The Obscurer

Category: Blogs

Dumb Pipes

Oh what fun I’ve had behind the scenes at The Obscurer recently. If you’re one of the few humans to read this on the website itself (as opposed to a human who uses a feedreader, or a spambot that visits the website) then you may have noticed the other day that I’d experimented with my first major redesign of this blog since I’d moved to WordPress some three years ago. I loaded up the the beautifully minimalistic Manifest theme, and I was very happy with it, noting the way the look of this blog had mimicked the career path of Talk Talk from “The Party’s Over” through “The Colour Of Spring” to “Spirit Of Eden”, as I started with the classic-pop of the standard Scribe template on Blogger, stripped it down to my more individual style with the assistance of veryplaintxt, and then pared everything to the beautiful bare bones with no widgets and fewer plugins. That was until my wife, after viewing this blog in IE6 at work said “what the hell have you done to your blog?” “Looks good, don’t you think?” I responded. “It looks awful,” she replied. And viewing it on IE6, I had to agree. So, for now, we’re back to this archaic theme, albeit one with a bit of the clutter removed from the sidebar, and a plan to investigate “child themes” so I can keep my customisations while finally updating the theme to include all those newish WordPress features like threaded comments that I don’t want to use.

Oh don’t worry, I’m under no illusions. I’m fully aware that no one else shows a tenth of the interest in this blog that I do, and to an extent that is part of the appeal. Tinkering pointlessly with the design and set-up at times seems more important to me than actually writing a post; and writing a post often plays second fiddle to actually publishing it. Often a sort of pedantic perfectionism takes a hold and I’ll spend way too long faffing about over some trivial rejig, but I justify it with the fact that I’m doing this for my own satisfaction rather than for an imaginary reader who might actually give a damn. That way I don’t feel so bad about spending ages installing drop capitals, or sorting a mobile edition, or changing the font in my blockquotes; all stuff you almost certainly won’t have noticed. One day I spent hours trying to debug a problem with the template which meant that the meta-data (that “This was written by Quinn…” gubbins at the bottom of each post) would ride up the side of an image if the text in the post was only short and the image was aligned to one side or the other. It was a problem that affected literally two-or-three posts such as this one, and which I’m sure fussed not a soul; yet when I’d finally sorted it (a simple “clear: both;” command in the stylesheet) it gave me a great sense of achievement.

But my most wasteful waste of time has got to be my tumblr. I already had one tumblelog which I used for my family and friends, for displaying simple snapshots or videos or brief posts, emailing them from my mobile whilst on holiday, so that on my return people could tell me “oh aye, I forgot to check your website for updates when you were away.” But I suddenly became attached to the idea of creating another tumblog for The Obscurer, to collect together links to all my posts, tweets and delicious bookmarks. I didn’t care if nobody looked at it – and in that I haven’t been disappointed, and I have the stats to prove it – I just liked the idea of tying things up neatly for me to refer to again if I liked. And it was easy enough to set up too, not even that time consuming; simply a matter of creating the tumblog, playing with a template to imitate some of the look of this blog, and then arranging it so it would publish the result of my blog, twitter and delicious rss feeds. Perfect, if pointless.

But of course it wasn’t that simple, and soon I realised I had gone down the path, once again, of creating a time consuming project that no one else cared about but which would frustrate the hell out of me. It was those rss feeds that were the problem; everything was duplicated, everywhere. I’d use twitter tools to issue a tweet each time I published a post post here, so each post would show up in both my blog and twitter feeds, and so would show up twice on my tumblr; and I used twitterfeed to do the same for each delicious bookmark, with the same result. I also, at the time, was doing those weekly twitter digests, meaning that tumblr would needlessly update each week with a link to a post here which detailed the collection of the tweets my tumblr had already reproduced individually over the preceding seven days. Now, I could just manually delete those duplicates as and when then came in, but that would be stupid waste of time. Better just to scrap the idea of the tumblog, obviously. But sadly, for no good reason, something in me wouldn’t allow me to do that. There was a problem, and I just needed to find some solution, somehow.

And I found that solution my usual way; by trying everything I could think of and getting it wrong wrong wrong until suddenly, surprisingly, I stumbled upon the thing that worked. And that thing was Yahoo! Pipes. Now you may well know about these things already – I’m usually the last to know – but in essence pipes are where you create your own rss feeds; you can take a feed or a number of feeds in one end, amend and adjust them, and out the other end you get your own personal feed. So, rather than tumblr simply publishing this blog’s rss feed, I get it to publishes the blog pipe; the blog feed goes in one end, runs through an operation that strips out any posts in the “twitterings” category, and publishes a revised feed at the other end. I did the same for my twitter feed; tumblr instead publishes the twitter pipe, being the twitter feed minus my blog posts and bookmarks. Out go the duplicates, and what is left is an easily maintainable tumblog that I can ignore as easily as everyone else can. Sorted.

