Thursday, April 22, 2004


I got this spam recently:

Dear_ Citbiank Member_,

This Letter was seent by the_ Citibank servers to veerify _your_ _e-mail_ address_.
You must complete this process by clicking on the link beloow and enttering
in the small _window_ your CITIBANK _Debit Card number and pin that
you use_ on the Atm machine. This is done for_your protection -c- because some_of_our
memebrs _no longer have access to their _EMAIL _address_es and we must verify it.

To verify your E_MAIL adress and acccess your_ _citibank_
account, clik on the_link bellow.


While normally I ignore spam, this one made me laugh. Falling for spam like this is bad enough. Maybe it's harsh to say so but anyone who'd think that a reputable company like Citibank would send out a request to its clients that contained such atrocious spelling and grammar almost deserves to have their PIN taken.


I noticed this on NPR’s Day to Day program. A writeup for one segment read: NPR's Alex Chadwick talks with Slate contributor Steven Johnson about new research at UCLA that suggests a person's political party affiliation can make a difference in how their brain reacts to political messages. I’m sure it couldn’t possibly be that the way people’s brains react to political messages might make a difference in which political party affiliation they choose.


I was reading a blog which reprinted an opinion column from The Toronto Sun. In it, the Sun's contributing foreign editor wrote: Australia is facing a tight electoral race between Conservative Prime Minister John Howard, who eagerly sent troops to Iraq, and Labour party challenger Mark Latham, who, like Spain's new PM, vows to bring his nation's troops home from Iraq. A majority of Australians opposes the Iraq war. U.S. Ambassador Tom Schieffer, a Texas pal of Bush, warned Australians of "serious consequences" if they elect Latham.

On first reading, I found this very curious. It's extremely rare for one western democracy to OVERTLY warn another western democracy about who to elect or not elect. Governments often PREFER one party over another. In some cases, they may engage in COVERT actions in favor of one party or against another (like the US did in favor of Italy's Christian Democrats or against Allende's democratic Socialists in Chile). But to publicly warn an ally that they shouldn't vote for a particular party, it's just not done.

Baffled by this apparently grotesque breach of convention (even by the low standards of the diplomacy-allergic Bush administration), I did a little research.

It turns out the Sun's editor misrepresented Schieffer's comments. When asked if a withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq would invite political bombings in Australia, what the ambassador REALLY told The Australian Broadcasting Corporation was: "I'd hope that it wouldn't. What I'm saying is that a precipitous withdrawal of troops by the international community now could have very serious consequences and we have to be very careful in that, because that's not what we want… we don't want terrorists to get the wrong message here."

What he really warned Australians was not to hastily pull out of Iraq. While I object to the substance of these comments for reasons I've mentioned before, they are significantly different than warning Australians to not elect the opposition leader. While the intent may be the same, the substance far removed from the Sun editor's shameless misrepresentation.

Do Bush-haters really need to resort to pathetic distortions like this? All such misrepresentations accomplish is to make it easy for Bush supporters to discredit them and change the subject. If you don't like the president, shouldn't you want make it as hard as possible on his apologists rather than giving them the gift of something so easily discredited? Isn't the truth is a damning enough indictment of the Bush administration?

This is an excellent example of why skepticism is required, even when reading something you ostensibly agree with. Or perhaps especially in that case.

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