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Mr. Brady,

Until recently, there was room for doubt. But in your recent panel, your answers to Hamsher filled in important pieces of the puzzle. It's now clear you're trying to get away with something.

The issue here is not how to define profanity or civility. The issue here is not whether you have the right to set rules for your blog. The issue here is not even whether Abramoff bought Democrats. The issue here is whether you're an honest man. The issue here is that your recent behavior appears to have patently political motivations.

I'd be very happy to see you prove otherwise, and in that event I'll promptly retract my accusation. The proof is in your hands: the 420 messages you're still withholding.

It's worth taking a close look at the facts, because it would be nice to know that WaPo's admirable steps into the world of blogging are being guided by integrity, and not by politics. This is an important matter that deserves careful examination.

You've been complaining far and wide about "offensive" messages. It's sufficiently clear that you're greatly exaggerating the frequency and intensity of these messages. A close look at the record demonstrates this. You didn't see anything the public didn't see, and there are numerous indications that the public didn't see what you claim existed. The sequence of events also seems to indicate that your intention was to hide everything, and to use a phony "offensiveness" alibi as an excuse. You got caught because you forgot the internet has a memory.

1) A REVIEW OF KEY EVENTS

On Sunday, 1/15, Deborah Howell said "[Abramoff] made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties." That's false. It's also practically a verbatim recitation of an RNC talking point regarding a matter of extreme importance: the biggest DC corruption scandal in at least a generation.

That same day, WaPo readers started posting messages on a WaPo blog. (That blog has this incongruously pastoral name: "Maryland Moment." That blog was apparently picked for lack of a better place to go.) The first such message was posted at 5:26 pm. This message pointed out Howell's error.

One would hope that this message might have been sufficient to prompt Howell to check her facts and promptly post a correction to her fact-challenged article. Oddly enough, she didn't do that. In fact, neither she nor anyone at WaPo made any public response of any kind.

By midnight on 1/15, at least 376 additional messages had been posted, registering similar complaints. In the next 24 hours, at least 212 more messages were posted.

By Tuesday morning, 1/17, at 7 am, at least 667 messages had been posted, in all. At 7:12 am, WaPo editor Hal Straus posted an announcement suggesting that the large message volume was overwhelming WaPo's blog software.

He also pointed out that out of the total of "more than 700 [comments received] so far ... a few comments -- about a dozen -- [had] failed to make a substantive point and were simply personal attacks on Howell and others." That happens to be an incivility rate of 1.7%.

By Thursday, 1/19, at 11:30 am, a total of at least 875 messages had been posted, and almost 4 days had elapsed from the time the first message had been posted. During that 90 hour interval, this is, as far as I can tell, the number of times any WaPo employee made any public statement acknowledging the existence of these messages: 3. I'm referring to the aforementioned announcement by Straus, which was courteous and informative, but obviously made no attempt to address the substance of the complaint. I'm also referring to two blog messages posted by Derek Willis, a Post reporter.

On 1/19 at 11:30 am, Howell posted a statement. She said, tepidly, that there may have been "a better way to have said it." No correction was posted to the original article, and, in the opinion of many readers, she simply replaced her original false statement with another statement that was highly questionable, at best.

There was not a word of explanation for why it took 875 messages, over a period of 90 hours, before she could be roused to deliver a response, as tepid as it was. There was not a word of apology for making a false statement. There was no explanation for why she was failing to post a correction on the page containing the error. There was not a word of appreciation to readers who cared sufficiently to speak up. Instead, she simply characterized her readers as "angry."

I should note that when Howell joined WaPo 3 months ago, as ombudsman, this is the second sentence she wrote: "I have two goals in this job: to foster good journalism and to increase understanding between The Post and its readers."

I think the error Howell made on 1/15 is not "good journalism." I also think that ignoring 875 messages, over a period of 90 hours, and then dismissively describing them as "angry," is not a good way "to increase understanding between The Post and its readers."

She also said: "my mission ... is ... to deal with the needs of readers. I want to create a dialogue with readers ... Readers, you can help this dialogue by not only calling or e-mailing with complaints, but also by letting me know when ... there's something you don't understand about a story or a news judgment. The chasm that separates readers and journalists can often be a deep one, and I would like to help bridge that gap ... Mistakes should be acknowledged and quickly corrected ... Journalists should think of readers as their friends. Because if we're not in this business to inform and help readers, we're not doing our jobs."

In other words, when readers did what Howell had invited them to do, she first ignored them and then condescended to them.

Between 11:30 am and 3:55 pm, at least 202 more messages were posted, mostly attached to the new blog article ("Deborah Howell Responds").

At 4:22 pm, you (Brady) posted a statement indicating that you had "shut off comments." You said that "a significant number of folks" had engaged in "personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech." You said "there are things that we said we would not allow." You said "a significant number of folks" were refusing to "follow any of those relatively simple rules." A little later you said there was "a significant amount of people who refuse to abide by the rules we set out."

This might be a good time to mention that I cannot easily find a policy statement on your site. (I did eventually find something resembling a policy statement, but it was much harder to find than it should have been. I would link to it here, except that it's not only hard to find; it's hard to link to, which I think is related to the fact that it's embedded in a frame.) In other words, what you said was essentially this: "it's all your fault because you broke the rules, and when I get around to it, I'll let you know where I hid them."

This would also be a good time to point out the number of times you or Howell posted messages on your blog in an attempt to engage or guide your readers: zero. As far as I know, out of a total of 1,080 messages posted (that count of course excludes the hundreds of messages you deleted), there are exactly two messages posted by a WaPo employee (reporter Derek Willis). This is peculiar, especially since Howell invited readers to have a "dialogue" with her.

You also said "it's a disappointment to us that we have not been able to maintain a civil conversation," which is odd considering that you didn't lift a finger to be a part of the "conversation," or, while the "conversation" was underway, to deign to point out an example of something you thought wasn't "civil." Your phrase "maintain a civil conversation" conveys the impression that you made any attempt to be a part of the conversation. You didn't. This is one of many examples of why it's unwise to take your words at face value.

This would be a good time to point out that you said you "shut off comments." This tends to create the impression that you merely removed the ability to post new comments. But you went much further than that. You hid all the comments that had already been posted. This is one of many examples of why it is unwise to take your words at face value. By the way, on many other occasions you made the same sort of statement (e.g., "we decided to close commenting"), which tends to gloss over the important fact that you went much further than that.

On Friday, 1/20, at noon, you posted a transcript of an online chat. You repeated your charge of "personal attacks, profanity and hate speech."

This might be a good time to deal with those three charges. "Hate speech" has a specific meaning. There is no evidence anyone attempted to post hate speech to your blog. If you have proof of this, you should show it. If you don't, you should apologize to your readers and withdraw the libelous charge.

Your charge of "profanity" is hollow. There are still multiple easily-found instances of profanity among the 1,080 messages you reposted. You've had ample opportunity to find these instances and remove them. You haven't done so. Therefore a reasonable person is not inclined to believe that you're truly concerned about profanity.

As far as "personal attacks," that's a slippery term. Many messages used terms like "hack" and "liar." You're obviously free to decide that those terms represent an unacceptable personal attack. Trouble is, you reposted many messages that use those terms. You also deleted many messages which did nothing worse than using those terms. In other words, aside from applying rules that you keep well-hidden, it's also obvious that you're applying those rules in a highly inconsistent manner.

You and Howell both give frequent lip service to "transparency." To the extent that you use hidden rules and apply them inconsistently, you're about as transparent as the Kremlin.

It was apparently during this online chat (or perhaps shortly before the chat) that you were notified of the existence of one or more archives of your blog, in the hands of third-parties (a reader said "comments in question ... were saved by someone [outside WaPo] before they were removed [by WaPo]"). It was also during this chat that you made this promise: "over the next few days, we'll go back through them and restore the ones that did not violate our rules."

I think it's important to notice that you said nothing like this on Thursday, when you hid 100% of the messages that had already been accepted and posted. On Thursday at 4:22 pm, you simply said "we have shut off comments on this blog indefinitely." Of course you did more than simply turning off the ability to post new comments (which is what your words suggest): you hid 100% of what had already been posted. And, significantly, you didn't drop even a slight hint that you had any intention whatsover of ever restoring a single one of those comments.

A reasonable person paying attention to your actions (and not just your misleading statements which purport to describe those actions) reaches the following conclusion: you took down over 1,000 messages not because of profanity, but because of politics. And you intended to use false claims of offensiveness as an excuse to keep all those messages hidden. Then you were informed that the internet has a memory, and you wouldn't be able to get away with doing what you intended to do. It was only after you realized this that you stated your intention to "restore the ones that did not violate our rules."

Then instead of fullfilling your promise, and restoring all non-offensive messages, you proceeded to selectively restore messages based on politics. I think your reasoning went something like this: "it's a shame that I can't get away with keeping them all hidden, but I might as well take this opportunity to purge some that I find particularly inconvenient; no one will notice." But I did notice. And I know that you noticed that I noticed, because you said so ("I saw that 'analysis' "). And I think this is why you made no announcement when you restored the second, much larger batch, and I think this is why you took this step in the dead of night, on a weekend. But I noticed that, too.

But I digress. Back to Friday.

Later Friday, at 6:32 pm, editor Liz Kelly made this announcement: "Some previously posted comments have been returned to post.blog. Specifically, all comments that meet washingtonpost.com's standards for community interaction have been returned to the post 'Deborah Howell Responds.' "

Later Friday, at 11:10 pm, I posted an analysis reviewing the 42 messages that did not "meet washingtonpost.com's standards for community interaction." Number of instances of "hate speech" in these 42 messages: zero. Number of instances of profanity: 3 (and these are minor profanities identical to those that are easily found, at this moment, in messages you chose to repost). Personal attacks are another story. Is calling someone a hack and a liar a personal attack? Maybe so. But those words, in various forms, are used hundreds of times in messages you chose to restore. So you're being highly inconsistent, at best.

Anyway, here's an example of a message that failed to "meet washingtonpost.com's standards for community interaction:"


Ms. Howell, I look forward to the Washington Post printing a pie chart of this spreadsheet:
http://americablog.blogspot.com/...

When one sees $172,933 contributed to Republicans and $0 contributed to Democrats, one can reasonably conclude "the remark in my column Sunday that lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to both parties" requires a full retraction.

As an ombudsman, does your job not entail representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints reported by individual citizens?

Please read the comments above and the comments to follow with the interests of the Washington Post's readship in mind.

Posted by: bartkid | Jan 19, 2006 1:42:10 PM | Permalink

You have failed to explain why this message, and many others like it, fail to "meet washingtonpost.com's standards for community interaction." And this would a good time to point out, again, that you keep your "standards for community interaction" well-hidden. You should explain why this message was deleted, or you should repost it, and apologize for deleting it. Likewise for many other messages.

This would be a good time to point out that you're failing to put your money where your mouth is. As I've mentioned, you admitted that you saw my analysis. You also said this: "As for the ones that you say were removed that did not violate any of our rules, I'd need to read them. If indeed there are some that fit that category we can put them back up."

You'd "need to read them?" You've had multiple opportunities to "read them." You certainly had an opportunity to "read them" when you read my analysis. So what's stopping you? You said "we can put them back up." We know you "can" put them back up. The question is, why haven't you?

