29 May, 2006

Old Dogs And New Tricks

By now, the good ol' 419 scam has been an old trick for most of us who've been clogging the Web since the early '90s. Yet even the oldest scam needs a new wrinkle here or there to remain effective.

Here's a blatant copy/paste from their latest attempt to defraud billions of U.S. dollars from people around the world. (Yes, dear fans of my parenthetical comments. That was a B there. And this figure was from as far back as 1996, so I would assume that number has gone up quite a bit since then.)
Attn/ Please

Good day to you and your lovely family. I am Mr. Yassan Ali-Fayadh, the son of Late Dhari Ali al-Fayadh (Prominent Iraq's House of Assembly Member) who was killed along with three of his bodyguards and my Bother in a suicide bomb attack in the neighborhood of Rashdiya Northern Baghdad. Please view the news website below for detail Story of how I lost my Father and My Bother.

http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/06/28/iraq.main/
http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1119953467273_37/?hub=World
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2005-06-28-us-offensive_x.htm?csp=34

My late Father deposited a huge amount with Company here in Dakar Senegal. I got your contact detail from a friend in the neighbor and have so much in trust in you. All I need from you is an assistance to transfer the fund my late Father deposited to your country for investment until I regain my freedom. I will give you 32% of the total sum but most of all is that I solicit your trust in this transaction and will not want you to betray me, and I also want you to know that is a legitimate transaction and which is total risk free and we both will benefit from it. Please all correspondence should be directed to my private email: [XXXXXXXXX@XXXXXXX.ca] [Address deleted. - ed.] as await your reply soon.
Note the new addition? This time, they are actually using the identities of actual people, and prominent ones at that, killed by the constant violence in Iraq. Even complete with links to the legitimate news stories about their deaths, the scum-sucking bastages.

And this isn't the only new wrinkle available in the scammer's arsenals, either. (For my more vulgar-minded readers, feel free to substitute -nals with -holes if you are so inclined.) From the FBI's Cyber Investigations alert list comes this wonderful bit. (Emphases mine, a la Jeff Goldstein.)
The scam contains the usual e-mail requesting assistance in transferring millions of dollars out of Nigeria. The sophistication begins when the recipient is directed to open a bank account at Suffolk England Bank and is provided a link to the bank's website. After clicking the link, the victim is directed to a professional-looking bank website that appears to be that of Suffolk England Bank; however, it is actually a fake replica of the true bank site. Within hours after opening the account, a balance of millions of dollars appears to have been deposited in the victim's account. When attempting to transfer or withdraw funds from the account, the victim receives a notice requiring certain "fees" to be paid. The victim is then instructed to wire transfer the fees to Africa. If the victim makes an inquiry concerning the wire transfer, they are given instructions for a Bank of China branch in London and provided some reason justifying why the Suffolk England Bank cannot handle the transfer. A review of the wiring instructions indicated the funds are actually being transferred to the Bank of China in Beijing.
To quote a fictional character, one thing must be required when something, such as an opportunity for getting rich for very little effort, both seems too good to be true and gets dropped into one's lap unexpectedly: CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

This is the same type of grifting that's been going around for years and years. (For a good primer on what to watch for, read American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Well, it's also a damn good book.) So these two examples of 419 scams are actually new wrinkles on new tricks learned by old dogs. Instead of saying you got the wrong change at a gas station, you're saying that you got the wrong change from a bank transfer. All that's changed is the position of the decimal point.

As long as there are greedy people out there, there will be those who will prey on their greed and ignorance. Don't be one of them, even if you do tend to be a bit on the greedy side. And the sooner these bastages stop scoring hits off of unsuspecting suckers, the better my spam filters will feel.

Smoothe The Worries Of The Soul

Folks seem to be randomly tossing out their iPod lists these days. Particularly since Hillary and Condi have both had theirs released. So who am I to not follow along with the trend?

Of course, I don't actually have an iPod. With my monthly take-home, I really can't afford anything with an approximately $200 price tag. Instead I got one of these through eBay. (Great deal, though. $23 bucks plus shipping and insurance. All told, I paid under fifty bucks for a gig.)

