Friday, November 01, 2013

Saturday Satire: G.O.P. Edition

David Letterman: "Anybody try to sign up for the Obamacare? It's impossible, and everybody's furious. The Republicans are upset about Obamacare because something they tried to stop now won't get started."
Jay Leno: "The president said he didn't know that we were spying on our allies. He didn't know about the problems with the healthcare website. Have you heard the latest? Now the president claims he doesn't know how 'Breaking Bad' ended."

Craig Ferguson: "Obama is also being criticized for the Obamacare website. You know what's wrong with that website? A lot of the people trying to sign up for Obamacare are elderly. So you've already lost them at 'website.'"
"President Obama is still in trouble for this spying stuff. You can tell he is getting tired of talking about this scandal. Today he said, 'Anyone want to talk about my birth certificate?'"

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The House Republican Conference wants to hear your Obamacare horror story. Here's mine.

  By BigDuck

I got an email from Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Chair, House Republicans, telling me that "Obamacare" is a disaster.

Have you or someone you know lost health care coverage as a result of the President’s health care law?  Tell us your story by clicking here.  We want to hear if you or someone you know lost insurance as a result of Obamacare because these stories are the reason House Republicans continue focusing on patient-centered reforms not government-centered health care.
She provided a helpful Web site:, and invited me to tell my story.  So I did.  And so should you!

My story:

My family was on an individual plan with Blue Cross of Texas for almost 10 years.  Each year, the premiums went up, sometimes by 10 or 20 percent.  The only way we could keep the premiums affordable was to accept higher and higher deductibles, and higher co-pays.  
By 2009, even a $10,000 deductible was not enough to keep premiums affordable.  We were worried that we would soon not be able to afford health care coverage at all.

I was eligible for coverage on a different Blue Cross plan with my union, but did not sign up because it did not cover my adult children.  Starting January of 2010, this union plan was required to cover my adult children because of Obamacare.  I signed up. 

Our premiums went down by $234 dollars a month, thanks to Obamacare.  Our deductible went from Ten Thousand Dollars to One Thousand Dollars, again, thanks to Obamacare.  Plus, the new plan covers dental and vision care, which the old plan did not.

Under the new, union sponsored plan, our premiums have not gone up in the past three years.  I'm sure that under our old plan, they would have continued going up by 10 or 20 percent each year, as they did during the previous 10 years. 

Now the oldest of our daughters is 26, and must seek coverage on her own.  Fortunately, she lives in a Democratic state, where the Healthcare Marketplace works.

I want to thank Leader Pelosi, Leader Reid, and President Obama for making it possible to take my family to the doctor when they need it.

Update Noon, Oct. 31
Wow, thanks people, first time on Rec list, etc.

I knew this was an issue that resonated, I just didn't know how much.  There are millions of people out there who, like me, were teetering on the edge of medical disaster, and it would be be nice if the so-called-liberal-media would feature some of our stories. 

Apparently the President and Congressional leaders assumed that:
a)Most states would set up their own exchanges to help their citizens/tax payers/voters get medical care for their families, and
b)All states would be required to accept the Medicaid expansion, which would have covered people who do not make enough to qualify for ACA subsidies.

Well, those of us from deep red states could have predicted which states would refuse to set up their own exchanges/marketplaces, but I don't think anybody knew that the Supreme Court would make the Medicaid expansion optional. 

So here we are.  The R's are spinning this as a big disaster.  Those of us who are benefiting and know it need to shout louder.

   Published by BigDuck at Daily Kos on Wed Oct 30, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Reddit Politics Forum: Censoring Content?

 From Underground Research Initiative.
Mon Oct 28, 2013
This afternoon, the moderation team for the popular /r/politics subreddit announced a blacklist, banning such publications as Alternet, Drudgereport, Heritage Foundation, Huffington Post, Motherjones, National Review, Reason Magazine, Salon Magazine, Thinkprogress, Twitter,, and many many more. Including, Dailykos.
With over three million members, the Reddit Politics forum has significant audience share. To block an entire domain and publisher from submission access will have major economic repercussions for any publication on that list. It will also diminish public recognition of any news published at those sites, now denied access. And thus, the free flow of information is diminished.
The big-daddy of link and content aggregation sites on the 'net, Reddit has tens of millions of users worldwide. The site bills itself as, "...a source for what's new and popular on the web. Users like you provide all of the content and decide, through voting, what's good and what's junk." 
So it might interest many of these users to learn which sources the moderation team in Reddit's politics subreddit have sidelined by blacklist. And in so doing, to disenfranchise those users from their supposed vote. It might also surprise the community that what these moderators have blacklisted are some of the most well recognized publishers of political journalism on the web.
  The change began about two weeks ago when site administrators replaced many of the old politics mod team by a large number of new moderators. From that point forward, the new mod team took drastic measures to change subreddit policy by fiat.
In a post published hours ago, moderators behind this policy shift stated:

