Privacy

The blogs are writing about today’s Washington Post story comparing Democrat and Republican election tactics. Bloggers like Kos and MyDD wrote about how money received by Democratic consultants affected their ad-placement decisions.

The article also talked about how Republicans used a “data mining” technique “enabling Bush to identify and target potential voters with pinpoint precision.” Alice at GOTV asks a good question in her post, The means determines the ends, TargetPoint Consulting:

“What do you think the chances are that politicians who are elected by such means are going to protect our privacy?”

Go read.

Think It Through

A Letter to the Editor in today’s San Jose Mercury News (responding to a Pat Buchanan op-ed saying we should get out of Iraq) states the Bush position:

Dinosaur Buchanan doesn’t get it

Democracies don’t commit aggression on others, and if they resort to force sometimes, even pre-emptively, it is only as a last recourse in legitimate self-defense or in defense of others, particularly the weak.

For example, Germany, Italy and Japan — which in their history knew almost nothing about effective democracy before World War II — haven’t committed aggression against others since then. Therefore, and in the light of Sept. 11, democratizing Afghanistan and Iraq — and eventually the rest of the Muslim world — is America’s best insurance against organized mass-murdering Islamist terrorism. The ultra-isolationist, dinosaur ortho-con (orthodox conservative) Patrick Buchanan can’t see it.”

Think this through. “Democracies don’t commit aggression on others” therefore our aggression on Iraq is justified because (this week’s) reason for attacking that country was to make them become a democracy.

Actually I agree with the premise that democracies do not commit aggression. But I would add to that. I would say that informed democracies don’t commit aggression, and make rational decisions. The fact that America did commit aggression says more about what America has become than about anything else. We are no longer an informed democracy, which I think means we are no longer a democracy at all. America went to war because we were told that there was an imminent danger of an attack against us by Iraq. We were told that Iraq had nuclear and biological weapons and was ready to either use them against us or give them to al-Queda to use against us. This was a lie. It was a lie designed to get us to support war.

A simple test – ask 100 people why we went to war against Iraq and why we are there now, and you will get almost 100 different answers. We – the public – still do not know why we are at war. Think THAT through.

Tsunami Aid

From Oxfam America:

I am writing on behalf of the Asian Earthquake Response Team at Oxfam America. We are currently working around the clock to provide assistance and assess the needs of the affected regions. A brief and updated summary of our efforts can be found at: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/whatwedo/emergencies/asian_floods_2004

I wanted to ask if you would write or link to Oxfam’s relief efforts on your blog. Also, we are hoping for banner space donations to begin as soon as possible and run for the duration of the crisis. Raising money quickly is key to aiding these victims and preventing the death toll from rising needlessly.

Oxfam America

Click the banner to go directly to the donations page:

Bloggers

Are you on Seeing the Forest’s comprehensive “blogroll”? If not, and you want to be, let me know. (Put Seeing the Forest on yours first.)

Do you want to get on my blogger e-mail list? This is the list of bloggers to whom I send notices of special STF postings. I don’t do this very often. If you want to be on this list, send me an e-mail.

You can find out from where people are referred to your blog. Do all of your SiteMeter referrals say “unknown?” From SiteMeter’s Help:

My reports do not show any data or only show “unknown” for the visitor referrals. What could be the problem?

You’ve probably added the non-javascript version of the Site Meter HTML to the pages of your site. You’ll need to add the javascript version to your pages to track the referrals of your visitors. To get the javascript version of the Site Meter HTML, login to your account on Site Meter and select the “HTML Code” link from the MANAGER page of your account.

Non-bloggers, there are a lot of great blogs out there. Go click on some of the links in the left column.

Bully

By now you’ve heard about this: UN Official Backs Down: Rich Nations Not ‘Stingy’. Here’s my take on it. You’ve got millions of screaming desperate people, and you’ve got one of the nastiest, most uncaring, petty, vengeful leaders in history in charge of the “wealthiest” (borrowed money) nation. Everyone knows he is entirely capable of withholding aid because of this one guy’s remark.

So what do you do? You back down and hope that your honest “stingy” remark — $40 million for aid, $50 million for his inaugural party — doesn’t keep him from helping all those people. It has to be about them. (That’s not how Bush will see it. Maybe we can convince Bush this happened because God wants the world to see how great a leader Bush is… like 9/11. Maybe that would get him to do something to help.)

Ok, I don’t like the guy. Sue me.

Meanwhile, Clinton is filling the leadership vacuum while Bush clears brush in Crawford.

Update - It turns out that the origin of reports that a UN representative said the U.S. was being “stingy” with relief aid was just a lie, made up by the Moonie newspaper, spread by Drudge and echoed through the right-wing media as part of their anti-UN strategic lie campaign. (Thanks to Atrios for the link.)

What Happened to Tsunami Notice?

A French blogger, Philsland, who subscribes to the USGS earthquake notification system reports he received a notice of the earthquake 3 hours before the arrival of the tidal wave that engulfed 10 countries in Asia. The notice read:

“A great earthquake occurred at 00:58:49 (UTC) on Sunday, December 26, 2004. The magnitude 9.0 event has been located OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)”

A press affairs officer at the USGS center in Golden Colorado verified to me that they did detect the quake and that they notified the US Department of State. (The Tsunami Warning Center detected the earthquake under the Indian Ocean within minutes of its occurrence, but issued a limited warning because of their narrow jurisdiction, according to a report by Christopher Joyce on NPR.) Whether or not quick notice to the impacted nations was possible or could have saved lives we don?t know, but the incident raises several questions about the competency and priorities of the Bush Administration.

First, what happened to the notice sent to the State Department? As of noon today, press officials in the Deputy Secretary’s office have not responded and officials at the East Asia and Pacific desk of the DOS were not able to determine if they received the notice, although USGS confirmed that it was sent to the Operations Center at DOS. If it did not reach decision-making levels of the DOS, why not? If it did reach decision makers and it was not immediately sent to consulates in the affected nations so they could contact the local authorities, this could have contributed to a catastrophe that will be felt for decades. Again, why not?

Second, why the low level of US response? Secretary of State Powell told ABC that initially the US would provide $15 million with another $10 million going to NGOs plus nine patrol planes and some C-130s carrying relief supplies. This was called ?stingy? on CNN Tuesday by Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief coordinator, but he flip-flopped this morning under pressure, calling it ?generous?, especially after the DOS announced another $20 million, bringing the total to $45 million. This is $5 million less than the cost of the President?s inaugural, .03% of the current cost of the war in Iraq and about 2% of initial estimates of damage costs – which will surely rise. Why so little?

Third, where is the vision? The damage from the tsunami is estimated at $13 billion. We could pay for it several times over with the money being wasted on the unneeded and unworkable missile defense system boondoggle, among others. The tsunami offers the Administration an opportunity to use our nation?s wealth and expertise to lead a true coalition of wealthy nations in a regional rebuilding effort. (The State Bank of India set up a local effort the next day). The US could regain the respect of the world – not to mention of its own people – with a visionary plan of rebuilding villages, farms, water systems, schools, roads and homes in the flooded nations. That is the vision of a great leader. Instead Bush offers a few million dollars and a handful of planes carrying food. Where is the vision in this?

The world came to America’s aid after 9/11. The tsunami offers us an opportunity to give back – and to get back our greatness. All that is necessary is that the Administration realize that the United States is a nation built on a vision of freedom, not a selfish collection of corporate self-interests uncomfortably in bed with religious zealots whose common goal is cut taxes and kill government. Commonwealth must trump wealth if the world is to survive. The tsunami offers the Administration an opportunity to rejoin the commonwealth of nations and ensure everyone’s survival.