But it got me thinking; what other uses could there be for Yahoo! Pipes? Surely in this internet and digital age where everything is reduced to zeros and ones there must be a way to use Pipes – or some distant cousin of Pipes – beyond just amending rss feeds for websites no one reads into a combined rss feed for another website no one reads? Surely they must have a more practical use? And once I had set my mind on that train of thought, it was hard to stop.

Let’s take it a step at a time. When I first started reading blogs I liked to read widely, to actively court opposing views; some, like Biased BBC, I read just because I couldn’t help getting wound up by them (before finally kicking the habit), but others I found genuinely interesting even if they did come from a different point of view. But time is tight, and those reasoned blogs I’d disagree with could always be relied upon to write one too many stupid posts until my considered opinion was “get to fuck”; and so over time the stuff in my Bloglines Google Reader has come to reflect rather than challenge my prejudices. However, stray onto the comment pages of those blogs written by authors I agree with and before long you will still encounter those tiresome opinions that I’d much rather be insulated from. I’m talking about the likes of Newmania on Hopi Sen, Bob B on Stumbling & Mumbling, David Duff on Banditry*, Sally on Lib Con, Quinn on The Filter; all people who I rapidly scroll past when I guess that the tedious drivel I’m reading is one of their efforts. But how better to avoid this crap altogether?! I could use shutup.css or readability to get rid of the lot, but many comments are fine. Most blogs , though, now publish a comments feed; couldn’t you just whack one through a Yahoo! pipe, strip out any comments that are by or refer to the aforementioned bores and hey presto! A more enlightened comment thread at a stroke! There has to be a plugin going begging right there.

What about beyond blogs and out in the dreaded MSM? Perhaps you could do the same on the Daily Mail so you only read red arrowed comments? Then again, it’s probably better to simply avoid the Daily Mail altogether (and bless Rupert Murdoch for saving us the job and putting The Times behind a paywall, so it doesn’t even trouble Google News). But what if I want to know about a particular subject, say our good friend “public sector pensions”, but I want to read informed analysis of their viability rather than an ideological rant? Could I just set up a Google news alert for “public sector pensions”, run it through a pipe that strips out any article that mentions “gold plated” or “pensions apartheid” and consider it done? I don’t see why not. Sure it’s not foolproof, I may still get articles I disagree with, but that’s fine; they should at least be a little bit more intelligent, or at least more imaginative in their bias.

But of course the internet isn’t just web pages. I love my Pure Evoke Flow internet radio for the way it can slip almost seamlessly between listening to live Test Match Special on 5Live Sports Extra to yesterday’s Archers on Listen Again to a Collings & Herrin podcast. How about the viability of someone far cleverer than me hacking it and running its output through a pipe? Then, when listening to football commentary on 5Live it can automatically go quiet when Alan Green comes on? Sure, Jimmy Armfield or Graham Taylor will sound as if they’re talking to themselves for a while, but that’s still better that hearing Green whining on and on about some minor, trivial point as if it is a serious affront to human decency. Perhaps you could take another feed from another radio station – even TalkSport – when the egotist approaches the mic, until John Murray or Mike Ingam get their turn? Okay, it’s a rough idea, a work in progress, but one worth considering, and extending to television in turn.

When I was younger I always thought that technology had advanced as far as it could; that the arrival of Betamax and Channel 4 were the apex of our achievements and that the fantasy you’d see on Space 1999, of people talking into little mobile video phones was just that. Now my kids look baffled when we’re on holiday and I have to explain that we can’t pause and rewind the TV like we can on our PVR at home, an invention I never even countenanced. But as times change so do our expectations; we have come a long way since those days when we had no choice but to be passive recipients of whatever the neutral reporting of the BBC and ITN allowed, our prejudices only partially sated by the bias of the Telegraph or the Observer. The internet and new media on the otherhand has allowed such a wonderful profusion of different voices, a boom in choice and variety, that it has enabled us to selectively listen to a far narrower range of views than ever before. With filters such as Pipes going that inevitable step further and, if successfully arranged, preventing any dissenting voices from ever invading our brain space, technology allows us another fantasy: an echo chamber where we can confirm what we always half-believed. That all our opinions are wholly right.

