Looks like people are still falling for the scams

Every once in a while, you’ll hear about someone doing something that YOU know far too much to fall for. This is such a tale. A tale of someone falling for one of the oldest online scams known (and the obligatory shorter link in case the original is broken).

The longtime treasurer of Alcona County in northeast lower Michigan has been removed from his job and charged with nine felonies for allegedly stealing county money to invest in the notorious online Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud Scheme, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced today.

Thomas Katona, 56, was arraigned in Harrisville today after an investigation that began in December when county officials learned he had directed eight unauthorized wire transfers totaling $186,500 to beneficiaries linked to the Nigerian Advance scheme, Cox said in a statement. Investigators also found that Katona had wired $72,500 of his own money to the same accounts.

An audit of county books in December indicates a shortfall of $1.25 million, more than a quarter of the county’s annual $4-million budget, the Cox statement said.

So sorry to hear that. It seems once again the most gullible are penalized heavily for that. On the other hand, if this had been the one time the scam paid out, think what he could have done for the county treasury.

[tags]Another victim of the Nigerian bank scam, The uninformed pay greatly for not knowing[/tags]

John Kerry, revisionist historian

Since I know it seems I only bash on President Bush (OK, I almost exclusively bash President Bush – I think he’s a horrible President), I wanted to be sure to share this wonderful display of, ummm, I don’t know what, by John Kerry that a friend sent me recently.

In a recent talk Kerry gave, he spent time covering a lot of the shortcomings we Americans suffer from in regards to our possibly failing to engage in sufficient diplomatic talks with Iran prior to Iran’s current president getting elected. With all the things we’ve done wrong, Kerry makes sure to point out:

“When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don’t advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy,” Kerry said.

But there is a little, teensy weensy problem with griping about President Bush bailing on the Kyoto treaty:

On July 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was finalized (although it had been fully negotiated, and a penultimate draft was finished), the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95-0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States”. On November 12, 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol. Both Gore and Senator Joseph Lieberman indicated that the protocol would not be acted upon in the Senate until there was participation by the developing nations. The Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol to the Senate for ratification. . . .

Yeah, you read that right. Clinton was the one who walked away from the Kyoto treaty (based in part on a resolution which Kerry voted for). President Bush just never went back to it, what with the lack of timetables and targets for waste producers like China. And I agree with President Bush. Signing the Kyoto treaty as it was presented penalizes us while leaving other large pollutors off the hook.

And one other thing in the linked post I have to agree with:

Why should we believe anything that comes out of this guy’s mouth? It’s bad enough that he’s sitting next to one of America’s enemies bad mouthing his own country, but he’s flat-out lying in what he’s saying as well.

So yes, why listen to him? If you want to see me bashing more politicians besides President Bush, Mr. Kerry is a good target to direct me toward. And my dislike of him grows often.

[tags]John Kerry creates fictional American history, Kerry lies and tells the bad guys (um – Iran) what bad guys we are[/tags]

Bill stops game and geek talk, tells us about the housing market

You know I like Bill. I put more value in his views and reviews of games and the gaming industry than any of the supposed major gaming sites. He doesn’t say a lot, really, but what he says is usually dead on. So when he skipped the gaming talk one day last week and decided to talk work, numbers, and the housing market, I figured it was worth the 5 minutes it would take to read. Turns out that was well spent time, in my not so humble opinion.

Probably the most-disputed segment of the economy right now is housing. There was a massive housing boom in this country that lasted for years. It created so much additional liquidity in the economy, both from people selling their homes for a profit or taking out home equity loans, that it took on a life of its own. And like most booms, toward the end it was being sustained by all kinds of dubious tactics–most notably, the gigantic increase in sub-prime and “alternative” loans.

. . .

So as the housing market slows, people are still in severe denial that any of this is really a problem, and they’re desperately wanting to claim that the bottom has already been reached (short version: it hasn’t). Here’s what came out this morning:

Sales of existing homes fell in December, closing out a year in which demand for homes slumped by the largest amount in 17 years… For the year, sales fell by 8.4 percent, the biggest annual decline since 1989…

There has been data coming out in this vein for almost a year now, and every time it does, realtors immediately claim that the market has bottomed. I read some of the most bizarre, amazing explanations from the realty industry. Here’s today’s gem from the realtor’s “chief economist”:

David Lereah, chief economist for the Realtors, said that even with the December setback, he still believes that sales of existing homes have hit bottom and will start to gradually improve.

