Tuesday Night Open Thread

American Idol has the 12 semifinalist guys tonight. James Durbin rocked the house. I also really like Brett Loewenstern. I said last weeks the guys are much more interesting than the women contestants this year, and I think that's going to hold true for the season. You can vote online this year, but apparently you need a Facebook account. here's how. And here are the numbers if you want to text or phone in your vote.

One of mys least favorites: Paul McDonald who pretty much mimicked Rod Stewart in his version of Maggie May. Jennifer liked his smile but I thought it looked fake. Much better in the oldie re-do department, Brett Loewenstern, who made Light My Fire much more his own. Seems like Jacob Lutz and James Durbin will be in the top all season. Something about Casey Abrams rubs me the wrong way, I think it's his personality. And I don't like his screeching. Physically, he is completely unsexy, no matter what Jennifer says. He kind of looks like Seth Rogan, who may be funny, but sexy he isn't. But he's obviously going far this season. Five men and women will survive this week, the judges will then add their wildcard picks and the final 13 will be set.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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    Here's a development that will not (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Anne on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 07:24:53 AM EST
    surprise anyone: states are cutting their health insurance programs for the working poor.

    Ken Kewley woke up Tuesday without health insurance for the first time in nearly nine years.

    So did most of the 41,467 other Pennsylvanians who had been covered by adultBasic, a state-subsidized insurance program for the working poor that Gov. Tom Corbett shut down on Monday in one of the largest disenrollments in recent memory.

    Mr. Corbett, a Republican elected in November, has said the program he inherited is not sustainable with Pennsylvania facing a $4 billion budget shortfall. He blames his predecessor, Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat, for not keeping the plan solvent. His administration notified beneficiaries in late January that their coverage would expire Feb. 28.


    Pennsylvania is one of several destitute states seeking to help balance budgets by removing adults from government health insurance programs.

    Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington, a Democrat, recently removed 17,500 adults covered under Basic Health, a state-financed plan for the working poor. In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, proposes to remove up to 250,000 childless adults who have been insured by her state's Medicaid program under a decade-long agreement with the federal government.

    And this will put it all in perspective (emphasis mine):

    The Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans continue to run substantial surpluses, rising to a cumulative $5.6 billion in 2009 from $3.5 billion in 2002, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a research group that advocates for low-income families.

    But the insurers say their obligation to pay for a state program has ended. "Our support to adultBasic was always a temporary financing mechanism," said Aaron Billger, a spokesman for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest of the state's plans. "We have long told the state that it was unsustainable."

    And finally, the Obama administration just shrugs and says there's nothing they can do:

    The Obama administration rejected the state's request to allow refugees from adultBasic to qualify immediately for the high-risk insurance pool authorized under the federal health law. Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, responded that she could not waive the law's requirement that applicants be uninsured for six months.

    This is just unacceptable; I would say "unconscionable," except that having a conscience is a pretty much a prerequisite.

    Is it 2014 yet?  Do we all have our Affordable Care yet?

    The fact that they (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 07:50:34 AM EST
    have to be uninsured for six months is a huge flaw in the plan that is now just showing up. Sebelius is right though. She can't change that flaw. Only congress can fix it and I'm sure it's on the top of Boehner's agenda. Right? (Snark)

    Not sure if many of the working poor (none / 0) (#4)
    by MO Blue on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 08:09:43 AM EST
    who qualified for Medicaid would qualify for the high risk program or would be able to pay the premiums. It is my understanding that to qualify for the pre-existing condition plan, people must be uninsured for at least six months and have been turned down for coverage by a private insurer because of a medical problem. Also the last I read the premiums averaged around $400 - $600 per month.

    Obama's insurance plan was designed to cover 32 million people when implemented in 2014. The way things are going, even if it is implemented, we could insure those 32 million and wind up with more people uninsured than when the program was designed.  


    I think the Pennsylvania program (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Anne on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 09:07:58 AM EST
    referred to in the article may be like the one we have here in MD, where if you have been turned down for coverage by a private company, you can get insurance through the state's program.  These are completely separate from Medicaid, as far as I know, and at least in MD, is not tied to income levels.  Premiums are based on age, so depending on how old someone is, the MD plan could still be unaffordable.