So... What's on my MP3 player? Here's a random top twenty.
  1. VNV Nation - Standing
  2. The Ataris - Punk Goes Metal - I Remember You
  3. They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
  4. Peter Gabriel - Biko
  5. Midnight Oil - Truganini
  6. Loreena McKennitt - Marrakesh Night Market
  7. Wolfsheim - Kuenstliche Welten
  8. Counting Crows - Omaha
  9. The Cure - Pictures Of You
  10. Fictional - Blue Lights
  11. Styx - Come Sail Away
  12. The Seatbelts - Goodnight Julia
  13. Apoptygma Bezerk - Kathy's Song (Beborn Beton remix)
  14. ZZ Top - La Grange
  15. The Cranberries - Dreams
  16. Nickel Creek - The House Of Tom Bombadil
  17. Enya - Storms In Africa
  18. Goo Goo Dolls - Name
  19. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Someday I Suppose
  20. Daft Punk - One More Time
You know, part of me really wishes someone could sort through that and give me a detailed analysis of my political viewpoints. Of course, that would be just so I could sit there and laugh as they contradict themselves. Only one thing is for certain: you won't find rap or country on my playlists. Why? Because they've become too contrived and market-focused on their specific part of the market. It doesn't matter whether it's 50 Cent or Kenny Chesney (whom I've actually met, by the by), it has the exact same polished feel to it. And I can't stand it.

Of course, some people might argue that some of what I listen to has the uber-market polish as well. But there's a slight difference between the two:

I like this stuff.

23 May, 2006

Dogpile

A brief note before I head out the door and run errands, but this is a bit interesting...

Seems like the Kossacks have done better than I expected them to and quite a few of them are calling for William Jefferson to resign. Including Kos himself who, in the front-page-promotion note, says that "Corruption is corruption, no matter where it may arise"

I'll hold my nose long enough to scan through DU when I get home... Maybe they will come to their senses as well.

21 May, 2006

Jefferson Takes Franklins

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for Representative William Jefferson.
Federal agents searched the Capitol Hill office of a Louisiana congressman under investigation on bribery charges Sunday, while newly released court papers said agents found $90,000 in cash last year in his Washington home.

In a 95-page affidavit used to obtain a warrant for the office search, investigators stated that an August 2005 search of Democratic Rep. William Jefferson's home turned up the cash sum in a freezer.

The money was divided among various frozen food containers, according to the heavily redacted affidavit.

Agents told a judge the money was part of a $100,000 payment that had been delivered by an informant in the bribery probe, which already has led to guilty pleas by a Kentucky businessman and a former Jefferson aide.

Even worse, ABC says that he was caught taking the bribe on camera.

Seriously. Can we have consensus here?

Every single Democratic/Liberal/Progressive blogger should be calling for Jefferson's immediate resignation. If even Duncan Black can say it (Albeit he was not quite so forthright in saying it, but he at least said something along those lines. So a rare credit point from me to Atrios.), then it should be practically unanimous from our side of the aisle. Well, except for the flag-wavers over on that Kos site... They haven't said a single peep about Jefferson's little corruption problems, from what I could search out. But that's okay, seeing as how RedState barely mentioned Randy Cunningham's minor difficulties. Let the partisans bury their heads in the sand. (So far, no word about this story from Ezra's little page. But Ezra himself usually doesn't post anything on the weekend itself, so I still have hope that one of the most intelligent liberals in the blogosphere will raise the red flag.)

Of course, I said it over two weeks ago, plus Josh and the Cool Kids over at Talking Points Memo hinted at it a few days before I did. Let's see who else joins in, shall we?

Mr. Jeferson? The Grim Reaper of Politics is about to knock. (No, not Dick Cheney.) Will you dare open the door?

[Turn signal: that Insta guy.]