And I’ll leave it to either of my readers to go read the rest. I’m also sending this to my brother. He’s been talking about buying a house for a couple of years now, but has held off because he’s not sure the market will keep improving. Now it looks like he may have been right.

So, does that make any of you reconsider your near future housing plans?

[tags]Bill talks on housing, The improbable numbers the realty experts share[/tags]

Netflix working to changehow you watch movies. Again.

The New York Times recently ran a post about how Netflix is again changing the way we watch movies (also here is a shorter link in a). After changing movie rentals via DVDs by mail, Netflix is taking on video downloads via streaming which monitors time watched rather than time since downloads. It’s really clever, and it should have been obvious, but this beats the streaming video options from all the other providers I have seen.

Already, you can buy movies from iTunes, for example, but the selection is tiny (250 movies), and you pay about as much as you would for a DVD. CinemaNow and MovieLink offer online movie “rentals” for about $4. But again, the selection is fairly small, at least once you subtract the mind-boggling gigabytes of B movies – more like C or D movies – like “Addicted to Murder III: Bloodlust” and “Witchcraft XI: Sisters in Blood.” The copy protection is a bit overbearing, too. You can download a movie, all right, but it self-destructs 24 hours later.

All of these services permit you to start watching a movie after only a minute or so, before it’s been fully downloaded – but you can’t fast forward (or, in some cases, even rewind) until you’ve got the whole thing on your hard drive.

Continue reading Netflix working to changehow you watch movies. Again.

Chris Pirillo has a different view of the iPhone than I do

It would appear that Chris (and his brother) don’t share my pessimism on the prospects for Apple’s success with the iPhone. In responding to what his brother said about the iPhone, Chris writes:

My brother Adam isn’t a geek – and he’s never written to me about any other device (from Apple or any other manufacturer). It’s not even out yet and I already hate the iPhone… largely because someone else didn’t make it four years ago. Seriously. Apple gets the consumer in ways that no other company ever will. It makes my new Smartphone seem so… ancient.

I still don’t see why a business would spend that kind of money on employees for an admittedly cool smartphone with iPod functionality, and it is a phone priced completely out of reach of the folks I typically know. So either I miss the business reason for the iPhone getting into company hands, or I don’t know the right “typical” consumer who would be buying this thing. Priced lower, I can see it taking off. I just don’t see it bringing enough to the game to justify the planned price (and lock-in to a single provider to even use the phone). So tell me what I’m missing here, folks? Would you buy an iPhone and agree to a service commitment with Cingular? Will businesses buy these for their travelling employees? Is this going to succeed on merit, or one-upmanship, something else, or just not meet the market penetration Steve Jobs is calling for?

[tags]Chris Pirillo speaks of the iPhone, Another view of the iPhone’s future[/tags]

Try City of Heroes/City of Villains free -for 14 days

Occasionally, I write about things in CoH/Cov, because this is easily my favorite game on the market now. If you haven’t tried the game and want to see if it is something you would enjoy, read this post at the Co* forums about FileFront’s 14-day free trial. As an added note, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this week-end (January 26th through 28th) are double XP weekend, so any character you play this week-end will advance more quickly than normal, which will give you a chance to taste a bit more of the character’s abilities more quickly than normal.

[tags]Free CoH/CoV 14-day trial, Try City of Heroes/City of Villains for free[/tags]

The great Boston molasses flood

Well, I missed posting about this on the anniversary, but let’s look back in time as if I posted it on the proper day and remember The Boston Molasses Disaster in all its glor0y (additional sources at CNN and Damn Interesting). On January 15th, 1919, a massive silo, filled with approximately 2.3 million gallons of molasses exploded, releasing a 15+ foot tall tidal wave of molasses which spread at over 30 miles per hour. Keep that in mind when you label something as slow as molasses in January.

boston-molasses-disaster.jpg The collapse unleashed an immense wave of molasses between 8 and 15 ft (2.5 to 4.5 m) high, moving at 35 mph (56 kph) and exerting a pressure of 2 ton/ft² (200 kPa).[3] The molasses wave was of sufficient force to break the girders of the adjacent Boston Elevated Railway’s Atlantic Avenue structure and lift a train off the tracks. Nearby, buildings were swept off their foundations and crushed. Several blocks were flooded to a depth of 2 to 3 feet.

