AIG Extracted From The Government, or What A Recovery Should Look Like

Look, lets face it. Few people on the planet could have done what Bob Benmosche has done over at AIG. Maybe no one else could have pulled this off, given the situation AIG was in and the constraints set up against his success. The more you know of the story, the more you realize that leadership matters, a lot.

This from Bloomberg today:

American International Group Inc. (AIG), the insurer that bristled at U.S. pay curbs, is nearing an end to Treasury Department compensation limits as Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche winds down a taxpayer bailout. The U.S. stake fell to about 21 percent from 53 percent in the largest sale of the insurer’s stock, the Treasury said yesterday. The department said it will raise at least $18 billion in the sale, with AIG repurchasing $5 billion.



…snip…

The U.S. has recovered its full $182.3 billion commitment to AIG under the bailout after Treasury’s latest sale. The profit includes results from the Federal Reserve portion of the rescue, such as a credit line and the purchase of mortgage- linked securities. Treasury has exceeded its break-even cost of about $28.73 in each of five share sales, with the stock priced at $32.50 in yesterday’s offering.



…snip…

“It’s clear that the government won’t lose money on AIG, whereas that was viewed as a certainty just two years ago,” Gary Townsend, head of Hill-Townsend Capital LLC, wrote in an e- mail. “TARP was our government operating at its best. The subsequent involvement in the minutia of companies’ compensation practices was government regulation at its worst.”



But Bob may well be remembered best for his 2009 quote, that, if you didn’t hear him say it out loud, or if you didn’t have his voice in your head from the hundreds of other times he said similar things to assembled employee groups, you could completly misunderstand…

“If you want me, you can have me, but you’ve got to pay. And you have to pay a lot, not because I need the money,” Benmosche told AIG employees in 2009. “But the money is about what I am worth, and what my job is worth to be your leader. And that sets the tone for all of you in this room.”



What he was talking about, what Bob always talked about, was excellence, personal excellence and personal responsibility. These are kind of old fashioned ideas right now (Washington, DC, I’m looking at you), but, man, what these ideas can accomplish when people just do their best and stop manufacturing excuses.



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Reminders while I’m up at Skidmore

from a Rick Moody interview of 2010

RM: I have taught on and off for a long time (since 1991). Rarely full time. That is, I have never made my income primarily from teaching. I have always survived mainly from writing. I would like to try to continue to do the same. When I have taught a lot, I have often become a little burnt out from it. Partly because I do try to give and to be available to the students in a way that I felt I often was NOT when I was a writing student. My grad school experience, especially, was not great, and I am powerfully motivated to try to expunge the miserly teaching of my professors from that time. But more importantly I have a theory that the workshop is not a great methodology for the instruction in creative writing, and, as a result, I have tried to come up with some alternative solutions. One of the solutions is this: I work with people individually. The application procedure is rigorous. I have to have time and I have to really like your work and you have to have at least a year, and you have to be willing to rewrite endlessly. Because I will work on one story for four or five months, doing ten or twelve drafts, until I think I have it somewhere where you are making progress/learning. Mainly, I do this for thesis students. Right now I have two students, one of whom is about to graduate. I think this amounts to a really good teaching ratio. One to two. By the way, the students pay what they can pay. When I can’t do this, the tutorial model, I very occasionally will teach a workshop in revision. I have sketched out some precepts for revision (there are thirteen rules, according to me), and so when I do a workshop now (as I have done annually at Skidmore College in the summer since 2005 or so) I primarily try to work on the subject of revision. I don’t care if you have a novel excerpt, I don’t care if you want to get an agent or are trying to market a book. I am going to attempt to teach you how to make a better paragraph. And that is where we will meet. I don’t know how fatherhood will affect this yet. My teaching. I still am committed to getting one student through her thesis and one other on an open-ended basis. And I am teaching this summer up north again. For two weeks in July. I will do these things as I have done in the past, as though it is possible to believe in teaching.


from Night Train Magazine

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Rick Moody on The Sweet Spot

Your reading along with Rick Moody’s essay on Brian Eno over at The Rumpus, and you come to this concluding paragraph…