You should explain why this message was deleted, or you should repost it, and apologize for deleting it. Likewise for many other messages. And, in the interest of "transparency," you should announce when you do so, so I don't have to spend my days burdening your server with refresh commands, in order to gather text which I then subject to various forms of computerized analysis.

You also said this: "to pull out a handful of examples and try and turn that into a huge conspiracy is a bit of a stretch."

Uh, you're the one who's pulling out "a handful of examples" and using it as the basis for sweeping accusations. Actually, you're not even bothering with examples. You're making accusations and not backing them up with as much as a single example. You've repeatedly charged your readers with "hate speech." Number of examples you've shown: zero. As far as profanity, many of the messages you deleted are 100% non-profane. As far as "personal attacks," I think you have to decide if words like "liar" and "hack" are off-limits. If they are, you need to delete several hundred more messages which at the moment are hosted on your site. At least be consistent, in other words.

On Saturday, 1/21, WaPo admitted that Howell's original statement was "incorrect."

On Sunday, 1/22, sometime early in the morning, WaPo restored about 948 posts on the Maryland Moment blog. Oddly, this was done in the dead of night, on a weekend, with no announcement. When a much smaller batch of messages was restored Friday afternoon, you saw fit to make an announcement. Why you made no announcement when restoring the much larger batch is a complete mystery. For this reason and others, I don't believe you when you claim you value "transaparency."

Also on Sunday, Howell published an article called "The Firestorm Over My Column." Presumably this would have been some kind of a response to the 1,500 blog posts that had been submitted. Oddly enough, she said nothing about blog posts. She began by saying this: "nothing in my 50-year career prepared me for the thousands of flaming e-mails I got last week over my last column, e-mails so abusive and many so obscene that part of The Post's Web site was shut down." (Emphasis added.)

Was "part of The Post's Web site ... shut down" because of "thousands of flaming e-mails?" I thought it was blog posts, not emails, that led to some kind of "shut down." Anyway, there were supposedly 1,500 blog posts, which is not exactly "thousands." Is it possible that Howell doesn't understand the difference between a blog post and an email? Is it possible that she's really that confused? Or is she deliberately trying to confuse the rest of us, by using the existence of perhaps genuinely offensive emails as an excuse to get rid of 1,500 mostly inoffensive blog posts? This sort of confused and/or confusing statement on Howell's part is another reason why I don't take her seriously when she claims to care about transparency.

Judging from these two recent columns by Howell, I'm inclined to conclude she's not capable of writing a column that is neither incorrect nor confusing.

On Monday, 1/23 I posted an analysis of the 948 posts you had restored early Sunday. Just as in my earlier analysis, I found that you had deleted messages based on politics, not profanity. Here's an example of a message you chose to delete:


well, its now three hours and counting since Willis claimed that "Abramoff did direct donations to Democratic candidates and committees. Our reporters have documents showing this to be the case" and also claimed that he was going to get those documents posted...

but instead of posting these "explosive" documents, the Post deletes Willis's claim....

Posted by: paul lukasiak | Jan 17, 2006 11:29:24 AM | Permalink

I've read that message over and over again, looking for signs of "personal attacks, profanity and hate speech," but I can find none. Maybe you can tell me where to look.

On Wednesday, 1/25, I noticed that you were deleting messages from Maryland Moment. Let's be clear: these were messages which you allowed to be posted originally, but which you then hid when you hid everything, and which you then reposted Sunday morning when you restored Maryland Moment, but which you then decided to delete again, selectively. Follow all that? In other words, you appoved of these messages before you disapproved of them before you re-approved them before you re-disapproved them. Follow all that?

When you mysteriously repost messages, and then just as mysteriously delete some of them, all in the absence of any kind of announcement, this doesn't enhance your reputation for "transparency."

And just as with earlier batches of messages you had deleted, these messages contain no "hate speech." They contain little or no profanity. Is "poophead" worse than anything you ever heard in a locker-room, in your years as a sportswriter? Is it worse than anything that Deborah "Adios Mother Fucker" Howell ever heard? I don't think so. I also notice that Howell didn't mind printing the word "whore" in her column, to make a point, which suggests that WaPo doesn't consider that word to be profane.

Also on Wednesday, you joined a panel discussing this matter. The panel included this very informative exchange: "Hamsher: Are you saying that these messages, which you are saying you pulled, never appeared on the blog? Jim Brady: Not at all. They were there and we removed them." (Emphasis added.)

Your answer gives us enough information to conclude that your explanations do not add up. In particular, your answer shows that you've been misleading us when you made claims such as this: "there's no way for you to see what we blocked." I will explain.

2) THERE ARE DELETIONS, AND THEN THERE ARE DELETIONS

Let's start by defining some simple terms. I use the following terms interchangeably: message, post, comment. These all mean the same thing: entries sent to your blog by readers. They are not to be confused with emails. An email is not a blog post. This is a very simply distinction that everyone understands. (Everyone, that is, with the possible exception of Deborah Howell, as I've pointed out.) Another important term is blog "article." This is something written by you, the host of the blog (or by one of your colleagues). Then readers post messages responding to the article you wrote.

A lot of unnecessary confusion can be swept away if we start by understanding that you deleted messages primarily under two very different scenarios.

A) You deleted messages in realtime, online, while the blog was open, live and active, and new messages were continuously being posted.

B) You also deleted messages during a period when comments for these blog articles were closed, dark, and inactive. In other words, there came a time when you shut down certain blog articles. This means that for those  blog articles you hid all messages. Then you spent one or more days deleting various messages. Then you restored the messages that were left, meaning you made these messages visible again.

(We could also discuss a third scenario, C, which followed A and B. In C, the blog was open in the sense that existing messages were visible, but the blog was closed, in the sense that you had turned off the ability to post new messages. Scenario C doesn't warrant much detailed discussion here, because the implications of scenario C are easily understood, once we understand the implications of scenario A and B.)

It needs to be understood that A and B are very, very different. The mechanics of B are simpler and easier to understand. But there's a lot of confusion with regard to the mechanics of A (thanks, to a great extent, to confusing statements you've made). That confusion is unnecessary and it needs to be dealt with, so what I'll do next is explain A in detail.

A) You deleted messages in realtime, online, while the blog was open, live and active. This means a user wrote a message and pressed the submit button. The message traveled to your host computer. The message was then checked automatically by a very rudimentary software filter. I think this filter only rejected messages that contained certain words, such as "fuck" and "cunt." Those words are remarkably absent from the 100,000 words I closely analyzed. Certain other common swear words, such as "shit," "piss," and  "cock," were, just as remarkably, not rejected by your software filter (or by your human moderators, for that matter), and are still visible on your blog. This is one of many examples of how WaPo, an institution that ostensibly is very sensitive to profanity, was woefully unprepared to deal with the simple reality that humans use profanity.

The software filter did its work in the blink of an eye. Then, assuming the filter approved the message, the message would then appear, instantly, on your blog. Once the message appeared on your blog, it was then visible not just to you and your WaPo colleagues, but it was also immediately visible to any visitor to your blog.

This is a very important point, so I'll restate it. Any message you saw, and read, and deleted, based on offensive content (or for any other reason), had become visible to the world at the exact same instant that it became visible to you, and remained visible to the world until you took the step of deleting it. (What was important about the recent panel is that thanks to Hamsher's questions, you were finally forced to make this clear. In other words, you filled in an important piece of the puzzle, despite yourself.)

Actually, it was visible to the world longer than that (i.e., visible to the world, under certain conditions, even after you deleted it): any user who saw such a message on your web page would be able to read it, stare at it, admire it, be offended by it, and cogitate over it for as long as they liked (minutes, hours or days), even if you deleted it from your blog seconds after it first appeared. That's because your web page, like most, does not have an automatic refresh feature (and there's no reason why it should). That means that if I navigate to your page, what will fill my window is the status of the page as of a certain instant. That exact information will remain on my screen as long as I like (minutes, hours, or days) until I close the window, or until I use a command that has the effect of refreshing or replacing the contents of the window.

In fact, the contents of the window can remain on my computer indefinitely, because it's a simple matter to save the contents of any web page. (It seems you either didn't know this fact, forgot this fact, or ignored this fact, when on 1/19 you hid 100% of the messages, and made no hint, at that time, that you ever intended to restore a single one.)

So let's be very clear about what's happened so far. In what was probably the vast majority of cases (i.e., cases where a reader managed to express how they feel about you et al without resorting to the words "fuck" or "cunt"), a software filter checked and approved the message, in the blink of an eye. This took place after the user pressed the "submit" button, and before the message appeared on your blog, visible to the world. For all practical purposes, this process was instantaneous. The typical user had the experience of pressing the submit button, and then seeing their message appear instantly. This is a big part of the appeal of posting to a blog: instant results.

I think that's all that needs to be said about the software filter. It didn't do much, for better or worse. It kept out messages containing certain words. That's it. It didn't slow things down. No one is complaining about the messages rejected by the software filter. I wouldn't refer to those messages as being "deleted." I would refer to them as being "blocked." (Part of how you have created confusion is by using the word "blocked" when it would have been clearer to use the word "deleted." And I think my analysis shows that you were being deliberately misleading. You said "there's no way for you to see what we blocked." For what was truly "blocked," by the software filter, that's true. But for what you deleted, it's not true, as I am in the process of explaining.)

The interesting part, where there are issues and complaints, is with regard to messages that were approved by the software filter. Any message approved by the software filter immediately became visible not just to you, but also to the world, and at the exact same instant that it became visible to you. In the moments after a new message was approved by the software filter, anyone loading the page (i.e., you or anyone in the world) would then see that message.

In some number of cases, you read the message and decided you found it unacceptable, and you then deleted the message. But even though you deleted the message, the message would still appear on the screen of any user who had loaded the page before you deleted the message (that is, a user who had loaded the page after the software filter approved the message, but before you deleted the message).

That interval is important (let's call it the "period of public display;" we can also refer to it as the public "lifespan" of an offensive message). Let's be extremely clear about how we define that interval. When does the interval begin? It begins as soon as the software filter approves the message. Remember that all the following things happen almost simultaneously: the user presses the submit button, the software filter approves the message, and the message becomes visible to anyone loading that page, which means you, or anyone in the world.

When does the interval end? The interval ends when you delete the message.

How long was this interval, typically? This is an interesting and important question. Let's figure out the answer.

3) LUCILLE BALL IN THE CANDY FACTORY (movie clip)

That 35 second clip (only 500kb) really does tell the story, so I highly recommend you take a look at it.

You've told us over and over again that highly offensive messages were arriving at such a rapid rate that you just coudn't keep up with the deluge. In other words, they were arriving faster than you could delete them. This gives us helpful information with regard to the important question I just raised: what was the average "period of public display," or lifespan, of a typical "offensive" message?

For context, first let's back up a step and  consider what you've told us about the frequency of "offensive" messages, as a proportion of all messages. Currently posted are 1,080 messages (visible here and here). On 1/21, WaPo reported that "more than 1,500 postings" had been received. Therefore I assume 1,500 messages, in all, were submitted (and passed the software-filter hurdle), and 420 (28%) of these were deemed "offensive" and were deleted. I'm going to make an educated guess that you deleted about 120 under scenario B, and the rest (300, or 20%) under scenario A.

