Tag Archives: Joe Windish

Oh, Brother…

Shawn Pogatchnik at Huffington Post:

It often starts as a voice in the wilderness, but can swell into an entire nation’s demand for truth. From Ireland to Germany, Europe’s many victims of child abuse in the Roman Catholic church are finally breaking social taboos and confronting the clergy to face its demons.

Ireland was the first in Europe to confront the church’s worldwide custom of shielding pedophile priests from the law and public scandal. Now that legacy of suppressed childhood horror is being confronted in other parts of the Continent – nowhere more poignantly than in Germany, the homeland of Pope Benedict XVI.

The recent spread of claims into the Netherlands, Austria and Italy has analysts and churchmen wondering how deep the scandal runs, which nation will be touched next, and whether a tide of lawsuits will force European dioceses to declare bankruptcy like their American cousins.

“You have to presume that the cover-up of abuse exists everywhere, to one extent or another. A new case could appear in a new country tomorrow,” said David Quinn, director of a Christian think tank, the Iona Institute, that seeks to promote family values in an Ireland increasingly cool to Catholicism.

Richard Owen at The Times:

The Pope was drawn directly into the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal last night as news emerged of his part in a decision to send a paedophile priest for therapy. The cleric went on to reoffend and was convicted of child abuse but continues to work as a priest in Upper Bavaria.

The priest was sent from Essen to Munich for therapy in 1980 when he was accused of forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex. The archdiocese confirmed that the Pope, who was then a cardinal, had approved a decision to accommodate the priest in a rectory while the therapy took place.

The priest, identified only as H, was subsequently convicted of sexually abusing minors after he was moved to pastoral work in nearby Grafing. In 1986 he was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and fined DM 4,000 (£1,800 today). There have been no formal charges against him since.

The church has been accused of a cover-up after at least 170 allegations of child abuse by German Catholic priests. The scandal broke in January but the claims, which continue to emerge, span three decades. Critics say that priests were redeployed to other parishes rather than dismissed when they were found to be abusing children.

Francis Rocca:

Benedict discussed the spreading scandal with the head of Germany’s Catholic bishops on Friday (March 12), hours before it drew closer than ever to the pontiff himself, as the Archdiocese of Munich, where Benedict was archbishop from 1977-1982, released a statement acknowledging it had reassigned an accused sex abuser in 1980.

Benedict, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was archbishop at the time, but Munich’s statement said that an underling, former Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, had taken “full responsibility” for the decision.

Six years after his reassignment to a parish, the priest, identified only as H., was convicted of sexually abusing minors in another jurisdiction. He is still an active priest, according Suddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper that broke the story.

An advocate for abuse victims in the U.S. voiced skepticism about the archdiocese’s assertion that Benedict had not approved the abuser’s reassignment to pastoral work.

“It boggles the mind,” said Barbara Blaine, president and founder of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We can’t think of a single case anywhere on the planet where a credibly accused predator priest was put back around kids and no one asked or told the top diocesan official.”

Earlier on Friday, Benedict met with Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, president of the German bishops’ conference, for a briefing on the state of the church in Germany. While the meeting had been previously scheduled, clearly the most urgent topic in their 45-minute conversation was the growing number of sex abuse allegations.

At least 170 abuse allegations have emerged this year involving children at German Catholic schools, prompting an investigation by prosecutors.

Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture:

Here’s what we know: While the Pope was Archbishop of Munich, a priest there was accused of sexual abuse. He was pulled out of ministry and sent off for counseling. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger was involved in the decision to remove the priest from his parish assignment– got that? remove him. [Editor’s note: The preceding sentences are not accurate. Actually the facts provide an even stronger defense of the Pontiff. See the update below. ] He also approved a decision to house the priest in a rectory while he was undergoing counseling. We don’t know, at this point, whether the priest could have been sent to a residential facility, to take him out of circulation entirely. That might have been a more prudent move. We don’t know whether he was kept under close observation. But we do know that he was not involved in active ministry.

Then the vicar general of the Munich archdiocese made the decision to let the accused priest help out at a parish. That vicar general, Msgr. Gerhard Gruber, says that he made that decision on his own, without consulting the cardinal. The future Pope never knew about it, he testifies. Several years later, long after Cardinal Ratzinger had moved to a new assignment at the Vatican, the priest was again accused of sexual abuse.

A grievous mistake was made in this case; that much is clear now, and the vicar general has sorrowfully taken responsibility for the error. Could you say that the future Pontiff should have been more vigilant? Perhaps. But to suggest that he made the decision to put a pedophile back in circulation is an outrageous distortion of the facts. The AP story carries a very different headline:

Pope’s former diocese admits error over priest

That’s not so eye-catching. But the headline fits the facts.


After learning more about this case, I realize that the analysis above is not quite accurate, and the effort to implicate the Pope is even more far-fetched than I had received. The accused was not a priest of the Munich archdiocese, but a priest from the Diocese of Essen, who had been sent to a facility in Munich for counseling. So the then-Cardinal Ratzinger was not responsible for his treatment; his only connection with the case was his decision to let the priest stay in a rectory in the Munich archdiocese while he was undergoing treatment there. There is no evidence that the Pope was aware the accused priest was an accused pedophile; he was evidently informed only that the priest had been guilty of sexual improprieties, and probably concluded that he was engaged in homosexual activities with young men.

Ruth Gledhill at The Times:

What is often forgotten is how little was known of paedophilia. It was believed it could be cured, and that penitence was tantamount to recovery.

The Church, in its ignorance of the recidivism of paedophiles, too often gave them a second, third or fourth chance, moving them to different parishes, or even different countries, where they just abused again. Children’s homes made the same mistake.

The latest scandal coming out of Germany is not enough to threaten the Pope or the Church. But on top of a succession of damaging revelations it can only increase the damage being done to its moral authority on the world stage. The killer fact that could bring down the Pope or Church probably does not even exist.

The Pope is pretty unassailable. He is not elected, he is a monarch, and the centralisation that has taken place under the last two Popes has cemented that power. Pope Benedict XVI has also indicated in his three encyclicals the depths of his own integrity and intellectual rigour.

Damian Thompson at The Telegraph:

And now let us turn to the commentary by Ruth Gledhill, under another nasty headline: “Scandal still not enough to threaten the Pope”. (The Times will just have try harder, eh?) It begins:

The case of a sex abuser being given accommodation in Munich with the approval of its then archbishop, now the Pope, is reminiscent of the scandal that engulfed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor soon after his appointment to Westminster.

No, it is NOT reminiscent of that scandal, Ruth. The Pope did not put a paedophile back into circulation; in contrast, the Cardinal showed very bad judgment in the case of Michael Hill and was lucky to hang on to his position. But, by writing such bollocks, you make it reminiscent.