Update 5/9/10: That’s the way to do it! Via Jim, a Ryan Avent-only pipe drawn from the RSS feed for The Economist’s “Free Exchange” blog.

* I’ve given up on John B, actually, after reading one daft comment too many. Although a pipe to remove any post where he deems it necessary to refer to someone as an idiot just because they hold a differing opinion† may be tolerable.
† Oh dear. Sadly, that’s all of them.

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A Penny For The Old Guy

A couple of years ago, when talking about Guido Fawkes and his role (or lack of it) in Mark Oaten’s withdrawal from that month’s Lib Dem leadership race, I signed off by saying that “with luck our paths won’t cross again”. Well, no such luck unfortunately, and while I would love to take DonaldS’s advice and “just ignore him”, that is easier said than done if you read many of the blogs I do. It can be just as hard to escape Guido elsewhere, be it making a tit of himself on Newsnight, or being credited by Dianne Abbot on This Week with breaking the story that brought down Peter Hain (true, if by “breaking a story” you mean adding a footnote to something the media had been running with for days.)

Guido is at best a knob, someone who ruthlessly hunts down political scandal by regularly checking his in box and tossing his newfound trivia and hearsay the way of the world wide web, all the while dressing up his gossip-mongering as some sort of libertarian master plan to bring down the political class. Well, he had to do something when the serious projects where he masqueraded under his real name such as Global Growth went nowhere. Alongside his failure to break the Hain story, Guido’s successes include the aforementioned erroneous claim regarding Oaten (which only works if you equate paedophilia with homosexuality), something about a love-child triangle amongst some journalists that is of no interest to anyone other than the individuals involved, and his revelation that John Prescott shags around a bit. If that latter story were an attempt to undermine politicians and show them as a separate class of “others” then I would consider it a failure, adultery being a fairly common human fallibility. Certainly Guido’s muckraking doesn’t have the desired effect on me; reading his blog and the comments therein usually makes me sympathise with a group of people I otherwise have little time for. Far from destroying the political class he is merely an echo chamber for the already disaffected; I doubt he has changed anyone’s mind on the matter of our public servants.

So why am I wittering on about him, then? Good question. I have recently been following this story regarding Tim Ireland who made some allegation about Guido on his Bloggerheads site; I’m not bothering to repeat them here because they are the least interesting facet of the affair. Tim gets criticised by his opponents sometimes as being obsessive, and worse; I prefer dogged myself, although I admit he can take things a bit far at times. Anyway, the allegations were straight forward enough, so it would have been a simple matter for Guido to have just refuted them; so why didn’t he? Instead he reached for his lawyer, a tactic he has used before.

Fair enough you may say, and perhaps this shows that Tim’s attack was the straw that broke the camel’s back, a consequence of the running sore that is his and Guido’s relationship. But then Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy revealed that he too had had the frighteners put on him, in his case simply because his site had linked to Tim’s original post. Sounds as if someone is getting a little out of hand. All this is reminiscent of the sort of tactics employed by Schillings, with the libel laws being used not to put a stop to lies, but to silence free speech, and coming from someone who once complained that “the libel laws in Britain have long been overly restrictive and frustrated Guido’s efforts…Guido has a few things he has been itching to write about some very rich people.”

Perhaps he just meant richer people. We are all hypocrites to a greater or lesser extent, but even so it is still rare to find such a cut and dried example of the art. I have a lot of time for the more thoughtful libertarians out there who are dedicated to their high ideals of freedom and liberty, but by his actions Guido seems more the instinctive, knee-jerk sort, who dreams of ending state coercion not so it can guide us from the world of the dead hand to that of the invisible hand, but just to ensure that he can pay less tax while power resides with those with the deepest pockets. Or perhaps I am showing my ignorance of what libertarians really stand for.

All of which is a long and roundabout way of saying that, for what it’s worth, should Tim and Sunny require the support of a blog that hardly anybody reads, they’ve got it.

An Unwanted Gift

I don’t know what Gordon Brown thought he had to laugh about. His childish chuckling at the Conservatives yesterday as Alistair Darling announced the government’s new policy on inheritance tax was a depressing sight to behold. Can he not just stick to looking dour? It was the shamelessness that so grated; it was always pretty obvious once the Tories had received a boost in the polls with their proposal to raise the inheritance tax threshold that Labour would respond in some way; but the following week? It was all about as subtle as a brick. Fortunately, the sneering response from George Osborne on the opposition benches soon shook me awake; I can never hate Labour as much as I ought whenever I’m reminded what the alternative is.