That 300 is probably conservative. You have said: "on Thursday, she put a clarification up, and we had already been getting hundreds and hundreds of comments about her column, and they were very, very nasty, using words that I didn't even know existed." This suggests that "by Thursday" you had already deleted "hundreds and hundreds" of comments.

Now let's consider one period of time, that was presumably fairly typical. Let's look at the thread "Deborah Howell Responds," and let's look at the 60-minute period that begins at 2:52:49. The first message posted after 2:52:49 was posted at 2:52:57. (This essentially means we're looking at the last hour of the thread, with the exception of the last two messages. I'm in a position to analyze this exact hour because an archive is available which was captured between 3:52:49 and 3:54:50. That former time is the timestamp on the last message included in the archive. That latter time is the timestamp on the next message, which can be found at post.com, but is not found in the archive. Therefore I'm in a position to know, within a range of about two minutes, exactly when the archive-snapshot was taken.)

For this period, you are currently displaying 38 messages. Given the ratios you've suggested, this tells us that during this hour, a total of about 48 messages were submitted, and about 10 of these 48 (i.e., 20%) you deemed offensive, and deleted, ostensibly soon after they were posted. This means that messages were being posted at a rate of one every 76 seconds. This also means that "offensive" messages were being posted at a rate of one every 6 minutes.

Let's assume an "offensive" message was posted at 3 pm, and became immediately visible to you and the world at that instant. How long did it take before you deleted it? In other words, how long was the lifespan of this message? Well, you've told us you couldn't keep up. You've told us they were coming in faster than you could delete them (like Lucy trying to keep up with the candy). Well, we know that they were coming in a rate of roughly one every 6 minutes (at least during a typical high-traffic period, such as the period we're currently analyzing). Since they were coming in faster than you could delete them, and since they were coming in at a rate of one every 6 minutes, this tells us what we want to know: how long it took you, typically, to notice an offensive message and delete it: about 6 minutes. In other words, we know that the period of public display (at least during a typical hour such as this one) was 6 minutes.

One more time, since this is very important. Offensive messages were arriving at a rate of one every 6 minutes. You said you couldn't keep up. This means that before you had a chance to delete the first offensive message, the next one would arrive, and so on.

If you were just barely keeping up, that means the first offensive message would arrive, you would spend about 6 minutes evaluating it (along with the other messages that were arriving during that time), and then finally at the end of the 6-minute period you would delete the "offensive" message. And this was exactly when the next offensive message would arrive. And so on.

If it was taking you less than 6 minutes to notice, evaluate and delete a particular "offensive" message, then there would no reason for you to claim you couldn't keep up. If the typical lifespan of an offensive message was less then 6 minutes, that means that you were keeping up just fine.

Let's consider what this means from the perspective of someone visiting your blog as a reader (e.g., someone like Malkin or Ververs, who both claimed they saw nothing terrible). A reader is likely to first focus on the most recent messages. What would they see if they focused on the 5 most recent messages? Roughly 100% of the time, they would see 4 benign messages, and one "offensive" message (since you claim the offensiveness rate was 20%). Yes, if they looked at older messages, they would presumably see no "offensive" messages. You had already deleted those. But looking at the newest messages, one "offensive" message would be visible, roughly 100% of the time (assuming that you were "just keeping up" with the flow of new "offensive" messages).

Now let's consider some slightly different assumptions. Maybe it's unfair for me to conclude that the typical lifespan of an offensive message was 6 minutes. After all, you needed to evaluate not just "offensive" messages, but all messages (however, I would argue that most of the messages were clearly benign and could be very quickly evaluated as benign; an "offensive" message might require longer consideration). Given that messages were arriving at a rate of about one per minute this means that if you were "just keeping up," you were devoting about one minute to evaluating each message. This would suggest that an offensive message would have a lifespan of one minute.

Let's consider other possibilities, for what could be the possible minimum lifespan of an "offensive" message. I do know that it's some interval greater than zero seconds. I know it has to be enough time for your human moderator to read it and evaluate it. A typical adult reading speed is 250-300 words per minute (proofreading is slower, and reading on a monitor is slower; I am going to use 200 wpm for my calculations; I think it's reasonable, and it leads to round numbers that are much easier to follow). A typical message, in this relevant universe of messages, is about 100 words. In other words, it would take your human moderator about 30 seconds to read a typical message. Therefore, I assume that the typical lifespan of an "offensive" message was at least 30 seconds.

Let's consider what that means. An offensive message appears. It has a lifespan ("period of public display") of 30 seconds (at least). 5 1/2 minutes after you delete "offensive" message number one, "offensive" message number two appears, and it, in turn, has a lifespan of 30 seconds. This means that a snapshot taken at any given moment, focusing attention on roughly the five most recent messages, has about an 8% chance of capturing an "offensive" message, during its 30-second lifespan (because 30 seconds is 8% of 6 minutes; in other words, even if you kill every offensive message when it reaches the age of 30 seconds, there will still be an offensive message visible about 8% of the time).

If a reader shows up about 10 or 20 times (in other words, if 10 or 20 snapshots are taken, as a window is reopened or refreshed; these are called "pageviews"), then there is a probability approaching 100% that this reader will have the experience of seeing at least one "offensive" message (this is making the generous assumption that you were able to delete an offensive message very quickly, i.e., 30 seconds after it was born; I think it's much more likely that "offensive" messages had a lifespan of 5 minutes or more, possibly much more). (Update: See excellent comment here, by Jerome a Paris, explaining that 20 visits would provide an 80% chance, not a 100% chance.)

This analysis focuses mostly on an example of a high-traffic period, but this is reasonable. That's exactly when many eyes were watching, including eyes that would be likely to notice, capture and remember any messages that were highly offensive, even if they had a short lifespan.

In other words, so much for "you couldn't see them." Wrong. We could see them, and there is an extremely high likelihood that many, many people would have seen them, if they existed. Did we see them? No, because, for the most part, they never existed, outside of your imagination.

4) WHERE'S THE BEEF?

Let's review the numerous indications that these ostensibly "offensive" messages never were visible to anyone, except to you, in your imagination. Archives here, here, here, here and here all capture snapshots of your blog at various moments. Now, you are absolutely correct in pointing out that such an archive should not be expected to show an offensiveness rate of 20% (even if it was true that 20% of the messages posted were "offensive"). Here's why. Assuming you were keeping up with the arrival of new "offensive" messages, then most of the "offensive" messages recently posted would already have been deleted, and therefore not visible in the snapshot. You're correct to point that out.

However, thanks to your recent admission that messages were deleted only after they appeared publicly, we know that 100% of these "hundreds and hundreds" of "offensive" messages were all displayed to the public, at least briefly. That is, we know that 100% of these "hundreds and hundreds" of "offensive" messages had a public lifespan that was greater than 0 seconds. Further, we're pretty damn sure that 100% of these "hundreds and hundreds" of "offensive" messages had a public lifespan of 30 seconds or more.

Therefore, just as any human observer, at any given moment, would have a very substantial likelihood of seeing at least one "offensive" message that had been posted very recently, the same is true for these archives. Therefore, when we evaluate these archives, for this particular purpose, we want to pay close attention to the newest messages. This is exactly what an ordinary observer would do if they were looking at the blog "live." And how many "offensive" messages do we see? Zero. Given that we have 5 observations, and given an assumed lifespan of at least 30 seconds, and given an overall offensiveness rate of 20%, it's quite significant that the newest messages in the captured archives contain no "offensive" messages.

5) SCENARIO A, IN A NUTSHELL

If there were indeed anywhere near as many "offensive" messages as you claim, a substantial number of them would have been publicly seen, noticed, remembered, captured, circulated and discussed. That didn't happen, because the messages didn't exist.

Note that while hundreds of people posted messages, it's almost certain that thousands of people were reading messages. And almost certainly at least a few of those readers were people (like Malkin) who were not sympathetic to the posters. Let's face it: there had to be more than a trivial number of observers who were gleefully watching for signs of "hate speech." You're claiming that one out of every five messages was highly offensive. Thanks to your candid recent admission, we now know that 100% of these "offensive" messages were visible to the entire world, for at least 30 seconds at a time (and probably for much longer than that). Let's face it: if such a message had appeared, even once, it would have been all over Free Republic and Little Green Footballs faster than you can say everyone-knows-that-libruls-are-a-grubby-mass-of-swamp-dwelling,-bottom-feeding-miscreants. That hasn't happened. Why not? Because these messages, for the most part, appear nowhere outside of your imagination.

6) OH YES, WHAT ABOUT THOSE OTHER KINDS OF DELETIONS?

Most of the above discussion is about deletions you performed while the blog was live, i.e., what I called scenario A. Let's also consider scenario B: deletions you performed after you hid everything.

You have tried to dismiss the importance of the various cached archives. I've explained why these archives give us important information with regard to scenario A (those archives embody five snapshots that would be expected to show at least one or two "offensive" messages among the most recent posts). It's even easier to understand why they give us important information with regard to scenario B.

In scenario B, you weren't in such a big hurry. You had pulled the plug on new entries, and you had hidden all previous entries. You had stopped the clock. You could take your time. So during this period when all messages were hidden, what did you do? You deleted a number of messages. Were you carefully identifying profanity? Absolutely not. I mentioned above that you ignored multiple instances of profanity, even though you had multiple opportunities to screen that profanity.

By the way, finding "shit" isn't rocket science. Your browser has a find command. It works. The fact that you have reposted multiple profanities, after multiple opportunities to screen profanities, tends to create the impression that your complaints about profanity are a crock of shit. My impression is that your concern is politics, not profanity.

So what do the various archives tell us about scenario B? They tell us that while the blog was dark, it appears that your primary focus was not expunging profanity. It appears that your primary focus was expunging certain political speech that you found particularly inconvenient. You knew you could no longer get away with achieving your original objective, which was to dispose of 100% of these 1,500 politically embarrassing posts. But you figured you might as well try to get rid of some of them, and you figured no one would notice, or be able to prove it. You figured wrong.

7) EITHER YOU WERE ABLE TO KEEP UP OR NOT. WHICH WAS IT?

There are many examples of your statements being inconsistent, on a variety of aspects, including this one.

When it's convenient for you to suggest that you were able to successfully keep up with the flow of newly-posted "offensive" messages, you do so. When it's convenient for you to suggest that you were unable to successfully keep up with the flow of newly-posted "offensive messages," you do so.

You took the former stance when asked why a saved archive, in third-party hands, revealed no offensive speech. You said this: "You were reading the ones that were posted live. There were a few hundred others that were removed the site altogether, and those would not be on the page you're looking at ... that screen shot is only what was live, not what we blocked. There's no way for you to see what we blocked." Similarly, here you said "The cached posts you see don't include any of the posts we removed. Simple as that. When we saw them, we took them down, which means they weren't live and thus not on that cached page."

In other words, you essentially said this: "we were consistently keeping up with the flow of new messages; we were thoroughly scanning them for offensiveness and quickly deleting the offenders, so therefore we can be confident that any saved archive will not contain offensive messages." If you had not always been keeping up with the flow of new "offensive" messages, then you would be in no position to confidently assert "those would not be on the page you're looking at."

