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It seems to us . . . Cabinet follies, groundhog hazards, scare tactics and an invitation

DIOGENES ON THE POTOMAC: It's amazing how quickly the high road can detour into a swamp. That's a lesson President Obama seems to be learning now, as he assembles his administration team.

Here's the score so far: Two appointees withdrawn over tax problems (Health Secretary nominee Tom Daschle and Chief Performance Officer nominee Nancy Killefer), one confirmed despite tax problems (Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who now heads the Internal Revenue Service), one delayed because of a spouse's tax problems (Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis), one withdrawn because of an ongoing investigation (Commerce Secretary nominee Bill Richardson) and one confirmed despite poor legal judgment (Attorney General Eric Holder, who played a role in the Marc Rich pardon). Not to mention waivers Obama is signing from his own executive order barring lobbyists who take government jobs from working on issues they lobbied on (for deputy defense and deputy health secretaries).

All this despite promises of a higher ethical standard and a departure from "business as usual." Oh, well, at least the IRS is getting a couple of hundred thousand in hastily written overdue tax checks.

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BLEEDING FOR SPRING: A lot of dignitaries pulled a lot of groundhogs out of boxes and burrows Monday in the annual observance of Groundhog Day, but only one found the lure of springtime fouled by a little nip in the air.

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg found a less-than-willing partner in Staten Island Chuck, who promptly bit through hizzoner's glove and drew blood. The folks at the University at Buffalo had the smarts to use a safely stuffed groundhog for their shadow observations in years past. That's why the flagship research university for the SUNY system should be at this end of the state.

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OVER THE LINE: More predictable than groundhog shadows are the special-interest TV and radio ads that pop up anytime state aid or payroll benefits are threatened, in which death and disaster are foreseen if anything is touched.

Even fear tactics can be numbing, but a state health care workers' union crossed the line with an ad portraying a blind man in a wheelchair asking Gov. David A. Paterson, who is legally blind, "why are you doing this to me?" Paterson said he was not offended. We're offended for him.

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COME VISIT: We're glad new U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand got to see the shiny new medical campus in her very short first visit to Buffalo recently. It's a key to the future, and she'll need to support it.

But we're dismayed nobody at least drove her through the devastated neighborhoods of the city, to show her what she needs to help change. So here's the offer, senator -- if you set aside a little extra time after our first editorial board meeting, we'll be happy to take you for a spin. There's some poverty here you really need to see.

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