Scam alert: If you get an email from the IRS, it’s not them

If you get a note from the IRS (Eternal Revenue Service), it’s usually not a good thing unless it comes with a check. But if you get an email from the IRS, you should really pay attention. It might not be them.

I got a strange one in my email box the other day, and it was a genuine head-scratcher:

* * *

Gmail Team mail-noreply@google.com
Jun 2 (5 days ago) 

to me

The message “Your Federal tax report #ID9837” from Internal Revenue Service (customer.service@irs.gov) contained a virus or a suspicious attachment. It was therefore not fetched from your account editor@ericpulsifer.com and has been left on the server.

If you wish to write to Internal, just hit reply and send Internal a message.
Thanks,

The Gmail Team

 

* * *

OK. Here’s the deal. Whoever it was sent it to my business email address, which hasn’t existed very long. See, all my emails feed directly into my gmail box, making it easier to keep track of stuff and handle all my addresses without having to log in and out and in and out. Email addresses are cheap.

Anyway, I went to my business email box:

* * *

Your Federal tax report #ID***7
From : “Internal Revenue Service” <customer.service@irs.gov>
To :
editor@ericpulsifer.com
Received :

06-02-2012 10:18 PM

Tax Refund,

The analysis of the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity has indicated that
you are entitled to receive a tax refund of $382.34
Please submit a request of the tax refund and a processing of the request will take 7-14 days.
A tax refund can be delayed by different reasons.
For instance submission of invalid records or sending after the deadline.

Please find the form of your tax refund attached and fill out it and send a report.

Yours sincerely,
Internal Revenue Service.

* * *

That’s the email, and it’s pure horse dung. I didn’t even bother to open the attachment. But as far as phishing/information mining/scamming goes, it’s an oldie but goodie.

Here’s what I got from the Internet from the Internet Crime Complaint Center:

* * *

Intelligence Note  Prepared by the Internet Crime
Complaint Center (IC3)
December 1, 2005
E-mail disguised as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) phishing for personal information
The FBI
has become aware of a spam email claiming the recipient is eligible to receive a
tax refund for $571.94. The email purports to be from tax-returns@irs.gov
with the subject line of “IRS
Tax Refund.” A link is provided in the email to access a form required
to be completed in order to receive the refund. The link appears to connect to the
true IRS website. However, the recipient is redirected to
http://www.porterfam.org/2005/, where personal data, including credit
card information, is captured.
This e-mail is a hoax. Do not follow the provided link.
Be cautious when responding to requests or special offers delivered through unsolicited
email:  Guard your personal information as well as your account information carefully. Keep a list of all your credit cards and account information along with the card
issuer’s contact information. If your monthly statement looks suspicious or you
lose your card(s), contact the issuer immediately.
If you have received this, or a similar hoax, please file a complaint at
www.IC3.gov.

* * *

Looking a little further, I checked from the jackass’ mouth itself, going straight to the IRS website. I pasted it directly in here, so it may look funky.

The upshot is, they’re not going to use email or social media to contact you:

* * *

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information

What is phishing?
Phishing is a scam typically carried out by unsolicited email and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites and lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information. 

All unsolicited email claiming to be from either the IRS or any other IRS-related components such as the Office of Professional Responsibility or EFTPS, should be reported to phishing@irs.gov.

However, if you have experienced monetary losses due to an IRS-related incident please file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission through their Complaint Assistant to make that information available to investigators.

What to do if you receive a suspicious IRS-related communication

If

Then

You receive an email claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for personal information …
  1. Do not reply.
  2. Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  3. Do not click on any links.
    If you clicked on links in a suspicious email or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit our identity protection page.
  4. Forward the email as-is, to us at phishing@irs.gov.
  5. After you forward the email and/or header information to us, delete the original email message you received.

Note:
Please forward the full original email to us at phishing@irs.gov. Do not forward scanned images of printed emails as that strips the email of valuable information only available in the electronic copy.

