The botnet is back again so we're suspending comments until it stops trying to nuke my server.
(The spam volume was up to 300-400 per hour. None of them were getting through into comments, but the filtering process involves multiple HTTP requests to blacklist services and multiple SQL SELECT and INSERT statements, and the server was beginning to smoke. Hence the 500 server errors some of you will have been seeing. Experience suggests that shutting comments down for a few hours causes the worst offender to go away for a few weeks. Unfortunately it's a botnet, so IP address filtering is useless—thousands or hundreds of thousands of machines are participating in the spam campaigns.)
I'll remove this post when normal service is resumed.
UPDATE: Just before 7pm I re-enabled comments. Within a minute the load average spiked from 0.1 up to 10+ — and I noticed twelve comment processes running simultaneously. These spammers are so dumb they're whacking on the server hard enough to bring it down if I re-enable comments. So I'm disabling comments again, for a while.
In the meantime, I've created a Google Group (mailing list) for folks who want to carry on chatting: the Antipope storm refuge. Consider this an experiment in alternative social networking ... if you want to chat, bounce on the link and come on over: I won't be moderating sign-ups for the first 72 hours.