[UPDATE: 11:35p] A good run-down by TPM Muckraker's Paul Kiel can be found here. Face it. The man is just as dirty as Cunningham, and deserves to suffer the same embarrassing fate.

[UPDATE: 8:56p 22.05.06] Kevin Drum joins the sensible ones. A few more, and maybe the bastage will get the hint, no?

20 May, 2006

And The Dust Settles... Mostly

Time to turn the camera towards local politics, I'd say. For now, at week's end, a vast majority of the state-level races here in Colorado have been finalized.

Except for a little office sitting eight miles away from me.

After the folderol of the Republican State Assembly, Bob Beauprez (Who happens to be my current Congressman, by the by.) captured the sole endorsement for the Governor's Office by a good 44 points. His opponent for the primary ballot, Marc Holtzman, refuses to bow out and will go via the petition system to gain a slot on the ballot. This, to my analysis, goes true to form with an organization that would publicly announce that "[w]e're sorry that the girls from our campaign beat up the boys from their campaign." (Note to NewMexiKen: Use that for one of your best lines of the day posts. Double-dog-dare ya!) Of course, I find it highly doubtful that, even if they do make the primary ballot, there will be much better of a result for the Holtzman/Spradley ticket. I'd give odds of 21-1 that those two will see their names on the ballot on November 7th.

On my own side of the double-yellow-line, Bill Ritter is cruising along with absolutely zero opposition on Primary Day. And to improve the Ritter campaign's mood must be the master odds-makers over at ColoradoPols, who put him at 5-1 to win the whole thing. (Personally, I'd put it at 4-1, but that's just my opinion.)

And that's not the only hot race I need concern myself with this year.

Here in CO-7 land, there's still a three-way race for the Democratic primary, while the GOP have gotten in line behind Rick O'Donnell. Contrary to what most pundits have said earlier in the year, it looks like both Peggy Lamm and Herb Rubenstein will make it through the petition process and join Ed Perlmutter on the ballot. And for my thoughts...

I haven't really been a fan of Peggy Lamm, mostly because of my disdain for political dynasties. (She's the daughter-in-law of former Colorado governor Richard Lamm.) Trust me, you've never seen my eyes roll whenever someone mentions Hillary '08 in their blog posts. Or hear me start swearing when I read about a rumor that Jeb Bush might be considering a run for the White House. So while I might agree with Lamm over 35% of the time (And also give her a better shot at beating Rick O'Donnell in November than the other two enjoy.), she still suffers from my formal dislike of political families. However, I will say that she definitely has the personal charisma to meet O'Donnell head-to-head.

Perlmutter, on the other hand, is someone that most folks on the left-hand-side of the road would love to see as their congressman. However, it's been a while since I've read anything about/by/for/regarding him that would help me see him doing the difficult: beating O'Donnell in the first place. He doesn't do anything about taking one of the Three G's (Namely God, Guns, and Gays.) away from the sole contender for the GOP nomination. And without that, especially here in an evenly split district (33% Rep, 32% Dem, 30% Libertarian, 7% mixed Independents, IIRC.), there's few chances he can win out.

Rubenstein, however, does take one of those three away. Or at least makes a serious effort at it. There are very few extremely religious people in the Democratic Party, and Rubenstein is one of them. And while he's strongly religious (Jewish, to be precise.), he's also reads to me to be smack dab in the center-left. His policies are more thought out than most would produce in a primary race, and his views are so well-described that only someone from the extreme end of the GOP spectrum would call him a screaming liberal. Sure, he's on the short end of the stick, at least where the polls are concerned. But I've always had a soft spot for the dark horse, particularly when that horse makes things extremely uncomfortable for those in the lead. If he can keep it close until August, then it'll be a horse-race in truth all the way to the finish line.

Keep running, Herb. I've got ten bucks on you to win. (Of course, to hedge my bet, I've got $30 on Rubenstein to place. Dumb bookie gave me 30-1 odds, and I took those in a flash.) (Oh, and just guess what his odds to win were... I should go to Republican bookies more often.)