    The "interesting" thing is that the MD plan - MHIP - is administered by CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, which, in many instances, is the same company that may have originally denied coverage to someone.

    I think there's no question - at least in my mind - that even if the Obama plan is still in existence in 2014, things will not be much improved from where they are now.  I think the little improvements in some areas will be greatly outweighed by declines in others.

    But when you go about "solving" a problem by not addressing the primary cause, it's hard to expect improvement.


    As with the mortgage issue, jobs, etc (none / 0) (#7)
    by ruffian on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 09:22:50 AM EST
    It is like they only gave lip service to getting that there was a problem that they would be expected to do something about. So I think you are absolutely right here:

    I think there's no question - at least in my mind - that even if the Obama plan is still in existence in 2014, things will not be much improved from where they are now.  I think the little improvements in some areas will be greatly outweighed by declines in others.

    An inadequate response that shows they did not understand the gravity of the problem.


    What do you mean lip service? (none / 0) (#15)
    by sj on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 11:45:56 AM EST
    They got a bill passed, didn't they?  What more could you want?

    teach me to comment before (none / 0) (#10)
    by MO Blue on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 10:05:16 AM EST
    I have my coffee. States are also cutting Medicaid. More programs cut and millions more people without health care.

    Medicaid Fight Shapes Up As States Seek Solutions To Budget Woes
    The Obama administration is gearing up for an influx of state requests to modify the federal-state Medicaid partnership when the nation's governors descend on the capital for their winter meeting next weekend. High on state leaders' list of priorities is changing the healthcare reform law's Medicaid expansion, which 26 states challenged in federal court. The issue received renewed attention last week when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Arizona it could drop thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries without running afoul of federal law -- something 33 Republican governors have asked to be able to do. ... The looming possibility of such massive cuts is causing consternation among healthcare advocates. Cutting the Medicaid rolls now makes no sense, said Ron Pollack of the healthcare advocacy group Families USA, even if he acknowledges that the secretary's hands were tied (Pecquet, 2/21). link

    Seems like, instead of doors being opened (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by Anne on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 11:23:04 AM EST
    for people to at least get closer to access to care, those doors are all being slammed on them.  I cannot imagine how demoralizing it must be to have been led to believe that you were finally going to have a better chance to obtain care, only to have states - crippled by the insane fiscal policies being implemented in Congress, with full presidential support, and the total lack of real jobs initiatives - go after these programs because - let's face it - no one's going to fight for the poor.  They don't have connections and entrée into the inner circles, no money to grease the palms of those who can get things done, nothing to hold over anyone's head.

    Meanwhile, where the frack is Barack Obama?  Moving on, I guess.  Touring schools with Jeb Bush in Florida.  Trying to stay above it all.  Looking all serious and pained as he lectures us about "sacrifice."  Ignoring that it isn't enough to pass a bill, check something off a list; it's the follow-through where fights are won or lost, where success or failure is determined.  And Obama is pretty much a stranger to that whole concept, since he is usually long gone before he has to face that music.

    Which was obvious to anyone who really wanted to know who this guy was.

    Whole thing just infuriates me


    Yes, those of us who were supposed (none / 0) (#16)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 12:26:41 PM EST
    to be able to add our older children back onto our insurance are having the doors shut in our faces.  They won't even talk to you about it until the day they have to do it....April 1st.  And it isn't just Tricare giving you this treatment either, I have heard it is BCBS too.  On April 1st, don't expect to get insurance coverage for your kids either....expect that that is the day when they will begin to decide how they are going to deal with this, at least that is what DEERS told us about Tricare.  Tricare has no plan in action at this time to cover older children after April 1st and they told DEERS to understand that at this time they are looking for all legal ways to fight this.