(By the way, even then you would have been exaggerating. Since every "offensive" message was publicly displayed, at least briefly, you would never be in a position to claim that a saved archive was completely offensiveness-free. You would only be in a position to claim that a saved archive would contain, at most, one or two "offensive" messages.)

But you took the opposite position when you were asked to explain why instead of only just shutting off new comments, you also removed all existing comments. You said this: "shutting them all off together was just that it was the quickest way to remove the problematic ones that were starting to overwhelm our ability to get rid of them."

(The idea that you were overwhelmed also appears here: "The deluge ... overwhelmed the Web site's screening efforts.")

In other words, you're claiming you were concerned that older messages stored on your site included certain "offensive" ones, which you may have missed because you were "overwhelm[ed]." You contradicted yourself, in other words.

If you were concerned that older messages on your site might include offensive messages (which is your only excuse for hiding everything), then you had every reason to be concerned, for precisely identical reasons, that an offline archive would include exactly the same messages. Conversely, if you were completely unsurprised that an offline archive would be found free of offensiveness, then you had every reason to be confident that your in-house archives were also free of offensiveness. You can't have it both ways.

8) THIS IS WHAT EVERYONE KNOWS

Let's face it. You pulled the plug because you (et al) couldn't deal with the embarrassment, that so many readers would so thoroughly expose Howell's execrable hackery.

You just wanted to make the whole thing go away, which meant hiding everything and claiming an "offensiveness" alibi, and you thought you could easily get away with it. You didn't anticipate that a number of very helpful archives would appear. You also didn't anticipate that anyone would have the motivation and technical ability to use those archives to do a thorough analysis of your behavior.

By the way, if it was really just a question of not being able to keep up with the flow of new, "offensive" messages, that problem had a simple solution: disable the ability to post new messages. If the problem was as you describe (that you reached a point where you couldn't keep up with the flow of new messages), then that solution would have been perfectly adequate. You had no need to take down 100% of existing messages, that you had already screened and accepted, and which were roughly 99% non-profane. The truth is obvious: you took down those messages because they were a political embarrassment to you.

9) A FEW UNSURPRISING EVENTS, AND ONE VERY SURPRISING EVENT

Profanity: no big surprise

Anyone who has spent more than a nanosecond or two reading blogs is well-aware of the fact that humans swear. Surely an ex-sportswriter is well-aware of that fact. Surely Deborah "Adios Mother Fucker" Howell is well-aware of that fact. So surely no one is surprised to notice that certain quite ordinary swear words (e.g., "shit") were posted to post.com.

And the fact is that some of those swear words  (e.g., "shit") are still present on post.com. This tends to create the impression that expunging profanity isn't really the issue.

Deleting a few messages: no big surprise

Anyone who has spent more than a nanosecond or two reading blogs is well-aware of the fact that a host might occasionally delete messages. Respected hosts do this rarely, and only for very good reason, and only after careful warnings. In your case, you did it frequently, not rarely, and you did it in the absence of good reasons, and you failed to issue any warnings whatsoever. This is all documented. Therefore, you should not expect to be seen as a respected host.

However, the fact of deleting selected messages is not unprecedented, and therefore not, in itself, a great surprise.

Turning off the new-message feature: no big surprise

Anyone who has spent more than a nanosecond or two reading blogs is well-aware of the fact that a host might occasionally turn off the new-message feature, even after allowing comments to appear on a particular blog article. This simply means preventing new messages from being posted. This is not a common occurrence on most blogs, but it does happen from time-to-time, usually for quite benign reasons. After a thread gets very long, a host might want to direct traffic to a new thread (there are still a few dial-up users, and they can experience a delay while loading a very long thread). Or a host might take this step after it's clear the conversation is simply going in circles.

In any case, such a step is not unheard of. In other words, turning off the new-message feature is not unprecedented, and therefore not, in itself, a great surprise.

Removing, en masse, over a thousand messages that had already been accepted and posted: VERY BIG SURPRISE

I've never seen this done. I've certainly never seen this done on any major site with a large audience. Blog readers/commenters are not likely to want to waste their time on a site where complete threads tend to dissapear at the drop of a hat. Part of what makes blogs popular and powerful is that they are persistent. Statements are made and do not go away, for better and for worse. Statements can be cited elsewhere, for better and for worse. You've just made a very loud announcement that you have no respect for this aspect of blog culture.

Your extreme, unprecedented act also prompts a very obvious question: why did you do it? You've been asked this question, and the answer you provided is completely absent of credibility.

10) CIVILITY BEGINS AT HOME

For someone who's done a lot of whining about how your readers are allegedly uncivil, you've been pretty fucking uncivil, yourself.

Inviting readers to post comments, and then ignoring them for way too long, is uncivil.

Blaming readers for not following rules that you've kept well-hidden, is also uncivil, especially since you never showed up to remind anyone about those secret rules.

Sitting on your hands while Hewitt describes your readers as residents of a fever swamp, is also uncivil.

For someone who is sensitive about name-calling, you've done more than your share. In other words, you don't mind making personal attacks against your critics, in the same breath that you decry personal attacks. I notice you compared Hamsher to "Columbo." The irony is rich. Columbo was famous for being highly motivated to uncover the truth. How odd that you, a journalist, would treat such a motivation as a reason for ridicule. And the pathetic truth is that if you were nearly as "transparent" as you claim, Jane's questions, and the kind of effort you see on this page, would never have been necessary.

11) IT'S FINALLY TIME TO CLEAR THE AIR, DON'T YOU THINK?

It certainly is, and you can do that, very easily.

WaPo is a terrific paper, or at least used to be. I used to trust what I read there. Recent messages posted to your blog indicate that I'm not alone. That you have taken certain steps to help WaPo become interactive is a terrific thing, and you deserve a lot of credit for that. Anyone who thinks that democracy thrives on healthy discourse feels the same way, and would like to see this matter resolved.

You can do that, very easily. You ostensibly have 420 messages that are substantially more offensive than the 1,080 that currently appear on post.com. It's time to find a way to make those 420 messages publicly available. No, I'm not suggesting they should be reposted in the original threads. I'm not even necessarily suggesting that they should be posted on your site. I am suggesting that you find a way to make them available to any interested observer.

One mechanism, for example, would be to create a file that is automatically sent as a reply to emails that are sent to a certain WaPo address. I'm sure clever minds can think of other mechanisms.

I'm sure that the information you're still hiding (those 420 messages) is not a matter of national security. I'm also sure that there is no need to consider copyright implications, since they are no different, in that regard, from the 1,080 messages you are currently hosting publicly. And I'm sure that there is no taint on the august reputation of your fine institution, simply by finding a way to let interested observers inspect those messages. I'm not asking that you print those messages. I'm not asking that those messages be hosted on post.com. I'm simply asking that you find a way to release them.

I should point out that it seems you've already done something like this. You've set a precedent, in other words. Vaughn Ververs of CBS News recently wrote "a Washington Post reporter provided Public Eye with screen shots of the comments that show that occurred in at least a dozen instances."

This language is a bit unclear, but it seems that Ververs was shown messages that you had deleted. I have a strong feeling that Ververs was shown exactly the messages that Straus mentioned, since the count (12) is strikingly identical.

In any case, if you can show those 12 to Ververs, you should be willing to show all 420 to any interested observer.

If these 420 deleted messages reveal that many critics of the Post are so potty-mouthed that they know words that even an ex-sportswriter has never heard before, then so be it. Let's find out. If these messages reveal that many critics of the Post engaged in "hate speech," then so be it. Let's find out.

But if these messages reveal that you're simply doing a sloppy job of covering up a sloppy attempt at erasing everything, then so be it. Let's find out.

PS: if you have trouble locating them, here's a tip about where to look: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

Originally posted to jukeboxgrad on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 07:00 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If you... (4.00)
    ...edited that down by about 3/4, it would be an excellent letter.  Your points are well documented, but you repeat them too many times.  JMO

    Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool-- how much worse lying lips to a ruler - Proverbs 17:7

    by Barbara Morrill on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 07:12:51 PM PST

    •  A fair point (4.00)
      I know it's wicked long, but I wanted to be thorough. Maybe too thorough!
      •  You got him cold (4.00)
        don't apologize...  :-)
      •  Ombudsman (4.00)
        I nominate you to Howell's position.  Obviously, you have the skills to do it.
        •  ..yes.. (none)
          ..they need somebody there who does not have a disdain for bloggers as some kind of lower form of life.  Look, they own post.blog, and can set the rules, but that doesn't mean they can get away with lying and coverups.  And the rules need to be clear and not made up as they go.  

          What a bunch of clowns.

          Attention Traditional Media: Progressive blogs are one of the greatest forces for good in the world today. Know it. Live it. Love it.

      •  Just something to add... (4.00)
        Lovely work!

        Regarding mass deletions and thread closing, I have seen this sort of thing before, but not on a blog.

        Sony/Verant closed down the EQ Discussion boards (the ones that the GMs monitored) and replaced it with a wholly moderated one - you e-mailed in your questions, and if they liked the question, they posted it and a reply.

        This is what I was afraid the Post was going to do.

        Stealthbadger.net - Searching for Truth, Justice, and the Guy Who Boosted My Wallet a Few Weeks Back...

        by Stealthbadger on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 08:37:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The only thing in the diary I'd change (none)
          is Howell's nickname.  If you want to tag her with the profanity of her own quotes, I think there's one that isn't quite as profane, but has a much truer ring to it:

          Deborah "Complete Batch of Shit" Howell.

          Just a thought.

        •  "you e-mailed in your questions" (none)
          post.com has actually switched to that format, for all their blogs (except for the ones that are simply locked, entirely). I left this out for the sake of brevity.

          I think it's sort of sneaky that they did this without any announcement. I haven't seen anyone else comment on this.

          They've made various statements to the effect that only certain parts of their blog have been affected. Not exactly true.

          "This is what I was afraid the Post was going to do."

          They actually have done this. Maybe you're saying you already know. Anyway, good point.

        •  EQ (none)
          is a devils game.  www.shardsofdalaya.com is where it's at now .. why pay when you can play for free? =D
      •  If you aren't already a PhD... (none)
        you deserve one for the research and analysis you put into this.
      •  Maybe it WAS too long...but I enjoyed every word. (none)
      •  I just caught this post (none)
        It's 1:30AM on the east coast and I gotta go to bed. I'll finish it tomorrow. Of the 1/2 I've read so far-ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!!!
      •  One mathematical error you need to correct (4.00)
        There is one point you need to correct:

        If at any time you have a 8% chance of seeing offensive message, going there 20 times does not give you a 100% chance of seeing one, but only a 80% chance (and 10 times only a 55% chance)

        You need to look at it the other way: each time, you have a 92% chance of not seeing anything offensive. If you go twice, you have a 0.92x0.92 = 85% chance of not seeing anything offensive. If you go 5 times, you have a 0.92x0.92x0.92x0.92x0.92 = 66% chance of still not seeing anything offensive.

        And so on. If you go 10 times, you still have 0.66x0.66 = 44% chance of not seeing anything, and 20 times 0.44x0.44 = 19%.

        This may seem like nitpicking, but as you have tried to be exhaustive, you should correct this little piece of your reasoning.

        In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
        Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

        by Jerome a Paris on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 01:29:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Many thanks (4.00)
          Obviously, you're right. No, it's not nitpicking. It's just basic statistics that I should have gotten right the first time.