And then there is this gem:

The Pope is pretty unassailable. He is not elected

Ruth, it long ago became clear to me that you do not know nearly enough about the Catholic Church to comment on it authoritatively. But surely even you have heard of something called a conclave.

Gary Stern:

Now what? Based on the past, I would expect Catholic groups to start circling the wagons. Any day, we should start hearing complaints about media coverage focusing on the scandals instead of all the good work that the Catholic Church is doing in Haiti, Chile and elsewhere.

Otherwise, the Vatican is not known for reacting swiftly to crises. We’ll see.

Inside the Vatican’s Moynihan writes:


In Rome, some fear this is just the beginning.

This fear is not idle, as the internet and world press are already full of reports that these crises may cast a shadow over the entire pontificate.

The battle occurring right now is over how history will judge Benedict’s papacy.


David Goldman at First Things:

Inventing news where there is none is not a new pastime for the press, but the intense interest that the European media has shown in the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the elder brother of Pope Benedict XVI, goes beyond the usual range of invidious gossip. The 86-year-old Monsignor Ratzinger, the retired conductor of the Regensburg Cathedral’s famous boys’ choir, assumed his post a decade after a sexual abuse scandal surfaced. The offenders were punished and the matter was put to rest. Earlier this week reporters cornered the retired priest and demanded to know whether he would testify about the sex scandal in his choir. Ratzinger replied that he would be happy to testify if asked, but as the events preceded his tenure he had no knowledge of the facts—and headlines appeared in major German media that “the pope’s brother is ready to testify about sex abuse.”


There is nothing particularly scandalous about any of this, but it provides a pretext for the press to associate the innocuous actions of the pope’s brother with serious offenses elsewhere. The same AP report, for example, states: “The scandal sweeping church institutions in many European countries kept widening Tuesday. . . . Last week, the Regensburg Diocese said a former singer at the choir had come forward with allegations of sexual abuse in the early 1960s. And across Germany, more than 170 students have claimed they were sexually abused at several Catholic high schools. In Austria, the head of a Benedictine monastery in Salzburg admitted to sexually abusing a child decades ago and resigned. Dutch Catholic bishops announced an independent inquiry into more than 200 allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests at church schools and apologized to victims.”

The stories appear written to lead the inattentive reader to associate a boxed ear from Msgr. Ratzinger with serious offenses elsewhere.

Andrew Sullivan:

The Vatican is claiming that Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, had no clue about any of this:

Mgr Gruber said that the Pope, who was made a cardinal in 1977, had not been not aware of his decision because there were 1,000 priests in the diocese at the time and he had left many decisions to lower-level officials. “The cardinal could not deal with everything,” he said. “The repeated employment of H in pastoral duties was a serious mistake … I deeply regret that this decision led to offences against youths. I apologise to all those who were harmed.” He did not indicate whether the convicted paedophile would be allowed to continue working in the church.

An American group, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said it “boggles the mind to hear a German Catholic official claim that a credibly accused paedophile priest was reassigned to parish work without the knowledge of his boss, then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger”. Any expulsion of a priest from the Church, however, must go through the Vatican.

It boggles my mind too, as well as the fact that, according to his former victim, this convicted pedophile is still even working in the church around children! And why is he given anonymity as “H”?

(Video: ABC News’ Brian Ross trying to get an answer from then Cardinal Ratzinger about the rampant sexual abuse and misconduct – subsequently confirmed in great detail – about Vatican favorite Marcial Maciel.)


I’ve seen the basic Vatican defense elsewhere as something along the lines of “plenty of abuse happens by people who aren’t priests.” This is of course true, but it’s not about bad priests, it’s about the institutions and powerful people who cover for them and fail to protect other victims.

Joe Windish at Moderate Voice:

Suspending the priest at the center of a German church sex-abuse scandal more than 30 years after the church first heard of the child molestation allegations hardly ends the scandal that is enveloping Pope Benedict XVI

Christopher Hitchens in Slate:

Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church’s own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated “in the most secretive way … restrained by a perpetual silence … and everyone … is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication.” (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.)

Not content with shielding its own priests from the law, Ratzinger’s office even wrote its own private statute of limitations. The church’s jurisdiction, claimed Ratzinger, “begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age” and then lasts for 10 more years. Daniel Shea, the attorney for two victims who sued Ratzinger and a church in Texas, correctly describes that latter stipulation as an obstruction of justice. “You can’t investigate a case if you never find out about it. If you can manage to keep it secret for 18 years plus 10, the priest will get away with it.”

The next item on this grisly docket will be the revival of the long-standing allegations against the Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the ultra-reactionary Legion of Christ, in which sexual assault seems to have been almost part of the liturgy. Senior ex-members of this secretive order found their complaints ignored and overridden by Ratzinger during the 1990s, if only because Father Maciel had been praised by the then-Pope John Paul II as an “efficacious guide to youth.” And now behold the harvest of this long campaign of obfuscation. The Roman Catholic Church is headed by a mediocre Bavarian bureaucrat once tasked with the concealment of the foulest iniquity, whose ineptitude in that job now shows him to us as a man personally and professionally responsible for enabling a filthy wave of crime. Ratzinger himself may be banal, but his whole career has the stench of evil—a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel. What is needed is not medieval incantation but the application of justice—and speedily at that.

Rod Dreher:

For example, I’m an admirer of Pope Benedict, who looks to be entering rough waters as the child sex abuse scandal turns out not to have been only an American problem, but a European one. As someone who was once deeply involved in that foul beast of a story, I’ve tried to use the emotional distance brought by time and my departure from the Catholic Church to take a more nuanced view of what brought these crimes about. I don’t actually believe that bishops intended for children to be molested. I really don’t. But all their good intentions counted for nothing; children — hundreds, perhaps thousands of them — were turned into the sexual playthings of corrupt clerics, and those in authority, who had the power and the duty to stop them, mostly did nothing. You can say all you want to about how the bishops were hornswoggled by the psychiatric profession, which gave them bad advice, and you can use that to point to the genuine tragedy of these bishops putting more trust in shrinks than in their own moral tradition and common sense. And you would have a point. Plus, it is the very definition of tragedy to cause the Church’s reputation be eviscerated by a cover up undertaken to protect the reputation of the Church.

But who can muster the wherewithal to think of the church sex abuse scandal in its tragic dimensions when few if any of the high-ranking clergy — bishops and archbishops, I mean — under whose watch this evil flourished in clerical ranks have been made to take responsibility for it in any real way? Mind you, I really do think there truly is a tragic element in this story, but to grapple with it absent meaningful accountability on the part of the malefactors is to feel as if one is expected to extend cheap grace.

