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

Archive for May, 2009

Sotomayor acknowledges poor word choice


White House: Sotomayor says she chose word poorly

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor acknowledges she made a poor word choice in a 2001 speech in which she said that a Latina judge would often reach a better conclusion than a white male judge who hasn’t lived the same life.

That’s according to presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs. He says he has not talked directly to Sotomayor about it but has spoken to people who have.

Critics have singled out the 2001 comment by Sotomayor for criticism. She was describing how personal experiences can affect judging. She said a “wise Latina woman” with her experiences would more often than not reach a “better conclusion” than a white male.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Attacks on Sotomayor


These two are among the most ridiculous:

G. Gordon Liddy on his radio show: “Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.”

It Sticks in My Craw by Mark Krikorian in the National Review Online

“Most e-mailers were with me on the post on the pronunciation of Judge Sotomayor’s name (and a couple griped about the whole Latina/Latino thing — English dropped gender in nouns, what, 1,000 years ago?). But a couple said we should just pronounce it the way the bearer of the name prefers, including one who pronounces her name “freed” even though it’s spelled “fried,” like fried rice. (I think Cathy Seipp of blessed memory did the reverse — “sipe” instead of “seep.”) Deferring to people’s own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent’s simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn’t be giving in to.”

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 4:56 pm |

The World War


One last Memorial Day photo — my niece,  Molly, picked some  flowers and we placed them on the grave of Frank Convey. He served in the U.S. Navy during the World War. That of course was before the Second World War.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, May 28th, 2009 at 8:42 am |
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Gingrich: Sotomayor a racist


Here’s former Rep. Newt Gingrich on Sonia Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” line:

“Imagine a judicial nominee said ‘my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman.’ new racism is no better than old racism,” he tweeted Wednesday.

Moments later, according to CNN,  he followed up with the message: “White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responded to Gingrich’s criticism at Wednesday’s briefing, CNN wrote.

“I think it is probably important for anybody involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way in which they’ve decided to describe different aspects of this impending confirmation,” Gibbs said.


In this April 2003 photo released by the American Philosophical Society, judge Sonia Sotomayor stands in front of the organization’s official roll book during her induction ceremony in Philadelphia, Pa.  (AP Photo/American Philosophical Society, Linda Lloyd)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gestures as he makes his points during a conference on health care reform last week in Columbia, S.C.(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

In her own words


Today I wrote about a speech that Judge Sonia Sotomayor gave in 2001 at the University of California, Berkeley about her background as Latina and the influence she perceived it had had on her.

It was an interesting speech, even if I am not sure I agree with some of her conclusions. How do we reconcile these competing demands, she asked: that we live in a race and color-blind way while celebrating our differences? It’s a topic we all wrestle with, whether you’re a detractor claiming that she practices identity politics or a supporter who believes she’s got it just right.

Her speech is getting a lot of attention mostly for this line: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion that a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Commentators such as George Will are already denouncing her for embracing identity politics. He wrote: “And like conventional liberals, she embraces identity politics, including the idea of categorical representation: A person is what his or her race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference is, and members of a particular category can be represented — understood, empathized with — only by persons of the same identity.”

But in that same speech Sotomayor also said: “I … believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge (Miriam) Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.”

Quite the opposite of what Will wrote, because her beliefs appear to more nuanced than many of the commentators would suggest.

For example, she writes that she accepts that her gender and heritage would in some ways influence her judging but also says: “I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggest, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.”

But judge for yourself. Here’s her speech.

PHOTO: Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor smiles as President Barack Obama applauds yesterday in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 at 1:32 pm |

Small-town Memorial Day


Yesterday, I wrote about Memorial Day. My nephew, Brendan O’Donnell, was asked to address his community’s gathering in Connecticut, and I was curious what he would say.

Here’s the speech he gave, a 17-year-old high school junior.

It’s an honor for me to appear before you today. As a high school junior in Connecticut, I have not experienced war. Instead, I have experienced the joys and benefits of living in the peaceful town of Simsbury, in the prosperous state of Connecticut. I want to start my remarks by sharing with you, briefly, the excellent life that this community has given me. I can give you a sense of this by describing what I did on the typical day of Wednesday, April 15, 2009. I woke up as usual at 6:30 and groggily got out of bed to prepare myself for school. I started my day in jazz ensemble, my first class, where we rehearsed for a concert. Later in the day, I studied Pre-calculus, Spanish, and Chemistry, going over homework and preparing for tests. In U.S. History, we discussed the civil rights movement. Finally, in English, we shared vignettes that we had written. That afternoon was equally uneventful and fairly relaxing. I did some homework. I had a trumpet lesson. And then I went back to the high school for the National Honor Society induction ceremony. I went to sleep early that night, tired but excited. I was thinking about my April vacation, which was going to start that Friday with a music department trip to Europe.

I was not thinking of war or death. I had no way of knowing that, while I was relaxing in the safety of my home here in Tariffville, a young American soldier was dying in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan.
Private First Class Richard A. Dewater and his platoon were on patrol when they were ambushed. After exchanging pleasantries with an Afghan elder they had met on the trail, the platoon descended a stone staircase into a valley and crossed a narrow foot bridge. Private Dewater was the sixth man over the bridge. When he began walking up the trail on the other side of the river, Taliban forces detonated a bomb beneath his feet. The enormous explosion sent rock and dirt everywhere. The Taliban immediately fired on the American troops, separated from their colleagues by the river. Bullets flew in the valley, followed by mortars and then bombs dropped from American planes. When the firing stopped, the Americans made the hard discovery that their friend and colleague, Private Dewater of Topeka, Kansas, had died in the initial blast. He was serving with the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, out of Fort Hood, Texas.