Yes, I have “a plague o’ all your houses” feeling this week, I think that is the only sensible reaction to yesterday’s announcements, and to the previous week’s shenanigans over the election that wasn’t; which gives an extra added reason to avoid blogs like Iain Dale’s and similar, and reminds me why I tend to give them a wide berth. What has happened recently should give further cause for despair at the nature of politics itself, not mirth-filled glee at having put one over the opposition. It highlights the difference between “political blogs” and “blogs about politics”, as Paulie mentioned last week. We all have our particular viewpoints and biases and it can be interesting to read the writings of someone whose opinions don’t chime with our own, but this week has starkly shown why I avoid those blogs that have a party political axe to grind; they seem completely out of touch, not to be trusted, and while the popular ones may be hugely popular, it is a popularity based on a worthless political tribalism.

But I’m not interested in political blogs. Time and tide (and in the case of the Tory blogs the inevitable Conservative government at some point) will make them disappear up their own arses. Political blogs, like the Westminster village gossip they prattle on about, are ultimately irrelevant. No it’s politics itself I want to talk about, because politics is important, no matter how hard our politicians try to debase it.

Let me deal with Gordon Brown’s faults first, because they are fairly obvious. Bringing forward government announcements, especially the troop “reductions” during the Tory party conference, was as cynical as you can get, and was bound to stoke speculation about an early election. It was spin, of course, and really bad, contemptuous spin at that; so transparent that Brown must really have a low opinion of the British public to think we wouldn’t see through it right away. That it has backfired so beautifully is justice in action. To then play down the importance of the recent opinion polls in the decision not to hold an election, to claim he would still have comfortably won in the marginal constituencies in spite of all the evidence, and to wibble on about not going to the country now because he wants to show the nation his “vision”; enough already.

But if Brown is full of shit, what about the Tories? They have had a pretty easy ride recently as everyone from Conservative bloggers to newspaper leader writers have stuck the boot into Brown, but I mean honestly; all that guff praising Cameron’s autocue-free speech at his party conference overshadowed the hypocritical, vacuous and content-free flim-flammery of the speech itself; the demand for a general election they clearly didn’t want to fight is as disingenuous a declaration as any (Cameron’s shout of “we will fight, Britain will win” must be the most enthusiastically received defeatist rallying cry in history); the fact that in trying to goad Brown into calling an election let’s not forget they were in effect trying to goad him into making a decision based purely on opportunism and self-interest; and to then criticise his decision not to go down that path and to reiterate the party line that Brown had bottled it is to ignore the simple point, obvious in any dispassionate reading of the situation, that Brown just made the correct, common sense decision.

I think that last point bears further consideration. Brown didn’t have to call an election; that he thought about it when opinion polls showed Labour having such a huge lead over the Tories – and when he must have wondered if he would ever again have it as good – is only human. That he then decided against it when the poll lead either closed or disappeared is just the sensible thing to do; to have pressed on with an election he didn’t have to call under such circumstances would have been utterly stupid, and the fact that he can be criticised as being a coward because he refused to do the stupid thing shows how crap party politics is, where saving face is more important than good judgement. That making the right decision can be so criticised is because spin is so endemic to politics, but what to do? Spin is endemic, full stop. If politics is to reform itself where is it to get its inspiration from; from business? But the PM of the UK is no different from any CEO of a PLC in this regard, spin is everywhere we look from government announcements to company press releases. There is a reason why each firm’s in-house magazine is referred to by its employees as Pravda.

Talking of which, I’m not letting the media off the hook either. No doubt there were briefings by senior politicians hinting at an election to come and that this helped build election fever, but the media really doesn’t need any assistance. It was largely the Labour lead in the opinion polls that allowed the media to lose their heads completely and crank up the hype; for them to now blame the politicians for spinning is a bit rich, and it’s not for the first time. More and more it seems that the media are very quick to point the finger at others, when really a degree of introspection is in order (the Madeleine McCann story is a case study on the subject.) It is here that the best “blogs about politics” should be valued as cutting through the media bollocks and providing an alternative, and where the “political blogs” fail because they follow the herd and exhibit all the faults of the MSM.

