Thursday, March 24, 2016

About that order you didn't request ...

The creativity and persistence of perpetrators of email "phishing" scams never cease to amaze me. The latest trend in this bizarre underworld of massive amounts of email sent to naive (or thought to be naive) email users is the email designed to look like an innocent business transaction.

I've received a large number of emails that alert me that payment is due on the order I sent or that I need to confirm my order before it can be shipped or that information on the payment owed to me is in the attached file. Only thing is, I didn't place an order, don't need to confirm any order and am not owed any payments from these enigmatic senders. I'm confident that if I were to click on the attached file or the embedded link, I would find my computer infested with malware, a virus or who knows what.

The fact that I have received nearly identical emails, right down to the subject lines of the emails, several time in one day, all from different senders, shows me the ubiquity of this latest scam. Word is apparently getting around in the phishing community that these fake orders and payments work better than the Nigerian prince who wants to deposit $6 million in your bank account.

The popularity among phishers for this ruse indicates to me that the scam is successful. There must be millions of infected computers around the world right now as a result of curious people clicking to see what they had ordered or what was owed to them.

The Internet has made it easier for thieves to find and steal from their victims. No need for guns or threats; their weapon is their victims' curiosity. That natural curiosity is probably wiping out bank accounts and ruining expensive computers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rubio's optimism not what voters wanted

Marco Rubio had my attention from his first remark in the first Republican presidential debate. "This election is about the future," he said, and I was hooked. He was young, confident and well-informed. He displayed a speaking style that was optimistic, forceful and persuasive.

But Rubio's style and demeanor were not what Republican voters were looking for in 2016. The Florida senator dropped out of the presidential race last night after losing his state's primary to Donald Trump. Rubio's story as the son of immigrants who struggled, scrimped and borrowed to get an education and rise to the top of the political ladder in Florida was overwhelmed by the anger of ignored and short-changed voters and the political candidates who egged on their anger with a smattering of prejudice, fears and threats of violence.

These working class voters wanted a champion who would get their revenge against the trade deals that destroyed their jobs and against the Washington politicians who ignored voters and catered to big business interests that benefited from global trade while American workers foundered.

This was not an atmosphere for Rubio's optimistic vision of the future based on his family's success founded on American principles and opportunities.

And because politicians tend to conduct the previous campaign the same way generals tend to fight the previous war, it's unlikely that voters will be ready for an optimistic, positive vision of a New American Century like Rubio's any time soon.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Forty-eight years ago, another divisive election

This is the eve of an election primary day like none I have seen in nearly 50 years. Forty-eight years ago, in 1968, America faced an election that was tearing the nation apart. Lyndon Johnson, who had pushed through more consequential legislation than any president since FDR but who had become a pariah to many voters because of the Vietnam War, chose not to run for a second full term — a decision validated by his death as his successor's term expired.

Johnson's surprise withdrawal from the race, opened the door for challenger Gene McCarthy and, belatedly, for Bobby Kennedy, who was in many ways Johnson's nemesis.

Republicans were trying to recover from the debacle of Barry Goldwater's humiliating defeat in 1964. Richard Nixon, the former vice president and 1960 presidential candidate who couldn't win the California governorship, was the improbable Republican front-runner.

Seething emotions on both sides ripped the fragile fabric of America. An assassin's bullet ended Kennedy's candidacy and crushed the hopes of millions of younger voters. In Chicago that summer, establishment Democrats would align behind Hubert Humphrey, who carried the awful yoke of being Lyndon Johnson's vice president and heir. Riots would disrupt the Democratic Convention, which would adjourn amid seething anger within the party.

Meanwhile, Nixon would campaign not as the anti-communist warrior he had been early in his career but as the candidate who would "bring us together." But his election strategy, which depended upon winning Southern states still rebelling against Johnson's civil rights legislation and the tectonic changes those laws brought to the former Confederacy, made it clear that Nixon's path to election was built on dividing the country into groups that could support him. As president, he would cultivate support from the "Silent Majority" of people angry over war protesters, rising inflation and a too-liberal Supreme Court.

This year, we see the same seething anger and the same divisions of the electorate. We see some of the sort of violence seen outside the Chicago convention hall in the summer of 1968. This year, social media and other communications changes make the anger more mobile and powerful and the demagoguery more persuasive. If anything, the voters of 2016 are more gullible and more easily fooled by slick campaign tactics.

We who remember the election of 1968 don't want to relive it.