You discover a website on the Internet that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus … send the URL of the suspicious site to phishing@irs.gov. Please add in the subject line of the email, ‘Suspicious website’.
You receive a phone call or paper letter via mail from an individual claiming to be the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee … Phone call: 

  1. Ask for a call back number and employee badge number.
  2. Contact the IRS to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you.
  3. If you determine the person calling you is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you, call them back.

Letter or notice via paper mail:

  1. Contact the IRS to determine if the mail is a legitimate IRS letter.
  2. If it is a legitimate IRS letter, reply if needed.

If caller or party that sent the paper letter is not legitimate, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

You receive an unsolicited e-mail or fax, involving a stock or share purchase … and you are a U.S. citizen located in the United States or its territories or a U.S. citizen living abroad. 

  1. Complete the appropriate complaint form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  2. Forward email to phishing@irs.gov.
    Please add in the subject line of the email, ‘Stock’.
  3. If you are a victim of monetary or identity theft, you may submit a complaint through the FTC Complaint Assistant.

… and you are not a U.S. citizen and reside outside the United States.

  1. Complete the appropriate complaint form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  2. Contact your securities regulator and file a complaint.
  3. Forward email to phishing@irs.gov.
    Please add in the subject line of the e-mail, ‘Stock’.
  4. If you are a victim of monetary or identity theft, you may report your complaint to econsumer.gov.
You receive an unsolicited fax (such as Form W8-BEN) claiming to be from the IRS, requesting personal information … Contact the IRS to determine if the fax is from the IRS. 

  • If you learn the fax is not from the IRS, please send us the information via email at phishing@irs.gov. In the subject line of the email, please type the word ‘FAX’.
You have a tax-related question …Note: Do not submit tax-related questions to phishing@irs.gov. If you have a tax-related question, unrelated to phishing or identity theft, please contact the IRS.

How to identify phishing email scams claiming to be from the IRS and bogus IRS websites


The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

The IRS does not …

… request detailed personal information through email.
… send any communication requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.


What to do if you receive a suspicious email message that does not claim to be from the IRS

If

Then

You receive a suspicious phishing email not claiming to be from the IRS … Forward the email as-is to reportphishing@antiphishing.org.
You receive an email you suspect contains malicious code or a malicious attachment and you HAVE clicked on the link or downloaded the attachment … Visit OnGuardOnline.gov to learn what to do if you suspect you have malware on your computer.
You receive an email you suspect contains malicious code or a malicious attachment and you HAVE NOT clicked on the link or downloaded the attachment … Forward the email to your Internet Service Provider’s abuse department and/or to spam@uce.gov.

* * *

If you’re into links, here’s the IRS announcement.

So I’m not going to open this attachment. I’m not going to bother.

I know they don’t owe me a refund, and if they did they’re not going to tell me unless I ask. What do I think they are, stupid?

(Don’t answer that!)

So if you get an email from the IRS, forget it. It’s not them.

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NYC mayor’s vendetta against bladder busters may spread

A cartoonist for the Conservative Daily News caught the mood just right here.

New Yorkers may soon need to grab a refill if they want to consume mass quantities of soda. That is, if Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way.

It’s just another day at the office for Hizzoner. Since taking office, Bloomberg has opened fire on smokers, trans fats, salty snacks and soft drinks. This latest has Bloomberg calling for a ban of sugared drinks in anything larger than 16 ounces, no matter what the majority of voters say.

So much for the famous Bladder Buster, or whatever it is your favorite convenience store calls its 40-plus-ounce Mt. Dew. Even the 20-ounce bottle, which is the new standard size for soda, has to go.

Keep your nose inside the vehicle at all times.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey — which is really New York South though no one will readily admit it — is considering another out-of-left-field law that will prohibit the family dog from riding in the passenger seat with his head sticking out the window. Pets must be restrained when in the vehicle, maybe even with a harness.

Seriously.

I don’t live in New York. I’ve never been there, and I have no desire to ever go there as long as I live. I could say I don’t understand the Bloomberg way of governance, but that would be a lie. I grew up in California, which is about like New York except the sun occasionally shines.

