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A repository of random thoughts, odds and ends, and not-quite-fully-formed ideas.

Archive for February, 2009

DVDs for vets


Laurance Baschkin presented more than 200 DVDs to the VA Hospital in Montrose today, part of his effort to collect the movies for veterans.

The DVDs will be used for movie hours for the mental health, behavioral health and community living sections, according to Yvette Rodriguez, the manager of the voluntary programs.

Baschkin is the executive director of DVDs 4 Vets.

If you’ve got DVDs or portable DVD players to donate, here’s the “Web site.”:http://www.dvds4vets.org

Pictured are left to right: Yvette Rodriguez, Everett Evans and James Durr, veterans, Laurance Baschkin and Julia Anderson, recreation therapy program manager.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 at 5:33 pm |

More bad news


The Dow dropped another 300 points today, and no one believes the economy will be getting better any time soon.

And yet today, two blogs, Politico and TalkingPointsMemo, were reporting on efforts to overturn caps on executive pay.

Congress added language requiring top earners in companies receiving federal bailouts to receive no more than one-third of their compensation in the form of bonuses. Firms taking a half a billion dollars or more would have to apply the limits to their top 25 earners.

When is Wall Street going to understand the anger people feel?

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 8:33 pm |

Presidents Day Poll


In time for Presidents Day, Abraham Lincoln is ranked the nation’s best president in a new survey.

Former President George W. Bush was ranked No. 36 out of the 42 men who had held the office as of the end of 2008.

The survey was conducted by the cable channel C-SPAN.

Here are the top 10 presidents…

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Monday, February 16th, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
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More on the wrongfully convicted


One suggestion that arose at a hearing this morning on how to avoid wrongful convictions was to take DNA samples when a person is arrested, not when he or she was convicted.

Al Newton of the Bronx, imprisoned for 22 years for a rape he did not commit, was not in favor of the change. That’s not surprising. He was told repeatedly that evidence collected in connection with the rape had been lost. It was not. When it finally was found he was exonerated.

“Because of my experience with the system, I believe DNA should be taken upon conviction,” he told a task force from the New York State Bar Association. “There’s no assurance that DNA won’t be used in an improper manner.”

What if the DNA were to be destroyed should the person be released, or ultimately not found guilty? he was asked.

Newton maintained his position. If the New York Police Department failed to find his DNA, what assurances could it give that it had destroyed DNA?

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, February 13th, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
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Wrongful convictions


Jeffrey Deskovic, the Westchester man who was wrongfully convicted of murder, will speak at a hearing in New York City tomorrow on what to do about such injustices.

The New York State Bar Association has produced a preliminary report on wrongful convictions with recommendations for reform.

It would change the way identification procedures are conducted to improve the reliability of eyewitnesses, would require standards to preserve and catalog forensic evidence, and would mandate the recording confessions in their entirety.

I’ll have more after the hearing.

PHOTO: Jeffrey Deskovic at Mercy College in 2007 commenting on a report from the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. (Carucha L. Meuse/ The Journal News)

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, February 12th, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
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Still seeking rewards


You’d think by now that Wall Street would undertstand that it is reward enough these days to have a job. A pay check. Particularly when your firm has been run so poorly that it needed a government bailout to stay afloat.


Morgan Stanley and Citigroup’s Smith Barney — which together have gotten at least $60 billion in bailout money and which will be merged — will reward their financial advisers with retention payments, according to the Huffington Post. Do these advisers really have anywhere to go?

At what point does Wall Street start realizing that the rules have changed?

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 at 7:35 pm |
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Study: Megan’s Law not a deterrent


Yesterday, I wrote about residency restrictions on sex offenders. Many experts believe they are of limited effectiveness.

Also in the news: Megan’s Law, the original law authorizing a sex offender registry and community notification. A new study in New Jersey finds it has not deterred repeat offenses.

It does however make it easier to find sex offenders once they’ve been accused of a crime.

The law was named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was raped and killed by a convicted sex offender who lived near her home.

The report was funded by the National Institute of Justice and conducted by the Department of Corrections.

You can read the report “here.”:http://tinyurl.com/azskrd

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 at 8:35 pm |
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Quote of the week


“Recognition events are still part of our culture,” Wells Fargo spokeswoman Melissa Murray said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s really important that our team members are still valued and recognized.”

That’s Murray trying to defend a lavish retreat Wells Fargo & Co. was planning for Las Vegas. It intended to reward top employees with 12 nights at the Wynn Las Vegas and the Encore Las Vegas.

What hubris No wonder the public is furious.

Recognition? How about a paycheck every week? Tuition reimbursement? Contributions to your 401k? A job? Those are the types of cuts the rest of us are struggling with.

How out of touch are these companies?

If you’re getting bailout you need a new culture. Fast.

Once the outing became public, the company said it would cancel.

PHOTO:The Wynn Las Vegas, right, and Encore Las Vegas, in Las Vegas. Wells Fargo & Co., which received $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money, had been planning a series of corporate outings to Las Vegas casinos this month. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, February 5th, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
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Salary cap


The salaries for top executives at companies receiving large amount of bailout money will be capped at $500,000, President Obama announced today.

“This is America. We don’t disparage wealth. We don’t begrudge anybody for achieving success,” Obama said. “But what gets people upset — and rightfully so — are executives being rewarded for failure. Especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.”

That makes utmost sense to me. If you’ve lost so much money that your company needs a bailout, why would you expect more than that.

Not so on Wall Street. There, they are already whining. How will the companies keep the best talent, they’re asking. Who will fix their problems?

But didn’t they already have the best talent? And those CEOs didn’t make money, they lost it, by the billions.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
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Two in one day


This is not change we can believe in.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle just withdrew his bid to become health and human services secretary. It’s about time. The whole mess was becoming increasingly embarrassing for President Obama.

Daschle’s nomination had been in trouble since it was revealed that he had failed to pay more than $120,000 in taxes. Others were grumbling about his work for a lobbying firm since leaving the Senate, though he is not a registered lobbyist, and the large fees he received from special interest groups.

Daschle is the third major nominee to withdraw.

Earlier today Nancy Killefer withdrew her candidacy to be the first chief performance officer for the federal government. The Washington D.C. Department of Employment Services said she had failed to pay unemployment compensation tax for a household employee.

Gov. Bill Richardson pulled out of consideration for commerce secretary because on an investigation into how a donor had gotten a lucrative state contract.

Obama promised a change from business as usual, a pledge that in recent days seemed to be falling aside. First there were the exceptions to the rule against lobbyists, then excuses for Daschle’s tax problems.

Obama was elected with high expectations, ones that are likely too high. He can’t possibly please every one. He will need to compromise. It’s one thing to campaign, another thing to govern.

But we should expect better than this.

PHOTO: Former Sen. Tom Daschle speaks to the media and apologized after a closed session meeting with the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill yesterday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
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About the author
Noreen O'DonnellNoreen O'Donnell For the last 20 years, Noreen O'Donnell has written about Hillary Clinton's run for the Senate, rebuilding Ground Zero, the Korean immigrants who travel north each day from Queens to work in nail salons, deadly runaway fire trucks and other stories in Westchester and Putnam counties. Now she's a columnist.

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