UPDATE: More Dreher

Ross Douthat

UPDATE #3: George Weigel at National Review

More Sullivan

UPDATE #4 More Dreher and more Sullivan

DiA at The Economist

UPDATE #5: Ross Douthat‘s column in NYT

Rod Dreher

Douthat responds

Dreher responds

George Weigel at First Things

Paul Moses at Commonweal

UPDATE #6: E.D Kain at The League

Sullivan responds

Kain responds

UPDATE #7: More Sullivan here and here

E.D. Kain on Sullivan’s piece

Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal

UPDATE #8: Mary Gordon at Huffington Post

UPDATE #9: Sullivan again

UPDATE #10: Hitchens again

Douthat on Hitchens here and here

UPDATE #11: Joseph Bottum at First Things

Ross Douthat on Bottum

Rod Dreher on Bottum


Filed under Crime, Foreign Affairs, Religion

Times Select 2.0

Gabriel Sherman at New York Magazine:

New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. appears close to announcing that the paper will begin charging for access to its website, according to people familiar with internal deliberations. After a year of sometimes fraught debate inside the paper, the choice for some time has been between a Wall Street Journal-type pay wall and the metered system adopted by the Financial Times, in which readers can sample a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe. The Times seems to have settled on the metered system.

One personal friend of Sulzberger said a final decision could come within days, and a senior newsroom source agreed, adding that the plan could be announced in a matter of weeks. (Apple’s tablet computer is rumored to launch on January 27, and sources speculate that Sulzberger will strike a content partnership for the new device, which could dovetail with the paid strategy.) It will likely be months before the Times actually begins to charge for content, perhaps sometime this spring. Executive Editor Bill Keller declined to comment. Times spokesperson Diane McNulty said: “We’ll announce a decision when we believe that we have crafted the best possible business approach. No details till then.”

The Times has considered three types of pay strategies. One option was a more traditional pay wall along the lines of The Wall Street Journal, in which some parts of the site are free and some subscription-only. For example, editors and business-side executives discussed a premium version of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s DealBook section. Another option was the metered system. The third choice, an NPR-style membership model, was abandoned last fall, two sources explained. The thinking was that it would be too expensive and cumbersome to maintain because subscribers would have to receive privileges (think WNYC tote bags and travel mugs, access to Times events and seminars).

The Times has also decided against partnering with Journalism Online, the start-up run by Steve Brill and former Journal publisher L. Gordon Crovitz. It has rejected entreaties by News Corp. chief digital officer Jon Miller, who is leading Rupert Murdoch’s efforts to get rival publishers onboard to demand more favorable terms from Google and other web aggregators. This fall, Miller met with Times digital chief Martin Nisenholtz, but nothing came of the talks.

The decision to go paid is monumental for the Times, and culminates a yearlong debate that grew contentious, people close to the talks say. In favor of a paid model were Keller and managing editor Jill Abramson. Nisenholtz and former deputy managing editor Jon Landman, who was until recently in charge of nytimes.com, advocated for a free site.

Joe Windish at Moderate Voice:

I paid before. I’d pay again.

Pete Cashmore at Mashable:

The move is a gamble for the Times, which previously tried charging for content from columnists through TimesSelect — readership fell and the project was abandoned. With ad revenues not meeting costs, however, the Times is taking another shot at the paid model.

Ann Althouse:

For me, reading on line is tied to blogging. I’m not going to spend my time reading sites that I can’t blog, and I’m not going to blog and link to sites that you can’t read without paying. Currently, I link to the NYT a lot, perhaps several times a day. I don’t know how much of their traffic is sent their way from blogs, but it’s one more factor that will limit their readership. You’d think what a newspaper would want most is readers, both to influence and to sell to advertisers. I know they need to make money, but I wish advertising was the way. Once they close themselves off — as they did once before with the failure known as TimesSelect — they sacrifice readers and lose appeal for advertisers.

I know there is talk of “the metered system adopted by the Financial Times, in which readers can sample a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe.” If that means we can, without paying, see the front page and read a few articles (in their entirety) each day, then I might not object. That would allow me to read and feel free to blog.

Kevin Drum:

From a reading point of view, this is not a big deal to me. If I need to subscribe to the Times, I’ll subscribe to the Times. But from a blogging point of view, it’s a problem. An important part of the great Blogosphere Circle of Life™ is the ability for readers to click on links, both to get the full story for its own sake and to make sure bloggers are playing fair with their excerpts and commentary. If the Times cuts this off, it’s a big hit.

So it’s semi-good news that they’re planning to adopt the FT model, where casual readers can access a dozen or so articles per month without subscribing. At least that’s something. Alternatively, if they go with the WSJ model, I hope they provide some mechanism to provide short-term access for nonsubscribers. The Journal does this via email links, which provide public access to linked articles but expire after a week.

And of course, the big question: will it work? Will the Times gain more subscription revenue than they’ll lose in advertising revenue? I doubt it, though that depends a lot on whether the recent collapse in online advertising revenue is just a temporary result of the recession or a reflection of long-term trends.

And the second biggest question: will other newspapers follow their lead, thus bringing to an end the great era of endless free news on the internet? Or is the Times one of the few who can even arguably pull this off? Wait and see.

UPDATE: Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up

UPDATE #2: Michael Wolff

UPDATE #3: Derek Thompson at The Atlantic

Erick Schonfeld at Tech Crunch

UPDATE #4: Mickey Kaus and Robert Wright at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #5: Huffington Post


Filed under Mainstream, New Media

In Europe, The Female Politicians Have Sex Scandals. Does This Make Them Ahead Of Us Or Behind Us?

Esther Addley at The Guardian:

Mrs Robinson — MP for Strangford, member of the Northern Ireland assembly, alderman of Castlereagh borough council and wife of Northern Ireland’s first minister — was a frequent customer of William (Billy) McCambley’s butcher’s shop in Ballyhackamore, east Belfast. His young son Kirk would help out in the shop, and first got to know her in the late 1990s when he was still at primary school.

Kirk McCambley, now 21, told BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme on Thursday night: “I always seen [sic] her coming in and out. Just knew her from an early age, through the butcher’s and through my dad.”

He could not have failed to have known, even at that early age, who she was. With Peter Robinson’s ascension in 2008 to first minister, the couple have officially become the “first couple” of Ulster politics, but have held that role for decades in loyalist east Belfast, where he has been MP since 1979 and a leisure centre is named after him.

Though the DUP leader has a buttoned-up public image, his wife has always been a more colourful figure, exuberant in her manner and carefully coiffed and heavily made up.

But no one can have anticipated that this decidedly odd couple – the devout Mrs Robinson, at 59, was old enough to be the then 19-year-old McCambley’s grandmother – would have an affair .