It’s my California experience that keeps me from laughing as I read about the latest Bloomberg Follies and about New Jersey’s proposal. I’ve seen too much, and California wrote the manual on how to be a proper Nanny State. Even New Yorkers laugh at Californians.

(A fast disclaimer: “New Yorkers” means those who live in That Big City Up North. If you call an upstater a New Yorker, he’ll hurt you and I won’t blame him. But I digress.)

But New York and California are the incubators for many of our national problems. Folks talk of street gangs now as if they’re the newest threat to our way of life; they’ve been around New York even before I was born. Illegal immigration used to be a California problem; now it’s even in the Carolinas and yes, the Midwest.

Same thing with some of the laws you used to laugh at. Now you’ll have a problem finding someplace to smoke indoors or make a phone call while driving, and many of those laws started because someone in New York or California complained.

A state with a lot of immmigration — like South Carolina — tends to adopt these laws faster than someplace like South Dakota, which isn’t exactly a hot immigration magnet. Part of it is a natural thing. We California-bred types like our Mexican food, and New Yorkers like the idea that they can call someplace and have a slice of pizza and a bagel delivered at 4 a.m. Except I still can’t find any Mexican food that is even close to the real thing out here, and the 4 a.m.  pizza/bagel runs haven’t materialized yet.

But we’ve got their laws. And we’ve got politicians who think they know what’s good for me better than I do. Something obviously got lost in the translation.

If you want to know the future here in these United States, cast your eyes on New York and California. It’s better than a crystal ball. Just hide your Bladder Buster when you see a cop, and make sure Fido’s paws and tongue stay inside the vehicle at all times.

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Obama’s got Woody Allen’s vote … for dictator

Do people actually pay attention to these Hollyweird types?

This is from Fox:

Woody: Obama for ‘Dictator’:

… director says President Obama should be given dictatorial powers for ‘a few years’, GOP should ‘get out of his way’ …

Let’s see. Woody Allen? THE Woody Allen? Does he still have credibility?

But then, let’s get inside the head of your average voter. Credibility means nothing. It’s star power, baby. Which is why folks actually pay mind to what Barbra Streisand and Woody Harreslson — and Woody Allen — have to say. That’s why they keep voting for California’s action-figure-turned-Governator. 

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Facebook stonewalls on privacy questions

Facebook’s been in a lot of hot water lately, what with the much-discussed privacy issues facing the social media giant. 

I’d had my moment in writing about the issue, as I went so far as to shut down my Facebook account after a bout with spyware from the site and this increasingly snaky feeling that Facebook doesn’t really give a rip about user privacy.

Anyway, Facebook folks had a major meeting this afternoon to discuss these issues. Whether this meeting involved mass executions, I have no idea. Yet.

It seems Facebook is bringing stonewalling to an art form.

This account is from ReadWriteWeb, a source I trust on tech matters:

***

Facebook Clams Up After Meeting on Privacy

Facebook_logo.jpgAs we reported yesterday, Facebook’s high and mighty summoned unto them their employees, to talk about the savage beating they’ve been taking in the media, on blogs and among users, big and basic. The meeting, held at 4:00 pm PST has produced no audible results … when we asked a Facebook spokesman about the meeting we got the same boilerplate as every other organization:

“We have an open culture and it should come as no surprise that we’re providing a forum for employees to ask questions on a topic that has received a lot of outside interest.”

But wait, there’s more:

In an e-mailed statement to Computerworld, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said, ‘We had a productive discussion where comments were made and questions were asked and answered” … Noyes declined, however, to say if the social networking giant made any decisions about changing its contentious privacy policies or if the meeting was simply to allow employees to ask questions about the brouhaha that has arisen over them.

***

Looks like Facebook is trying its level best to screw things up here. See, they were on top for some time. Reduced Friendster into a trivia question, and stripped MySpace of all relevance.

Facebook became the only game in town.

