More Outrageous Use of rel=”nofollow”

Stop the nofollow attributeA few days back, I saw that I was getting a lot of people clicking onto an article I wrote last month, We’ve Abandoned the Poor in This Country. So I checked where it was coming from, and it was from the Slacktivist blog on one of the best websites around, Patheos. That was thrilling. It’s always thrilling when people link to me — regardless of the size of the site. But it’s especially nice when it is someone who is established. It makes me think that I just may be okay at this writing and ranting thing.

But for some reason, I looked at the source code for the page, and I saw that the link to me used the nofollow relation. At first, I thought this was some reflection on me. But no. That was the case for all of the links on that page — and every other page. It is, as far as I can tell, the default for every link on the Patheos website. What that means is that Patheos does not take part in the single most important aspect of search engine rankings. As far as Google and Bing are concerned, if Patheos links to you, it might as well have not.

What’s the point of this? The nofollow relation was created to stop spam. It was a raging failure. But it has made pretty much all blogging and CMS software default to using this relation. I understand why one might want to use this for comments. Of course, I don’t do it, because I think commenters add value to my site and the least I can go is give them a little boost in their Google ranking. And this creates an interesting disconnect. When TheoLib commented about the link at Slacktivist with the link, that link gives Slacktivist page ranking credit that it doesn’t provide me, even though my link was in the text of that article.

It is just outrageous to put nofollow on all outgoing links. And if a website as established and professional as Patheos is doing this, I think it is time to do something. I think we need to lose nofollow. It doesn’t do what it was originally intended to do. But as a result of a lot of bad conventions, it now distorts the rankings of pages in Google. What’s more, it goes entirely against the idea that Google’s algorithm was originally designed to eliminate: gaming search engine results (although in this case by omission rather than commission).

The vast majority of people who complain about nofollow do so about Wikipedia’s policy. But I don’t blame Wikipedia at all. For one thing, it is kind of like a public utility of the internet. It’s allowed to have special rules. But more to the point, if people knew they could get their Page Rank increased by stuffing links into Wikipedia, it would be open season on that site. It would destroy it as by far the most useful tool on the internet.

The situation with Patheos (and many other sites as well) is that we aren’t talking about content that just anyone can create. This was created by Fred Clark — Mr Slacktivist himself. He’s not going to spam himself. So what is the point of adding nofollow to all his links? To me, it is very much like people who choose not to vote. It is an act of internet citizen neglect. But in this case, I would be shocked if Clark or any of the other writers at Patheos are even aware of the practice.

Nothing Alone Will Fix Global Warming — So Do Nothing!

Climate Change Is a HoaxI heard from Jonathan Chait that, The New Conservative Argument to Ignore Climate Change Is Even Dumber Than the Old One. It seems that National Review came up with a “clever” question they wanted the Democrats asked at Tuesday’s debate, “Do you support President Obama’s EPA restrictions on emissions even though science reporters at The New York Times admitted in a recent story that restrictions will do nothing to combat climate change by themselves?” Chait noted what should come as no surprise to readers here: that’s not actually what the Times article said.

But what I thought was interesting was the idea that we should do nothing about climate change if that thing all by itself doesn’t fix the problem. It’s kind of like they took Zeno’s Paradox as a proof: if you add up a bunch of small thing the end result is nothing! I know, I know: because National Review started in large part to push back against the stupidity of the conservative base, you think it still ought to do that. But those days are gone and the most you can expect of conservative elites is a resigned acceptance of the way things are. After all: how else are they going to get their regressive tax cuts?

So I present you with a few of my own examples of things that are not worth doing because they alone will not fix a problem. Chait offered this own: calling 911 when you have a heart attack and buying groceries to feed your children. In addition, I offer the following, which I’m sure National Review (actually, Stephen L Miller) obviously thinks (because consistency is the cornerstone of conservative thinking):

  • Why work out in the gym when that one work out isn’t going to make you stronger?
  • There’s no point of driving on the right side of the street, because that alone is not going to keep you safe.
  • Why practice a musical instrument when that one session isn’t going to make you a good musician?
  • There’s no point of starting a diet, because that first day of eating less isn’t going to make you thin.
  • Why put on the brakes when it is clear you are going to hit the car in front of you? In fact, why not hit the accelerator?