          I did sort of remember the concept you described. That's why I hedged by saying "approaching," which was easier than trying to remember (or research) the details of what I studied in statistics class a long time ago. But I'm very glad to have your help making my presentation more accurate.

          I've made a change.

          Sorry it took this long to notice your helpful comment. I think I went to sleep right around the time you posted. (The price of being exhaustive is being exhausted.)

      •  Don't apologize! This diary's perfect (none)
        I logged in just to give you a four. I can't believe that this excellent piece of work, worth reading all the way through and cool and cold in its analystic format, isn't getting hundreds of 4 ratings. It really deserves it.
        •  No complaints (none)
          This diary has been on the Rec list for about 15 hours now, and currently has 312 recommendations. That's a very gratifying amount of recognition, along with, of course, many kind words posted here. I couldn't ask for more.
    •  Twain (4.00)
      "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one
      instead."
    •  Although shortening in general tends to (4.00)
      improve a piece of writing, a large part of the beauty of this piece is the length. It works because every sentence is carefully worded, and the entirety takes a reader through all of the detail without confusion. It's a masterpiece, in my opinion.
    •  It was repetitive at times (none)
      but thoroughness is important, and this way NO ONE can refute it.  Too many, oh, what do you call them....FACTS!

      Good job on this one.  I gave you a four.

      There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one. -5.25, -4.67

      by wolverinethad on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 12:01:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It all comes down to whether you trust the Post (4.00)
    This was Brady's parting shot to Sam Seder, when he appeared on his Majority Report.

    This was in response to the current lie du jour, Howell's "clarification" that Abramoff "directed" donations from his clients to Democrats.  The exhaustively documented fact -- even then -- that Abramoff directed fewer donations from his clients to Democrats was a distinction that Brady didn't feel the need to make.  

    If James Brady's libelous mischaracterization of his readers' comments are any indication, we cannot in fact trust the Washington Post.  If they say they have documentation of Abramoff specifically directing contributions to Democrats -- contributions which would not have been made anyway -- then let's see those documents.  The days of the Post being worthy of trust are clearly over.

    -4.50, -5.85 Lies are the new Truth.

    by Dallasdoc on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 07:16:52 PM PST

    •  They hate us because we care (none)
      By "they" I mean the political establishment, represented to the public in the form of the Washington Post (and the NYTimes). They have been able to "lead" public opinion to their liking, for better or worse, for two generations or more. Now their leadership is under challenge by "us," i.e., the "left blogosphere," a constituency that has the tools, as demonstrated in this website and in this diary, both to attract significant parts of their readership (they are trying to compete with us in this, otherwise they wouldn't have a post.com to begin with) and to bring a new level of accountability to news reporting and opinion mongering.

      I don't know that this imbroglio was "staged" to discredit our new media tools and activities - in fact I doubt it. Jim brady is all thumbs when it comes to using the net productively. But once the chase was on, Brady and Howell have used the opportunity of a "controversy" over blogs to try to discredit what we are doing in the wider public sphere. I expect, with work like this diary out there, that the Washington Post may find itself in a position to choose between the Brady/Howell Axis of Weasel and its long-term credibility. As they say, stay tuned!

      The name is not the thing named, the map is not the territory. -- Gregory Bateson

      by semiot on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 06:39:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Until a few years ago (none)
        there was no way for any of us to be heard, no matter how much we cared.  No matter what generation we belonged to.  They controlled it all.

        No more.

        They're just starting to learn that lesson.

    •  Exactly (none)
      This was after Brady was saying that there are secret documents that WaPo has, that prove that Abramoff directed contributions to Democrats but we can't see them yet.  
  •  Brilliant (4.00)
    But I don't understand how this: The first message posted after 2:52:49 was posted at 2:52:57.. Equates to an hour? What am I missing?

    Besides 400 emails, I mean.

    Really really brilliant.

    This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

    by emptywheel on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 07:25:45 PM PST

    •  Sorry (4.00)
      That part is really confusing, I should have edited it better. It has to do with knowing exactly when the "snapshot" was taken. I know it was taken after the time indicated on the last message in the archive. But I also know the snapshot was taken before the next posted message, which appears online, but doesn't appear in the archive (in the snapshot).

      Clear as mud? Don't worry, it's a secondary point. Rest assured that i have sweated many details.

      •  And then... (4.00)
        ... I counted back an hour from there. And then I started with the first next message. Anyway, I'm just trying to be meticulous about making all my assumptions clear. Trying to be transparent, in other words. But just because I'm trying doesn't mean I succeeded!
        •  Oh. (none)
          I see.

          I thought you were going forward from that point. Why go back one hour? Did I miss that bit?

          I'm not questioning your analysis, mind you, I think it's great. I'm just confused...

          This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

          by emptywheel on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 07:58:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Good question (4.00)
            I'm looking for an hour to analyze. First I need to choose an archive. There are five (that I know of). I pick one (for reasons that I'll skip, at the moment, for the sake of brevity).

            Once I've picked an archive, I need to decide which hour to look at. I choose the last hour in the archive. Why? I always assume that the data at the end of an archive might be a little more reliable than earlier data. Why? Let's say I have a snapshot that was taken on Thursday, which includes messages posted on Tuesday. Trouble is, someone at WaPo had 48 hours to fuck around with those Tuesday messages. For all I know, Jeff Gannon was sneaking in at night, editing them. On the other hand, the data at the end of any given archive just arrived recently, so there's been less time for people to mess with it.

            So the archive I'm looking at is here. I'm interested in defining the last hour in that archive. The last message in that archive is stamped 3:52:49. Here's something I want to know: when was that archive captured? I know it was captured sometime after 3:52:49. But how much after?

            Well, if I check with what's live at post.com, I see this 3:52:49 message. I also see the next message: 3:54:50.

            The 3:54:50 message appears online at post.com, but not in the archive. Now I know the archive was captured between 3:52:49 and 3:54:50.

            Now I feel comfortable using the archive to analyze a 60-minute period that ended at 3:52:49. When did that 60-minute period begin? 2:52:49.

            Of course, it would be a very odd coincidence if a message had been posted at exactly 2:52:49. So what interests me is the first message posted after that time. Looking at either resource (either the offline archive, or what's live), I see that the first message posted after 2:52:49 (the beginning of the 60-minute period that is of interest to me) was posted at 2:52:57.

            So now I feel comfortable that I've fairly defined the end and the beginning of a 60-minute period that falls within the bounds of what my archive provides. And not just that: it's the last hour in the archive.

            It would have been a lot simpler if I had just said "look at from 2 pm to 3 pm." The result would have been very similar, I'm sure. But part of the point I'm making is that the usefulness of the archives, to a great extent, lies in focusing attention on what happened immediately before the archive was captured. So partly I was motivated by being consistent with that emphasis.

            Anyway, here again is what I wrote. Hopefully the above explanation puts it in perspective.

            "Now let's consider one period of time, that was presumably fairly typical. Let's look at the thread "Deborah Howell Responds," and let's look at the 60-minute period that begins at 2:52:49. The first message posted after 2:52:49 was posted at 2:52:57. (This essentially means we're looking at the last hour of the thread, with the exception of the last two messages. I'm in a position to analyze this exact hour because an archive is available which was captured between 3:52:49 and 3:54:50. That former time is the timestamp on the last message included in the archive. That latter time is the timestamp on the next message, which can be found at post.com, but is not found in the archive. Therefore I'm in a position to know, within a range of about two minutes, exactly when the archive-snapshot was taken.)"

  •  Superb (4.00)
    An amazing bit of cyber detective work.  Thanks for doing all this amazing work to set the record straight.

    Recommended!

    •  Great job, Jane (4.00)
      You did a wonderful job going up against Brady the other day, especially considering that chickenhawk posse he came with.  The fact that he felt he had to have you there at all is a measure of how thoroughly you have filleted Brady, Howell, and the entire Business As Usual system they've settled into.

      Your blog is one of my must-reads daily.  Spectacular work!

      -4.50, -5.85 Lies are the new Truth.

      by Dallasdoc on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 07:50:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks, Doc (4.00)
        I think you were my first blog friend :)
      •  PS (4.00)
        Stoller and Aravosis had a Deborah Howell encounter yesterday at the Washington Press Club.  Aravosis says after an hour and a half of all manner of vapors and hand wringing Stoller finally grabbed the microphone and said "Nothing happened to you! You're fine...it's not like you were hit by a car...you're sitting here, eating a nice meal..."  It's also recounted over at the Hotline Blogometer, but not nearly so well.
        •  Bwahahaha!! (4.00)
          What an egregious bitch she is....  She ought to know better than to get in a pissing contest with Aravosis and friends.  No way to win that one.

          You'd think she was Marie Antoinette waiting for the guillotine, for crying out loud.  What's the world coming to, when you can't suck up to the Republican power structure without catching grief from the hoi polloi?

          -4.50, -5.85 Lies are the new Truth.

          by Dallasdoc on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 08:13:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Steve Gilliard covered this as well.... (4.00)
          I got the impression Howell was becoming repentent, but I will check the other links.

          I just wanted to pass on my kudos Jane.  Thank you for all of your hard work as well.

          As I stated below, I think there may be a point of diminishing returns at some point.  Brady has obviously dug in his heels.  It may be time for a cooling off period.  Hopefully, he sees this.

          It seems like he is just blinded by his fury.  Hopefully, after some retrospection, he will take a step back and understand everyone's concerns.

          Now if we could get a correction and an actual link to their "standards of community interaction", we could at least bring this chapter to a close.

          Chris Matthews must apologize! --- Join the Google Bomb

          by justmy2 on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 08:19:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  "after some retrospection" (4.00)
            Just so you know, I'm not that interested in whether or not Brady is capable of retrospection. That's his business.

            My goal is to do what I can to help his audience clearly evaluate his behavior.

            I also think we need to see those 420 messages. Or an admission that they don't exist.

            •  No slack required (none)
              Indeed their is no need for concern for Mr. Brady's 'retrospection'. That is his to deal with. Our concern remains what Jukebox has written about and this whole ordeal...and what it means for future similar scenarios. Keeping our eye on the ball here, this episode will go down as a Fort Sumpter moment. A 'no more Ms/Mr nice gal/guy' moment.

              Great work by Jukebox and by Jane and all who have taken part in this from the Frontlines position. Also, well done to all who posted on the WPBlog. Even those who (with in reason) bruised poor Mr. Brady's, and Ms Howell's, delicate sensitivities.

            •  You have been an invaluable resource (none)
              FYI-I have been one of your biggest advocates.  I have written and asked anywhere I can why there were  no comments in the response post be Howell asking why comments were being deleted.  This was completely based on one your diaries and I have sourced it back to you everytime.

              I have yet to see a response from reasonable response from anyone.

              No apology required...keep doing what you are doing...

              Chris Matthews must apologize! --- Join the Google Bomb

              by justmy2 on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 01:02:33 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  the press... (4.00)
            ...didn't get to be like this by accident. the right-wing has been pounding them for some 20 years, until it just became easier to write within right-wing frames than to face another round of abuse. being nice about giving time to reflect was never part of the plan.

            we've got a lot of catching up to in the working-the-refs department. it may not always be pretty, but not easing up is part of it.

            the media has show it can't keep its backbone straight when continuously pressured from the right. the only solution is to put some continuous pressure on that backbone from the other side.