When you’re the only game in town, you get caught up in Hubris real easily. And as the ancient Greeks so tiresomely remind us, that’s when Nemesis hands you your bee-hind. 

Oh, yeah. I have not restarted with Facebook. Nor do I plan to. I’m sure my old Facebook friends would understand, and it’s not like social media is the only way we keep in contact.

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Unemployment and Bunning’s TS card: More than the money

Talk that the federal government may not afford paying out more unemployment benefits may leave me in a financial pickle, but more importantly it leaves me with one of those thorny moral dilemmas.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R, KY) is staging a one-man blockade to shut down any expansion of unemployment benefits. Later, Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) joined him on this, saying the federal government needs to figure out a way to pay for additional benefits first.

“Congress just passed the so-called pay-go legislation which is supposed to require that we find offsets or other savings if we are going to spend money,” Kyl said. “So what’s the first thing we do? We exempt this bill from it.”

Bunning, the baseball Hall Of Famer, laid what older military veterans may call a “T.S. card” on a $10 billion Senate plan to extend unemployment benefits. (Those who didn’t hear Bunning’s actual comments will probably still get the drift without a lot of explanation.)

While the Senate bill stalls, there’s the spectre that benefits may terminate this month for more than 1.1 million former workers. At least, that’s what the Democrats are saying, and most of those cats in the halls of Congress are real good at dealing out the exaggerated numbers and scare tactics.

Meanwhile, I will find out fairly quickly what happens next. I get inside information on this kind of news in my mailbox every week. See, with the exception of whatever writing income I scratch out, I’ve been living on unemployment. And hating it.

While some folks can carve a whole lifestyle out of waiting for that gummint check, I’m not one of those. It goes against everything I believe, everything that’s important to me. Plus, it doesn’t mesh with my personal style. I’m an action type, and not having a regular job leaves me all jacked up and no place to go. In short, it turns me into Beelzebub.

To be honest, I’m not sure where this unemployment compensation comes from. Well, I kind of do. It’s funny money, surgically removed from working people and business owners or, failing that, printed up as needed by the federal government.

OK, here’s the moral dilemma. Those who know me through this space have probably figured by now that I’m not big on government assistance. Shoot, I’m not big on government anything. I’d rather have a battery acid enema than deal with all these civil service types. A friend suggested I might consider trying for food stamps. I politely told her no, and the politeness was only because she’s such a dear friend. But I’m not hurting. I can do great things with beans, rice, and hamburger. Even with my most expensive grocery item (premium coffee) my food bill is practically zip.

But you see what’s going on. I’m writing about these conservative/libertarian principles, and I try to live in a manner that’s at least somewhat consistent with what I write. My views have not changed, and don’t expect me to start pounding a share-the-wealth message any time soon. I don’t roll that way.

See the dilemma here? While some may suggest I just get what I can, shut up, and hang my convictions, I’m just not that type of person.

Strategy time, from my personal notes: I’m still looking for work, but have widened my options. Part time would be wonderful; in fact that’s the best scenario I can think of. It was less than two months ago that I started freelance writing in earnest, so I’m just scratching the surface there. Right now, as long as it’s legal I don’t really care what the part time job is; it’s not like I’m going to be married to it or anything. I have three (or four, depending on how you count them) paid writing gigs going on right now, and already at this early stage they amount to half a paycheck. A part-time gig, paying about what I’m making now in unemployment, would be gravy.

Entrepreneurs and high-level economists are smart enough to know that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. But with this economy being what it is, that truth has filtered down to the average folks, those who punch a clock every day. The economy is so uncertain that if you’re depending on just one income source for your daily bread, you’re inviting trouble.

While some do quite nicely for themselves while waiting for that gummint cheese, I don’t see how they do it.

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Senator makes ‘racist’ statements — so?

OK, so Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made statements about then-candidate Barack Obama’s blackness. Big deal.

His comments found their way into “Game Change,” a new book from Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, that is being released this week.

It appears this book dealt out equal amounts of gall and bitterness to a number of candidates, from both sides of the political spectrum — folks as diverse as John and Elizabeth Edwards and Sarah Palin got their doses.

