Patt Morrison

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Patt and the Pay Czar. Tsar. Whatever.

Kenneth Feinberg teaches law -- or at least he did, until he was made the White House pay czar.

His real title is special master for TARP executive compensation, and from that chair, he has the say-so over the income for dozens of execs at the five companies that got billion-dollar bailouts and are still paying them back.

He's set another round of salaries, cutting them on average by 15%. Execs who used to earn in the mid-millions now are pretty much capped at $500,000, and all that other compensation, like stocks, can't be cashed out in a quick run for the exits; the execs have to make the companies flourish before they can prosper.

That's a new idea on Wall Street, whose ideas of hard work and reward are rather different from Main Street's, as Feinberg told me today. He hopes that the limits he's imposing on a few executives under his aegis will set a new tone of restraint in Wall Street, one in which pay is in line with the quality of the work, not the smash-and-grab ethics that shoved us to the grotesque incomes paid out to the execs of foundering firms.

I read to him a bit of a Bloomberg News story that life among the Wall Street muckety is getting harder: divorces are less affordable, and execs are having to sell the second houses and yank the kids out of private school. His priceless reaction: ``Spare me.''

I did ask him how he likes the title ''pay czar,'' a catchy, handy handle compared to ... well, the title you see above.

He doesn't like it. And, evoking the pogroms of Imperial Russia, he pointed out that his Lithuanian grandmothere ``would have been very confused.''

LAUSD superintendent Ramon Cortines had a lot to say about a lot of subjects, but the topic that attracted the most calls wasn't the district's 2/3 of a billion dollar hole: it was Cortines' decision to start reviewing and revoking inter-district transfers, issued to kids who live in the district but who have permission to attend schools outside it.

Remember that book and film, ''A Tree Grows in Brooklyn''? The young heroine wants to go to a school in a wealthy neighborhood, not her local slum P.S., and her father takes the girl on a stroll through those upper-crust streets. They see a house that looks nice, and decides that that will be the girl's ''address'' as far as her new school is concerned. And so she is enrolled, even though her father has fudged their home address.

Well, that was fiction. And that was then. The district does permit students living in the district to attend other schools, but Cortines reminded listeners that these transfers are a privilege, not a right -- a privilege that's being revisited. That's because the number of students who get passes to attend schools outside their home district, LAUSD, it is so large that it costs the district $51 million a year. Now the district wants to get most of those students -- and that per-capita state cash -- back.

Check out the blog comments from irate parents who had counted on this permission being open-ended. Cortines said bluntly that it isn't. Each case would be reviewed and the numbers of transfers severely pruned.

Next time, Jeff Garlin -- he of ''Curb Your Enthusiasm'' -- is trying to curb his waistline and his carbon footprint. Yeah, that could be funny.

-- Patt Morrison

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