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ATHENS, Ga. - It was in the best seller section of a Barnes & Noble in this college town that Kathy Rackley found a novel story of her own - a young man by the name of Malcolm Mitchell.

“I mean a chance encounter in a bookstore, how wonderful is that?” said Kathy. She had no idea who Mitchell was. “None whatsoever.”

And Malcolm didn’t tell her. “I knew they were going to find out,” Mitchell said. “But I wasn’t going to say it.”

Fact is, Rackley may have been the only one in Athens who didn’t know the name Malcolm Mitchell. Number 26 for the University of Georgia Bulldogs was one of the top recruits in the country a few years ago. He’s Georgia royalty.

And presumably, if Rackley had known that, she wouldn’t have stood in that Barnes & Noble talking his ear off about the book club she had just joined.

“I mean he like stepped back and he said ‘You did? You did?’ and he said, 'Can I join your book club?’” Rackley recalled.

“And I said, 'I don’t know if you want to join mine. We’re all 40-, 50-, and 60-year-old women.’”

But Mitchell was undeterred. So now, one of the top wide-receivers in the country has been meeting monthly with his book club lady friends.

He’s the only man, and the youngest by a generation – but Mitchell doesn’t care. Nor does he care what anyone thinks.

“Somebody called me a nerd. That’s not a word that I’m used to hearing,” he said. But he’s more than okay with the label. “I was proud of it… It’s like a badge of honor to me, knowing where I came from.”

Mitchell confessed that when he started college he could only read at about a junior high level, and it bothered him. So he started putting as much effort into his reading game as his football game.

Every free moment, he had a book in his hand. He’s now reading things he never dreamed he could, and although some of the book club selections he would never pick himself, Mitchell seems to enjoy them all.

After everything he’s accomplished, what’s he most proud of?

“I finished the 'Hunger Games’ series in about two days,” Mitchell said.

Wait, but what about the touchdowns?

“That came natural,” Mitchell said. “That’s a gift. I had to work to read.”

But his greatest talent may lie in his ability to step so outside his comfort zone, to be able to meet people and focus so sincerely on what they have in common, instead of their trivial differences.

Sometimes football makes men great. And sometimes, great men just happen to play football.

MICHAEL SAM COMES OUT

2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam - University of Missouri - has come out as gay becoming the first Division I college football (American football) player to openly come out. He is also expected to be a top pick for the NFL draft this year. Please join me in congratulating this brave young man and wishing him all the best in his future.

“Trailblazers like Michael are tearing down barriers to equality almost daily, and I sincerely believe that the young person who will go on to become the first openly LGBT President of the United States watches today’s news somewhere in this country and is inspired,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

lately my 3 A.M. thoughts
have been about you
and how much i would rather
be lying so secure in your arms,
with my face buried in your neck
as your scent fills my lungs
and the warmth of my breath
dances along your skin.
i could fall asleep peacefully,
my mind and body at ease.
—  d-magz “3 A.M.”
7

SIDESHOW: Sometimes there are other ideas that I think would be awesome. So think of these as guest blog entries from other sections of my brain. (See all Sideshows here.)

This is from a Tumblr that doesn’t exist called Ira Glass Ceiling. All captions are quotes from reports to the SEC, The World Bank, and The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission. All photos are of NPR radio personality Ira Glass.

i like the way
you fill the empty spaces
in between my fingers.
i like the way
your hand fits perfectly
when intertwined with mine.
i like the way
you are able to rest your chin
right above my head.
i like the way
your scent lingers on me
after we embrace each other.

these are just the little things
that draw me closer to you
each and every day.

but these are also the little things
that could make me fall apart
if you ever decided to walk away.

—  d-magz, “The Little Things”
The Outrageous Ascent of CEO Pay

The Securities and Exchange Commission approved a rule last week requiring that large publicly held corporations disclose the ratios of the pay of their top CEOs to the pay of their median workers.

About time.

For the last thirty years almost all incentives operating on American corporations have resulted in lower pay for average workers and higher pay for CEOs and other top executives.

Consider that in 1965, CEOs of America’s largest corporations were paid, on average, 20 times the pay of average workers. 