But it’s Reid who’s getting all the attention these days, probably because a) he’s still in office, and b) he is such a central player in the government’s efforts to take over our health care. Without his and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s efforts, the whole package probably would have been stuck in the talking stages rather than making it as far as it has.

Reid supposedly said that Obama was electable because he was light-skinned and didn’t use “the Negro dialect” unless he meant to. In other words, black enough but not too black. Shoot, let’s cut to the chase here — his alleged statements painted Obama as someone that blacks a couple of generations ago might call an “Uncle Tom.”

Again, who gives a rip? This is just a sideshow, which has little or nothing to do with any real issues.

Now, the Republicans are jumping on this one. They’re calling for him to resign from his leadership position, or even from the Senate. This brings shades of 2002, when Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond’s segregationist past during the South Carolina senator’s 100th birthday party.

It’s funny how party affiliation means so much in politics. During that campaign Joe Biden, who was born with both feet in his mouth, made similar statements about Obama. Remember? A black man who is “articulate … and clean.” Biden may have tanked his presidential aspirations then and there — as if they really existed anyway — but he’s now vice president to that articulate and clean black man. See how it works?

So far, I don’t hear the usual gang of racist-shouters going after Reid like they did after South Carolina Congressman Joe (You Lie) Wilson or a handful of others, which shows how truly hypocritical these people are. If Reid was Republican, a conservative, or against the health care takeover, it would be a whole different story, but that’s not the point I wish to make here.

Although the Republicans are asking the Democrats (and the racist-shouters) to rise up against Reid, it’s not going to happen. The Democrats need every single vote they can muster to pass the national health care plan. After that, they can feel free to gut the senator — if the Nevada voters don’t do it first. Of course, the Republicans would love to see Reid get thrown out on his can sooner rather than later.

I see this whole thing as an obvious attempt to derail the health care bill, and yes, it does need derailing. Government-run health care may be an even bigger threat to our way of life than even the USA PATRIOT Act, but to shut it down by taking out the proponents represents politics at its slimiest.

Keep in mind, I’m not known for defending liberals. But Reid was elected by the voters in his state, and made his way into leadership positions by going through the usual channels that rule in DC. He’s been a known quantity for a lot of years. If he doesn’t represent the interests of his state, it’s up to the electorate to decide that matter.

And so a few folks may be offended by the comments of a Reid — or a Biden, or years ago, a Lott? OK, that’s what that ballot box is for. But a smarter voter is likely to overlook the odd comment from deep left field and take more important things like his track record and political agenda into consideration.

Efforts to homogenize the leadership will ultimately backfire. Better to have living, breathing elected officials with minds and opinions of their own, even if a little offensiveness comes with it. There are enough drones walking around in our society, people who react instead of think, people who are afraid to voice their own opinions and maybe stir the puddin’ a little bit. Must we elect these drones, too?

There are lots of reasons to vote against someone like Reid, and the occasional quasi-offensive statement isn’t one of them.

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(OK, let’s go to the horse’s … mouth!)

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Nigerian bomber exposes Homeland Security incompetence

Nice to know that our Homeland Security system works. At least that’s what department head Janet Napolitano says.

Never mind the fact that some 23 year-old guy named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab got busted on a transcontinental flight trying to light up some powder in his underdrawers, powder that turned out to be a high explosive. Never mind the fact the guy was a Muslim from Nigeria with probable al-Quaeda ties, and was on the antiterrorism watch list. And was waved onto the flight without showing his passport.It seems that, as the plane approached Detroit, Abdulmutallab went to the aircraft’s bathroom for approximately 20 minutes. When he returned to his seat, he said he had an upset stomach and pulled a blanket over himself. And waited until it was time to set things off.