            •  I agree wholeheartedly (none)
              about not easing up.  Look at my signature.

              But at some point, you do reach a point of diminishing returns on a certain issue.  I think this is one we can continue to fall back on as an example in the future, just like Fox always tries to reach back to the Dan Rather incident.

              But Brady is unreachable right now.  He was a disaster in the chat with Jane. And guess what, he probably knows it, unless he has a bunch of yes men working for him.  Will he ever admit, who knows? But he will have to live with himself.  

              In the end, I think it is clear at this point that we have made our point.  I can only imagine the uproar if Howell or Brady try a stunt like this again in the near future.

              By all means, it doesn't hurt to continue trying to get the facts and I hope jukeboxgrad continues to do.

              Chris Matthews must apologize! --- Join the Google Bomb

              by justmy2 on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 01:11:06 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  asdf (none)
                I mostly agree with your assessment, but it's not just about the returns on this one. It's also about making the Post and everyone else think twice before printing RNC talking points as news, or insulting liberal readers.

                We have to make then as least somewhat cautious about getting us riled up, given that their number one consideration in every decision they make is the pathological fear of hearing the accusation of 'liberal media' yet again from the wingnuts or from Republican politicians.

                I think we can have some success at this, but we'll only come close to matching the effectiveness of the Republicans at 'working the refs' when mainstream Democratic politicians join in regularly (like their Republican counterparts do) to give us more legitimacy and punch. Only Gore, Pelosi and Dean have done it a little bit. It needs to be many, many more of them, and much, much more frequently.

    •  You were great too (4.00)
      I was just telling my husband about the little stunt Vrady pulled with you.  He was just as pissed as I was when it happened.  He wanted to "meet" you, so he's looking at your blog right now.
  •  Oh, and I forgot to mention, about this: (4.00)
    "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

    You owe me a new keyboard. One without wine stuck in the keys.

    This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

    by emptywheel on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 07:32:00 PM PST

  •  Holy shit! (4.00)
    I did something I rarely do, I recommended before I read the entire thing.  I recommended, based on point 1 alone.  You wrote the same point that bothered me:  Conversation.  I read and reread Brady and Howell's point on this so-called civil conversation, I had the with about 400 comments opened for almost 2 days and not once did I see anyone from the Post try to join the discussion.  Who knows? Maybe they used profanity and personal attacks and were filtered out.  I did send a letter to the Post on this sole point, with a link to your previous diaries.  I still haven't received a response.
  •  Boo-yah, Tour de Force (4.00)
    Man, I'd hate to be the guy who lost your dry cleaning ticket.

    That was ridiculously absorbing, I'm chiding myself for having read the whole thing. This letter is sufficient grounds for WaPo to simply abolish their online presence forever. Good riddance, as it turns out.

    Now for god's sake do something nice for yourself, like get laid or something. We need you rested.

  •  Amazing, what a great effort! (none)
      They wish you'd just get your teeth outa their ankle, good job! Thanks!

    Somebody, do something, I got kids I care about, fer crying out loud!

    by KenBee on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 07:42:53 PM PST

  •  Terrific Analysis (none)
    I'll be waiting with bated breath for Jim "*" Brady's response. Not.

    Anyone who isn't outraged isn't paying attention.

    by lambertstrether on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 07:48:07 PM PST

  •  Via Gilliard (4.00)
    The National Journal article on last night's (?) dinner panel comprised of MSM hacks and blogger superheroes, with surprise special guest Deborah Howell! Also a good read. Perhaps an Arianna-style conversion is on the way for Li'l Debbie, now that the deer has seen the headlights?
  •  WOW (none)
    And a mighty thanks.  la
  •  That sir (4.00)
    Was a yeoman's effort. Incredible and breathtaking. Personal commitment to citizenry and truth at its finest. Continue to win battles.

    Blah, blah, blah. Pretend that was something profound and that I said it.

    by niteskolar on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 08:10:15 PM PST

  •  I think we are at a point of diminishing returns (4.00)
    but I have to recommend this diary after reading this...

    PS: if you have trouble locating them, here's a tip about where to look: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

    Classic!!!!

    Great job again...

    By the way, apparently Howell is repenting all over the place now...let's she if she is more careful and becomes a advocate.

    However, it is apparent at this point that it will take retrospection for Brady to come to any different conclusion than the one he has now.  But thank's for keeping his feet to the fire.

    Chris Matthews must apologize! --- Join the Google Bomb

    by justmy2 on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 08:12:08 PM PST

  •  more messages deleted (none)
    That's journalism.
    You might be interested to know that all the comments that many of us posted at the general comments site at the WaPo dot com address (I don't remember exactly how I found it; perhaps it's behind the registration wall) were also deleted. I don't thnk that any of those have been restored.
  •  kudos for the amazing effort you put forth (none)
    to make these points clear. Brady et. al. should be ashamed to accuse their readers of engaging in hate speech, but they have so much to be ashamed of, where would they start?

    Recommended.

  •  Fantastic (none)
    ..Mucho Fantastic!! True, it is long, but I read every word and feel like I understood most of it. (I'm not exactly an Einstein) Wrong is wrong and you are shining the kind of light that HAS TO be there for any chance of TRUTH to exist
    where it SHOULD exist!! From the bottom of the heart of the little boy in me that was told of Truth, Justice and the American Way (Umm.. from the Superman TV Show - but red, white and blue - by my line of reasoning anyway) : Thank You for a Very Large contribution!! Excellence is better than O.K. and then some.
  •  2 points (none)
    1) As I wrote to Ms. Howell  - she is NOT the story.

    The story is Jack Abramoff and his cohorts Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist bribed elected Republican officials at all levels of government, buying votes and generating federal dollars for their Republican donors. They didn't give a penny to Democrats.

    We have got to get this message out there and repeat it until November.

    2) The more we belabor the minutae of the WaPo blog and Ms Howell, the more we obscure point 1.  I don't denigrate your work, only the fact that it promotes the red herring to take reporters off the scent.

    •  I see your point, but (4.00)
      The press needs to know that there are people who are determined not to let them get away with this kind of bullshit anymore.

      And when we beat the drum about Brady's blog shenanigans, in my opinion it helps draw attention to the broader issues.

      •  Yes and... (none)
        Hey, I agree with you.  Vehemently. Don't let the story slide.

        But I want us to ALWAYS hit the story first.  Don't make Howell the story, make Abramoff and Republicans the story.  Surely you can do that?  

        What are our talking points? Howell or Abramoff-Bush-DeLay-Reed-Norquist-Rove et al?

        For example, KTVU-TV in Oakland  just ran a story about the fillibuster on their 10pm news by Randy Shandobil, a very good political reporter.  The entire freaking story, culminating in a full clip of Scott McLellan doing his best butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mendacious-mouth laugh line about Kerry in Davos, was "Foregone conclusion, the fillibuster will fail."

        I wrote to Randy to emphasize the story is not the fillibuster, the story is What is it about Alito that drives Democrats to be willing to fillibuster? Isn't the fourth amendment worth fillibustering?

        I could beat up Randy for running the Scotty laughing clip juxtaposed with a dour Harry Reid saying he doesn't have the votes to sustain a fillibuster. But I've established dialogue with Randy over years of email.  I tell him when I think he missed the story.

        I invite everyone in the SF Bay area to write Randy Shandobil <randy.shandobil@ktvu.com> and let him know you prefer real facts and not spin from Scott McLellan.  What is it about Alito that is worth fillibustering?  Isn't that worth a serious story?

    •  There is more than one story (3.83)
      Yes, the Abramoff-related corruption is an important story.  And if the WaPo had merely been sloppy, I would agree with you.

      But journalists actively misleading readers is an important story.  Journalists actively trying to cover up their deceptions is an important story.  

      The American people are able to follow more than one story at a time.  Just as they are capable of paying attention to the latest in the Jen and Angelina saga while still following along to Oprah and James Frey, Americans can learn about both Howell's and Abramoff's lack of ethics.

      •  now this, i do believe... (none)
        is definitely the MFpoint - if i may be acronymically profane.  Brady should soon feel the public wrath of calm, unartful lying.  
        Has he been getting PR advice from Scotty McC?

        Darn fine sleuthing, jukeboxgrad.

        <mysig> Scotty on Spygate: "It is what it is.  And previously it was something invisible; later on it might be something much different than what it was"
        *Please note this is not actual text, but rather a possible BS Detector result</mysig>

        -<{[jec]}>~

        ps - and speaking of Mr.McPantload... I NEED MY FIX, KE!!

  •  excellent (none)
    thank you for your service jukeboxgrad
  •  Unbelievable (none)
    I can't believe I read the whole thing. Time for Alka-Seltzer. For Brady, not me.

    Great job!

  •  Great Job (4.00)
    This is just why I read Kos.  Because "True American Heroes" like you do the job that the Schmucks won't, that is tell the truth.  You are an inspiring bloggerdude.  If we had 1000 more like you, the bastards wouldn't stand a chance.  Gotta love ya.

    "The worst administration since Caligula" - Rep. Dingell, Democrat - Mich.

    by manoffire on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 09:16:43 PM PST

  •  Excellent work, fellow nutcase! :) (4.00)
    I recommended it before finishing it, but read every word...

    I want to know what Brady was hiding....

    I mean, why won't the Post provide us with all this evidence they have about "directed" contributions....

    ...and here's the reason.  They know its not true, but made that claim without examining their evidence.

    see, if you look at the actual graphic that the Post cites

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

    its labeled "Conshatta Requests", and its described as:

    Abramoff sent the Coushattas a list of politicians and organizations, titled "Coushatta Requests," for whom he wanted to [sic] tribe to write checks.

    The Post KNEW that it could not prove that Abramoff "directed" tribal contributions to Democrats -- but when Howell got caught in a lie, the only evidence it had was this graphic, which was described (under oath, to Congress, btw) as a "wish list", and NOT directed contributions.

    Which I think explains why my "comments" asking where willis' lists were wound up deleted....and why my "comments" asking for the whole list were deleted after Leen cited the graphic in his on-line chat, and why after Howell cited the same graphic my "comments" were deleted pointing out that according to the Center for Responsive Politics data, the Democrats listed on the "Conshatta Requests" didn't get the money the list said they got.

    ...as were the comments from other people asking to see the whole list, and asking about the discrepancies between the list and the actual contributions.

    IMHO, what Brady was hiding was the complete inadequacy of the Post's reporting -- inadequacies that the American Prospect article are making totally transparent.  

    That's the problem with the blogosphere for the Post....there's always one nutcase like me out there who will actually research the data they do present -- and realize that its just a pile of bullshit.

    And there's always another nutcase like you who will go to the trouble of comparing and examining what was deleted, and what was visible, and who will figure out what Brady really did!

    GREAT JOB, FELLOW NUTCASE!!! :)

    paul lukasiak

    •  Paul, you're the greatest (none)
      I've been a big fan for a long time.
    •  And the key point there is... (none)
      that Abramoff was clearly trying to get the tribes to diminish all giving to Democrats, so the only motive for him to send the "Coushatta Request" list including Democrats was to minimize the blatant influence-peddling that shifting ALL monies to Republicans would resemble.

      The total amounts recommended were less than was given to Democrats before.  And the final totals - as you say - didn't even match the recommended list.