Now, the ratio is over 300 to 1.

Not only has CEO pay exploded, so has the pay of top executives just below them. 

The share of corporate income devoted to compensating the five highest-paid executives of large corporations ballooned from an average of 5 percent in 1993 to more than 15 percent by 2005 (the latest data available).

Corporations might otherwise have devoted this sizable sum to research and development, additional jobs, higher wages for average workers, or dividends to shareholders – who, not incidentally, are supposed to be the owners of the firm.

Corporate apologists say CEOs and other top executives are worth these amounts because their corporations have performed so well over the last three decades that CEOs are like star baseball players or movie stars.

Baloney. Most CEOs haven’t done anything special. The entire stock market surged over this time. 

Even if a company’s CEO simply played online solitaire for thirty years, the company’s stock would have ridden the wave.  

Besides, that stock market surge has had less to do with widespread economic gains than with changes in market rules favoring big companies and major banks over average employees, consumers, and taxpayers.

Consider, for example, the stronger and more extensive intellectual-property rights now enjoyed by major corporations, and the far weaker antitrust enforcement against them. 

Add in the rash of taxpayer-funded bailouts, taxpayer-funded subsidies, and bankruptcies favoring big banks and corporations over employees and small borrowers.

Not to mention trade agreements making it easier to outsource American jobs, and state legislation (cynically termed “right-to-work” laws) dramatically reducing the power of unions to bargain for higher wages.

The result has been higher stock prices but not higher living standards for most Americans.

Which doesn’t justify sky-high CEO pay unless you think some CEOs deserve it for their political prowess in wangling these legal changes through Congress and state legislatures.

It even turns out the higher the CEO pay, the worse the firm does.

Professors Michael J. Cooper of the University of Utah, Huseyin Gulen of Purdue University, and P. Raghavendra Rau of the University of Cambridge, recently found that companies with the highest-paid CEOs returned about 10 percent less to their shareholders than do their industry peers.

So why aren’t shareholders hollering about CEO pay? Because corporate law in the United States gives shareholders at most an advisory role.

They can holler all they want, but CEOs don’t have to listen. 

Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, received a pay package in 2013 valued at $78.4 million, a sum so stunning that Oracle shareholders rejected it. That made no difference because Ellison controlled the board.

In Australia, by contrast, shareholders have the right to force an entire corporate board to stand for re-election if 25 percent or more of a company’s shareholders vote against a CEO pay plan two years in a row.

Which is why Australian CEOs are paid an average of only 70 times the pay of the typical Australian worker.

The new SEC rule requiring disclosure of pay ratios could help strengthen the hand of American shareholders.

The rule might generate other reforms as well – such as pegging corporate tax rates to those ratios.

Under a bill introduced in the California legislature last year, a company whose CEO earns only 25 times the pay of its typical worker would pay a corporate tax rate of only 7 percent, rather than the 8.8 percent rate now applied to all California firms.

On the other hand, a company whose CEO earns 200 times the pay of its typical employee, would face a 9.5 percent rate. If the CEO earned 400 times, the rate would be 13 percent.

The bill hasn’t made it through the legislature because business groups call it a “job killer.” 

The reality is the opposite. CEOs don’t create jobs. Their customers create jobs by buying more of what their companies have to sell.

So pushing companies to put less money into the hands of their CEOs and more into the hands of their average employees will create more jobs.

The SEC’s disclosure rule isn’t perfect. Some corporations could try to game it by contracting out their low-wage jobs. Some industries pay their typical workers higher wages than other industries.

But the rule marks an important start.

The relevant question is not how much a CEO contributes to the company. That is not how economics works. After all, how much does the firefighter contribute who rescues three kids from a burning house? We don’t pay our hero firefighters multimillion dollar salaries. We pay firefighters on the basis of how much it costs to hire another firefighter who can also do the job.

The question is how much does the CEO contribute compared with the next person in line for the job? Given the experience of large corporations in other countries, there is every reason to believe that there are lots of next people who could do the job as well or better and for much less.

—  Opinion: Time to rein in grossly overpaid CEOs: Company directors need to be held more accountable