. . .

The Boston Globe reported that people “were picked up by a rush of air and hurled many feet” Others had debris hurled at them from the rush of sweet smelling air and a truck was picked up and hurled into Boston Harbor. On that day more than 159 were injured and 21 people and several horses were killed as the molasses crushed and asphyxiated some. After the initial blast the molasses choking the wounded people, horses and dogs became one of the biggest problems.


Continue reading The great Boston molasses flood

Tom Rhodes – comic genius

Looooong ago, I used to watch comedians on TV.  That was pretty much before I got married – my wife just doesn’t care to watch comics on TV.  One of the very funny guys I remember watching is Tom Rhodes.  Since I heard him on XM Radio yesterday and realized he’s still around, I figured I should point him out.  If you like comics, try to track this guy down – his stuff is great.

[tags]Tom Rhodes – great comedian[/tags]

Protect your right to record radio

One of the early tasks of the new congressional session is work to prevent consumers from recording radio broadcasts. Work with the EFF and help prevent this bad law.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has re-introduced the PERFORM Act, a backdoor assault on your right to record off the radio. Satellite and digital radio stations as well as Internet webcasters would have to adopt digital rights management (DRM) restrictions or lose the statutory license for broadcasting music.

. . .

This bill aims to hobble TiVo-like devices for satellite and digital radio. Such devices would be able to include “reasonable recording” features, but that excludes choosing and playing back selections based on song title, artist, or genre. Want to freely move recordings around your home network or copy them to the portable player of your choice? You’ll be out of luck if PERFORM passes.

This would also mess up streaming radio, as well as breaking any tools for recording streamed mp3 broadcasts.

[tags]Congress working to screw up fair-use again[tags/]

On Spocko, KSFO, and a different look

If you’ve been keeping up with some of the geek/tech/random sites that I often link to (in particular, boingboing) you might have been reading some of the up roar caused by postings at Spocko’s Brain (also covered in much more detail at Daily Kos). Spocko has spent some time sending transcript information to conservative radio station KSFO sponsers concerning some potentially undesireable product and spokesperson assocations. For example, Spocko asks of one sponsor:

“Would your marketing people be happy to hear your commercial ran after Lee Rogers said this about a black man in Lincoln, Nebraska?”

“Now you start with the Sear’s Diehard the battery cables connected to his testi*les and you entertain him with that for awhile and then you blow his bleeping head off. “

Unforunately, I haven’t had time to listen to all the available audio for this, but I’m going to briefly point out some other sites discussing this event and speak only on the available information from the web. I do recommend you listen to the audio to understand just how information is presented or distorted by Spocko, his supporters, and his detractors. I will be listening to the clips as I have time.

Continue reading On Spocko, KSFO, and a different look

Why does the “Scooter” Libby trial matter?

Since I recently posted about the Libby trial and the difficulty for the defense finding a decent jury, I thought it might be worth going back and looking at why this case is even worth watching. One of the better write-ups I found on the ordeal, done by a British rag, is this Q&A article from The Guardian.

Who is Mr Libby?

He is the former chief of staff to the US vice-president, Dick Cheney.

How did Mr Libby land in court?

. . . Mr Libby – the only one on trial for the episode – was indicted in October 2005 on charges of lying to investigators and a grand jury inquiring into whether Bush administration officials intentionally revealed Ms Plame’s name to reporters. Mr Libby, who faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, has pleaded not guilty. . .

There are enough questions to make clear the significance of this case. Also mentioned is the fact that even if found guilty, Libby would most likely get a Presidential pardon. And from what I’ve read of the case, I think that’s probably a reasonably likely (and likely reasonable) outcome.

[tags]Why the “Scooter Libby trial matters, A brief Q&A on the Libby trial[/tags]