[Disclaimer: The author and this blog are in no way connected with any political campaign. Should such status change, the author will make the appropriate announcement.]

And on a side note, I've been wondering about the history of Colfax Avenue, the same street I take my nom de blog from. I've been saying to myself that I'd sit down and do some research one of these days. But now, the Denver Post has beat me to the punch. (The bastages!) Even worse, they do so with a nifty Flash presentation. Clink the link for a bit of education in completely useless, but pretty darned neat, information.

16 May, 2006

Goodbye And Good Riddance

For what seems like forever, I've been waiting for this day with baited breath... The votes are tallied, and Ward Churchill appears to be on his way out.

From the (Extremely long title, don't'cha think?) Report of the Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct at the University of Colorado at Boulder concerning Allegations of Academic Misconduct against Professor Ward Churchill (PDF warning):
Two members of the Committee conclude and recommend that Professor Churchill should not be dismissed. They reach this conclusion because they do not think his conduct so serious as to satisfy the criteria for revocation of tenure and dismissal set forth in section 5.C.1 of the Law of the Regents, because they are troubled by the circumstances under which these allegations have been made, and because they believe that his dismissal would have an adverse effect on the ability of other scholars to conduct their research with due freedom. These two members agree and recommend that the most appropriate sanction, following any required additional procedures as specified by the University├é’s rules, is a suspension from University employment without pay for a term of two years.

Three members of the Committee believe that Professor Churchill├é’s research misconduct is so serious that it satisfies the criteria for revocation of tenure and dismissal specified in section 5.C.1 of the Laws of the Regents, and hence that revocation of tenure and dismissal, after completion of all normal procedures, is not an improper sanction. One of these members believes and recommends that dismissal is the most appropriate sanction; the other two believe and recommend that the most appropriate sanction is suspension from University employment without pay for a term of five years.
Oh boy oh boy. Talk about something that feels better than Fitzmas! As this article from the Denver Post summarizes:

Three of the five scholars who examined the ethnic studies professor's work for four months believe Churchill's academic misconduct is serious enough that CU could fire him from his tenured job, the report said.

But two of those three said the most appropriate sanction would be to suspend him without pay for five years.

The other two committee members did not believe Churchill's research misconduct was serious enough to warrant termination. They suggested the university suspend him without pay for two years.

While the committee was split on exactly how seriously he should be punished, the fact that all five members believe that some punishment is warranted renews much of my faith in the principle of academic honesty, particularly as practiced at CU-Boulder.

Even though I happen to despise the man's opinions, I must agree with one thing he's said over the past few weeks. None of this would have come to light without the power of the alternative medias known as talk radio and blogging. If it hadn't been for the constant digging by, for perhaps the local example, Denver talk show hosts Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman, very little of this would have come into the light of day. It wasn't just the Republicans that were after Churchill, regardless of what Churchill himself believes. Once the stories about academic dishonesty surfaced, quite a few of us on the left-hand side of the road began to ask for his tenure to be revoked. Indeed, contrary to the opinion of this IndyMedia article, Craig Silverman is not a conservative but a registered Democrat. (I think I've mentioned before my habit of listening to talk radio, so I'll just assume that this "A Citizen" simply prejudged his political standing by the media reports.)

Ward has the right to his opinions about the 9/11 victims. That was not the issue that came down today. But rather than admit his gross academic dishonesty, plagarism, and vast multitude of other sins against the halls of academe, the only issue that will come to the fore from Churchill and his lawyer, David Lane, will be that he is being persecuted simply due to those opinions. Personally, I expect a full-blown press conference at 3p MT on Wednesday, complete with someone comparing Colorado governor Bill Owens to Adolf Hitler. (Thus proves Godwin's Law.) Oh, and they've already threatened to take this to federal court, too.

Still, let Mr. Churchill do whatever he wishes. At least once he's been placed on suspension, that is. Hell, I'd take suspension-with-pay until after his lawsuits are settled. (That would be worth my tax dollars, I'd say.) And then he'll suffer through his revocation of tenure and suspension without pay for five years... And wind up right back to where he was before all this started: an academic hack with an ego the precise size of the chip on his shoulder.

