On CEO pay, drink 18, 'BlackBerry Thumb,' public TV, etc.

Ross Mackenzie
|
Posted: May 05, 2005 12:00 AM

A potpourri of comments and quotes on topics in the news. . .

Were President Reagan and Pope John Paul II, though geographically apart, working off the same sheet of music? Now it can be told. A friend in the mid-1980s had an audience with the pope. Working the small group (containing almost no other American) with the skill of a master pol, greeting and glad-handing each attendee, the pope at last reached our friend. The pope grasped his hand, thanked him for coming, learned he was an American, looked him squarely in the eye, and said, "God bless Ronald Reagan."

XXX

And speaking of God, six traditionalist Episcopal churches in Connecticut - resisting the direction of the American church on (principally) homosexuality - have stopped paying their diocesan dues. Their pastors face possible defrocking and removal from their pulpits. One of the six pastors, the Rev. Christopher Leighton of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Darien, notes while he awaits word on his fate from his bishop: "I may be out of step with the times, but I'm not out of step with the majority of Christians." His views on some of the divisive issues: "They're the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions." And: "I don't see gay marriage as part of God's plan."

XXX

Pay approaches the X-rated in the loftiest corporate reaches. A December New York Times table for 2003 showed average annual CEO earnings at $8.1 million. Comes now an Associated Press account of a Pearl Meyer & Partners report for 2004 showing an average compensation of $9.97 million, excluding stock options, among 180 top CEOs. Correspondingly, last year pay for the average U.S. worker rose by a mere (inflation-offsetting) 2.6 percent. Whatever happened to pay-for-performance?

XXX

The American Society of Hand Therapists has issued a consumer-alert warning that handheld electronic gizmos are causing higher rates of tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. One variation of the overuse syndrome, particularly affecting thumbs, may be "BlackBerry Thumb" derived evidently from the soaring rise in small-keyboard, thumb-operated BlackBerry portable e-mail devices. Perhaps CEOs are being paid at obscene levels to enable their BlackBerry addictions and to finance treatment for the consequent afflictions of those unable to go cold turkey.

XXX

Vice President Dick Cheney got it exactly right regarding many of those most hostile to John Bolton, the nominee to become ambassador to the U.N: "If being occasionally tough and aggressive and abrasive were a problem, a lot of members of the U.S. Senate wouldn't qualify."

XXX

Speaking to the altered ideological climate in the Senate, where his nomination to the Supreme Court 20 years ago was confirmed 98-0, Justice Antonin Scalia - widely known then, as now, as a conservative - asked stunningly in a recent discussion at the National Archives whether if nominated today he would be confirmed at all.

XXX

If one is old enough to die for his country, goes a tedious line, he ought to be able to buy a legal drink. So Vermont's legislature is considering a measure that would make it the first state to lower the 21-year-old drinking age to 18. That way, of course, Vermont would make more sense to everybody - and the Army, which has failed to make its recruiting goals ("The problem is that no one wants to join," says one recruiter) for three months running, would sign up more recruits, particularly Vermonters who consume a lot of dubious logic.

XXX

A final note - on infusing public television and radio with "objectivity and balance," as stipulated in the charter of its overseeing entity, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The corporation oversees the dispensation of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to government radio and TV. Corporation Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson notes: "I frankly feel at PBS headquarters there is a tone deafness to issues of tone and balance." Will anyone seriously contend that if Tomlinson were asking public broadcasting to be fairer to the left than to moderates and conservatives, he would be blasted - as he amply is blasted now - for comments that have a "chilling effect" and threaten public broadcasting's editorial independence?