I’ve not mentioned the Liberal Democrats yet, but I will; they have been as guilty as the Tories in playing this affair for point scoring party politicking gain. But give them their due; at least they have also used it to propose a move towards fixed-term parliaments, which would prevent the farce of the past few weeks while dealing with the inequity behind it. It is interesting how many Tories have been heard to criticise Brown’s constitutional right to call an election when he likes, but I don’t remember such criticism when the Tories were themselves in power. Also, while there has been much criticism of Brown’s antics, there seems a far less noticeable enthusiasm from Conservatives to back the Lib Dems’ motion, at least at this stage, almost as if the problem isn’t with the prime minister having this power, just with Gordon Brown having it and threatening to utilise it. As with proportional representation, while many in the Labour and the Conservative parties complain about the unfairness of the current system when in opposition, few support an alternative because they don’t want to lose the advantage they perceive it will provide them when they get back into power.

In considering and then dismissing the option of holding an early election Gordon Brown did the sensible thing, he did what anyone would have done in his position; but it shouldn’t be in his gift. Hopefully the lasting legacy of this past week will be that in bungling his election decision Brown has drawn attention to this element of our electoral system, and a groundswell of opinion can build to put an end to the anachronism of the government of the day being able to go to the country at the most advantageous opportunity. As a rule of thumb, if we can take something out of the hands of politicians then it is probably a good idea if we do; and when the thing in question is only of benefit to politicians themselves, then that counts double.

I Meme Mine

There are a few memes doing the rounds at the moment. This one, via Bloggerheads, suggests republishing the post you wrote 4 years ago when the Iraq war started; or at least the post written nearest to that date. So here is my effort.

Welcome
Welcome to my Blog. Who knows where we will go from here. It may be funny, it may be serious, it may by entirely devoted to football. It may never get much further than this welcome message. Watch this space and find out.

And believe you me, no one is more surprised than me that here I am still plugging away at this thing, albeit only every so often, when I can be bothered. Unfortunately, as the beady-eyed amongst you may have noticed, that post, while being the first I wrote after the invasion, is clearly also the first one I ever wrote, and is only 2½ years old. On the day war was declared I was busy getting gradually more and more drunk at my sister-in-law’s wedding, and still a good 17 months off starting this blog. For this reason, I am disqualified from taking part in this meme; well that and the fact I haven’t been tagged in the first place.

Nothing new there; I never am, like the last person to be picked for games (who, incidentally, also tended to be me). The other meme I haven’t been volunteered for is that of the “thinking blogger”, or if you will, Thogger. So I am indebted to sbalb for showing the way forward, for declaring that you needn’t be tagged to take up a meme, and that in doing so you can actually subvert and perhaps even gum-up the whole system. Inspired stuff indeed. Sadly, as even sbalb hasn’t tagged me for the Thogger meme, I just don’t feel comfortable in participating in that one either. Rules is rules, after all.

Mmm, I really don’t know where I’m going with this post. I’ve got a horrible feeling that this is just another excuse to write a post with a title that combines a pun with a song, my weapons of choice. To make matters worse, without going to Google, I bet I am far from the first person to have thought “I Meme Mine” was clever and unique and titled a post accordingly. Mind you, it could be worse; I’ll wager “Meme Myself And I” is even more ubiquitous. You know, what with De La Soul being more popular than The Beatles and all.

Spamalot

I was delighted yesterday when I discovered I’d received an email from Jason Alexander, the actor who played George in Seinfeld; until I noticed that he was trying to sell me Viagra and I decided that it wasn’t that Jason Alexander after all. In fact not only was it not from that Jason Alexander – I think he’s busy – but it wasn’t from any Jason Alexander, just an e-pistle from a random name generated by a computer that has been spitting out spam emails recently to no good effect.

A brief history of email spam; I used to get stuff allegedly written by Mike, or Stephen, but recently that has changed. To be more realistic I guess the spammers started sending emails from people with a forename and a surname; but if it is unlikely that I will be fooled into thinking an email from Tony is really for me, how more unlikely is it that they will stumble upon a forename/surname combination of someone I actually know; or who is even likely to exist?

I’m reminded of an old Alexei Sayle sketch; the world, he said, was being dominated by people who’s names are made up of either two Christian names (like Jason Alexander), two surnames (Cameron MacKintosh) or two non words (Meryl Streep). I think the new spammers have taken this idea too seriously.