Carpe jugulum.

[UPDATE: 21:30] The Pirate Ballerina says that Churchill's wife resigned her position two weeks ago. Via Instapundit.

12 May, 2006

Coming To The Table

Sounds to me like Iran, contrary to the fears of a previous post of mine, is actually willing to sit down and talk.

From TIME.com, Iran would be willing to submit the following:
  • Iran would make an active contribution, provided that other countries with similar sensitive fuel cycle programs also do the same, to fixing the loopholes in the non-proliferation system and to developing a technically credible international control regime.

  • Iran would consider ratifying the Additional Protocol, which provides for intrusive and snap inspections.

  • Iran would address the question of preventing break-out from the NPT.

  • Iran would agree to negotiate with the IAEA and states concerned about the scope and timing of its industrial-scale uranium enrichment.

  • Iran would accept an IAEA verifiable cap on enrichment limit of reactor grade uranium.

  • Iran would accept an IAEA verifiable cap on the production of UF6 — uranium hexafluoride, which is used for enrichment — during the period of negotiation for the scope and timing of its industrial scale enrichment.

  • Iran and the IAEA would agree on terms of the continuous presence of inspectors in Iran to verify credibly that no diversion takes place in Iran.

  • Iran's readiness to welcome other countries to partner with Iran in a consortium provides additional assurance about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
This makes things sound alot better than the alarm-filled tone of that post of mine over on Creative Destruction. Keep things going on the diplomatic front. That is how to avoid conflict. And looks to me like Iran will be giving the world, via the UNSC and IAEA, a vast majority of what they want.

[Turn Signal: Washington Monthly]

10 May, 2006

Mmmmmmm...

Damn, but I really shouldn't have read Instapundit today...
ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES fell while hiking in the mountains and had to have four vertebrae in her neck fused (she's lucky she can walk). While she's recovering, we're taking turns cooking dinner for her. Tonight's my turn and I'm taking Insta-Chicken, which travels well.
And he even provided a link to the recipe for Insta-Chicken which sounds almost good enough to eat.

Ingredients: 3 large baking potatoes; 3 sweet potatoes; two large onions; one fryer hen; assorted spices

Preheat an oven to 350. Start with a nice fryer hen, about 3 lbs. Clean and then mist with olive oil. (If the InstaWife isn't around to object that it contains fat, also rub with one tablespoon butter, which doesn't add many calories, but does add a lot of flavor). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika (lots), garlic, and a bit of sage. Place in a large, covered roasting pan.

Now chop the onions into quarters, and add to the roasting pan. Slice the potatoes (both kinds) into inch-thick sections and add to the pan as well. (Some peeled baby carrots are nice, too, but the InstaWife is allergic to carrots, so we skip those). Next, in a measuring cup add two ounces each of worcestershire, teriyaki, soy, and whatever wine you have around (I used the last of a bottle of Reynolds Merlot tonight). Pour over the chicken and vegetables, then cover the pan.

Put in the oven for about two hours and go do whatever you want -- you're done cooking. Two hours later, serve the chicken, which will be wonderfully tender and succulent, on a platter. Remove the vegetables and serve separately in a large serving bowl. Total prep time is about 15 minutes, there's not much to clean up, and as a nice side effect, the house smells wonderful when your family gets home.

Oh yeah. Now I'm hungry, all right. I think I'm going to go and see if I can make this when I get home from movie-watching tomorrow. (Methinks I'll bite the bullet and pay matinee prices for MI:3. I've seen the other two and, quite frankly, it can't be worse than MI:2 was.) Of course, I'm fresh out of worcestershire, so part of me is wondering if a few shakes of tabasco will do just as well, particularly if I go easier on the paprika.

(And my next plan? Come up with a way to become a) a colleague of one Glenn Reynolds and b) suffer some debilitating injury. 'Cause that would just rock.)

