Sign the Petition to release BBC Journalist Alan Johnston–and put a button on your blog

UPDATE: It was reported on 7/3/07 that Johnston was released.

Alan Johnston is a BBC journalist who was kidnapped in Gaza some three months ago. A video of him was released on June 1. Yesterday Hamas announced in Gaza that they “would no longer permit him to be held” and there is speculation about whether Hamas has any influence with Johnston’s captors.

If you would like to sign the petition for Johnston’s release, here is a link to the BBC online petition.

Alan Johnston banner
Here is the link to get the button code for your blog from the BBC site.

Posted in Middle East. Comments Off on Sign the Petition to release BBC Journalist Alan Johnston–and put a button on your blog

Illinois Gambling Expansion Legislation HB25: A very stupid idea

Forget the talk about the tenth Illinois casino. Proposed legislation now before the Illinois house would triple Illinois gambling, including the creation of a downtown Chicago casino.

While casinos can be very profitable, they are harmful to economic development. Restaurants are the hardest hit when a new casino opens, although expenditures in other sectors decrease also. Casinos can make more than half of their income from non-gaming revenues, including hotel and restaurant facilities on the premises. According to a study by E L Grinols and J D Omorov reported in the Spring 1996 Illinois Business Review:

Restaurants in many states, including Illinois, have reported that their revenues dropped as much as 50 percent in response to the opening of a nearby casino, and many restaurants have closed.

The social costs from gambling to the surrounding community can also be high. Costs associated with bankruptcy, debt, criminal justice costs, and other consequences of gambling problems can cost the community somewhere between four to eleven times the amount of tax revenue they bring in, depending on which study you look at.  Gambling impoverishes whole communities.

And once a gambling enterprise is let into the state, it doesn’t go away. Although the racing business ceased being profitable long ago, the taxpayers of Illinois are still subsidizing that industry to keep it from going out of business.

Gambling is not good for business and it’s not good for Illinois.

The bill is being discussed this week. This is the time to contact your representative. You can find the contact information for your Illinois state representative here. If you don’t know your district you can find it here.

Posted in Government, Illinois. Comments Off on Illinois Gambling Expansion Legislation HB25: A very stupid idea

Chicago’s first Arab festival–Arabesque

Daley Plaza

June 27-June 30

Wednesday-Friday 10-3

Saturday 10-5


Here’s the link:

Posted in Arab culture, Arabs. Comments Off on Chicago’s first Arab festival–Arabesque

Cafepress changes to non-fair trade product, jr. baby doll tees removed

Tomorrow CafePress is scheduled to replace the American Apparel manufactured “Jr. Baby Doll T-shirt” with something called the “Jr. Jersey T-Shirt” of unknown origin. American Apparel is a company whose fair labor practices are well documented. CafePress has revealed nothing at all about the sourcing of the replacement product.  Since all tees offered here are ethically produced and can be documented to have been produced without sweatshop or child labor,  the “Jr. Baby Doll Tee” has been deleted.

CafePress still offers organic, fitted, hoodie, raglan, tank top and dog t-shirts from American Apparel that are ethically produced.  Those items have not been deleted.


Related posts:

Make a difference on World Fair Trade Day–contact CafePress
Is hiding sweatshops?
CafePress responds to Fair Trade concerns with form letter, maintains holding pattern offers Fair Trade tee shirt alternatives


Posted in Fair Trade, Products, T-shirts. Comments Off on Cafepress changes to non-fair trade product, jr. baby doll tees removed

Yousef sends me “IT Consultant” internet joke from Amman

Okay, I admit I opened this one at work. I was finishing my syllabus for summer semester and trying to get my campus email to work when I saw Yousef’s latest email joke and had to open it.  Then of course the computer tech and another teacher heard me laughing so I had to forward them a copy too.  Thanks, Yousef. 

Once upon a time there was a shepherd looking after
his sheep on the side of a deserted road. Suddenly a
brand new Porsche screeches to a halt.

