Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Morning news roundup

Good morning, campers. Here's a quick summary of what I've read this morning.

Hurricane Rita is bearing down on the Gulf. It may or may not hit NO or it may hit Galveston/Houston. Only God knows, and He's not telling. Mayor Ray Nagin rescinded his order allowing people back into the city and anyone who has returned should evacuate.

As Emily Litella said, "Never mind."

From the crony files: The Bush administration is seeking to appoint a lawyer with little immigration or customs experience to head the troubled law enforcement agency that handles those issues, prompting sharp criticism from some employee groups, immigration advocates and homeland security experts. The nominee, Julie C. Myers, comes in the midst of intense debate over the qualifications of department political appointees involved in the sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina.

Myers worked briefly as chief of staff to Michael Chertoff when he led the Justice Department's criminal division before he became Homeland Security secretary. Her uncle is Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She married Chertoff's current chief of staff, John F. Wood, on Saturday. She will likely be confirmed.

With Paul Krugman's columns now safely ensconced behind the New York Times firewall (unless you pay for it), I want to recommend Tom Oliphant's columns in the Boston Globe. I've heard Oliphant on the Al Franken Show and he is a delight to listen to. Today's column, "Edwards got it right about poverty," is about John Edwards' comments on the moral issue of poverty.

In a clue to his instinctive understanding of poverty, Edwards's summary of first principles includes the central concept (I first heard it from Hubert Humphrey on the subject of civil rights some 40 years ago) that confronting poverty is not something ''we" do for ''them."

''This is something we do for us -- for all of us. It makes us stronger; it makes us better," he said.

Another Globe columnist, Derrick Z. Jackson, explains Bush's tax-cut math:

WE HAVE two wars abroad. Moreover, we must rebuild a Gulf Coast region so thoroughly devastated that had the destruction come from human hostilities, we would have declared a third war. Yet President Bush pretends in a critical way as if nothing happened at all.

Here in the Old Dominion, the latest Mason-Dixon poll is showing a virtual tie between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Jerry Kilgore, despite Kilgore's lame performance in last week's debate, which was moderated by Tim "Pumpkinhead" Russert. This despite Kilgore's unfavorables being twice Kaine's (22% v. 11%). Russ Potts is a 3rd candidate yet his name recognition is still low. Among undecideds, 8% say that Bush's support for Kilgore makes them less likely to support Kilgore and 16% say that Gov. Warner's support for Kaine makes them more likely to support Kaine.

Yesterday Josh Marshall reported that David Safavian, who until Friday was the head of Bush's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, has been arrested on three charges of making false statements and obstructing an investigation. (It's in today's WaPo dead tree edition.)

According to an AP wire report, "David Safavian, then-chief of staff of the General Services Administration and a former Abramoff lobbying associate, concealed from federal investigators that Abramoff was seeking to do business with GSA when Safavian joined him on a golf trip to Scotland in 2002, according to an FBI affidavit and the officials.

"At the time, FBI agent Jeffrey A. Reising said in the affidavit, a lobbyist -- identified separately as Abramoff -- had enlisted Safavian's help in trying to gain control of 40 acres of land at the Federal Research Center at White Oak in Silver Spring, Md., for a private high school that Abramoff helped establish and supported.

"For his part, Safavian edited a letter the lobbyist was preparing to send to GSA, and arranged and attended a meeting involving a GSA official, the lobbyist's wife and others to discuss leasing the property, the affidavit said."

Marshall is speculating that Safavian was arrested with the intent of getting him to testify against Abramoff. This makes sense, especially if you play "the Six Degrees of David Safavian": he has ties to not only Jack Abramoff, but also Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, Joe Allbaugh, Rep. Chris Cannon, and Rep. Bob Ney. Oh and his wife, Jennifer Safavian, is "chief counsel for oversight and investigations" for Rep. Tom Davis's House Government Reform Committee.

In case you didn't recognize it, that is the sound of one shoe dropping. Personally, I would love to see Davis get caught up in this. It would certainly explain his recent inquiries into private sector employment.

Finally, it's official: the universe was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Let's end with a moment of silence for Simon Wiesenthal, who died at age 96.

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