The relationship developed after Billy McCambley died in early 2008 and Iris promised to look after his only son. “She made sure I was OK,” Kirk McCambley told the programme. “Obviously anyone who has ever lost a parent knows that it’s an incredibly hard time, and she was there to help.”

Selwyn Black, Mrs Robinson’s former political adviser who turned whistleblower for the BBC exposé, told the programme the couple would take evening walks around Belfast, with Mrs Robinson at first taking a maternal, advisory role. “As for Kirk he is the other son I would have loved to have been a mother to,” she texted Black — the Robinsons have two grown up sons and a daughter.

But it was not to remain a mother-son relationship; by mid-summer 2008 the couple were having an affair.

It is difficult to overstate the shock Mrs Robinson’s admission on Tuesday provoked in Northern Ireland. Both Peter and Iris Robinson are vocal evangelical Christians from a deeply religious and conservative unionist culture.

Mrs Robinson’s transgression was the more astonishing given the controversy generated last year when she described homosexuality as an abomination on a par with paedophilia that made her nauseous. As the BBC programme coyly noted, the passage in Leviticus that she quoted contains similar sentiments about adultery.

Andrew Sullivan:

When I went on Ulster television for “Virtually Normal” in 1995, it was the first ever broadcast acoss Northern Ireland dealing specifically with the homosexual question. They invited ten openly gay people to be in the studio audience, and only three had the balls to show up. And so it is not that surprising that a leading politician in Ulster would respond to a brutal gay-bashing by criticizing the attack but adding that she nonetheless believed that homosexuality was an “abomination” and made her feel “sick” and “nauseous”. She believed that sexual orientation could be cured by psychiatry. She argued that

“just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ, so can a homosexual…. If anyone takes issue, they’re taking issue with the word of God“.

She stated that homosexuality was worse than child abuse:

“There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children.”

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

The astonishing details of MP Iris Robinson’s affair with a 19-year-old – whom she had known since he was nine – have been laid bare today. Her lover, Kirk McCambley, now 21, owns a cafe in south Belfast and the visitors’ centre which houses the cafe was built by the council on which Mrs Robinson sits. The wife of the Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson helped Mr McCambley get started in business after first identifying a freshly developed council site on the banks of the river Lagan in south Belfast for his new venture and persuaded two local developers to stump up £50,000 in 2008 for catering equipment to kit out the cafe, Mr McCambley told the BBC. Astonishingly Mrs Robinson demanded a £5,000 kickback paid directly to her after her lover received the funding.

From the Mail.

Where there is Christianism, there is usually hypocrisy, corruption and abuse. From Haggard to Maciel, from the Vatican to the Swaggarts, from Rove to Limbaugh, the sheer gulf between their public moralism and their private failings is vast. That’s because they’re human; and they deserve compassion and understanding, the compassion and understanding they always, always deny to others.

Joe Windish at Moderate Voice

Dave Brockington:

Juxtapose these paragraphs from The Guardian article:

But no one can have anticipated that this decidedly odd couple – the devout Mrs Robinson, at 59, was old enough to be the then 19-year-old McCambley’s grandmother – would have an affair .

Mrs Robinson’s transgression was the more astonishing given the controversy generated last year when she described homosexuality as an abomination on a par with paedophilia that made her nauseous. As the BBC programme coyly noted, the passage in Leviticus that she quoted contains similar sentiments about adultery.

With this:

“And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.
Jesus loves you more than you will know.
Woah, woah, woah.
God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson.
Heaven holds a place for those who pray.
Hey hey hey, Hey hey hey.”

Pure gold.
It’s nearly enough to make me, of a (peaceful) nationalist bent, miss the days of Ian Paisley. Unfortunately, I’m no Paul Simon, and couldn’t get the following to somehow work:

“Where have you gone, Ian Paisley?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Dr. No has left and gone away.”

Joe My God:

Meanwhile Robinson’s young lover, now christened “Kirk Diggler” in reference to Mark Wahlberg’s horse-cocked character in Boogie Nights, has become an instant folk hero in the UK, becoming the subject of numerous Facebook fan pages, most of which were created to mock Robinson. British gay glossy Attitude Magazine is offering young Kirk the cover of their next issue, calling him “incredibly hot.” Additionally, a campaign is underway to make the 1968 Simon & Garfunkel classic, Mrs. Robinson, the #1 song on this week’s UK pop chart, aided by a radio request effort and an iTunes download promotion. Nobody beats the Brits when it comes to schadenfreude. Nobody.

Melissa Kite at The Telegraph:

The disgraced wife of Peter Robinson, the province’s First Minister, was unceremoniously dumped by the party her husband leads.

In a damning statement, a party official disclosed that she was preparing to stand down from public office and said the party had “no sympathy” for her.

Mrs Robinson has not been seen in public since news broke last week of her affair with Kirk McCambley, then 19, and her financial dealings with him.

Mr Robinson was also fighting for his political life over the scandal, which has sent shock waves through Northern Ireland. The couple are deeply religious and have always publicly professed their commitment to staunch protestant values, with Mrs Robinson denouncing homosexuals.

The DUP leader said on Saturday that his 60-year-old wife was too unwell to answer the mounting allegations levelled at her.

“I am not even in the position where I can question my wife about these issues,” he said. “Neither her solicitor or I would be confident about the responses we are getting to any questions.”

Mr Robinson had earlier admitted that his wife had attempted suicide after the affair.

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Filed under Foreign Affairs, LGBT

Huzzah! Bill Carter Gets To Write Another Book

James Poniewozik at Time:

If the reports are true—and it increasingly looks like it—that NBC is planning to send back Jay Leno to 11:30, it raises a lot of questions: Will Conan stay? What does NBC program in primetime? What about Carson Daly? For this post, I’ll stick to one: Why now?

What’s most surprising about the move—again if reports hold true—is that NBC apparently plans to make the change after the Olympics, in less than two months. (Though nothing is official, and it is still possible this doesn’t happen, on this timetable anyway.) Say what you want about the Leno move, at least the network gave itself nine months to get ready. Changing five solid hours of primetime plus its latenight lineup would be tough enough for a strong network, with high-performing shows to use as lead-ins. You may have noticed that NBC is not a strong network.

Dan Abramson at Huffington Post:

So what the F, NBC? What the EFF? Why must you make such poor decisions? Why? Giving Leno back the 11:30 spot is a big slap in the face to Leno, to Conan, and most of all to everyone who’s watched your network and stuck with you.

I can handle you slapping me in the face. You’ve done it before and you’ll do it again. I’ll keep telling FOX and CBS that I fell down the stairs.

