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Just Can't Shake That Nazi Party Hangover

Too Sore to Answer Questions

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Speaking of administrator Johnson, he was scheduled to appear at a hearing tomorrow of Rep. Henry Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but that has been postponed because Johnson's got some back problems.

No, it was not from carrying heavy golf bags or luggage on his important two-week tour of Australia last month. He had plenty of staff help for that.

EPA officials say Johnson had a "recurrence of ongoing back issues stemming from a car accident years ago." Something like this happened another time he was to appear for a ritual pummeling -- which is what happens when any administration official appears before Waxman (D-Calif.). No new date for a hearing has been set.

Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), whom Johnson stiffed to go to Australia, is still lying in wait for him if he survives Waxman.

Housing Crisis Hits Home

You might have thought things would have calmed down at the Department of Housing and Urban Development with the departure of former secretary Alphonso Jackson, who's under investigation by HUD's inspector general and the Justice Department for various alleged misdeeds.

But no. Now employees in the Office of Policy Development and Research are unhappy about an order from Assistant Secretary Darlene Williams to move out of the building for several months while their eighth-floor offices are gutted and renovated into smaller cubicles.

An employee union poll showed overwhelming opposition to the plan, which includes absorbing 49 employees from the general counsel's office who are being moved in from rented office space three blocks away.

The key objection, we're hearing, is that this particular move, scheduled for next month, comes at a time when the economists and housing policy specialists in that office -- these are the people who work on mortgage market matters related to HUD's regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are really, really busy dealing with the biggest mortgage mess since the Depression.

HUD spokesman Jerry Brown said the dispute "is unfortunately a case where a few of our employees don't understand the economics involved," and that HUD will save $1 million a year in rental costs by consolidating.

This is not "something cooked up by" Williams, but rather part of a larger "10-year plan, approved by Congress," that will save the Department $48 million over 10 years, Brown said.


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