no declared war, that is murder. That is what the govt, very openly is doing and discussing.

    They give trillions to banks that have shafted our nation, with govt assistance of course, they murder people and they buy us off with healthcare programs…that we can already do without them?

    How are we any better than a battered wife who defends her abusive husband? Sure govt kills and robs but they are kind to sick.

    Go ahead and claim it is just some of the, that if we only elect a little better they won’t do it again. They said that they would change and this time we really believe them.

    Murder in Yemen for free MRIs how cheaply we can be bought.

  • Jamie

    // “Murder in Yemen for free MRIs how cheaply we can be bought.” //

    That’s ridiculous.

  • matt

    agreed.