But please, don’t slap Conan. He doesn’t deserve it. Remember, it was you who deConanified Conan. I’m not just talking about a lack of a masturbating bear. Why does his set look like a day time talk show? Did you borrow a reject powder blue back drop from “The Bonnie Hunt Show?” Nothing against Bonnie (she’s great as the 8th lead in “Jerry Maguire”), but Conan’s old show had such a loose feel, like a late night hang out. His new show feels like I’m meeting him for lunch and I’m checking my watch to see if I have to get back to work

And don’t slap Leno. I know he gives you a big target (chin joke! chin joke!), but lay off the guy. And just so you know, I have nothing against Leno. He may not be my cup of tea, but he seems like a quality guy, and you’re dicking him around. Look at that new haircut. It looks like he went to the barber and said “make me look cool,” but his barber just happened to be John Travolta.

NBC has given Conan O’Brien the option to either do his show from midnight to 1 or leave the network, sources tell TMZ.
As TMZ first reported, after the Olympics, Jay Leno will get his 11:30 PM time period back. We’re told network execs have told Conan they will let him decide if he wants the midnight to 1:00 AM time slot. If he does, Leno’s show will only be a half hour. If Conan walks, Leno will get a full hour, informed sources tell TMZ.

Our sources say Conan has not decided what he wants. We do know he’s pissed, because he was given no advanced warning this was coming. Conan’s people told NBC they are considering the offer. Translation: Mr. O’Brien — I have Rupert Murdoch on line one, Stephen McPherson on line two, John Landgraf on line three, Jeff Wachtel on line four …

We’re told if Conan gets another offer, even though NBC could block the move, they will let him go and give Leno the full hour.

Scott Harris at Inside TV:

While Leno is understandably miffed at being removed from ‘The Tonight Show’ while still atop the ratings only to become a network fall guy, it’s O’Brien that is now drawing the short end of the stick. Just five years ago he was considered such a hot property that the network was willing to turn over the reins of one of television’s longest running and most prestigious shows in order to retain his services. Now it appears as though that offer was just smoke and mirrors.

O’Brien’s efforts on ‘The Tonight Show’ have been hampered at every turn. Thanks to the network’s decision to replace their dramatic programming with the ‘Leno’ experiment, he never truly got a fresh start; not only was Leno still his lead-in, exactly as before, but Leno’s expanded presence at the network (including ubiquitous advertising campaigns that far surpassed promotion of O’Brien’s ‘Tonight Show) overshadowed his debut.

Erik Wemple at Washington City Paper:

Back in the glory years, when Leno was killing it as Tonight Show host, I would occasionally volunteer my affection for his show in mixed company. Yes, I enjoyed the monologue. Loved “Headlines” and guffawed at “Bizarre Christmas Gifts.” Here was a show, I’d argue, hosted by a good guy who lived for comedy. Great smile, great jokes, and onstage bonhomie—what more could you ask for?

A lot, if you trusted the opinions of my friends and colleagues. “Oh, vomit,” declared a colleague this past September as I got pumped about the debut of Leno’s 10 p.m. show on NBC.

Vomit indeed captures the intellectual tenor of the Leno v. Rest of the Comedy World debate. A long time ago, I was at a bar with some friends when the topic came up. Someone had remembered that I was a Leno fan and threw that notion-cum-bait into the conversation. Everyone pounced, lighting into me about Chris Rock or Conan or some other killer comic on cable.

By that point, I was used to having to defend this guy, and so I recited my litany. Leno spent ages on the comedy circuit and has the finest, most precise delivery out there. He recovers from a bomb with grace. He has a great rapport with Kev and other Tonight Show crew. He makes me laugh. Plus, it’s all a matter of taste.

And the fact that you have none, came the snark from the table.

And so it’s gone over the years. Each expression of Leno fandom prompts the same mystified rebuttals, with exclamation points landing after the following points: Jay’s not funny. He’s not a good interviewer. He recites the same, tired jokes over and over. He’s still telling Clinton sex jokes. He’s boring.

The Leno attacks, I’ve always figured, are to be expected in and around what I call the District’s gentrification plume—an area populated by what our company’s former CEO would call “urban explorers.” Smart people of refined tastes, urbanites, whatever.

Hence my theory that the hipster demographic hates Jay Leno. All the ingredients for a bad relationship are right on the shelf: Leno is a big, rich white guy who radiates establishment. He has way too many cars. And his brand of entertainment comes via a behemoth broadcast network, so there’s no process of discovery, no in-the-know cachet, to tapping into Leno.

Joe Windish at Moderate Voice:

Me, I shouldn’t talk. I’ve never succumbed to Leno’s seductions. I used to like Conan, but haven’t paid him much attention in the decade since. Still, if NBC rewards Leno’s colossal failure weeknights at 10 by moving him back to 11:30 — thereby kicking Conan back to after midnight — the move deserves to be greeted with a deafening roar.

UPDATE: Conan’s statement at NYT from, of course, Bill Carter

UPDATE #2: Well, here:

UPDATE #3: The Gawker late night wars site

Michelle Cottle at TNR

Ross Douthat

UPDATE #4: Jonathan V. Last in The Weekly Standard

UPDATE #5: Kim Masters at The Daily Beast


Filed under TV

She Is Leaving (We Gave Her Most Of Our Lives)

Brian Stelter and Bill Carter at NYT:

The media mogul Oprah Winfrey will end her daytime talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” in 2011 as she prepares to start a cable channel of her own.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Winfrey’s production company, Harpo, confirmed Thursday evening that Ms. Winfrey would make an announcement on her show on Friday. The plans were first reported by WABC, the ABC station in New York City.

“The sun will set on the Oprah show as its 25th season draws to a close on Sept. 9, 2011,” Tim Bennett, the president of Harpo, said in a message to affiliates.

After her broadcast talk show winds down, Ms. Winfrey will concentrate on her coming cable channel, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. OWN will have its premiere in January 2011, according to a person with knowledge of Ms. Winfrey’s decision who insisted on anonymity.

Joe Windish at Moderate Voice:

I’m not thinking this is the best time to be launching a conventional cable channel, but if anyone can do it, she can.

Jennifer Van Grove at Mashable:

As you may have heard, Oprah is scheduled to announce during tomorrow’s show that she will end her talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” in September 2011 to focus on her upcoming cable channel. The news came out earlier in the afternoon and it’s now spreading through Twitter at an astonishing rate.

Not only does Oprah now dominate Twitter’s trending topics across multiple terms, which is quite remarkable given the volume of New Moon noise, but Trendrr has alerted us to the fact that Oprah mentions, in just the first hour alone after the news broke, skyrocketed to more than 8,000 tweets.

Emily Miller at Politics Daily:

At the staff meeting, Winfrey said that all employees with three or more years at the company will be given another job at Harpo or a severance package, one employee told MSNBC.