The passengers on Northwest Flight 253 did a better job of flight security than the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) ever could. They caught up with Abdulmutallab — he was easy to pick out because of the flames shooting out of his pants — and proceeded to knock the fool out of him.One of the most glaring problems with Homeland Security is that it’s reactive in scope. Every time something happens, there’s a new rule. After Richard Reid was busted trying to light up his shoes, the TSA started having airline passengers take off their shoes as part of the check-in drill. More prohibitions started as more threats developed, and the whole process has succeeded in turning air travel into something you mentally prepare for, like a colonoscopy (why did I use that analogy?)

Much as I like to travel, flying is not on my list of fun things to do. It’s rough enough for me, being something of a control freak, knowing that I’m not the one that’s driving. But getting inspected before even boarding? You’ve got to be kidding.

Last time I flew was in 2006, five years after 9/11. I watched as one TSA inspector daubed the contents of my one checked-in bag before pitching it onto the conveyor. I stood in line, took off my boots, took everything metal out of my pockets, dumped all of that into my hat, and answered questions about my carry-on bag. The return trip was worse; I got the wand and the secondary inspection pit while my brother and his family were cracking up (I remember telling them to don’t just stand there; take some pictures). A woman in her late 70s was in the other secondary inspection pit where TSA inspectors were going over her wheel chair.

Part of this is that the inspectors are trying to be all politically correct. Rather than profile the person, they’re trying to profile the object — shoes, metal objects, shampoo, bottled water, and now blankets and laptops. On the same flight, another Nigerian created another in-flight security scare because he spent too much time in the head, so you can expect that will be more closely watched. And so it goes, especially when Homeland Security is so badly behind the curve.

Again, rather than profiling the item, what’s wrong with profiling the person instead? This bombing suspect paid cash for a one-way ticket. He didn’t have his passport, or even luggage. He was Muslim. A Nigerian. His daddy, who is the former economics minister of Nigeria, said his son had been radicalized and warned authorities of this six months ago. Though he wasn’t on the federal no-fly list, he was on a “terrorist identities” list of 550,000 names maintained by US authorities. What with those high explosives riding so close to his private parts, he had to have been more than a little nervous, maybe sweating something awful.

OK, right from the jump, isn’t that enough red flags for you? But he made it through screening at two airports.

In light of Abdulmutallab’s background and Homeland Security’s capabilities, Dr. Magnus Ranstorp of the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College doesn’t understand how the bombing attempt could have taken place.

“On the one hand, it seems he’s been on the terror watch list but not on the no-fly list,” Ranstorp said. “That doesn’t square because the American Department for Homeland Security has pretty stringent data-mining capability. I don’t understand how he had a valid visa if he was known on the terror watch list.

One thing that can be guaranteed from this incident: Despite Homeland Security’s obvious failure here, it’s a lead pipe cinch the federal government will use this incident to give that department even more power over our lives. Which should put frost in the heart of every thinking American. Really, the only saving grace with that scenario is that Homeland Security is so incompetent — or maybe that’s not such a saving grace after all.

Here’s a happy thought: After Reid, passengers were asked to remove their shoes. Now that Abdulmutallab was caught with exploding underdrawers, is the TSA going to ask passengers to remove their … never mind.

But I feel better knowing the system works. Janet Napolitano said so.

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An old scam takes a new, homegrown tack

[DISCLAIMER: I don’t like to cross-post articles among two blogs — better to run a teaser — but the editorial board (me, myself, and moi) decided the subject matter warranted it. But you’ll also find this in The Workbench, Reloaded.]

You’ve probably seen this scenario in your email box a few times. Someone has lots of money they can’t get to, and wants your help in securing it. Just send a reply, and that’ll start the wheels turning.

But these can be sniffed out a mile away. They’re usually from someone in Nigeria, or some other third-world country.

I received another one of these scam notes in my email, with a different angle to it. Instead of someone claiming royal blood in some country most people can’t find on a map, this one looks all-American. Like, from a U.S. serviceman:

“I am Capt. Bruce Evan Roberts, with the US Navy Joint Special Operations,USS COLORADO around Gulf of Aden, I have $9Million US Dollars in my possession,which was seized/confiscated from somalia pirates between Yemen and Somalia Waters in Gulf of Aden, we want to move the funds out of the USS COLORADO around Gulf of Aden to a secure location to enable you assist us in investing it in a profit oriented business.”