    To boil (none / 0) (#13)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 10:29:05 AM EST
    it down: you had obama's number back when you said he just likes to check the box and say he's done it. It doesn't matter whether what he's sending forth is complete crap or not just that he can say it's "done". Honestly, this is one of the most annoying traits of many that he has. Obama is just not suited to be President.

    I'm off to a spring training game this afternoon (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by ruffian on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 08:41:52 AM EST
    in Melbourne, Nationals v Marlins.

    I'm sure Walter O'Malley is turning in his grave over the fate of his dodger franchise. I don't know that much about him, but I think non baseball related drama was to be avoided.

    Well some would say (none / 0) (#8)
    by brodie on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 09:55:48 AM EST
    Walter O'M made a deal with the devil himself when he pulled his Dodgers out of their original home in Brooklyn for greener pastures at Chavez Ravine, L.A.  That his son Peter, even more of a cold-fish businessman than the father as opposed to a baseball fan, acted similarly by selling the family-owned team for a nice price to a big media beast shouldn't have surprised anyone who knew about that profit-conscious owner.

    And the McCourt-Dodgers situation is just the latest in a string of major L.A. institutions having their ownership at issue at the expense of the community -- the L.A. Times and the once-L.A. Rams come to mind.   Only the L.A. Lakers have had owner stability in recent decades.



    "Carpet-baggers." (none / 0) (#19)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 01:33:22 PM EST
    Morning WH Funny (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by waldenpond on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 10:06:26 AM EST
    Obama chief of staff....

    As a government our responsibility is to lay the foundations for the private sector to thrive..

    bwahahaha!  I always thought the responsibility of govt was to represent the will of the people? and that the agencies this WH is after were to try to pacify the people from rebelling.... you know: the pretense that they are trying to keep billionaires from killing too many people while exploiting people and stealing their money?

    U.S. Military bus attacked at Frankfurt (none / 0) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 09:59:46 AM EST
    airport, two soldiers dead, one critically wounded.

    Fred Phelps and his church win (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 10:10:12 AM EST
    Snyder v. Phelps

    For the past 20 years, the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church has picketed military funerals to communicate its belief that Godhates the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality, particu-larly in America's military. The church's picketing has also con-demned the Catholic Church for scandals involving its clergy. Fred Phelps, who founded the church, and six Westboro Baptist parishion-ers (all relatives of Phelps) traveled to Maryland to picket the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq inthe line of duty. The picketing took place on public land approxi-mately 1,000 feet from the church where the funeral was held, in accordance with guidance from local law enforcement officers. The picketers peacefully displayed their signs--stating, e.g., "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "Fags Doom Nations," "America is Doomed," "Priests Rape Boys," and "You're Going to Hell"--for about 30 min-utes before the funeral began. Matthew Snyder's father (Snyder), petitioner here, saw the tops of the picketers' signs when driving to the funeral, but did not learn what was written on the signs until watching a news broadcast later that night.

    Snyder filed a diversity action against Phelps, his daughters--who participated in the picketing--and the church (collectively Westboro) alleging, as relevant here, state tort claims of intentional infliction ofemotional distress, intrusion upon seclusion, and civil conspiracy. A jury held Westboro liable for millions of dollars in compensatory andpunitive damages. Westboro challenged the verdict as grossly exces-sive and sought judgment as a matter of law on the ground that theFirst Amendment fully protected its speech. The District Court re-duced the punitive damages award, but left the verdict otherwise intact. The Fourth Circuit reversed, concluding that Westboro's statements were entitled to First Amendment protection because thosestatements were on matters of public concern, were not provably false, and were expressed solely through hyperbolic rhetoric.

    Held: The First Amendment shields Westboro from tort liability for itspicketing in this case. Pp. 5-15

    I again find myself sympathetic (none / 0) (#23)
    by andgarden on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 02:02:27 PM EST
    to Alito's dissent. I don't think of myself as being particularly conservative on First Amendment matters. Perhaps I am compared to the present composition of the Court.