The show is the highest-rated afternoon TV talk show and the cornerstone of the “Oprah” billion-dollar empire of TV shows, magazines, movies and radio.

Winfrey endorsed and campaigned for Barack Obama and has visited the Obamas in the White House twice earlier this year.

UPDATE: Michelle Cottle at TNR

Megan McArdle

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“I Don’t Care What You Write” Is The Quote Of The Day

Mark Mazzetti and James Risen in the NYT:

WASHINGTON — Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.

Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Four former Blackwater executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then the company’s president, had approved the bribes, and the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where Blackwater maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients.

Blackwater’s strategy of buying off the government officials, which would have been illegal under American law, created a deep rift inside the company, according to the former executives. They said that Cofer Black, who was then the company’s vice chairman and a former top C.I.A. and State Department official, learned of the plan from another Blackwater manager while he was in Baghdad discussing compensation for families of the shooting victims with United States Embassy officials.

Alarmed about the secret payments, Mr. Black cut short his talks and left Iraq. Soon after returning to the United States, he confronted Erik Prince, the company’s chairman and founder, who did not dispute that there was a bribery plan, according to a former Blackwater executive familiar with the meeting. Mr. Black resigned the following year.

Stacy DeLuke, a company spokeswoman, dismissed the allegations as “baseless” and said the company would not comment about former employees. Mr. Black did not respond to telephone calls and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Reached by phone, Mr. Jackson, who resigned as president of Blackwater early this year, criticized The New York Times and said, “I don’t care what you write.”

Jeremy Scahill at The Nation:

While the Times reports that it is unclear if the bribes were paid and if so to whom, this much is clear: Blackwater continued to operate in Iraq for a full two years after the Iraqis announced the company would be banned–a fact that has baffled and angered Iraqis. While the company eventually lost its large State Department security contract to a competitor in May 2009, Blackwater remains in Iraq on a $200 million aviation contract, which authorizes its men to be armed. That contract was recently extended by the Obama administration.

At present, Blackwater works in Afghanistan for the State Department, the CIA and the Defense Department. It continues to protect US officials there and guards visiting Congressional delegations. Rep. Jan Schakowsky told The Nation she was guarded by Blackwater on a recent trip to Afghanistan and that the company is involved with the security details of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke when they visit the country.

Not long after the Iraqi government announced in September 2007 that Blackwater would be banned, top Iraqi officials swiftly changed their tune about the company and began to publicly state that without Blackwater there would be a security crisis for US officials. After the incident, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki quickly found himself under heavy US pressure to back off his initial demands of expulsion and prosecution. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice immediately called the Iraqi prime minister to apologize, she made a point of emphasizing publicly that “we need protection for our diplomats.” A few days later, Tahseen Sheikhly, a representative of Maliki’s government, stated, “If we drive out this company immediately, there will be a security vacuum…That would cause a big imbalance in the security situation.” In a telling 180 degree turn, Maliki swiftly agreed to withhold judgment on Blackwater’s status, pending the conclusion of a “joint” US-Iraqi investigation. Ultimately five Blackwater operatives were indicted in a US court on federal manslaughter charges stemming from the Nisour Square shootings, while a sixth pled guilty.

Matthew DeLong at Washington Indpendent:

Of course, bribing foreign officials is against U.S. law. Blackwater (which changed its name to Xe earlier this year) has repeatedly found itself at the center of controversies, in addition to the massacre at Nisour Square. The most recent came to light in August, when The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill reported that two former employees alleged in sworn statements that Blackwater owner Erik Prince “may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company.”

Five Blackwater employees are awaiting trial, scheduled to begin next year in federal court, for manslaughter related to the Nisour Square shooting. In 2007, the Iraqi government revoked the contractor’s license to operate in the country. According to The Times, a company spokeswoman dismissed the payoff allegations as “baseless.”

Spencer Ackerman at Washington Indpendent:

Blackwater: so persecuted by the media! Don’t it turn your brown eyes blue?

Joe Windish at Moderate Voice:

In other Blackwater news, a settlement in a civil suit against the company, now known as Xe, brought by dozens of Iraqis, including the estates of victims allegedly killed by Blackwater employees, has apparently fallen apart.

Then there are the reports that Blackwater used child prostitutes in Iraq. And State Department efforts to cut ties with the company (in Iraq, ties continue in other parts of the world) have been unsuccessful.

All of this will be interesting to follow going forward.

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Hope Is A Thing With Feathers


Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch:

The AP has just released a statement declaring that Shepard Fairey, the artist being accused of copyright infringement for his iconic ‘Hope’ poster that became ubiquitous during the Obama campaign, has “admitted to the AP that he fabricated and attempted to destroy other evidence in an effort to bolster his fair use case and cover up his previous lies and omissions.”.

According to the statement, Fairey has also admitted to using a close-up of Presdient Obama that was taken by the AP as the model for his image, not a different photo that he claimed to use that also included George Clooney, which he later cropped. The statement also says that Fairey’s legal counsel “now admitted that Fairey tried to destroy documents that would have revealed which image he actually used” and that “he created fake documents as part of his effort to conceal which photo was the source image, including hard copy printouts of an altered version of the Clooney Photo and fake stencil patterns of the Hope and Progress posters.” Finally, the AP notes that Shepard Fairey’s lawyers are withdrawing from the case.

It’s worth pointing out that tonight’s release was issued by the AP, Fairey’s rival in this case — we’ll reach out to Fairey and be keeping an eye out for his response. Even if the claims are true, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that Fairey’s case is dead in the water, as he still has the fair use defense. He may not have taken George Clooney out of the photo, but he may well have transformed it when he painted the photograph and turned it into an icon. We’ll see what the court decides.

Also worth noting: who actually owns the photo to begin with is still being disputed. The photographer, Mannie Garcia, has asserted that he owns the image because he was serving as a temporary fill-in when it was taken, without signing a contract with the AP. For more details, see our post here. The AP has confirmed that ownership of the image is still disputed, claiming that it owns the copyright and that Garcia was indeed a salaried employee.

Update: Fairey has given us his own statement that confirms what the AP has said, though the case will continue as Fairey cites Fair Use as his defense.

Update: Fairey’s legal counsel has issued a release stating that they have not actually quit, but that they will do so “at the appropriate time”, and that their decision has nothing to do with “the underlying merits” of the case. Sounds like they still want to be championing Fair Use, but don’t want to be involved with Fairey any longer given his decision to destroy/fabricate evidence.

Simon Scowl at Deceiver:

If that’s the case, why did he feel the need to lie and cover his tracks? Force of habit?