Of course, seeing as how I am inherently a decent guy, I'd probably have to invite a certain embattled local blogger over for dinner if this recipe works out well for higher altitudes. (Don't worry, though. I won't ask him to put out or anything. But his armadillo, on the other hand...) On the other hand, looks like someone else is having a bad day as well. (See, this is the trouble with being a nice-but-highly-indecisive guy. All these people around me seem to be having a tough bit, and all I can do is look like a dumb-ass while trying to figure out who to extend a hand towards first.)

[UPDATE: 21 May 06 01:00a]
Trust me. Leave off the tabasco. Oick. Almost tasted like it was pickled rather than baked. Guess I'll put that one down for Great Cooking Mistakes Of History. Will try again at the end of the month.

And trust me again, M:i 3 is not worth regular ticket prices. Matinee pricing is okay, though.

03 May, 2006

Another One Bites The Dust

Via TPM Muckraker comes this brief interlude from the illegal immigration issue.
Jackson further admits that in early 2001, Representative A told him that Representative A would not continue to provide official assistance to Jackson's company, iGate, unless Jackson agreed to pay a nominee company ostensibly maintained in the names of Representative A's spouse and children. Jackson agreed and signed a consulting services agreement committing iGate to pay the nominee company various things of value, thereby concealing Jackson's payments in exchange for Representative A's performance of official acts in furtherance of iGate's business in Africa and elsewhere, including, but not limited to: a) monthly payments of $7,500; b) a percentage of iGate's gross sales; c) a percentage of capital investments raised for iGate; and d) options for iGate stock.
For the sake of illumination, remove all references to "Representative A" and replace them with Congressman William Jefferson.

Got that? Good.

Now could we please kick one more corrupt bastage out of office? Just as with the Randy Cunningham corruption/bribery issue, there shall be no mercy for those who, instead of serving their constituents, use their higher office to serve their own bank account balance. Period. Ad infinitum. Ad astra. Forever. World without end. Nananana, nananana, hey-hey-hey, goodbye. Omayn.

Of course, there are some that will turn this into a purely partisan issue. Just as there were many on my side of the double-yellow line that turned the "Duke" Cunningham case into a purely partisan issue.

Political corruption is not a partisan issue. It should be stamped out wherever it is found, regardless of whether it is by Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Independent or Insert-Obscure-Party-Here. It should be uprooted like any weed that takes away from the good and proper.

Want to know who is a true partisan? Find out who was constantly bashing Cunningham over the head with a rubber albatross, and see if they're even mentioning Jefferson. Or, on the flip side, see those who were insisting that Cunningham must be the target of political machinations and are currently damning Jefferson's name unto the eighth circle of the Inferno.

02 May, 2006

Post-Draft Thoughts

While I've never let it come onto the blog just yet, I've been a life-long fan of the Chargers. I was born in San Diego, and that is pretty much where my heart has resided for the last 29 years of life. So, with the formality known as Draft Day 2006 out of the way, I can finally let go the breath I've been holding and say, yet again, that Smith & Co. did not repeat the Leaf Disaster.

I'm thinking that the Chargers came out of the draft in fairly decent shape. They even did most of the things I have been railing at them for years to do on the draft weekend. Even lost my voice after the 2002 Draft from constantly yelling bloody obscenities at the television.

One damn good cornerback, albeit one with some leg-health issues but definitely not another Quentin "My Ego Needs Its Own Helmet, Private Physical Therapist, And Three-Year Contract With Signing Bonus" Jammer. One big set of holes, no puns intended, filled in the offensive line. One moderate-to-high talent, with a friggin' rail-gun grafted onto his shoulder in place of a throwing arm, to play third-string to Rivers if/when he gets hurt. And one person to try and fill the shoes marked "55", which will forevermore be one of the most serious challenges faced by anyone in the ILB slot on the Bolts' depth chart.

Looks like a fairly decent set of guys going down to Sandog Town out of this one. Should be a good season to be in the shadow of Jack Murphy, regardless of what kinds of games they play with corporate naming rights.