Do Not Track

Generally, I don’t have a problem with the practice of tracking for the purposes of targeting advertising, but there are limits because it’s often counterproductive. If I purchase online, the best values are likely to come from companies that are not near me. If I plan to shop locally (brick and mortar), I already know what is available, and I can always do a specific search online.

Where there is a problem is that the tracking software is “dumb”; it does not know my interests or inclinations. For instance, I am beset by numerous targeted ads from sites in a city some 35 miles south of where I live. It is a city that I last visited more than 10 years ago (to go to a museum), and it is a city where I have never shopped, a city where I do not ever intend to go to shop. Since I never shop there, the targeting is totally misdirected, pointless, and annoying, guaranteeing even more that I will never shop there.

Not only is the targeted advertising misdirected, it takes the place of something I might be interested in, for instance, in the very large city 40 miles to the north which is much larger than the one that is being targeted to me. There is also another city 25 miles to the west. These two are the ones that I visit and shop at when I’m not shopping locally.

My browser is Mozilla Firefox, which has the “Do Not Track” feature, but it does not work, or at least does not work with respect to the targeted ads. So I am stuck with the pointless ads. The only pleasure comes from knowing that the companies that pay for them are wasting their money.

Who is Advising Sarah Palin?

After the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a number of people and certainly the media implied that Sarah Palin’s election map, threatening Giffords’ district among others, was at least partly to blame, since the map placed gun sight crosshairs over the targeted areas.

After the attempted assassination, the map was hastily removed from Palin’s web site. A spokesman for Palin said they were not gun targets, but surveyor’s marks. This was a lie, of course, since Palin herself said they were gun targets.

During the mid-term elections, Giffords picked up on the symbolism of those crosshairs over her district and said that there are “consequences to that action.” The media replayed those remarks many times as part of their coverage of the Giffords shooting. It was as though Giffords had a premonition of what was to happen on January 8, 2011.

Other voices, including the media, blamed the harsh and often violent partisan rhetoric, spewing out of political candidates, especially those of the extreme right.

Palin evidently felt that she was being attacked by the media, and this prompted her to respond in an eight-minute video.

The video opened well. Palin sat in front of the flag and a fireplace and spoke in a manner reminiscent of a State of the Union address by a president. But what came out of her mouth was far from presidential. Rather than rise above partisanship, she chose to elevate it and attacked anyone who might have accused her as though they were the ones guilty of provoking violence. The comparison of her proclaimed innocence under attack as equivalent to the blood libel charge of Jews showed both no sense of proportion and an insensitivity to another ethnic/religious group. Her address was anything but presidential.

A genuine presidential address came later from Obama both in form, since he was the president, and in the substance of the address.

As it turns out, there is no evidence that the map and maybe even the rhetoric had anything to do with the disturbed mind of a mentally ill gunman. Palin would have been far better off to ignore the whole issue than to continue with her vitriolic attacks.

(The actions of Jesse Kelly, the tea party candidate who ran against Giffords in 2010, by taking an M 16 rifle to rallies and brandishing it like a phallus to boost his credentials, are far more likely to set the mood for a disturbed gunman than Palin’s map. What else could that action represent, since gun control was never an issue in that district?)

Has Sarah Palin now lost her chance at running for the presidency? She has not alienated the extreme faction on her side, but this is not enough for her to become a candidate. If she still has presidential ambitions, she must now work harder to convince her party of her viability. She desperately needs to get savvy political advice, listen to it and act on it. And if she can manage to achieve the now more remote candidature and be elected, she has to convince the ones who actually make the difference in elections. These are the voters in the middle, between the parties, the ones who value bipartisanship and compromise and who have a vision of government working together for them and for the common good.