The driver, a man dressed in an Armani suit, Cerutti
shoes, Ray-Ban sunglasses, TAG-Heuer wrist-watch, and
a Pierre Cardin tie, gets out and asks the Shepherd:
If I can tell you how many sheep you have, will you
give me one of them?’

The shepherd looks at the young man, and then looks at
the large flock of grazing sheep and replies: ‘Okay.’

The young man parks the car, connects his laptop to
the mobile-fax, enters a NASA Webster, scans the
Ground using his GPS, opens a database and 60 Excel
tables filled with logarithms and pivot tables, then
prints out a 150 page report on his high-tech

He turns to the shepherd and says, ‘You have exactly
1,586 sheep here.’

The shepherd cheers, ‘that’s correct, you can have
your sheep.’

The young man makes his pick and puts it in the back
of his Porsche.

The shepherd looks at him and asks: ‘If I guess your
profession, will you return my animal to me?’

The young man answers, ‘Yes, why not’.

The shepherd says, ‘You are an IT consultant ‘.

‘How did you know?’ asks the young man.

‘Very simple,’ answers the shepherd. ‘First, you came
here without being called. Second, you charged me a
fee to tell me something I already knew, and third,
you don’t understand anything about my business.. Now
can I have my DOG back?’

Posted in Humor. Comments Off on Yousef sends me “IT Consultant” internet joke from Amman

‘Thinking Blogger Meme’ enters Spamland.

It’s rough to be a spammer these days. Newer and more powerful programs block out even the most persistent forms of spam. Most bloggers don’t take time to go through the literally thousands of pieces of comment spam looking for genuine comments. Spammers keep trying harder and harder to convince the few people who venture into the spam holding cell they have a real comment and are not just trying to sell you viagra or painkillers.

“Your site has made me smile”, says an insurance spambot, and posts a smilie. “Your site is also very interesting, very calming effect just reading it…” says a spambot selling diet pills. “I Googled for something completely different, but found your page…and have to say thanks. nice read….” sounds almost human, until you see that this week everyone is using it. There is even a dangling modifier English-is-not-my-first-language version of it from another diet pill spambot: “I found your website after I have been surfing the internet to be useful”. Or the mindless sycophant-bot:”I have admire your unselfishness in taking the time to make this web site.” This last one seems to have missed something in the translation: “Hi. Yes, interesting surrender all are described. I recently read about this article in on the other resource.”

Then, this comment spam from a certain “doctor pp” pill spambot stopped me up short:

Hello, I just wanted to say you have a very informative site which really made me think, Thanks ! A site with a wealth of info.!…thanks very much! Have a nice Day!!

Holy catfish. That’s the Thinking Blogger Meme. Back in February it was started over at:

and now it’s being used by some spammer in Milton, Australia. Do you suppose it’s about to go ….viral?


Related posts:

Gems in the Spam Sewer


Palestine just a pawn in Copeland’s 1952 Game of Nations

Every once in a while I like to read a really old book about what things were like in my youth before I paid so much attention to world politics. “The Ugly American” has long been a euphemism for the kind of American traveler who is insensitive to local culture, but when I picked up Lederer and Burdicks’ old novel by that title, I found it wasn’t about that at all, and in fact did explain a lot about the kind of political thinking that brought us both Vietnam and the Peace Corps. The story is about the imaginary country of Sarkan somewhere in Indochina, the domino theory, and winning hearts and minds. That was so much fun I read their 1965 sequel, Sarkan. Which is a perfect lead-in to Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, about behind-the-scenes U.S. /British 1960’s spy vs. spy competition in southeast Asia.

This weekend I have picked up something on the Middle East, Miles Copeland’s The Game of Nations published in 1969 about the events in the Middle East from 1947 through the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The title reminded me of a chapter title about Jordan’s first King Abdullah in Kamal Salibi’s The Modern History of Jordan as well as Kipling’s espionage/spirituality novel Kim, where the protagonist learns about the “great game” while traveling with a holy man in search of a particularly spiritual river. Which, trust me on this, brings us through to the Palestinians.

