Ross Mackenzie

Brief comments, direct or implied, on items in the news....

The brazen Rod Blagojevich, governor of Illinois, stands (if guilty) in a long line of corrupt Illinois pols -- Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, George Ryan -- all of whom did, or are doing, jail time. Blago is a key cog in the Chicago/Illinois machine that helped raise up, among others, an unresisting Barack Obama ---evidently untainted in the Blago charges yet perhaps not unaffected. S'funny how Obama's ties to the machine received practically no serious interest from the national media, and vastly less than the "investigative" attention given Sarah Palin and her career in Wasilla, Alaska.

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Blago follows New York's high-tone Eliot Spitzer down the path of disrepute. In his invitation to the feds to go ahead and record his telephone calls, Blago recalls the presidency-seeking Sen. Gary Hart -- who invited the press to track him to verify his affectional fidelity: Press intrepids did indeed follow him -- to the yacht Monkey Business boasting a bevy of squealy pneumatic damsels.

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The latest from Illinois suggests the question yet again: How many pols are not the bums so many of them seem to be?

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Then there are the nation's loftiest CEOs -- expensively coiffed, golden-parachuted and shameless. Large-company U.S. CEOs average well over $10 million in annual compensation -- even those who have led their companies precipitously down, even into bankruptcy. Execs of faltering AIG, the world's largest insurance company now enjoying $150 billion (and counting) in taxpayer money to stay precariously afloat, gave themselves an $86,000 hunting trip in England as their company spiraled south.

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And Merrill Lynch's John Thain, whose principal achievement this year (when his brokerage house has lost $12 billion) has been to lead the company into a salvational merger with the Bank of America, had the audacity to hope for -- and request from Merrill's board -- a $10 million bonus. Thain's was a hope the board prudently dashed, albeit with considerable apparent reluctance.

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Thain and such types have colleagues in obscene compensation -- the presidents of many private colleges. E.g.: According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Columbia's president receives $1.4 million annually, Northwestern's $1.7, Suffolk's (in Massachusetts) $2.8 million. So, with endowments sharply down this year (Harvard's, for instance, has plunged $8 billion), will these private-college presidents turn suddenly frugal and whack their own salaries? Or alternatively, will they still again boost tuition, room, and board -- now averaging at such schools nationwide about $50,000 per year?

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Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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