      That's what makes this an exclusively Republican scandal.  And the Post reporters and editors should be smart enough to realize it (notwithstanding recent evidence to the contrary).

      Let justice reign though the heavens tremble

      by Viceroy on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 10:27:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hey Paul.... (none)
      I think I found some of your other posts.  See my post below.

      As I have stated before, you were absolutely essential to keeping them honest throughout the thread.   Your rapid responses definitely seemed to throw them for a loop.

      Between you and jukeboxgrad, I think I speak for many of us in saying that we all seriously owe you a debt of gratitude.

      Chris Matthews must apologize! --- Join the Google Bomb

      by justmy2 on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 11:05:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice but it's (none)
    way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way,way, way, way, way, way too long.

    You repeat yourself over and over and over and over and, well, okay, whack it back and you have a keeper. Leave it this long and it's part of the problem and not the solution. Perhaps just post an extract with a link to the long version?

  •  Awesome! (none)
    Excellent, excellent work and very thorough analysis!

    Thank you!

    Jim
    Seattle

  •  50-year career (4.00)
    She's 64 years old (http://www.washingtonpost.com/...) and has had a 50-year career. Good for her; maybe if she'd gone to highschool and college instead of going into journalism just out of junior high she'd be better at her job.
  •  Thanks! (4.00)
    Wonderful work - this has been really annoying me because my own 'back of the envelope' calculations based on my own memory from reloading the page numerous times during the thick of the action pointed to the same conclusion. It sort of unsettles your sense of reality when Brady seems to be everywhere claiming we should believe him rather than our own lying eyes. Thanks for the careful analysis and for showing I'm not being paranoid ('conspiratorial delusion' was the term a WaPo journalist used in an email in response to me asking about the document with the Delay white-out...)

    Don't edit it down (like some people suggested), but it would be great if you could get around to writing a short 'executive summary' than other blogs can quote and that people can use in emails.

    •  Good idea ("executive summary") (none)
      Here's a try.

      Brady claims he deleted hundreds of offensive messages. That appears to be an exaggeration. He didn't see anything the public didn't see, and there are numerous indications that the public didn't see what he claims existed.

      The sequence of events also seems to indicate that Brady's intention was to hide everything, and to use a phony "offensiveness" alibi as an excuse. He got caught because he forgot the internet has a memory.

  •  This is great (none)
    If this sort of careful, thorough, analysis appeared in my local papers I'd start reading them again.  Magnificent job here.  Thank you.

    I only wish a major paper would publish this.

  •  The comments DO NOT.. (none)
    ... crash a server.. or worry a server. It's the views that do. So it is not the amount of comments that would caus issue, but hundreds of thousands of people refreshing the page.Are they saying they had to close down the systems because they had too many customers?
  •  Excellent work (4.00)
    Thank you. A long read for this non-techie, but worthwhile as I've learned a great deal.

    I think part of what's going on is a meeting (or head-on collision) between dead-tree journalism and electronic journalism. Howell and Brady are print journalists, accustomed to the relatively leaisurely pace of writing something, then waiting to see it in hard copy. People on blogs are accustomed to clicking the "Submit" button and seeing what they've written appear immediately.

    Print journalists, in addition, are not accustomed to being challenged as Howell and Brady have been in this matter. At most, their kind of reporting might print a small correction some time after the first, erroneous report appears, but those are almost always worded in such a way as to apologize without admitting that the author of the error was in any way incorrect.

    Electronic journalism, and blogging, remove that protective layer, and it's likely quite uncomfortable to lose your security blanket that way.

    In addition, it sounds to me as if Brady was put in as web editor in the way conventional print journalism does things: Someone gets to a certain point and is "promoted" to the next level. He was a sports reporter, and they are, generally, accustomed to being considered hot stuff--consider how much news space is given over to sports and how much of the reporting is even remotely substantive. That he seems to have no technical qualifications to be a web editor, and lacks aptitude to interact with readers, is just a bit of Peter Principle in action.

    The degree to which you resist injustice is the degree to which you are free. -- Utah Phillips

    by Mnemosyne on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 10:16:45 PM PST

    •  Electronic journalism, and blogging, (none)
      remove that protective layer... is brilliant!
      It  is one of the truly defining elements of blogs.

      This should be underscored.

      Crashing the Gates did not say it better!

      Oh, blanky, where did you go?

  •  Not admitting mistakes (none)
    ...is the current fashion in Washington D.C.  Probably always in fashion, but not usually at the signal flare level of the current crew in the WH.  

    And since Howell is a kewl kid and the folks calling her on it were a buncha outside the beltway, nobody geeks to boot, why deign to correct?

    Or, more charitably, a little mishandling and misreading ballooned into a fiasco.

    Omigod, I was having this rilly bad dream...oh, wait a minute...no! NO! aaaarrggghh!

    by MaryCh on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 10:35:39 PM PST

  •  Short Version: We're not that stupid! (none)
    And here's the Proof you are lying your ass off.

    Thanks for taking the time to debunk the bastard.

    Liars like him count on two things in life, most people don't take the time and energy to document their lies and the little weasels count on the fact lying isn't a crime. They also don't seem to regard it as an insult. Unless, of course its done to them.

  •  Loved every word... (none)
    ...and I wouldn't change a thing!  Thanks for exposing the lies, half-truths, and obfuscations. And to Jim Brady...that had to leave a mark, huh?
  •  Hasn't WaPo learned anything from Watergate? (none)
    It's not the crime, it's the coverup.
  •  What do you have to fear? (none)
    Jim Brady:

    I have made this point countless times, but to no avail. The cached posts you see don't include any of the posts we removed. Simple as that. When we saw them, we took them down, which means they weren't live and thus not on that cached page. So analyzing that page and drawing conclusions is faulty.

    So, if they never went live, then what's the problem? Why was the blog shut down if it was under control?

  •  OT - but here's a NYT Bush bud (none)
    Stohlberg writes that Dems presented plans but were oh so vague.
    I wrote her that the Repubs didn't present their Contract with America until 6 weeks prior to the 1994 elections! and I was giving the Dem Party a heads up to contact her FIRST when they decided to show their cards. lol

    Bush is NOT America!

    by annefrank on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 12:32:38 AM PST

  •  OMG!! Coulter has done it again! (none)

    Bush is NOT America!

    by annefrank on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 12:47:20 AM PST

  •  Great Article and Constructive Criticism (none)
    This is a tour de force. Way to go.

    I would recommend a slimmed down version for public comsumption and reviewing your mathematical conclusions in section 3.
    (You make consistently incorrect assertion that the one hour time SAMPLE you reviewed should have the same characteristics as the TOTAL POPULATION. This is contrary to the most basic principles of statistical analysis and opens up your otherwise fine thesis to unnecessary claims of bias).

    EXAMPLE:

     "Given the ratios you've suggested, this tells us that during this hour, a total of about 48 messages were submitted, and about 10 of these 48 (i.e., 20%) you deemed offensive"

    WRONG - The ratios WAPO suggested for the whole population tell you NOTHING conclusively about what what happened in the single hour that you examined.

    •  That hour... (none)
      ... was the last hour before they pulled the plug. Therefore I think it's reasonable to assume that folks were as least as riled up as they were all week long. In fact, they were probably more riled up. Therefore, I think the 20% assumption is conservative.

      If you can explain a different way of looking at it, that would interest me.

  •  thank you for exposing wa-po speak's absurdities (none)
    This is impressive research and analysis.  Thanks for all the time you put into this and for the calm, reasoned synthesis you provide.
  •  Thank you (none)
    for your thorough, hard work.
  •  Remember when we were in school (none)
    and they used to say, "this will go down on your permanent record."

    Thanks to the dedication and hard work of people like you, that "permanent record" is now a reality for shoddy news outlets like the Post!

  •  I have a question too (none)
    Where are all the posts I wrote that Armando disagreed with? They were all deleted, that's where they are, they weren't "hidden." why is it okay to censor me on a liberal site but not okay to censor you on a mainstream site? Why is less freedom okay for those you disagree with but not okay for you? As long as this site censors it's fellow liberals, it certainly has no right to demand absolute free speech to make personal attacks against workers on various company web sites.

    Get a hold of yourself and get over yourself. I've had POLITICAL SPEECH censored here over and over and over again. And what was so controversial that I needed to be censored? I disagreed with Hillary Clinton's stance on... you guessed it-- censorship.

    Ironic, ain't it?

    •  Uh, no (none)
      You're comparing Brady's behavior and Armando's behavior. They're not comparable.

      Brady didn't cut off one person. He tried to get away with shutting down everyone, and he did this without lifting a finger to engage or guide, and then he told tall tales to try to cover his true reasons.

      "no right to demand absolute free speech"

      No one is demanding "absolute free speech." That's what's called a straw man.

      If all this is over your head, that's your problem.

  •  gotta love that information technology (none)
    I don't think Jim Brady does though.
  •  I was told at Firedoglake to thank you (none)
    so thank you for your words.  
  •  Free The WAPO 420!! (none)
    420, heh-heh
  •  Why Does The Washington Post Hate Journalists? (none)
    You know, the firestorm over this, and the pathetic "victim" pose by both Howell and Brady is incredibly offensive at a time when real journalists are dying, being kidnapped, held hostage and murdered trying to cover the story in Iraq. I mean, Jim Brady and Deborah Howell should be ASHAMED of themselves that they are crying about "flaming emails" or critical blog posts that have "personal attacks," even IF IT it WERE TRUE, it's just the height of hypocrisy and blatantly offensive. This is just the best example imaginable of the "elite media," those princes and princesses, sitting pampered and powdered on their silk pillows while REAL JOURNALISTS DIE in Iraq. But, oh, pity me, poor me, I was cruelly criticized in a blog post. Someone accused me of being a (gasp) "LIAR." It's just the most despicable and puerile whine imaginable. Jim Brady--you are a liar. There you go. It's been proven in this diary that not only are you a liar, but you are even a very BAD LIAR. Ms. Howell--you said at the Press Club that you might consider doing a blog. I hope you do; it's high time you learned what being a journalist, or even better, an "ombudsman" really means. I sent you an email--and not even a flaming one--in which I reminded you early on in the episode that your job was to be the "readers representative" as stated at the Post site. You failed to do your job; but worse, you succeeded in mocking and trivializing the job that REAL JOURNALISTS do every day in combat zones, with your despicable whining about being criticized when you got caught out on an "incorrect" statement. You have a job to do, Ms. Howell, and it's high time you do it correctly, and with a little more courage.
  •  Two intertwinedpoints to be clarified (4.00)
    The letter is long and thorough, which I believe means the following two points may be relevant.

    In your previous posts, you made the point that there was no outcry regarding missing or deleted posts in the Deborah Howell Response Post.  I think this is an extremely relevant piece of circumstantial evidence.

    It also leads directly to my second point.  The comments from Problems With Comment Publishing still have not been restored.  I may have missed it, but I didn't see this referenced in your letter.  Are these included in your count of 420?  I think you may have referred to these when you stated 667 messages were posted prior to the post, and 875 messages that were there by the time Howell responded. Is this correct.

    In any event, why are these linked?  There was an awful lot of pre-investigative work in that post.  It also included some of the most ribald and likely inappropriate language if my memory serves me correctly.  