And here’s the pitch:

“I need someone I can trust to actualize this venture, you will receive this funds through a secured US Military Delivery Freight duly authorized/legalize by Middle East Regional Command. The funds would be kept for us safely by you until I am discharge of my duties here in the USS COLORADO around Gulf of Aden by January 2010. Do respond back to me indicating your response so I can further discussions with you on the safe movement of the funds out of here and how much commission you shall be entitled to from the $9Million. Please do respond to my personal e-mail: brucerobertss@hotmail.co.uk …”

A couple of obvious red flags. The letter did not come from his personal email box, but from mr.frankies@att.net — and it’s sent to “undisclosed recipients.” Even inspecting the source HTML code of the letter doesn’t provide any more information than that.

And then, the gist of the letter was enough of a warning. My personal bullscat detector, well, the needle was buried in the red.

Hey, uh, Captain Bruce, baby (if that’s who you are). I’d like to extend the same advice I once offered in an online forum after someone responded to my opinions by flaming my shorts off: You just might want to check to see if your identity has been stolen lately. Some jerkface is using your name.

As for y’all email recipients, it goes like this. Despite the American-as-pizza-pie, score-one-for-our-country trappings in the letter, treat it the same as when some Nigerian gazillionaire or Moroccan princess or Venezuelan dictator offers a share in the booty via email. To wit:

See that key on the upper right of your keyboard, the one marked DEL over there? Yeah, that one. It’s made for emails like that. Use it with extreme prejudice.

Supporting our troops doesn’t include falling into some scam that’s using the name of one of our servicemen.

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GOP trying to restrain its rogue elephants

I don’t know if they’re trying to clean up the party or just pass around the Kool-Aid, but the GOP is trying to cull those who aren’t “one of them” from those who are.

Understandable, because the John McCains and Lindsey Grahams of this world are, well, they dress like Republicans but few are really sure who they are.

Future candidates may have a litmus test to determine where they’re coming from, and the gold standard by which Republicans may be judged is none other than Ronald Reagan. The party drafted 10 questions to ask each candidate during the vetting process, and a failing grade (in this case fewer than eight out the 10 questions) is likely to cost them funding and endorsements.

Guys like McCain and Graham (who represents South Carolina in the Senate) are sure failures in the political quiz. As are a majority of the party’s office holders, I’ll wager. But Graham in particular is being branded as a RINO, Republican In Name Only, for his stances on health care and illegal immigration.

Which makes sense on the surface, but the party may be shooting itself in the foot here. Columnist Kathleen Parker calls the litmus test a “suicide pact.”

The ultralib Daily Kos is having fun with this one, and one of its writers, in a tongue-in-cheek article, suggested its own litmus test for Democrats:

… out of pure bullet-point envy, I propose that Democrats must also have their own list. Ten litmus tests which every potential Democratic candidate should be able to ace before they ever hope to put (D) after their names. In fact, I’ll go so far as to be more pure than the Republicans. If you can’t pass every one of these tests, don’t bother to sign on …

Some of the Kos points include:

… (1) We support the rights extended to Americans extended under the Constitution. All the rights. For all Americans …

I can’t say I recollect the Democrats ever being all fired-up over the Constitution, but that’s a separate rant. Let’s move on:

… (5) We support American business, and recognize that an unregulated market is an unfair market, an unstable market, and a market doomed to failure …

I’m trying to ignore the contradiction in that statement. To continue:

… (9) We believe that access to our government is not for sale. Not in the courthouse, not in the White House, and not in the legislature …

Two words for y’all: BILL CLINTON! As in, Lincoln Bedroom. Remember?