Private Dewater was 21 years old when he died. He was only four years older than I am today. He is one of numerous Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the two wars that are continuing even as we speak here. Thirty-six members of the military from Connecticut, more than 200 from New York, more than 90 from Massachusetts, and hundreds from other states have perished in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Among the thirty-six from Connecticut was Sgt. Felix M. Delgreco, a 22-year-old from Simsbury who died in Baghdad on April 9, 2004.
Private Dewater was the fourth member of Second Platoon to be killed over the course of the previous nine months.
I read his story in the paper, and it made me realize how often we Americans take for granted our freedom. American soldiers have fought to preserve their freedom many times. The Revolutionary War, World War I, and World War II are only three examples of the many wars in which Americans fought to preserve their freedom. However, the one thing that all these wars have in common is that they are all over. They are all material for history books, things that students like me learn about as past events. We comprehend these wars through textbooks and films. In any case, these wars seem remote. They are over. For my generation, even the Cold War is a distant event. Oftentimes, we fail to realize that even today on May 25, 2009, soldiers are still fighting to preserve our freedom. Private Dewater died in the ongoing war against the Taliban, the fundamentalist religious and political group that controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the group that supported Al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001.

I discussed Memorial Day with my father’s friend Nick, who earned a Purple Heart as a platoon leader in Vietnam. He told me that every year on Memorial Day, he does the same thing. He visits the veteran’s cemetery in his town. He reads every tombstone, remembering every soldier buried there who died to protect the United States of America. He thinks back to his days in Vietnam and remembers the soldiers under his command that he fought alongside. He remembers those who never made it back to America alive, those who gave their very lives to protect the country that they loved. He remembers Angel Gonzalez, a young man in his platoon from Puerto Rico, who was willing to face danger and was always alert for risks, but who perished on patrol. He thinks of other colleagues he lost in Vietnam. “The people who die are your friends,” he told me.
Memorial Day is more than just a day off from school or work, more than just a day of parades and ice cream and cookouts. It is a day of remembrance. It is a day to remember those soldiers who died in the service of their country. It is a day to remember those who fought in all the past wars that our country has suffered through. It is also a day to recognize the sacrifice that soldiers are still making today. It is a day to remember soldiers like Private Dewater who are giving up their lives to protect the freedoms that make possible the comfort that we enjoy here in Simsbury.

So today, enjoy the parades, enjoy the ice cream and cookouts, but also please take a moment to remember those soldiers who died in service of their country. Remember not only those soldiers who died in the wars of the past but also those who are dying in the wars of the present, those wars that have not yet made it into the history textbooks. Remember Private Richard A. Dewater, the 21-year-old soldier who died in Afghanistan just over a month ago. Remember Sgt. Delgreco of Simsbury. And remember those soldiers who you never knew but who died to protect your freedoms all the same. Don’t forget: this is not just a day off or the last day of a long weekend. This is a day of remembrance. Thank you.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 at 1:46 pm |


Ball questions “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”


Assemblyman Greg Ball calls for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to be reviewed.

He argues for a moratorium.

More in the Albany Times Union.

Here’s the link: http://blogs.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/14807/greg-ball-assails-dont-ask-dont-tell

PHOTO: Assemblyman Greg Ball, R-Carmel, sits at his office desk in the Legislative Office Building in Albany Jan. 9, 2007. ( Joe Larese / The Journal News )

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, May 22nd, 2009 at 6:04 pm |

Torture and terrorism


President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney gave what everyone is calling their dueling speeches about Guantanamo Bay today.
Obama stuck to his position that the prison has compromised our national security.

From the president:
“I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As commander-in-chief, I see the intelligence. I bear the responsibility for keeping this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America.”
Cheney, as expected, defended the policies of the Bush administration.

“And to call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives, and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims. What’s more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation methods in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness, and would make the American people less safe.”
The speeches were delivered as the country learned about a plot to bomb synagogues in Riverdale. Four suspects were arrested.


President Barack Obama delivers an address on national security, terrorism, and the closing of Guantanamo Bay prison today at the National Archives in Washington. Above is a mural painted by Barry Faulkner in 1936 of the Constitution Convention depicting James Madison delivering the final draft of the Constitution to George Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington today. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 5:32 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Impasse at Ground Zero


Mayor Michael Bloomberg meets with developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority tomorrow to try to break an impasse at Ground Zero.

Silverstein wants to rewrite his lease with the Port Authority so that the agency backs the financing for at least two of the officer towers being built there. The Port Authority say it can afford to back only one tower.

Bloomberg will be joined by the governors of New York and New Jersey and the state Assembly speaker.

PHOTO: FILE – In this May 12 file photo, a construction crane works above the foundations of World Trade Center Tower 4 in New York. Tower 4 and two additional towers at the site are being developed by Silverstein Properties. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file)

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 at 4:52 pm |


A different approach


Over the weekend, President Barack Obama tackled the abortion controversy at the University of Notre Dame.

He did not try to suggest that abortion controversy would go away.

“No matter how much we may want to fudge it – indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable,” he told the graduating class.

But there are places where both sides can come together, he said: in agreeing that it is a heart-wrenching decision, in agreeing that we can try to reduce the number of abortions in this country.

Today, on a much less emotional issue, he also brought two sides together: environmentalists and automakers over vehicle emissions.

He will not be able to do this on every issue, but he does seem to remember this is one country. I think many people are fed up with the strife of the last years and appreciate the efforts to find common ground.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 at 10:10 pm |

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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