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The men behind the curtain

When the shower is golden: There’s a line of collectible, gruesome action figures called “The Twisted Land of Oz.” It features a brick-house Dorothy who thrills to abuse by freakish gnomes as she seeks the source of her mystical bustier. This happens in a place where all creatures take hideous form as punishment for something really awful they’ve done.

So often anymore it seems we’re in that warped land — but hardly anyone’s punished. Instead, handsome rewards go even to failures, and the reasoning is no less perverse than twisted Dorothy. A fresh example:

Walter Spokowski was called in to save the foundering Frank’s Nursery chain. Two months after he took over as CEO, Frank’s filed for bankruptcy. Now Spokowski and a pack of other execs are in line for “retention bonuses” worth hundreds of thousands if they stick around long enough to sell everything off — to tie a ribbon of efficiency on their failure.

One local “compensation expert” says the bonus money isn’t a “golden parachute.” But something yellow is falling from the sky, and it’s landing on the heads of stockholders and vendors.

Charity ends at home: Mayor Kwame, when not wrapped in the city flag and the mantle of spirituality, is fast-tracking himself to levels of nepotism and political patronage established by the likes of New York’s Boss Tweed, Chi-town’s Boss Daley the Elder and, for a point of local reference, Wayne County’s Boss McNamara.

News now reaches us — courtesy of a pair of Freep newshounds — that the Next Vision Foundation, a “charity” set up by his politically ubiquitous family with much fanfare soon after he assumed power, isn’t being all that it can be.

Because the mayor’s such a soft touch when it comes to kids and their education, the foundation’s public mission is teaching leadership to high-schoolers and awarding them scholarships. Leaning on city contractors and other charities for cash support, the foundation has awarded around $50,000 in scholarship dough.

And for carefully administering that largesse, it paid close to $400,000 to Kwame’s wife, sister and the wife of one of the mayor’s posse members.

So, to the kids Mayor Kilpatrick professes to help: That’ll teach ya.

On imitation and flattery: A sharp-eyed student of Detroit’s dailies recently forwarded a couple of opinion pieces that ran within days of each other in the Freep. The first, “Campaigns should be fair, truthful,” by columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., ran Oct. 15. The second, which issued from utility player Mitch Albom’s churning machine, appeared two days later. My correspondent took a decidedly jaundiced view of what he saw when reading the pieces in succession. I, of course, am more charitable, and reacted only by pounding on the side of my head to rid it of an offending echo. Take a look-see:

freep.com/sports/albom/mitch17_20041017.htm

freep.com/voices/columnists/pitts15e_20041015.htm

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