To his credit, he does make a full apology and takes the blame for it. Now maybe he can issue a mea culpa to everybody who’s bought one of his dumb t-shirts with obscure and not-so-obscure propaganda he’s passed off as his own work.

Update: Sounds like his sinking ship is losing a few rats.

Joe Windish at Moderate Voice

David Adesnik at Moderate Voice:

I’m curious to know whether Obama will get a question about the portrait at his next press conference. He bears no responsibility for what happened, of course. Yet on a symbolic level, Fairey’s behavior represents an ironic indictment of the borderline personality cult embraced by so many of the President’s admirers.

We were told that Obama’s election would mark the beginning of a new era of (post)-politics, in which we would leave behind the selfishness, the pettiness and the deceptions of the past. As it turns out, the iconic image at the heart of this personality cult embodies everything we were supposed to transcend.

Which brings us to the Nobel Prize. Once again, Obama bears no responsibility for the strange decision to award him the Prize. To his credit, he stated that very clearly. Yet the premature Prize, like the HOPE portrait, is both a manifestation of the Obama personality cult and a demonstration of its emptiness.

But perhaps all of my carping is irrelevant. The burdens of office have already brought the President’s reputation down from the clouds. Yet as someone who spent seven months working full-time on the 2008 campaign (on the other side, of course), I have a hard time letting go of the contrast between the unbridled expectations of Obama’s fans and the reality that us critics warned them of.

Anthony Sacramone at Commentary:

Maybe we should cut the guy some slack. Seems he got caught up in a whirlwind of instant celebrity and didn’t want to come back down to earth — especially when the only thing standing between him and a soft landing was a gaggle of lawyers.

It should also be noted that the actual owner of the copyright remains in dispute. And Fairey remains adamant that, regardless of whose work he co-opted, the “fair use issue should be the same.”

Dan Riehl

Moe Lane at Redstate

Ann Althouse:

The copyright issue itself should remain the same, and it’s an important one indeed. It’s a damned shame that the banner for expansive fair use is being carried by someone who was dishonest and who tried to play the legal system. Why is he admitting his deception now? Presumably, he knew the manipulations would come to light one way or the other, and it was a strategic decision to reveal it this way.

Obviously, this is also an occasion to craft jokes analogizing the Fairey mess to what the subject of the poster is doing, with all the usual sarcasm over the word “hope.” Not that any of that mess is poor Obama’s fault.

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Page Your Office, Upton Sinclair

Domenica Marchetti at Politics Daily:

On Sunday, the New York Times ran a front-page, above-the-fold story about a 22-year-old dance instructor named Stephanie Smith who suffered severe E. coli poisoning in 2007 after eating a hamburger that her mother had grilled. According to the story, the food poisoning “ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed.” It’s unlikely that she will ever walk again


The Times reports that ground beef has been blamed for 16 E. coli outbreaks in the last three years alone. I still remember the one in 1994 that hit Jack in the Box restaurants, an outbreak in which four children died. Ever since then, meat companies and grocers have been banned from selling ground beef tainted by the potentially fatal strain of E. coli known as 0157:H7. I should hope so.

And yet, as the Times story makes painfully clear, our food safety system is far from perfect. The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts some 15,000 E. coli spot checks per year but acknowledges they are not meant to be comprehensive. And, according to the Times, “Many slaughterhouses and processors have voluntarily adopted testing regimes, yet they vary greatly in scope from plant to plant.” Often the cuts that go into mass-produced patties are those closest to the agent of contamination — cow feces.

It remains to be seen whether the Times story, which a friend described as “a searing indictment of Big Beef,” has any effect on food safety policy as it relates to public health.

Mark Kleiman:

Getting sick from bad hamburger meat isn’t an act of God.

It’s the product of choices by corporations and officials.

Big outfits that sell hamburger – Cargill, Wal-Mart – buy components from several suppliers; the stuff Cargill sells as ”American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties” actually consists of “a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mashlike product derived from scraps.”

The suppliers don’t want the stuff they sell tested for E. coli;  after all, if their meat turned out to be bad, the government could shut them down. Better not to know.   So the suppliers refuse to sell to customers who insist on testing the inputs.  (Tyson, for example, refuses to sell to Costco.)

Instead, the product is tested only after it’s blended, which generally means that the source of contamination can’t be determined.  Worse, doing it that way increases the risk that bad stuff will get through; the Times story starts with a woman who ate a burger, nearly died, and will never walk again.

Rod Dreher:

Read the whole Times series, and look at the documents it produces with the story. Please note that this is the kind of investigation that only newspapers or major news organizations can carry out — and that have the resources to protect themselves in court if big business or big government comes after them.

Reading this reminded me how much I’ve backslided in terms of eating factory-processed ground beef in recent months. I’m going back to eating my local farmer’s ground beef. Factory meat processing just isn’t worth it. My wife just told me about the time her younger brother at a fast-food chain’s burger, and got so sick he couldn’t stop vomiting, and became delusional. Her mother had to drag him out of the car and into the emergency room.

Todd Gitlin at TPM:

And who was it, conservatives, you expected to keep you safe? Do you really want the government’s hands out of your hamburger? Or is the paralyzed 22-year-old Stephanie Smith, a victim of E. coli passed down the food chain by Cargill in the guise of “”American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties,” which included slaughterhouse trimmings, a case of collateral damage in the War Against Regulation?

It’s worthwhile remembering, by the way, what a serious newspaper can do.

Chris Walters at The Consumerist

Joe Windish at Moderate Voice

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Filed under Food, Public Health

Wikipedia Sells Out To Big Encyclopedia


Michelle Meyers at Cnet:

Confirming a story reported Monday by The New York Times, Wikimedia Foundation spokesman Jay Walsh said the “flagged revisions” feature is already active on the German site, but needs some fleshing out before it goes live to the public on the English site.

The plan is to deploy the feature on a test wiki soon so the Wikipedia community can play around with before it goes public. The test wiki is expected to go live soon, but no specific time frame has been established, Walsh said.

The feature was debated earlier this year in the aftermath of a false entry that was posted by a user, saying Sens. Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd had died after an inaugural luncheon in January.

It’s intended to provide some additional “protection” and to “prevent vandals” from messing with living-person articles, Walsh said. Until approved by the volunteer editor, any changes to such articles will sit invisible to the public on Wikipedia’s servers.

This is a big job, Walsh added, and ultimately the community will decide whether to make it a permanent feature. It’s bound to be controversial for those who passionately believe in the site’s motto as “the free encyclopedia anyone can edit.”

John J. Miller at NRO:

Wikipedia is about to change the way it does business, making it harder to update information on living people. In the future, editors who belong to a special rank will have to approve changes to these entries. The site is responding to a genuine concern about accuracy. At the same time, this new rule will limit the effect of crowdsourcing, which has been Wikipedia’s greatest strength.

