Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Weep softly, carry a big gavel

Speaker Boehner shifts the House into reverse.

House Speaker John Boehner grabbed for the biggest gavel he could find before he gave a speech hailing his own "humility" on Wednesday as he took on his new leadership role.
Boehner pledged to be open to dissent, debate and discussion from the Democratic side of the aisle – even as his first legislative priority, a full repeal of "Obamacare," will move forward without amendments.
Big gavel = humility; Open debate = no amendments to the House's first major bill. Got that?

I discussed the House GOP's turn back the clock strategy today on MSNBC's "Hardball," describing their plans to repeal not only healthcare reform, but significant parts of financial reform, and of course Rep. Darrell Issa wants to bring us back to the Clinton years, with dumb, politically motivated investigations into the "corrupt" Obama administration, particularly "scandals" involving the now-defunct organizing group ACORN and the the meaningless New Black Panther Party.

Pat Buchanan took issue with my getting all political, telling me to "give it a rest" because it's just "opening day."
Man, I hate sports-related metaphors about politics: This isn't San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers March 31, in which all things remain possible (except for the Dodgers); it's the opening of a new Congress in which the House GOP majority is pledged to roll back every good thing the last Congress accomplished.
They've told us that. We know that. Why can't we talk about it?

Strangely (for me), I called Buchanan "honey" when he kept talking over me.
After years of being patronized on national television, maybe I've internalized it. I was a little bit embarrassed, although when I watched it, it cracked me up.
It's going to be a fascinating year.

Joan Walsh SALON

Firewood spat may have come before Ohio mom killed

MILLERSBURG, Ohio (AP) — A 10-year-old boy suspected in his mother's shooting death argued with her beforehand about whether to carry firewood into their home, his uncle said Tuesday.

The boy, who had a gun rack mounted to his bedroom wall, has been charged with murder as a juvenile and entered the equivalent of a not guilty plea in court.
His mother, 46-year-old Deborah McVay, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head Sunday night in Big Prairie, a tiny rural town of rolling hills and fields in central Ohio.

McVay's brother, Tony Miller, said his nephew argued with his mother just before she died because he didn't want to carry in the firewood.

"He had anger issues, and she overlooked those anger issues," said Miller, who lives in Kentucky. "It was her son. She loved him very much."

Four weapons were found in the boy's bedroom after the shooting. On his bed were the .22-caliber rifle believed to be the weapon that killed his mother and a 12-gauge shotgun. On the gun rack were two more .22-caliber rifles, Chief Deputy Nathan Fritz said. Paramedics found McVay lying facedown on her living room floor, and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

It's a rarity for a young child to be suspected of killing anyone. According to FBI crime statistics, 11 children ages 5 to 12 were murder defendants in 2009 — 10 boys and one girl.

Authorities went to the house, a two-car garage converted into a living space, after a neighbor called a sheriff's dispatcher. The neighbor who called police said the boy came to her home to report the emergency. On a recording of the call, the dispatcher says, "I want to know what happened, tell him."

Then, after a garbled exchange, a voice in the background says, "I shot my mom. I shot her with a gun."

McVay had separated from her husband, Mike McVay, two weeks ago, Miller said. The guns found in the boy's room once belonged to his grandfather, but they were given to him by his father, Miller said. He didn't know when the boy received the guns.

Before Deborah McVay died, she had argued with her husband about the weapons' presence in her son's room, Miller said.

"She knew, and she did not like it, and she kept bringing the issue up about getting rid of them," he said. "But every time she did, there was an argument about it with the father."

Mike McVay could not be reached for comment about his wife's death.

The 10-year-old appeared in court Monday in an orange jumpsuit, his hands and feet cuffed. A judge ordered he remain in Richland County Juvenile Detention as authorities investigate the shooting.

"It's not unusual for boys of that age to hunt and shoot," Fritz said. "I think it's unusual that those weapons were permitted to be in the boy's bedroom."

The boy lived with his mother and 15-year-old sister, who was present at the time of the shooting, in the small one-story dwelling, Fritz said. An empty shell casing belonging to a .22-caliber rifle was found in the living area after the shooting.

Ron Martin, McVay's next-door neighbor, said he'd seen the boy using a BB gun in his backyard, like other children in the area, but never saw him use it inappropriately.

"He wasn't going around threatening people or anything like that," Martin said.

The investigation has unearthed previous disciplinary problems in the boy's life but no serious violence. In December 2006, Deborah McVay called the sheriff's office to complain about a school bus driver who disciplined the boy, Fritz said.

"He was being disruptive, and the bus driver had to stop the bus," Fritz said, "and grabbed him by the jacket and sat him down."

No charges were filed by the family against the driver.

In September 2007, the boy was disciplined for hitting his elementary school principal in the face and chest with a dustpan, Fritz said. The principal had been escorting the boy to the gymnasium for a time out after he had been disruptive in class, and the boy grabbed the dustpan when they reached the gym, Fritz said.

The incident was reported to the sheriff's office as an "unruly complaint" and was referred to the prosecutor's office, but sheriff's deputies didn't know the outcome.

Killbuck Elementary School Principal David Wade confirmed that the boy was a student there for years but wouldn't comment further. He deferred all inquiries to the district's superintendent, who didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The boy was transferred to Clark Elementary School, which specializes in children with behavioral problems or special needs, Fritz said. The principal at Clark Elementary also declined to comment.

Authorities do not plan to prosecute the boy as an adult, and his defense attorney plans to argue for the boy's release so that he can stay with a family member.

USA TODAY does not name minors accused of crimes when they are not charged as adults.