    The old Skokie situation (none / 0) (#25)
    by christinep on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 02:34:03 PM EST
    Was it 30+ years ago...when the neo-Nazi trash wanted to march in Skokie, Illinois (a location then with a substantial Jewish population and special ties to Holocaust victims)...was it that long ago? Yep, the same kind of feelings you have now; I had then (and reprised now.) Perhaps, your very legitimate feelings are obscuring--just for a minute--the real scope of the 1st Amendment. Much as the result today made me swallow hard...it was the only decision. (My little wish is that some of those "super-patriot" types that seem to be there always in flag, cursing, and related cases could somehow, in some way, get the real importance of our incomparable 1st Amendment.)

    College football and crime (none / 0) (#17)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 12:31:25 PM EST
    I think I hit both BTD's and Jeralyn's areas here  :)

    Pitt, with 22 players, tops the list this year as having the most players in trouble with the law, among Sports Illustrated's 2010 pre-season top 25.

    Some interesting statistics:

    Pitt was far from the only school with players who had criminal records. The results of the investigation include some striking revelations. Among them:

    • Seven percent of the players in the preseason Top 25 -- 204 in all (1 of every 14) -- had been charged with or cited for a crime, including dozens of players with multiple arrests.

    • Of the 277 incidents uncovered, nearly 40 percent involved serious offenses, including 56 violent crimes such as assault and battery (25 cases), domestic violence (6), aggravated assault (4), robbery (4) and sex offenses (3). In addition there were 41 charges for property crimes, including burglary and theft and larceny.

    • There were more than 105 drug and alcohol offenses, including DUI, drug possession and intent to distribute cocaine.

    • Race was not a major factor. In the overall sample, 48 percent of the players were black and 44.5 percent were white. Sixty percent of the players with a criminal history were black and 38 percent were white.

    • In cases in which the outcome was known, players were guilty or paid some penalty in nearly 60 percent of the 277 total incidents.

    Players who would have been on last year's rosters but had been charged and expelled from their teams before Sept. 1 -- and there were dozens -- were not counted in our sample. Nor did SI and CBS News have access to juvenile arrest records for roughly 80 percent of the players in the study.

    If I had any bone to pick with (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Anne on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 02:01:18 PM EST
    the report - at least as it was outlined on CNNSI - it is that "charges" and "citations" and "criminal records" are not the equivalent of convictions; in the former, there is still, believe it or not, a presumption of innocence.  In the article itself, of the four Pitt players used as an example, only one pled guilty - the others are awaiting trial and have not been convicted.

    Please understand that I am not defending the alleged behavior, just the right of those accused of crimes to be given the presumption of innocence that is their right.

    Yes, there are patterns of behavior - we see it at the NFL level - that should be an indication that someone may be unable to turn off the violent, physical side of themselves that is so valuable on the field - and has been nurtured and encouraged by everyone from coaches to parents to fellow players - when they are off the field, which is why some teams/head coaches/owners prefer to stay away from these kinds of athletes even if they are extraordinarily proficient at the game.

    We expect these young men, many of whom come from backgrounds where no one taught them the right way to behave, and whose brains have not only not fully developed, but are routinely rattled around on the field, to never be the person off the field that they are on it.  We cheer when a player lays out an opponent on the field, but if it happens in a bar, that same player is branded a criminal.

    I'm not excusing the behavior: it's wrong.  But, I also think it's wrong to equate charges and arrests and "histories" with convictions.


    I think the thesis (none / 0) (#24)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 02:14:35 PM EST
    is that colleges don't do enough due diligence on their recruits.  This is not an article about the ins and outs of criminal justice.  These are examples where, had the universities done better background checks, then maybe some of these scholarships would have gone to individuals who would be more deserving and less trouble and embarassment for the university.

    This is the more important quote:

    The number of players with criminal histories turned up by the SI/CBS News investigation reinforces a pervasive assumption that college coaches are willing to recruit players with questionable pasts to win. More surprising, however, is just how little digging college coaches do into players' backgrounds before offering them a scholarship.

    These guys are due a presumption of innocence. They are not, however, due a full scholarship (especially at the expense of others) and the chance to make millions of dollars playing a game on Sundays.