So, looking in my deleted box I see I have received emails from a Josh Matthews, a Wilson Porter and a Hallam Curry; but they are some of the more believable names. I am fascinated by the possibility of a Jeruvis Giles, a Moises Brown, a Brett Sherpard and a Trying Whitley walking the earth and writing to ask me if I want to buy a restaurant paging system, even though I don’t own a restaurant. My favourite email comes from someone called Guy Ransom who has surely just wandered out of a Martin Amis novel. I have also received stuff from a whole slew of unlikely Hispanics; Ernesto James, Enrique Bailey, Colton Lopez, Ashton Diaz and his/her brother, Sven.

With my more recent spam, however, I think the name generator has blown a gasket completely; perhaps aware that it has created some unlikely name combinations it has gone back to single names; but with a crazy twist. What are the chances that I know a Marumi, an Ernestine, a Winfred or a Fidel, and so be suckered into thinking they have personally emailed me asking for cash? What about Lupe, Cobb, Boggs, Darnell and Moran; do you know them? If so then I may have received your advert for Windows Office in error. And I really don’t know what it was thinking of when it churned out emails from Diary, Butter, Discriminant and Nautical Chassis.

I hanker for the halcyon days of old, believable spam; will we ever see their like again?


What have I been up to recently, you’re not asking? Some readers may be under the impression that I’d started my paternity leave way early, although regular readers will not be at all surprised that I haven’t written anything here for a week or so. There are all manner of things that can keep me from blogging; being busy at work, catching rays in the fine weather, popping away on a short break, being drunk (or recovering from being drunk), messing about with my brand new mobile phone. All these and more have applied over the past few weeks, as well as the fact that I don’t really want to write just for the sake of it, whatever you may think. However, I have also been in one of those moods where I feel jaundiced and disenchanted about blogging. While I have previously said that I will never quit blogging because I will always shout at the telly, so on the contrary when I find myself shouting at blogs via the computer monitor it puts me off the whole business.

Sometimes trips around the blogosphere (someone please come up with a better word!) can be very rewarding, as you discover new blogs and great examples of well-argued writing that you think you should keep tabs on. Recently however my journeys have been depressing, unedifying descents into the bowels of the ’sphere, reading posts so insane that you can’t argue back because you don’t know where to start ; and I haven’t even bothered to visit Devil’s Kitchen.

I think one day a couple of weeks back was the nadir; try as I might I couldn’t avoid stumbling upon blogs written by moronic trolls spouting their ill thought out prejudice and bile, with even more repulsive views in the comments. As in the real world, it seems, the whole crisis in Lebanon seems to bring out the worst in both sides. Whatever side of the fence the blogger stood, he or she thought that their side was entirely justified in acting as they chose, while the other side was wholly to blame and deserved what they were getting, and obviously moaned about the media – and of course the BBC primarily – as being either a leftist front or Zionist propagandists* (*delete according to stupidity).

But the nasty, one eyed spite and bigotry wasn’t confined to the middle east situation; that day I also kept encountering stuff written by the same authors that showed they could be just as idiotic when discussing other subjects. The terrible case of Jean Charles de Menezes was back in the news at the time, concerning the CPS’s decision to charge the Met under Health and Safety laws, and with the vigil held to mark the first anniversary of his death. I found it (and still find it) quite incomprehensible that sentient beings can respond to his death by questioning his innocence due to him “being an illegal” and to bemoan his family mourning and demanding answers to what happened a year ago; but that day everything I read was either of that opinion, or else viewed the police as laughing butchers who knowingly pumped (always pumped) seven bullets into an innocent man’s head for a laugh because he “looked a bit foreign”. I came across no middle ground. I could also see no sensible connection as to why it was that the Israel supporters were anti-de Menezes (can anyone really be “anti” the poor bloke? Sadly it seems so) while those most critical of the police were also the most stridently anti-Israel; but that was the way it seemed.

I am not suggesting of course that everyone who is pro-Israel is anti-de Menezes, and so on, and I know there are many thoughtful and reasonable writers out there covering Lebanon and other situations; this fed up feeling will soon pass. One of the best antidotes I’ve found is to read Tim Worstall. It can be refreshing to read the opinions of someone with whom you disagree and yet don’t think is a complete cunt.

Call me naive, but it is grim to realise there are so many apparantly intelligent people out there who subscribe to such nasty views; but are there, really? My one hope is that the offensive drivel hurled out recently is in fact just another development in the spam industry; that the posts are not intentionally evil, just nonsensical, generated by the same computer that believes Varette Fake is a likely name, and all part of an effort to screw money out of Google AdSense. What do you reckon?

Let’s hope so; keep thinking happy thoughts.