    At that point, people were outraged, especially Paul who was holding their feet to the fire, but was not using the most appropriate language.  His frustration could be understood, but his language did become crude.

    How do I know this?  This post was where I made most of my comments.  I can assure you that I said nothing that could remotely be construed as inappropriate.  As a matter of fact, one of my comments ask commenters to use more reasonable language to ensure the baby would not be thrown out with the bath water.

    Finally, I believe someone posted on that thread a blogger blog that was being used to save all of the comments intermittently.  I will try to track it down, but this may also be a piece of the puzzle.  If you already are using this, please let me know.

    In any event, my main question is where are the comments in the Problems with Comments Publishing?

    Once again, thanks for all of the hard work.

    Chris Matthews must apologize! --- Join the Google Bomb

    by justmy2 on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 09:00:15 AM PST

    •  I found the (4.00)
      WaPoLies.blogspot.com site....

      But I am unable to locate a cached version of the Problems with Comments Publishing post anywhere.  

      What is in this post?

      Was this the first post the Paul L. questioned the graphic posted that appeared to photoshop out Tom Delay's name?

      What is so special about this post?  Inquiring minds want to know.

      Can anyone help find an archived version of this?

      Chris Matthews must apologize! --- Join the Google Bomb

      by justmy2 on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 09:24:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We just cross-posted (none)
        Bottom line: that thread appears to be AWOL! And I wouldn't even have noticed, except thanks to you.

        Here's hoping an archive emerges.

        •  Archive Found! (4.00)
          First of all...no problem.   You are doing all of the heavy lifting.

          Now to the important part.

          After a bunch of searches, I located the follwing cached version of the Problems With Comment Publishing thread

          The interesting tidbit I recognized during my search this morning was that almost all of the other Post blog threads have been removed from cache in Yahoo, Wayback, and Google.

          Now, that makes almost zero sense.  Do you know if this is automated or if someone needs to explicitly remove these archives?  

          Of course, the antenna goes up even more when you realize the one thread that hasn't been heavily discussed is still sitting there in the Yahoo cache.

          My first instinct was to not even post this link here.  But instead, I have copied off a local copy of the cache, in case the cached version should mysteriously disappear, like all of the others.  If it does, that may be another piece of the puzzle.

          There are some interesting posts in this thread.  However, I still believe there are missing posts here as well.  I have yet to track down my comment asking Paul to cool off while raising another point.  He responded with a very critical follow up if I remember correctly.  Can you check in your Maryland Moment threads for a post from me, semi-directed to Paul.

          I will continue looking around and let you know if I find anything.

          Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help out.

          Chris Matthews must apologize! --- Join the Google Bomb

          by justmy2 on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 10:54:34 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Very helpful, thank you (4.00)
            Nice job digging this up. It contains 55 messages I hadn't seen before.

            Yahoo archives have a tendency to go away (I discussed this in an earlier diary). Not a problem, though. Thanks to you, I've now had a chance to create a local archive. I know you have, too.

            I also just tried to post that archive at the same site (files.bz) that I've been using to share various other archives. Ironically, that site is down. Not a problem, though. Everything is saved locally, so I can always find another server to host everything, if it comes to that.

            Here's a complete list of the questionable words that can be found in these 55 messages: a$$coverer, bulls**t, bullshit, crapola, FUCK, Heck, heckuva, Keee-RIST!, whore, whore, whores. Needless to say, though, most of the messages are 100% non-profane.

            It's interesting to find "fuck." That's the first time. In my diary above, I had assumed that the software filter was able to find "fuck." I guess the software filter couldn't reliably do even that. Another sign of sloppiness and lack of preparation on Brady's part.

            "the one thread that hasn't been heavily discussed is still sitting there in the Yahoo cache"

            I don't know the details of how these various archives work, but I think your observation is significant.

            "Can you check in your Maryland Moment threads for a post from me, semi-directed to Paul."

            Aside from your post in the archive you just found, the only other post I can find from you, anywhere, is here, still online.

            That doesn't prove anything; the available archives are far from complete.

            In fairness to Brady, I should correct something I said recently. I said the comments in "Problems With Comment Publishing" need to be added to the 420.

            That's incorrect. WaPo reported a total of 1,500 posts. The messages in "Problems With Comment Publishing" are presumably part of that total, not above and beyond that total. My mistake.

            "You are doing all of the heavy lifting"

            I've done some work, but I've had tons of help, which deserves acknowledgement. Great credit is due to the hundreds of people who spoke up. That's where it all started. And I deeply appreciate the ongoing support of the Kos community. It means a lot.

            Various people (including you) have uncovered or saved various archives. That's obviously a major part of this process.

            I can't say enough about Jane Hamsher. She made all the difference when she elicited certain crucial statements from Brady. I already knew all the "offensive" messages had been publicly displayed, but it's extremely helpful that Jane put him up against the wall and forced him to admit it. That's crucial. Jane handled the situation brilliantly. She's made an enormous contribution to this process, in more ways than one. She deserves every bit of the success she's achieving, and much, much more.

            Suggestion to everyone reading this: read her blog now. She's awesome.

            And vote for Firedoglake, here, in the category "best weblog about politics" (although she's up against some worthy competition).

    •  Very good points (none)
      Thank you for what you're adding.

      "no outcry regarding missing or deleted posts in the Deborah Howell Response Post"

      Yes, not exactly "no outcry," but very little outcry. Yes, I mentioned this in an earlier diary, but not in this diary. You're right: Brady's cover story would have us believe that 20% of the messages were being yanked, and that this was happening quickly, after a short period of public display.

      Brady is suggesting this was happening all week long. But certainly this would have created a continuous outcry, and then he would have been required to delete the messages that were complaining about deletions, and so on.

      It's pretty clear that nothing like this happened, with the possible exception of early in the week. I think Straus's announcement on Tuesday points out technical problems which were causing messages to be deleted, or to have the appearance of having been deleted (i.e., I think there was a time when only the 50 most recent messages were being displayed).

      So transcripts early in the week reveal numerous complaints about deletions. Transcripts later in the week do not reveal such complaints (aside from a handful, at most). This seems to indicate that Brady was not continuously deleting 20% of new messages, as he has suggested.

      This is an important point that's worth having here, so thanks for bringing it up.

      "The comments from Problems With Comment Publishing still have not been restored."

      It's very helpful that you're pointing this out. Until this moment, I had no idea that there ever had been comments allowed on that article. In other words, it's completely outside my analysis.

      "I didn't see this referenced in your letter."

      Correct.

      "Are these included in your count of 420?"

      No, and they should be.

      "I think you may have referred to these when you stated 667 messages were posted prior to the post, and 875 messages that were there by the time Howell responded. Is this correct."

      No. If I had been aware that messages had ever been attached to "Problems With Comment Publishing," I would have explicitly cited that article. When I cite "875," that's completely on "Maryland Moment."

      "I believe someone posted on that thread a blogger blog that was being used to save all of the comments intermittently.  I will try to track it down, but this may also be a piece of the puzzle."

      I'm pretty sure the five archives I know about (all cited in my diary) do not reference "Problems With Comment Publishing." The archives I know about are from "Maryland Moment" and "Deborah Howell Responds." That is, I think they are. I could have made a mistake. I'll review this when I have a chance.

      If you feel like it, you could help by taking a look at the five archives, to see if you can identify one of the archives as being from "Problems With Comment Publishing."

      It would also be a big help if you or anyone else can track down archives of that thread.

      "where are the comments in the Problems with Comments Publishing?"

      Very good question. That question is now added to the list of important questions we hope Brady can answer, since he promised that he would restore all non-offensive comments. Unless he's claiming that "Problems with Comments Publishing" was 100% offensive, it seems that he hasn't fulfilled his commitment.

  •  praise (none)
    I read your tour de force last night, and woke up thinking that I needed to go back and thank you.  Brilliant and funny. I laughed out loud repeatedly with great and deep pleasure.  Thanks for your hard work.
    -- syolles
  •  Post. Of. The. Day. (none)
    Do we have a post of the day? Why not?

    Anyone who's ever listened to Jim Rome knows what's up with the 'Huge Call/Fax/Email' of the day. We should do that here, too. Have people vote on it. The 'Huge Post/Comment' of the day.

    On the JR tip, I'd say that in this post, Jukeboxgrad has:

    • taken to task some fishwrap from The District
    • blasted the immense hypocrisy of said fishwrap
    • in an epic takedown that included,
    • among other things,
    • referencing some choice language from Howell, the fishwrap writer, which went something along the lines of 'Adios, <bleep>', or 'Adios, <bleep> <bleep>',
    • 'Hate Speech' resets, and
    • a 'Lucille Ball in the Candy Factory' comparison.

    Huge. Post. Of. The. Day.

    Think Different, Think Green

    by shmooth on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 09:59:24 AM PST

  •  By way of trivia (none)
    The number 420 is a symbol for fraud and dishonesty in India and Nepal.  
  •  Wellstone funeral (none)
    The Incredible Uncivil Blogpost War of 2006 is already deeply inscribed into conventional wisdom, whence it can no more be dislodged than the Uncivil Dems at Wellstone Funeral Outrage which occupies an equally permanent position in the concrete slab next door.

    This diary entry is exceedingly well argued (if a trifle prolix) and well taken. But then exactly the same can be said of 99% of the Howell posts, 3 of which were my own, all of which now constitutes Awful Librul Noise according to the Official Bureau of What Right Thinking People Think. How will Brady respond? "More Krazy Liberal Kakaphony. More evidence the left is an ill-mannered rabble, were any needed which it isn't. Another Columbo heard from."

    I'm not sure what positive action could be taken that would have any chance of puncturing that narrative. The one piece that seems to me to have the most purchase is the one that anyone with a scintilla of web marketing expertise would recognize (as many have). Namely, that these avid, passionate readers are a fantastic resource and alienating them is a profoundly stupid thing to have done from a strictly commercial/branding/PR p.o.v.

    Still, I'm glad you posted it. Better to tilt at windmills than not to tilt at all.

  •  A small nitpick (none)
    First, great work, if somewhat long.  However, I find this statement, " I also notice that Howell didn't mind printing the word "whore" in her column, to make a point, which suggests that WaPo doesn't consider that word to be profane." to be fairly disingenious.

    There's a big difference between Howell quoting someone's comment to her, and the person actually making that comment.  

    So, while the word whore may not be profane or offensive in and of itself, it certainly as in certain contexts, which I don't think anyone would deny.  

    Also, I sincerely hope that this problem was caused by the Post's first real experience with a blog and, therefore, will not be repeated in the future.  Only time will tell I suppose.

  •  BRAVO!!! (none)
    I was "sent" here from Jane's blog (a daily must read) to thank you. So I'm thanking you. What an incredible, detailed, analysis! I'd love to see Brady's response, but I'm not holding my breath. What CAN he say, other than admit he was lying?

    If you just tread water you won't drown. You won't reach the shore, either...

    by Nasty Riffraff on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 07:36:50 PM PST

  •  this is: (none)
    the most amazing diary POSTing EVER.!!
    You ROCK and RULE jukeboxgrad.!!!!!
    THANK YOU, thank you.  

    MSM should be called the corporate fringe media: CFM.

    by jdbrooklyn on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 08:42:40 PM PST

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