    The real problem is the money. (none / 0) (#26)
    by Anne on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 03:08:12 PM EST
    The money it costs to have the kinds of facilities that the nation's top athletes want to play in.  The money it costs to recruit at high schools around the country.  The most gifted athletes aren't looking for a place where football is just the pure game, they are looking to play somewhere where they can be in the national spotlight and audition for the next stage: multi-million dollar contracts with the NFL.  And Top 25 teams - or those who aspire to make that Top 25 ranking - cannot compete for the best players if they can't offer them that chance.  This isn't about, "come play for Generic University because you love the game," it's about "come play for Alabama, because look how many of our players have gone on to the NFL."

    These "scholarships" are, for too many of these players, the equivalent of a down-payment on the much bigger payday to come, and not about the education.  Look at the graduation rates, look at how many take their scholarship money for two years or three, and then head off to the NFL draft.  If it were up to me, any student-athlete who left school before getting a degree in order to play professional sports would be required to pay back the entire amount of the scholarship.

    I'm not saying that all athletes are just looking for a ticket to the NFL, and don't give a crap about getting an education - there have been and are many who think the education is important enough to take it seriously.  But they may be the exception, not the rule.  

    The whole system is corrupt, in the sense that this really isn't about education, at all.  I would have had more respect for the report had it gone into more this aspect of why colleges are so willing to accept players who aren't shining beacons of good behavior and give them not just a free educational ride, but all the perks that come with being a D-1, Top-25 player: because the amount of money that pours in to a school that has a Top 25 program is obscene and isn't going to be rejected so university officials can stand on high moral ground.

    The college system needs to be changed - it's been needing change for a long time; but as long as money drives the athletic programs, it will just be more of the same.


    Of course it is (none / 0) (#27)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 03:23:17 PM EST
    Which is why the point is made that these universities (and others - remember, this was just a survey of last year's pre-season Top 25) don't do their due diligence on these kids.

    What also was glossed over was the fact of how many of these kids get in serious trouble and basically face no punishment from the university, but instead get to keep their scholarships and get to play.

    It seems to me that if you bring in a recruit who, at 18 years old, has had multiple run-ins with the law, you don't have the right to claim ignorance when it happens again (and again).


    More (none / 0) (#18)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 12:32:52 PM EST
    The number of players with criminal histories turned up by the SI/CBS News investigation reinforces a pervasive assumption that college coaches are willing to recruit players with questionable pasts to win. More surprising, however, is just how little digging college coaches do into players' backgrounds before offering them a scholarship.

    Among the 25 schools in the investigation, only two -- TCU and Oklahoma -- perform any type of regular criminal background searches on recruits. But even TCU and Oklahoma don't look at juvenile records. No school does, even though football and basketball players are among the most high-profile representatives of a university. (Of the 25 schools, only Virginia Tech did any type of background checks on admitted students, and admissions questionnaires at more than half the other universities ask applicants if they have ever been arrested.)

    Yet it wouldn't take much for schools to access this information. Take Florida, for example. The Sunshine State is not only one of the nation's largest football hotbeds, it also has the nation's most open public records law. Through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, anyone can check a person's complete criminal history -- including many juvenile arrests -- for $24.

    Using this service, SI and CBS News checked all 318 Florida-based players in our sample. Thirty-one players (9.5%) had a criminal record. Twenty-two of those players had a juvenile record. Their juvenile offenses included felonies such as armed robbery, assault, domestic violence and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

    Expecting comments from BTD and (none / 0) (#20)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 01:35:53 PM EST
    kdog here.

    I hope so! (none / 0) (#21)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 01:44:00 PM EST
    The issue... (none / 0) (#28)
    by kdog on Thu Mar 03, 2011 at 08:37:39 AM EST
    just showed up in the post last night...first impression, prior to reading it, is who doesn't have a criminal record in this police state age?  Thats who I would worry about...The Tebows:)

    I mean 75% of my current household has a criminal arrest record, 66% of my immediate family...and we're sweethearts.  'Criminal Record' alone is meaningless these days in this one nation, under arrest.