We have identified one of three recurring problems with the newly disallowed domains:
- Blogspam
- Sensationalism
- Low Quality Posts
They offer details to these definitions. To summarize the first two, Blogspam refers to a blog or web site that quotes large amounts of text from another publication without offering significant content, analysis, or secondary sources. Sensationalism is as they interpret the word. But the third reason, low quality posts, offers significant insight into the purpose behind their blacklist policy.
The third major problem is pretty simple to understand, though it is easily the most subjective: the domain provides lots of bad journalism to the sub. Bad journalism most regularly happens when the verification of claims made by a particular article is almost impossible. Bad journalism, especially when not critically evaluated, leads to lots of circlejerking and low-quality content that we want to discourage. Domains with a history of producing a lot of bad journalism, then, are no longer allowed. [emphases added]
All of which might seem reasonable until one digs into the details of which sites were banned. Most remarkably, Mother Jones is on that list. A publication that directly impacted the 2012 Presidential election by publishing hidden video of candidate Mitt Romney making disparaging statements about those '47% of the population' who he thought probably wouldn't vote for him anyway. As a result, their reporting shifted the electoral landscape and severely diminished Romney's chances of winning that election. The series won author David Corn and Motherjones a Polk Award for investigative journalism.
One editor for Mother Jones, when he discovered the unofficial ban five days ago, responded to a post about it on Reddit in the Journalism forum:
Hey folks. I'm an editor at Mother Jones and a long-time redditor. I'm disappointed, but not entirely surprised, by this decision. I like to believe that readers (especially redditors) are smart enough to read a bunch of different sources and make up their minds about what's true. News outlets should ultimately be judged by whether the stories they report turn out to be correct—i.e., whether they are accurate. A healthy r/politics community would be one that downvotes inaccurate or misleading stories and upvotes accurate ones, not a sub that bans entire domains (except for domains that focus entirely on making things up, like the Onion or whatever). A clarifying example here might be the Economist. Anyone who reads the Economist presumably understands that it has a libertarian point of view. But there's not a ton of wailing and gnashing of teeth about it because everyone assumes that the readers are smart enough to separate the facts from how the paper sees them. If r/politics community members are having trouble separating op-ed pieces from news reporting, that's too bad. But that doesn't mean essential work from great reporters (to pick someone on the other side of the ideological spectrum) such as National Review's Robert Costa should be banned from the sub. Just an unfortunate decision, and a slippery slope, too. All reporters make decisions that are affected by their personal biases—who to call, what to cover, whom to trust. Is the sub going to start taking seriously the complaints of conservatives who think the New York Times or the Guardian have too much of an agenda? What about liberal complaints about Fox News? Where does this end?
Which prompted an interesting response by user townsley to that self-proclaimed MJ editor. He offered an interesting perspective for context:
Unfortunately, /r/politics has extremely weak moderation right now and one moderator in particular (/u/theredditpope) combined with some hardcore conservatives (and other complacent and inactive mods) to make sure that redditors won't see reporting like this on mass shootings in America.
This was a huge win for the hardcore right - good investigative fact based journalism has repeatedly been damaging to the right on reddit. It is really important for them - and now /u/theredditpope apparently - that they don't allow redditors access to a factual catalogue of shootings as a part of their political discussion.
In what world does this make sense in a sub called /r/politics? You got me.
But it's not just Mother Jones that's been affected. When one respondent asked for examples of sensationalism in Salon Magazine that made the publication worth banning, a moderator replied:
Sure thing. As soon as we finish our closer look into the domain. If you ask this time next week I'll be much better positioned to answer that question with specific examples and with what we decided to do with the domain after our closer examination.
I asked if that meant that the moderation team had banned the site without having completed a review of its content. To which another moderator replied simply, "No." There were no additional details provided.
A majority of comments from the community decried the decision, some some outliers supporting the ban. One comment indicative of popular opinion read:
You are trying to control the source and the free flow of information. Please stop it. Let us post the sources we see fit, then let the votes decide.
You guys are ruining /r/politics, quit trying to fix something that isn't broken. Also, the bannings are so arbitrary, RT is allowed but not MJ? Youtube takes of Alex Jones going crazy are just fine but actual journalism from Salon is not allowed.
Mother Jones broke the biggest story of the 2012 election and they are banned. Do you guys realize MJ has been around since 1976? Do you guys realize David Corn, who writes for Mother Jones, is an award winning journalist? It's like you guys made these bannings based on what 22 year olds think is cool. No historical knowledge at all.
I don't want to see anything banned, I'd like to put the blaze and the weekly standard up against MJ and Media Matters then see what happens.