To be sure, the conservative (Reagan) wing of the party really didn’t have any muscles to flex until 1980. Before that, Barry Goldwater was the lone “real” conservative in a party that would surely flunk the litmus test today. And Goldwater was considered dangerous, a bomb-thrower, and not politically correct anyway. But after Reagan, there were few “real” conservatives to be had in the party — surely not Bush Sr. or Jr. You’d have to drill deep among the also-rans in the 2008 primary to find one in Mike Huckabee, and even he’s a little suspect.

To look at the GOP’s history over the past 50 years, Reagan was the aberration. The party itself, well, it was hard to tell them from the other guys a lot of the time.

While it’s nice to develop some sense of unity and identity, it’s a real mistake to treat the party as a private club. In all its attempts to seek definition, the party will completely kiss off all the independents who are a better fit on that side of the two-party system. While they’re about it, they might as well save time and concede the 2010 and 2012 elections right now. The party’s in serious trouble right now; you don’t fix that by narrowing your scope.

Let’s say (purely hypothetical here; there’s no way I’d even consider doing such a thing — I’m already considered a loose cannon in some circles) I decided to run for Congress. Let’s say it’ll be in one of those nonexistent districts that were created by the recovery.gov website in the stimulus. There’s no way I’m gonna pass that litmus test, though my politics are certainly closer to the Republicans than the Democrats. So I might as well forget about funding, endorsements, etc. The GOP wants a Reagan clone, and that ain’t me.

See, I told you this is a stupid scenario.

More intelligent (now that’s a stretch) voters are more likely to look at the candidate instead of the party. Anyone who goes into the booth on election day and chooses his candidate solely by the presence of a “D” or “R” beside the name isn’t smart enough to vote anyway.

I’ve suggested this before. The two-party system is one of those things that was a real good idea at the time, outlived its usefulness, and is still hanging around searching for relevance. Sort of like the electoral college.

OK. So who’s an elephant these days? And who’s a RINO?

Eleph-ino.

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So Obama doesn’t tweet; what’s the problem?


Apparently Barack Obama isn’t the twit people like to think he is.

He’s one of the most popular users of the microblogging Twitter service, with 2.6 million followers on his account, but whoever sends out those tweets under his name, it’s not him.

Obama has his name on one Twitter account, @BarackObama, which is run by Organizing for America, his political arm which is now operated out of the Democratic National Committee. The other account is @WhiteHouse, which was first set up to send out news about H1N1. @BarackObama has 2,678,464 followers and @WhiteHouse has 1,455,965 followers.

“My thumbs are too clumsy to type things in on the phone,” he told students at Shanghai. I can relate to that. I’m of an older generation, one which uses fingers (all of them) to type.

This shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Presidents don’t write their own speeches; they have a stable of writers to do that work. Staff handles communications for the president, and probably from your local congressman. That lovely note you got from your senator probably flowed from the pen of an anonymous staffer. So there’s no scandal there.

Actually, I’d rather the President spend his time doing his job than waste it on social media. Well, considering it’s Obama, let me rephrase that. Let’s give him a plug-in keyboard big enough to type on, and he can Twitter all day long.

What’s interesting is that the tech-savvy Obama, who is never without his Blackberry (crackberry?) admitted he’d never Twittered. At all. Again, so?

Still, there’s disillusionment, particularly among the Chinese students in the audience. Their country has seen a crackdown in social media use, including Twitter.

You might as well blast Santa Claus out of the sky by a heat-seeking missile. Splatter the Easter Bunny all over the road with an SUV.

From TechCrunch:

… this is interesting considering the Internet, and social media in particular, was considered a large part of his ascension to the Presidency. Obviously, he had a killer team around him that was able to embrace the web without the then-Senator getting too much involved. Still, it’s somewhat surprising that he never sent any of his own tweets during the primaries. And undoubtedly part of us wants to believe that when you see tweets like “This is history,” which was sent on November 7 — or “Humbled” after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in October, that’s it could the President really sending it. Nope …

OK, so who’s sending out those tweets? Rahm Emmanuel?

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(Photo: Barack Obama checks his Crackberry during a campaign swing last year. He uses this device for everything except tweeting.)
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