The Game of Nations starts with the British announcement of their withdrawal from the “Pax Britannica” in the Middle East, withdrawing from Greece and Turkey at the beginning of the Cold War. American analysts scrambled to fill the void, as the wartime Office of Strategic Services changed to the Central Intelligence Group, which became the CIA, and America began to dabble in world change. In the fashion of someone sitting down to a poker game where they don’t know the players, Americans first tried betting a small hand, a military coup in Syria, believing that conflict with Arab countries was “almost entirely due to mischievous or misguided leadership.” The result was the Husni Za’im coup of 1949, followed by the Hennawi coup of 1949 masterminded by Shishakli, who ran the country through a series of front-men until he came to power in 1951, only to flee the country in another coup in 1954, until “”even those of us who know it well are unable to keep track of which predator is currently in charge.” Okay, so that was the Syria regime-change thing. Trust me, I’m still getting to the Palestinians.

Then we come to the Egypt. America had played out their regime-change hand in Syria and the result was massive instability. So in Egypt, still looking for the “right kind of leader” they formulated a series of “political realities” they believed any leader would have to observe to stay in power. One of them was a common enemy.

In this part of the world, Bertand Russell’s observation particularly applied: “A common peril is much the easiest way of producing homogeneity.” Elsewhere, Arab leaders were using the fear of Israel to bring about a degree of national unity; we saw no way of avoiding use of the same means in Egypt, provided there was minimal danger of stimulating emotions that might get out of hand–and the likelihood of this seemed small in view of the terrible defeat the Egyptian Army had received from the Israelis in the war in 1948. Besides, there seemed little chance of successfully promoting a leader who would not make use of the Arab-Israeli issue.

So this is what the U.S. was looking for in its search for the “Moslem Billy Graham”– someone who would use the Palestinians as a stepping stone for Egypt’s political stability. In behind the scenes talks with Nasser’s people before the successful coup, Nasser nixed that idea that “regaining Palestine” is a top priority in any given country.

After five years of tuning in on barrack-room conversation and talking individually to hundreds of officers, however, Nasser and his lieutenants decided almost the opposite. They realized that it might serve some later purpose to speak of “mobilizing Egypt’s resources so as to redress the wrongs of Palestine,” but that in early 1952 …their resentments were “against our own superior officers, other Arabs, the British and the Israelis–in that order.”

After Nasser’s successful Egyptian coup, his people were again in touch with American diplomats and eventually they came around to the American view of the necessity of using Israel as the scapegoat to unite the country:

This was followed up by more public assurances from the coup’s father figure, General Naguib, who at one point got carried away and passed the word to us that he ‘wasn’t interested in Palestine‘, although he called Ambassador Caffery only a few hours later to withdraw the statement and substitute for it something less suited to public consumption in the United States, but more in line with what Nasser, and we, knew was required for the new government to gain public acceptance.

So the Americans are the ones who took the lead in using the issue of Palestine as the common foe to unite Egyptians and provide the stability necessary to secure the strategic interest of Suez.

I still have another two hundred pages to go in the book, but I rather like Copeland so far. He doesn’t mind “disillusioning the public” or “revealing a lot of information which had best be forgotten” or “needlessly puncturing a view of our Government which it is best for the public to have.”

One thing I have been disillusioned about. When I was a senior in high school, we took a trip to the U.N. In our applications for the trip we had to write an essay about either zero population growth or world peace. Comparing notes later, all my friends wrote about zero population growth. I wrote about the “Report From Iron Mountain” hoax. It purported to be a report of policy thinkers who got together and discussed the economic benefits of WWII and decided that for economic reasons world peace was not desirable. After the expected outcry, the Iron Mountain report was revealed to be a hoax.

But it wasn’t a hoax after all. The “Peace Game” was real. In his book Copeland reveals it took place around a conference table in a Washington office of the State Department known as the “Games Center”. Author Miles Copeland knew Nasser personally and played the part of Nasser as the United States government “gamed out” international trends to predict their outcomes.

So from this can we infer the U.S. government believes that the other countries of the Middle East will always need a Palestine in turmoil to ensure their stability?