So how will this affect conservatives? Given O’Sullivan’s Laworganizations that are not actually right-wing will become left-wing over time — the answer is: probably not well.


The answer to the problem is obvious: More conservatives need to follow this person’s example and become Wikipedia editors. This would be a good project for the Media Research Center or a similar media watchdog group. Tracking the liberal statements of Chris Matthews remains useful, though less useful than it once was, given the diminished standing of the mainstream media. Making sure that Wikipedia has fair and balanced entries on everything from Jim DeMint to global warming may be more important.

Joel Achenbach:

Via the boodle, I see that Wikipedia is finally growing up, deciding that it is too important now to allow random people, nutjobs and axe-grinders to fiddle with what countless people now view as a standard reference.

James Joyner:

This will slow down the addition of breaking news — a death or some other hot item — to the site but otherwise likely won’t have much in the way of negative effects.  And, certainly, the ability to create mischief is greater for a public figure than, say, the entries on aardvarks or moon rocks.

Presumably, however, this will make it more difficult to add biographies of marginally famous people .  Some years back, for example, there was a hubbub over whether Megan McArdle was sufficiently noteworthy to merit an entry.     This will make Wikipedia more like a traditional encyclopedia, which is a mistake.  The Internet is essentially infinite, so there’s little reason to limit the scope of topics in the same way that the editors of a dead tree set do.  One of the beauties of the wiki model was that it allowed the development of a rich database of knowledge of interest to niche users.

kdawson at Slashdot

Dana Blankenhorn at ZDnet:

Wikipedia long had to rely on the nickels and dimes of contributors to keep the servers on and the bandwidth bills paid, but now those nickels and dimes are turning into serious change, and it is becoming a darling of the philanthropic establishment.

On its own the Foundation raised $6.2 million worth in 2008. (Full disclosure. I threw in a few of them. About $50 if I recall correctly.) Such early money is indeed like yeast. It lets the dough rise. So here is $300,000 from the Ford Foundation. And $500,000 from the Hewletts.

The influx of money and talent has allowed Wikimedia to get its head up out of the day-to-day and focus on the longer term. Plus, with 3,000,000 articles and counting (just in English) the absolute growth rate is slowing.

It’s not, as The New York Times snarked, that “as the site grows more influential, they must transform its embrace-the-chaos culture into something more mature and dependable.” It’s more like a couple that owns its house and has come into some money. Out with the garage sale cabinets, let’s make a serious Ikea run.

No one is making big money here. But some digital plumbers and electricians and framers and painters are getting some work, turning the resource into something that will stand the test of time.

The first bit of renovation will come on one of the most controversial and bug-ridden parts of the house, living people. The aim is to put a process together that can end the back-and-forth between friends and enemies on your Wikipedia page.

Or mine.

I had a personal run-in with a Wikibully. Someone who didn’t care for me tore my reputation on Wikipedia to shreds. I finally rewrote the whole thing to my own liking. Recently the whole article was taken down.

But here’s the good part.

All the official actions related to the page are, for the first time, transparent and identified as to who did what. This person took the page down first, this one restored it, this one took it down again. Processes are being built by which such decisions can be managed and defended. What was arbitrary is becoming arbited.

Sound And Fury:

The original free for all attitude where anyone can change articles – which is still the main boast of Wikipedia – has not been true since the Seigenthaler “scandal” in 2005. After John Seigenthaler was accused in a Wikipedia article of being directly involved in both the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy Wikipedia removed anonymous edits.

But the basic change occurring now is that the simple user cannot change articles (of now living people) which means that the balance of power in the creation of online information on Wikipedia shifts and gives the voluntary editor more power – even in relation to the knowledgeable writer.

Considering the past problems and the ways in which Wikipedia articles are often used for marketing and boastfulness these changes are probably necessary. But at the same time it is sad to see that the power over the online knowledge infrastructure is fundamentally shifting from the users into the hands of the gatekeepers

Joe Windish at Moderate Voice:

The thousands of volunteer Wikipedian editors take their responsibility seriously. Flagged revisions may or may not work. What’s best about it is that the Wikipedia editorial community will watch and wonder about and debate it. And if it should not succeed, they will try and try again.

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Good Computer… Nice Computer… Pretty Computer…


Will machines someday outsmart us?

New York Times

Jazz Shaw and Joe Windish at Moderate Voice.

Caleb Johnson at Switched:

No need to panic, though. Robots aren’t about to bust down your door and murder you in your sleep. However, these scientists do believe that, as A.I. more convincingly copies human behavior (e.g. a home service robot or a self-driving car), it could take more and more jobs from humans. There’s also concern that criminals could use A.I. for dirty deeds — for instance, stealing personal information from smartphones by using a speech synthesis system.

It’s nice to know there are some forward-thinking folks taking a close look at the progress of A.I. Knowing when to say “when” is always a good thing, even in science. After all, the world can’t always depend on Will Smith or Tom Cruise to save it.

Dan Smith at Popular Science:

Since robots can be created to do just about anything harder, better, faster, and stronger than a human, there might be reason to fear the worst, just in case. The end result of the conference was to try and set up a series of guidelines that would help shape future research in hopes of preventing the most dire predictions. Whether or not these guidelines will simply be a variation on Asimov’s Three Laws will be seen once the findings are published later this year. Let’s just hope it’s not too late.

Paul Wallis at Digital Journal

Matthew Yglesias

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:

We are used to advances in medical technology, such as cloning and stem cell research, colliding with issues of morality. But could robot technology pose the same sticky moral questions? I was in the middle of blogging a New York Times report about an association of computer scientists discussing the dangers of artificial intelligence and … my Internet browser just crashed, erasing half of this article! I kid you not!

So … hey, you know what I think about robots? I think they’re wonderful. Every last one. Bless our robots! Especially Mozilla Firefox. And as I return to the story about robots’ morality, I proceed with caution and promiscuous use of the Save button.

Ezra Klein (entire post):

It was obviously a bad idea for Derek Thompson to write a post on his computer wondering whether robots were evil. The Computer, after all, is the pretty clear predecessor of the robot, and it didn’t take any more kindly to Thompson’s provocations than you might imagine.

For now, though, it appears that our computer-robots are simply overly sensitive, not evil. Thompson’s computer crashed his post. That’s almost playful. A few months ago, I mused aloud that I sort of wanted my computer to fail because the new MacBook Pros looked so appealing. Within a week, my heartbroken — or simply overly helpful — notebook committed suicide by shorting its own hard drive.

Here we’ve all been worrying that robots would turn out to be villains, but for the moment, they just seem sort of melodramatic.

We suggest Derek Thompson try something like this:

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