Stop it mods, just stop it."
Another wrote:
Do you feel you may have gone to far in an attempt to be 'fair and balanced'?
The sites you have labelled as 'right wing' sites that you have banned are largely conspiracy sites (infowars) or sites that falsified news (briebart) while fox and russian propaganda papers are allowed.
While on the 'left wing' side you have banned actual papers, and domains that have won awards and broke large stories.
I see this as forcing a false sense of equality between the content of mother jones/huffington and infowars.
Are you attempting to shape the direction of this subreddit in a more conservative/libertarian direction?
A Moderator replied:
I and others have admitted that perhaps some of these bans are not necessary. We are engaged in an internal process to re-evaluate these domains (among which are salon, HuffPo, and several others that people have been mentioning).
It should also be said that we banned the NationalReview and as well. So it isn't true that we targetted only the silliest of right-wing material.
Which suggests the question: Why should a nonpartisan political forum ban any publication promoting serious public policy or journalism? Regardless of whether it comes from Heritage or Motherjones.
There were some users less concerned about the decision. One community member responded in support:
These rule changes only affect what is allowed to be posted, not discussed. The main backlash against the banned domain list stems from people thinking their favorite biased news sites are banned from discussion, when they are not.
The criteria the mods used for the banned domain list addresses the issue of biased posts, which start a discussion off with a heavy weight to one side or the other. Since a post title cannot be changed and it is the post's link that is the topic of discussion, any posts to a biased article or that have a sensationalist title can almost never lead to an equally weighted and completely open discussion.
Some might remember that three years ago on Digg, a then popular link aggregation site similar to Reddit, a conspiracy was revealed whereby a conservative group had colluded to censor content there.
The popular link-sharing website Digg is investigating claims that a group of the site's "influential conservative" members are systematically downgrading thousands of stories deemed to be "liberal".
Online magazine AlterNet claimed to have uncovered a group of Digg members – dubbed "Digg Patriots" – who have "censored hundreds of users, dozens of websites, and thousands of stories" from the site. Alternet alleged that the Digg Patriots, thought to number nearly 100 members, are "able to bury over 90% of articles by certain users and websites submitted within 1-3 hours".
It might seem an issue unrelated to members of the Dailykos community - other than the fact that Dailykos has been censored - but with three million users the politics mod has a significant impact on public awareness of serious issues.
There's no proof yet that political censorship is the underlying motive behind these new policies in the Politics subreddit. But, given past history, that conservative activists might squelch serious journalism in an attempt to skew public opinion isn't just conspiracy theory. It's already happened before. Which means that fact based journalism could well be under threat in one of the most popular political forums on Reddit. A matter of significant concern for journalism and a free flow of information crucial to the general public.
One thing is clear, looking through the comments in their announcement a lot of very unhappy users have offered vociferous complaints. And further, that what questions posed to the mods that have not been responded to are more interesting than the ones they have answered.

UPDATE #1: dkos user olliegarkey posted a fascinating comment with an embedded graph showing that many of the most submission sites banned in this policy shift.

Note the placement of Rawstory, Dailykos, Alternet, Thinkprogress, and Huffingtonpost.  
dkos User subterranian responded by arguing a partisan bent to the bans:
So they banned both right and left wing sites so it looks "balanced" in a simple list.  But by actual traffic, it's entirely left wing sites that were banned.
Clever.  And most disturbing.

UPDATE #2: Reddit user PoliticsMod appears to be is one of the mods involved in organizing this policy change. The user replied to a comment I wrote asking about the content of this image by saying:
Popular domains have been banned for two weeks now, and in that time traffic has only grown and our front page has become noticeably less sensational.
I do not have the sense that this response answered my question.

NOTE 1: minor copyedits for clarity; removed error listing The Nation as a banned publication; fixed broken link; added graph in UPDATE; additional copyedits to cleanup bad prose.
NOTE 2: I'll be stepping away from the computer for several hours. I promise to respond to any PMs and will update this diary entry when I return with important new facts as events unfold. Thank you for reading!