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

Archive for June, 2009

More chaos at the Capitol


An Albany update:

Today Democrats tried to claim that by walking through the Senate chambers and making eye contact with the Senate clerk, Republican Sen. Frank Padavan had signed in, thereby providing a quorum that enabled them to pass bills.

Who actually saw Padavan slip into the chambers to get around reporters blocking the hallway? Glenn Blain, former Journal News and now Daily News political reporter.

Padavan, as you imagine, cries foul. In a sworn affadavit, he insists he was just looking for a cup of coffee.

As far as actual business conducted, don’t hold your breath.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 at 4:08 pm |

Blogs v. traditional news


Watch blogger Nico Pitney of The Huffington Post and Dana Milbank of The Washington Post tangle over what’s appropriate at a presidential news conference.

Pitney got a call from the White House, solicited questions from Iranians and posed one to President Obama.

Was that proper? Did he get too close to the administration? Was this collusion?

Pitney works for a liberal Web site; Milbank, though a columnist, is a more traditional journalist. The rules are changing but are there pitfalls?

The tape is funny and thought-provoking at the same time.

Plus here’s Pitney on The Huffington Post. And MIlbank’s column.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Monday, June 29th, 2009 at 2:57 pm |

Gillibrand defends Sotomayor


The New Haven firefighters case would have drawn attention on its own, but now that has it reversed a decision of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, it will get even more.

Here’s Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand defending what Sotomayor did in the case, Ricci v. Stefano.
“Detractors are wrong to use this narrowly-decided decision as criticism of Judge Sotomayor, who did exactly what she was supposed to do in this case.  She and the other Circuit Court Judges strictly followed precedent, which the Supreme Court has reinterpreted today.
“Judge Sotomayor strictly and fairly applied the law in this case, as she has done throughout her long, distinguished career on the bench.  After a comprehensive analysis of her judicial record, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service recently concluded that Judge Sotomayor shows a consistent adherence to the upholding of past judicial precedents.  Judge Sotomayor is a jurist who bases her decisions on the underlying legal precedent and will continue this approach on the Supreme Court.”

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Monday, June 29th, 2009 at 1:54 pm |


Clocked in, clocked right back out


That’s how Gov. David Paterson described the work of the state Senate today. And he’s not happy. He called their performance dereliction of duty.

You can read more on Liz Benjamin’s blog in the Daily News.

Meanwhile Sen. Kevin Parker apologized for calling Paterson the “coke-snorting, staff-banging governor” — a reference to Paterson’s admissions to past drug use and infidelity.

Parker needed to apologize. He comments were over the line.

Paterson’s response? “I’m not going to be intimidated by personal attacks.”

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, June 26th, 2009 at 5:36 pm |

Anarchy reigns in Albany


Day two of the special session imposed on the state Senate by Gov. David Paterson, and it seems as chaotic as the first day.

Republicans sued the chamber’s secretary, objecting to his locking the doors, turning off the lights and microphones and failing to provide necessary documents. He’s trying to block their new coalition, they claim.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a potential Republican candidate for governor, called for a state constitutional convention to fix Albany’s problems. He wrote an op-ed in The New York Times

And groups such as the New York Public Interest Research Group are complaining about the important legislation that is languishing. Environmental bills include one that would require that electronic waste be recycled, another that would cut New York’s greenhouse emissions.

Meanwhile, the governor may not sign any of the legislation passed by the competing sessions of Republicans and Democrats yesterday. There are doubts the laws would be legal.

What a circus.

Last week I wrote about a bill stalled in Albany that would allow construction workers and others who went ground zero more time to apply for workers’ compensation benefits if they’ve become ill.

Donna Nolan of Yonkers has been fighting for the law for her husband, Jimmy, a 44-year-old carpenter who hurried to help and remained there for 2 1/2 years.

Today he’s is on 10 medications for respiratory problems, rashes,  inflammation and other ailments.

The bill has still not gone anywere.

Contrast Albany with Washington D.C. There New York’s and New Jersey’s senators introduced the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It would provide long-term monitoring and treatment for those who face health consquences from the exposure to the World Trade Center site.

“The destruction of the World Trade Center was an act of war against the United States,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. “Passing this bill will help ensure that the federal government fulfills its obligations to address the health challenges created by the attack on our nation that awful morning.”

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 at 2:54 pm |

Seeking peace


An initiative called Fresh Start has won the 5th annual Victor J. Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East.

The prize was presented to Nimrod Goren, the director of the Young Israeli Forum for Cooperation and Hakam Jadallah, director of the Palestinian Youth Forum for Cooperation. The joint work is called Fresh Start.

Fresh Start seeks to develop leadership in young Israeli and Palestinian professionals to address conflict and find ways to take action together for a more peaceful future.

“The intent of this award is to recognize innovation and reward those who are courageous and committed enough to work together to overcome the religious, cultural, ethnic and political issues which divide the Middle East,” Goldberg, of Scarsdale, said.

IIE is the Institute of International Education.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 at 8:08 pm |


No constitutional right to DNA testing


Today I wrote about the Supreme Court ruling that an Alaskan man had no constitutional right for DNA testing.

The court split 5-4 to deny William G. Osborne access to evidence he wanted to test. Osborne had served time for the rape and assault of a prostitute in Alaska.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that establishing a freestanding right to access to DNA would force the court to confront a myriad of issues.

“We would soon have to decide if there is a constitutional obligation to perserve forensic evidence that might later be tested…If so, for how long? Would the State also have some obligation to gather such evidence in the first place? How much, and when? No doubt there would be a miscellany of other minor directives.”

All good questions, but on the other side, what if a man’s freedom and possibly life is at stake?

He also wrote that the criminal justice system has historically accommodated new types of evidence.

That’s of course true, fingerprinting for example. But how many have led to the exoneration of 240 people wrongfully convicted. I think he underestimated the power of DNA.

As the Innocence Project, the ruling will have limited effect. Most states have their own laws governing DNA access.

Now what about the three that do not?

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Monday, June 22nd, 2009 at 5:08 pm |

Supreme Court denies right to DNA tests


The U.S. Supreme Court has denied prisoners the right to DNA tests in a case out of Alaska.

The majority of states and the federal government allow such tests, and Alabama will soon extend the right to death-row inmates, but not Alaska, Massachusetts or Oklahoma.

I’ll write more about the decision for Monday, but it seems another instance of putting the process over justice. Yes, there is a need for some finality but not at the expense of someone’s freedom, even their life.

DNA testing has exonerated more than 200 people. That should have made all of the justices sit up.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, June 19th, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
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Caught in Albany’s chaos


Before taking last week off, I wrote about reforms that the Innocence Project was hoping to get this session from Albany.

The column appeared Monday morning, by the afternoon all chaos had broken out. What timing!

And the changes sought by the Innocence Project — meant to lessen the chance of wrongful convictions — are so far lost in the coup.

“We continue working with leaders in the Senate, the Assembly and the Governor’s Office,” said Eric Ferrero, the group’s director of communications. “We think that this is some of the important business that people are eager for the legislature to get to.”

Unfortunately, the Senate is not doing much at all.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
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World Trade Center impasse


No progress yet on talks on the Walk Trade Center site. Here’s a statement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

“We are disappointed that we have yet to reach agreement to address the latest impasse at the World Trade Center site. We fundamentally believe that there are opportunities to find mutually agreeable and responsible terms that align the Port Authority’s interests with the City’s and the nation’s, and that allow continued progress at Ground Zero. While we have not yet been able to reach consensus with the Port, the cause is too important to give up — and we will continue to work with all the parties to fulfill our collective obligation to rebuild the site.”

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 at 6:42 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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