Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The infamous AIG party

AIG logo
The outing in question, was the same type of company outing that many other American companies fund each year. There were perhaps a dozen AIG people in attendance.

Unfortunately, due to the timing, the issue has become a a silly media-driven frenzy. Even the White House couldn't resist criticism and CNN keeps blaring, "Spa treatments! Spa Treatments!"

If an insurance company employs a business model of selling through independent reps, it likely does something similar to reward and motivate top performers (Note: they are not employees).

These events are planned months, or years in advance. It has nothing to do with the loan program -- it wasn't even funded by the holding company. It is...a cost of doing business. Should AIG shut down incentives for independent sales agents?  If so, there's no incentive, ipso facto.

Disclaimer: I own shares of AIG, but even if I did not, my reaction to this storm would be the same.

I did not like the bailout. However, I reject some of this populist furor because it has painted the AIG event with the same brush used to condemn the Dennis Kozlowski Toga bash and his golden shower curtain.  

Old Hillary Posts (re-posted)

Saturday, June 07, 2008--Hillary Clinton, Peggy Noonan and me

I owe Wall Street Journal columnist, Ms. Peggy Noonan. My own infatuation with the tenacious campaign of Hillary Clinton almost made me lose my senses.  Peggy Noonan brings me back to earth. Before I explain, here's my basic take on Peggy Noonan - she's a better columnist than speechwriter, or television commentator.

For me, one of the most memorable parts of the disastrous Dukakis campaign in 1988, was when Dukakis mocked the famous Noonan line written for George Bush, about "a thousand points of light" when he asked derisively, "What does that mean?" Fairly asked, in my opinion. 

Similarly, I was baffled by the amount of recognition Ms. Noonan received for the phrase crafted for President Reagan to describe Washington D.C. as, "that shining city on a hill."  So much for my petty problems with her speech writing. 

On TV she's occasionally cheeky or demonstrative, leaving the impression that she is trying to hide some nervousness. Stage fright (if that is indeed the culprit here) breeds gaffes.

Case in point, I spotted Ms. Noonan on a TV program years ago expressing doubts about the notion that Lyndon Johnson was a humorous man. Presidential historians and anyone who's read enough about our 36th President will tell you that Johnson was often hilarious.  (A brilliant mimic and comic story teller for starters).  It wasn't a difference she needed to have with her TV co-panelists that day. 

However, as an Op-ed reader, I look forward to Peggy Noonan's Saturday column in the Wall Street Journal.  She incisively expressed her views about the actions and character of Hillary Clinton in several columns and today's piece, "Recoil Election" -- is another fine example. Ms. Noonan understands how both Clintons are brilliant, cunning and hopelessly deceptive and her prose keeps subtly pulling you in as she makes her case.

Although I remain awed by Ms. Clinton's durability, the playing of the gender card as reason for her downfall overshadows some of the virtue behind her campaign effort. In her piece this morning, Ms. Noonan makes comparisons to the character of an equally tenacious Golda Meir. (I might add Margaret Thatcher to that list).  The point is this: other high profile women in politics face equally daunting gender challenges without falling prey to so much excuse-making.  Noonan nailed it.

Monday, May 19, 2008--- True grit

I've been hard on the Clintons for a long time. A sample of my dissatisfaction with Mrs. Clinton's persona can be found in this post and an equally frank assessment of Mr. Clinton's presidential foibles can be found here.

Even if I set aside their policy positions, with which I almost uniformly disagree, it's their pathological dishonesty and smugness that leaves me cold again and again. I see Bill and Hillary Clinton as one person who has never stopped disappointing me. With all that as the backdrop for this post, I am about to go positive on one of them...

Yes, I began to feel something inspiring while contemplating Hillary Clinton recently.  I find it redemptive to have had so much disdain for a person and then find something to admire. Strange feeling. My positive revelation is this: she's stronger than I ever realized.

It's not Mrs. Clinton's usual pluck that I am referring to here.  The in-your-face type of retort that she is both admired and reviled for, by millions.  I'm talking about her tenacity. The type of thing that reveals itself after one is knocked down again and again. Some people get hit harder each time and yet still manage to rise. Think of Richard Nixon in his teens as the tackling dummy on the football team. Yes Mr. Nixon had this quality too.

One must respect another person who has taken so many punches and just keeps coming back.  It would be intellectually dishonest to ignore it, no matter how much contempt I have for her attitudes, ethics and policies. I called the Democratic race over almost exactly 3 months ago - Mrs. Clinton will not be her party's nominee for president.

What I didn't predict and never expected, was that she'd stay in the race this long, after so much bombardment, and still credibly come back for more. It's fascinating to watch. Iran has cause to be afraid...very afraid.