Thursday, 28 August 2008

Finally - a scarier airport than Wellington

Via Cracked:

The island of St Maartin, where the SPF is not the only thing to worry about while sunbathing...

Monday, 25 August 2008

Towards Little Green Circle Jerks - some notes

There's an interesting situation showing up on the blogosphere. Two progressive/feminist US websites with historic ties are seperating under the strain of the fallout from the Democratic primary selection. The larger site, Pandagon, headed by Amanda Marcotte, had a reasonably weak pro-Obama bias, the smaller, Shakespeare's Sister, headed by Melissa McEwen, had a strong pro-Clinton bias (note that these are my impressions, and I admit fully that I didn't follow the opinions of the various communities too closely).

Pandagon, larger and more diverse, seems to be rolling on as it ever did. However, Shakespeare's Sister is showing signs of evolving more towards an insular community defined by ideological purity - towards the type of blog epitomised by Little Green Footballs on the right. This sort of community has characteristics so common that an example can and has been aptly tagged as "a Little Green Circle Jerk".

For a good demonstration of this, see the comments on this thread.

This doesn't seem to be driven by the owner of the blog - McEwen has an admirable dedication to openness under provocation. Although intelligent, she appears less educated and articulate than Marcotte, and the latter is more accomplished. I believe, however, that she has considerably more actual insight, albeit coloured by her biases. Rather, it is the community of commentators in SS which are the engine behind this evolution.

The following strike me as important notes on possible characteristics associated with this change:
- A emphasis on status through ideological purity (in this case, a moderate progressive stance combined with radical feminist elements).
- A need to define identity by adherence to group norms.
- A rise in the sort of "stroking" comments and posts which reinforce group solidarity, mutual praise and admiration for members who succinctly express group norms.
- A drive towards vilification of a symbol for the other camp (such as animosity aimed at Obama himself for not having the same views. Compare this with the way the wingnut right talk about Islam and the Qu'ran).
- Treating dissent as an attack, and repeated calls for a closed community through banning dissenters.
- A drift further away from the mainstream driven, as far as I can tell, by the more radical, passionate members setting the agenda, and other more moderate members refusing to engage or call them on it - at the same time both gang up to pour scorn on the agreed "outsiders".
- A loss of a sense of proportion, which is pretty close to losing a sense of humour regarding touchstone issues.
- A rise in restoring to ad hominem attacks as the first response, and a refusal to consider engaging differing ideas.
- A possible turnover in membership, with some commentators becoming more and more active, and others quietly dropping out without anyone seeming to notice.

I'm not a sociologist, and I lack a trained (or unbiased) perspective. The way this group is changing in response to the stress of the primary selection and post-primary events is fascinating, though. McEwen's genuine progressive beliefs seem to stand in the way of this drift; an obvious next step would be for her co-bloggers to start more readily banning people with or without her permission, or to persuade her to do the same.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Quick musical question...

What do the following bands have in common:

The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, Nirvana, Radiohead, Third Eye Blind, Stereophonics, Supergrass, and Coldplay?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

What the election is about

From here (hat tip to Brian Easton):

Key findings about income growth

· From 2004 to 2007, median household incomes rose 6% in real terms.
· This followed an 8% rise from 2001 to 2004.
· From 2004 to 2007, incomes for low to middle income households rose much more quickly than incomes for higher income households.
· The relatively large rises for incomes for low to middle income households reflect the impact of the Working for Families (WFF) package on the incomes of low to middle income households with children.
· From a longer term perspective, median incomes fell in real terms from the late 1980s to a low point in 1994, and have been steadily rising since then at an average of 2.5% pa. By 2001, the median income had just returned to its 1988 level.

For those not following along, the 1984-1999 period represent the Fourth Labour and Fourth National Governments (i.e. Rogernomics and More Rogernomics) and post 1999 the Fifth Labour Government (i.e. Helen Clarke). leading up to this election, the indications are that National is pretty much the same as it ever was.

That's great if you're in the top 20% of the country - statistically Helen has been better for the other 80% of us.

But who gives a shit - change for change sakes, right?

Monday, 11 August 2008

"We are all different!" "(I'm not...)"


I woke up with a smile on my face after a very nice dream. Involving two pretty 20-somethings in fancy dress nurse outfits.

I swear, my subconscious is just one big male cliche at times. If I start getting interested in sports cars and loudly debating regional rubgy, I only hope my friends have the decency to shoot me.

Personally, I blame Sarah Chalke.

(Additional: Of course, the Annoying PA is laughing her ass off at this comment. There have been some pointed observations about certain predictable responses to her clothing choices.)

Cyberwarfare in Georgia

There are some interesting reports about cyberwarfare associated with the Russian/Georgian conflict. Essentially, a major Russian criminal group is acting as an adjunct to the Russian State in the conflict.

While the conflict itself is not as black and white as it may appear, the connection between the Russian government and the RBN is interesting. The Russian government has long appeared to have embraced the criminal sector as part and parcel of the new Russia; if you're going to go for capitalism on steroids, there's really no reason to exclude, say, extortionists, people smugglers and child-pornographers.

If Russia is aggressively turning outward, reclaiming the CIS, then we're looking at many of the necessary conditions for fascism - all that will be needed will be a successful populist irredentist movement, and it'll happen. If the Russian government starts pushing this internally, and war governments almost always do so, then we're looking at some Interesting Times in the Balkins. Again.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Another really bad idea...

From XKCD...

Please, Lord, make sure Spike never discovers these...