Quasi-intelligent comment spam

by Henry on May 25, 2006

Over the last few days we’ve been getting a new kind of comment spam; it’s semi-relevant to the posts in question, but has, if you look at it, links back to the usual kinds of websites. Unless artificial intelligence has improved a lot more than I think it has, I presume that real human beings are being paid to generate it, in the hope that it will slip under bloggers’ radar more easily than the automated stuff. If you’re a blogger at a reasonably well-trafficked site, you may want to keep an eye out for this.

Swimming with the fishes

by Chris Bertram on May 25, 2006

Blogger Alex Tingle has made enterprising use of Google Maps by designing “an overlay that shows the effects of the sea level rising”:http://flood.firetree.net/ . You can choose your level (up to 14m) and the map will show if a given bit of land would be underwater, and you can toggle between a map view (with placenames) and a satellite view, and you can zoom in and out. Of course, there are “lots of caveats”:http://blog.firetree.net/2006/05/18/more-about-flood-maps/ since he’s ignored tides and flood defences, the data may be less that 100% accurate, etc. Still, it’s an entertaining and instructive bit of coding. I’m happy to report that my own house will remain dry (though I’ll be dead long before we get to 14m, anyway).

Gay Marriage and Straight Divorce

by Harry on May 25, 2006

Are divorced opponents of gay marriage hypocrites?

I suppose it all depends on the reasons why they oppose gay marriage, and on the reasons they divorced. So I can imagine lots of ways of consistently endorsing one’s own divorce and opposing gay marriage; for example, one might oppose marriage tout court and, having freed oneself of its bourgeois chains, be determined to prevent others from being enslaved by it. Or one might simply hate gays and want to prevent them to get at the good of marriage.

But neither of these are the dominant public reasons for opposing gay marriage.

[click to continue…]

Quasi-imaginary friends

by Henry on May 25, 2006

This would be wankeriffic if it wasn’t so pathetic – Peter Rosse Range, the editor of the official Democratic Leadership Council rag uses the Euston manifesto as evidence for the purported “resurgence of an intelligent left in Europe”:http://www.dlc.org/print.cfm?contentid=253865. It starts with generalities about the rejection of anti-Americanism among European lefties.

bq. It is, of course, an article of faith among Europe’s lefties that America is a cultural and intellectual wasteland. But this, too, is beginning to change. A stream of Europeans passing through Washington this spring expressed surprise at the quality and variety of the debate in the city’s dynamic think tanks.

And exactly which debate is it that enjoys such remarkable “quality” and “variety”?

bq. Whereas there’s basically one opinion about the Iraq war in Paris and Berlin — “Everybody already knows it’s bad, so they don’t discuss it,” grouses Der Spiegel’s Claus Christian Malzahn — Washington is a hotbed of disagreement and discussion. Even London’s _Economist_ noted the thriving battles of ideas: “Look at the world of public policy today and it is America that is the land of the intellectuals and Europe that is the intellect-free zone.” Words I never thought I would read in a European publication.

Even apart from the rather dishonest implication that the _Economist_ is a reliable barometer of what the European left is thinking, this is nonsense. The Washington debate over the Iraq war is anything but a “thriving battle of ideas” (in fairness, the _Economist_ “article”:http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=5660806 which Range cites as support doesn’t say this, although it’s very stinky in many other ways). It’s a retreat from Moscow, in which those who signed onto the war are trying desperately to salvage the few scraps of credibility that they have remaining to them. Range’s article doesn’t herald a resurgence of anything at all – it’s an attempt to conjure up allies for an exploded policy position out of thin air. Scott McLemee “puts his finger on what’s wrong”:http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2006/05/24/mclemee:

bq. But in the final analysis, there was something else bothersome about the manifesto — something I couldn’t quite put a finger on, for a while. A vague dissatisfaction, a feeling of blurry inconsequentiality…. Then it suddenly came into focus: The manifesto did not seem like the product of a real movement, nor the founding document of a new organization – nor anything, really, but a proclamation of dissatisfaction by people in an Internet-based transatlantic social network. … Something better might yet emerge … You never know. But for now, with only the text to go by, it is hard to shake a suspicion that the Euston Manifesto owes less to Marx than to MySpace.

Range would like to pretend that there’s an emerging European left that supports the rather contorted position that prominent DLCers have taken on Iraq. This is a politically convenient fiction; some blokes in a pub, a few op-ed columnists and a bunch of signatures on an Internet petition does not a widely-based movement make. But when you’re short of friends at home, the temptation to come up with quasi-imaginary friends elsewhere must be close to overwhelming.

(via “Politicaltheory.info”:http://www.politicaltheory.info/)