I was somewhere on the road, not so long ago, don’t remember where, and again completely beyond sleep, and sitting in a tub in a hotel I never would have been able to afford, were it not for the largesse of some festival, or book publisher, in that despair which is the loss of all things, of all relevant handholds, in the tub, as the water slowly cools toward that lukewarm which is the universal temperature required for self-slaughter, and I had just downloaded Bloom, which is a software program devised by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers in which you simply touch your touchscreen and certain rather euphonic sounds emanate from a visual field of impressionist bubbles, and these replay and decay rather slowly, while some Eno-ish drones drone in the distant sonic space. If you are too lazy to fashion your little pizzicato stabs of sound, Bloom will do it for you. Eno describes the whole thing, I believe, as his composition, which is sort of like La Monte Young saying that he picked the one note that the Theatre of Eternal Music used to play, but who wants to quibble? You compose what Eno composed first. The thing plays itself, and you can intervene, or you can just let the breath of crows play the thing while you lay there cooling toward absolute zero, toward the time when all of our musical gestures will sound like Eno’s best compositions, little desperate iterations of sonic order against a backdrop of white noise, radio static, and then silence, and if this is what it means to be no longer in your Sweet Spot, that you are capable of making Drums Between the Bells, on the one hand, and Bloom on the other, so that very nearly dead in the heartless hotel interiors of the post-industrial wasteland are afforded a few more minutes of relative comfort, just before capitalism finishes them off, then I say we should all be so lucky as to be beyond our sweet spots.

We should all be so lucky.

Read the whole thing here…

SWINGING MODERN SOUNDS #33: The Sweet Spot – The Rumpus.net.

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Win/Luck Compilation of 2011

Via Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast (and everywhere else on the web) the awesome winners and lucksters of the year.

Happy New Year every one!

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Irreplaceable

A decade or so ago I learned that no one is irreplaceable, regardless of their talents, native abilities, passions, certainly not in something as prosaic as a business organization, or as it turns out, in a political system, not even in the art world.

But this morning that day-in and day-out truth seems so hard to bear. There is such a haze of loss I’m fighting today over the news of the death of Steve Jobs.

Separating yourself from the idea of ‘the irreplaceable’ is not to say that some lives, Steve’s in particular, do not have overwhelming impact, that they are not filled with extraordinary meaning. On the contrary, it’s just the opposite. The individual, driven by nothing more than passion, utilizing the talents they have, and the ones they’ve developed, applying them against the vagaries of the world around them, this is the base of a society many of us still believe in; one founded on individuals, not on the collective, one that grows through personal responsibility, not through entitlements, that becomes better through commitment and a drive to “Stay hungry. Stay foolish,” as Steve said, and to hell with the institutional oppressors that tell you to, “get back in line.”

I’m sorry if this seems like an overtly political statement at the time of one man’s death, but I’m not sure how else to deal with the news of his passing, this man just a few years older than me, while I’m reading about it on the tech devices he made possible, over the networks he made usable, on the applications that he demanded were designed to allow me to focus on ideas and not on production. What tinges the air with political tonality today, the way Charles Baxter and John Barth used to say the air of the prior generation was tinged with the smell of Berkley tear gas, vintage 1968, is that on a day when organized labor (or more precisely, the most radicalized few unions of the worst of organized labor) co-opted the Occupy Wall Street kids — a frustratingly dysfunctional narrative of a protest so hollow of purpose and void of meaning that it makes the Obama presidential campaign of 2008 look like a paragon of forthright honesty — we are struck flush with the contrast of what Jobs created versus the vapidity of ideas put forward by the American political left.

Here’s the contrast: Maker vs obscurer. Creator vs sneak. The comparison could not be more stark.

Read More »

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Philip Schultz on PBS Newshour

“Philip Schultz is a poet, fiction writer and educator. He has been teaching creative writing for nearly 30 years. In 1987, he founded the Writers Studio in New York. He won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for “Failure.”

This clip aired on the Friday, September 16, 2011 show did not air on the 9/16 show.

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