Desperately Seeking Something To Campaign On

The Washington Post leaks the latest and lamest scheme: "New Democratic strategy for creating jobs focuses on a boost in manufacturing." Opening paragraph:

President Obama and congressional Democrats -- out of options for another quick shot of stimulus spending to revive the sluggish economy -- are shifting toward a longer-term strategy that promises to tackle persistently high unemployment by engineering a renaissance in American manufacturing.
You can almost see the palms slapped against foreheads at that meeting, can't you? Why didn't we think of this before? It's so simple!

Why, we'll just engineer our way to prosperity!

What's the "new strategy"? Well… sorry, but they've been real busy doing other things for the past year and a half, and they're almost done figuring it out, and—hey!—we know one thing that will be there for sure (emphasis added):

That approach, heralded by Obama last week in Detroit and sketched out in a memo to House Democrats as they headed home for the August break, is still evolving and so far focuses primarily on raising taxes on multinational corporations that Democrats accuse of shipping jobs overseas.
Ah, raising taxes! Is there anything it can't do? Especially when you can raise taxes on easily-demonized scapegoats.

Now the WaPo headline trumpets this as a "new" strategy, but that's only because it's buying the Democrats' spin, and it has no long-term memory. In fact, it's a perennial theme. For example:

When I am President, I will end the tax giveaways to companies that ship our jobs overseas, and I will put the money in the pockets of working Americans, and seniors, and homeowners who deserve a break.
That's then-Senator Barack Obama, November 3, 2007.

Or:

I've proposed a new economic plan for America. It begins by putting an end to tax incentives that are encouraging American companies to ship jobs overseas.
That's John Kerry, back in 2004.

Or, a campaign brochure full of promises like:

Eliminate deductions for companies that ship American jobs overseas and reward outrageous executive pay.
That's Bill Clinton, 1992.

Yeah, but this time I'm sure the Democrats really mean it.

Alternative explanation: it's a stupidly counterproductive idea, but an effective campaign soundbite when used on the rubes. The Democrats dust it off every election season, and put it right back on the shelf afterward.

But that's not all, continues the WaPo:

The strategy also repackages policies long pursued by the White House -- such as investing in clean energy, roads, bridges and broadband service -- with more than two dozen legislative proposals aimed at developing a plan for promoting domestic manufacturing.
I.e., the "New" strategy is really just a bunch of old stuff, spending labelled as "investing", plus more corporate welfare aimed at politically well-connected firms.

And it will work this time, because…?

Really, someone needs to lead these guys away quietly from the levers of government before they do more damage.

Nothing Surprises Me Any More

One of the students at the University Near Here got her Gmail account compromised, and the bad guys sent this out under her name (emphasis added):

How are you doing today? I know this might be a surprise to you but am sorry I didn't inform you about my travel for a Seminar in Scotland.
… and it goes on to hit up the recipients for "1500 British pounds" because she's lost her wallet, credit cards, etc. (Very common by the way.)

But that "surprise" thing… what's up with that? Here's a sample from the last few weeks of my incoming spam (emphasis still added):

"Good day, I know that this email will come to you as a surprise because you don,t know me and i don,t know you too.…"

"Do not be surprised by this offers as it sound very surprising because I undertake this action so that the Lord God Almighty will forgive me…"

"I know that this mail will come to you as a surprise as we never met before.…"

"It will be a surprise for you to receive this mail, welcome this letter.…"

"This mail might come to you as a surprise and the temptation to ignore it as unserious could come into your mind but please consider it a divine…"

"This message might meet you in (utmost surprise),however,it's just my urgent need for foreign partner that made me to contact you for this transaction.…"

"I know that this letter may be a very big surprise to you, I came across your profile from my personal search and I instructed the doctor here in this hospital to help me write you and I believe that you will be honest to fulfill my final wish before I will die.…"

"It is obvious that this notification will come to you as a surprise but please find time to read it carefully as we congratulate you over your success in the following official publication of results of the E-mail electronic online Sweepstakes organized by Microsoft…"

"I am quite aware that my message will come to you as a surprise because it is indeed very strange for some one you have not met before to contact you in this regard.…"

"I know this will come as a surprise to you but i want to assure you with honest to god almighty that my email comes with good intentions,…"

"I crave your indulgence as I contact you in such a surprising manner and I want you to bear in mind that this is not a hoax but I respectfully insist you read this mail carefully as I am optimistic it will open door for unimaginable financial reward for both of us and believe that you will not let me down and we will work together to develop trust and confidence in this business.…"

A little Googling shows that this surprising behavior been going on for awhile. Here are examples from 2007, 2006, and 2005. And here's one from 1988. ("I knew that this letter may be a very big surprise to you, I came across your email contact from my personal search…" Yes, exactly the same as the one I got on July 14. Wow.)

The phraseology is well enough known to be in parodies (from 2003):

DEAR SIR / MADAM,

I AM GEORGE WALKER BUSH, SON OF THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, AND CURRENTLY SERVING AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. THIS LETTER MIGHT SURPRISE YOU BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT MET NEITHER IN PERSON NOR BY CORRESPONDENCE. I CAME TO KNOW OF YOU IN MY SEARCH FOR A RELIABLE AND REPUTABLE PERSON TO HANDLE A VERY CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS TRANSACTION, WHICH INVOLVES THE TRANSFER OF A HUGE SUM OF MONEY TO AN ACCOUNT REQUIRING MAXIMUM CONFIDENCE. …

No big deal, but does anyone know why this "surprising" language is so prevalent and consistent in the fraudulent spam game? Examples abound, obviously, but I've been unable to track down an explanation. Does it spring from some feature of Nigerian custom or culture?

Last Modified 2017-12-04 8:45 AM EST