Ross Mackenzie

With the world's wealth halved and Barack Obama the first president to try his hand at stock-brokering ("Buying stocks is a potentially good deal"), herewith some back-channel chatter amid the static and the buzz....

-- This is written during a four-day power outage as a consequence of Virginia's heaviest March snowstorm since 1980. Must be global warming.

-- As the new editorial director of tailspinning Playboy Enterprises, Jimmy Jellinek -- former editor at and at with-it mags Maxim and Stuff -- sees Playboy returning "to our golden age." Jellinek wants Playboy "to be a magazine of ideas that leads the national conversation" -- presumably the way it did when pubescent teenagers were sneaking peeks at it for the articles.

-- Will Obama keep a campaign pledge, as Attorney General Eric Holder says he will, to end federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in states with lax marijuana laws?

-- Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen thinks Iran has enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. "And Iran having a nuclear weapon, I've believed for a long time, is a very, very bad outcome for the region and for the world." Roger that.

-- Despite a repeated campaign pledge not to sign any congressional measures containing pork-barrel earmarks, Obama will sign (may have signed already) a $410 billion spending bill containing earmarks totaling . . . 9,000. His apologists say those earmarks don't count because they were added to a spending bill that is part of the current fiscal-year budget drawn up by the Bush White House.

-- South Carolina's Republican Gov. Mark Sanford has cast the financial meltdown this way: "We're moving precipitously close to what I would call a savior-based economy."

-- More members of Congress list their profession as actor or entertainer than engineer. In China, the predominant backgrounds of the ruling class are scientist and engineer. The locations of the top three undergraduate schools of doctoral candidates in engineering and science? The U.S. doesn't make the cut (they're in China and South Korea). Maybe our congressional entertainers have a nifty fix for that one.

-- Racism still reigns: Zimbabwe's boss Robert Mugabe has told his country's "few remaining white farmers . . . (to) quickly vacate their farms as they have no place there." And anti-Semitism remains alive and well: A poll of 3,500 Europeans in seven countries found one-third blaming the global economic tailspin on Jews.

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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