Louisiana has mass bird deaths just days after Arkansas

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It isn't easy being a blackbird in the South.
First, New Year's Eve fireworks were blamed in central Arkansas for making thousands of blackbirds confused, crashing into homes, cars and each other. Then 300 miles to the south in Louisiana, power lines likely killed about 450 birds, littering a highway near Baton Rouge.

It's almost certainly a coincidence the events happened within days of each other, Louisiana's state wildlife veterinarian Jim LaCour said Tuesday. "I haven't found anything to link the two at this point."

Mass bird deaths aren't uncommon. The U.S. Geological Service's website listed about 90 mass deaths of birds and other wildlife from June through Dec. 12. There were five deaths of at least 1,000 birds, with the largest near Houston, Minn., where parasite infestations killed about 4,000 water birds between Sept. 6 and Nov. 26.

In Louisiana, the birds died sometime late Sunday or early Monday in the rural Pointe Coupee Parish community of Labarre, about 30 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. The birds — a mixed flock of red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles and starlings — may have hit a power line or vehicles in the dark, LaCour said. Two dozen of them had head, neck, beak or back injuries.

About 50 dead birds were near a power line 30 or 40 feet from Louisiana Highway 1. About a quarter-mile away, a second group of 400 or more stretched from the power line and across the highway, he said.

Dan Cristol, a biology professor and co-founder of the Institute for Integrative Bird Behavior Studies at the College of William & Mary, said the Louisiana birds may have been ill or startled from their roost, then hit the power line.

"They don't hit a power line for no reason," he said.

In Beebe, New Year's revelers spent the holiday weekend cleaning up dead red-winged blackbirds. Some speculated that bad weather was to blame. Others said one confused bird could have led the group in a fatal plunge. A few spooked schoolkids guessed the birds committed mass suicide.

Officials acknowledged, though, they may never know exactly what caused the large number of deaths.

Cristol was skeptical of the fireworks theory, unless "somebody blew something into the roost, literally blowing the birds into the sky."

Wildlife officials in both Arkansas and Louisiana sent carcasses to researchers at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. and the University of Georgia.

LaCour said he didn't expect results for at least two or three weeks.

In 1999, several thousand grackles fell from the sky and staggered about before dying in north Louisiana. It took five months to get the diagnosis: an E. coli infection of the air sacs in their skulls.

"I hope things go faster than that," said Paul Slota, branch chief for the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. He said necropsies of the Arkansas birds began Tuesday afternoon.

"If it isn't strictly trauma, it may take more time to get results back," he said. "When nothing shows up, you run the tests longer and let it incubate longer."

The GOP's Charlie Rangel OH! NO! Not the goody REPS!!

Republicans take back the House today, pledging a hard line on ethics. Their first scandal:

Republican Rep.-elect David Rivera, who was elected in November to represent Florida's 25th District, is reportedly the subject of a state investigation of his finances over questions surrounding more than $500,000 in payments from a dog track to a consulting firm run by his godmother.

His office has told reporters that he helped with the firm's campaign to pass a referendum benefiting the track, but took none of their money.
The Daily Beast's Benjamin Sarlin on how Rivera's troubles present an early challenge for the new House Republican leadership—which has pledged zero-tolerance for ethics problems.

JAY LENO: "How about THIS? For the first time since June, President Obama's [Gallup] approval rating is back over 50 percent. How frustrating is that for him? For 23 months, the guy is busting his butt, trying to keep campaign promises, and his approval rating goes through the floor. Then he says, 'Screw it,' goes to Hawaii for 10 days, plays golf - he's popular again! What happened?"

Where is the outrage!? That will not happen because it's THEM!

WikiLeaks: Israel aimed to keep Gaza economy on brink of collapse
Cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv says Israeli officials wanted Gaza's economy 'functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.'

Israel told U.S. officials in 2008 it would keep Gaza's economy "on the brink of collapse" while avoiding a humanitarian crisis, according to U.S. diplomatic cables published by a Norwegian daily on Wednesday.

Three cables cited by the Aftenposten newspaper, which has said it has all 250,000 U.S. cables leaked to WikiLeaks, showed that Israel kept the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv briefed on its internationally criticized blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The territory, home to 1.3 million Palestinians, is run by the Islamist Hamas group, which is shunned by the West over its refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence or accept existing interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.

"As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge," one of the cables read.

Israel wanted the coastal territory's economy "functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis", according to the Nov. 3, 2008 cable.

In a speech in January 2008, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared to spell out that policy, which has since been eased in the wake of an international outcry over a deadly Israeli raid last May on a Turkish aid ship trying to break the blockade.

"We will not harm the supply of food for children, medicine for those who need it and fuel for institutions that save lives," Olmert said at the time.

"But there is no justification for demanding we allow residents of Gaza to live normal lives while shells and rockets are fired from their streets and courtyards (at southern Israel)," he added.

Israel says it has significantly relaxed the blockade since May, with dozens of truckloads of goods entering the territory daily. Aid organizations have said shipments should be increased further.

Palestinians say impoverished Gaza remains effectively a "prison" sealed off by Israel, and have called for an opening to allow normal trade and other links with the world.

DOUBLE STANDARD! COME FOLKS! ESPN fires announcer Ron Franklin

ESPN has fired announcer Ron Franklin after he reportedly berated a female colleague.

The network had pulled him from its radio coverage of Saturday's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and Franklin issued a public apology Monday.

Sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards wrote in an e-mail to USA Today in response to Internet reports Monday that Franklin called her "sweet baby" in a condescending tone Friday. When she objected, he used a derogatory term. Edwards said a colleague reported the incident to ESPN officials.

"Based on what occurred last Friday, we have ended our relationship with him," ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said Tuesday.

Franklin had worked for ESPN since 1987, calling primarily college football and basketball. He focused on the Big 12 in recent years.