There are obvious political cases too: we shouldn’t enact any healthcare reform because nothing will fix all of the problems. Basically National Review would make that case since they want the government to do nothing other than those things it does now that funnel wealth from the bottom of the economy to the top. Of course, with global warming, it’s clear that addressing the problem would be a good thing even if it didn’t fix the problem. The National Review position reminds me very much this cartoon:

Global Warming Hoax

As Chait noted, “The new talking point rests on grade-school-level sophistry.” You would think that conservative thinking would have nowhere to go but up. Instead, they always find a way to go down.

Morning Music: Johannes Brahms

Johannes BrahmsThe Romantic period brought out the worst in mediocre composers. Pretty much any Classical composer could grind out an acceptable piece of music. But that just isn’t so in the Romantic period. I blame Beethoven who inspired many people who shouldn’t have been inspired. Although in a fundamental sense Beethoven was the greatest composer of this period (transitional though he may have been), I prefer to listen to Johannes Brahms.

Brahms was a protege of Robert Schumann, who was probably the biggest influence on the young composer. They became friends when Brahms was only 20 years old. This may be why Brahms was considered a conservative composer, at least compared to the other dominant composers of the time. But this gets to my general problem with Romantic music. The excesses of the period are well on display in Wagner and Liszt. What’s more, I find Brahms constantly innovative, just not in such a flashy way. His Symphony No 1 is a great example of restrained brilliance. Not that he couldn’t be more ostentatious as he is in the Violin Concerto in D.

But of the most interest to modern listeners is probably Brahms’ work with folk tunes. That’s especially true of the Hungarian Dances. And since I know from experience that people will not listen to hour long symphonies or concertos, here are numbers 5, 6, 7, and 17 — used in the Merrie Melodies classic, Pigs in a Polka:

Anniversary Post: Harpers Ferry Raid

John BrownOn this day in 1859, John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry occurred. I’ll be honest: I’ve never known what to think of it and I still don’t know what to think about it. Can it be justified? Well, given the magnitude of the sin of American slavery, I think a case can be made. But it does have rather too much in common with people today who think that abortion represents another Holocaust and that it justifies killing doctors.

I do think there many distinctions here. To begin with, abortion is an issue that only recently came on the radar of protestants. And they aren’t at all consistent. The vast majority who believe abortion is wrong have no problem with the death penalty. This is equivalent to the case where John Brown killed people to free black slaves but was completely okay with having Native American slaves.

Another issue is that John Brown was trying to start an uprising that would destroy the institution of slavery itself. As I discussed some time ago, Brown thought that he could do this with very little bloodshed. Before he died, he realized that he was wrong; and the country soon learned it too. What is it that someone like Scott Roeder was trying to accomplish? Did he think that the murder of George Tiller would be the end of abortion in America? I suspect not. I suspect that “thinking” wasn’t really involved with what he was doing.

There is also the issue that an act done in the name of what is right is more justified than an act done in the name of what is wrong. No, ends do not justify means. But motive matters. I understand that anti-abortion activists believe that they are right. That doesn’t make them so, however. In particular, they are mostly unwilling to do anything at all to reduce abortion other than to make it illegal. In fact, as a movement, it has been all in favor of banning birth control. If your concern were really about unborn “babies,” wouldn’t you do everything you could to prevent them? Wouldn’t that even including taxing people more to help out poor mothers?

What’s more, John Brown’s goal was attainable: the end of slavery. Abortions will never be wiped out, because the vast majority of them happen naturally. Miscarriages are spontaneous abortions. And once again, we come back to the almost total disinterest of anti-choice crusaders. Better prenatal care would prevent far more abortions than any laws. But again: that would require something of the anti-choice activists, and so is not considered.

I still don’t know if John Brown was right. In general, I don’t believe in violence. But I think a case can be made for what he did. There is no case that can be made for those against abortion who turn to violence.