The story behind the AIG ad (5×8 – 1/9/13)

‘A’ is for ‘chutzpuh,’ lipstick on Saint Paul’s pig, the right to videotape police, Kluwe on Kluwe, and the day on Planet Creepy.


1) “A” IS FOR “CHUTZPUH”

You’ve probably seen this ad on TV from AIG, the giant insurance conglomerate that got a ton of bailout cash. What’s the reason for it?

Former American Public Media reporter Heidi Moore, now of the Guardian, sorts it out. She calls it a “thank-you” ad, but says the problem with it is AIG isn’t thankful at all. It’s about to sue the U.S. for imposing harsh terms in exchange for the taxpayer cash.


The chutzpah of this is indisputable; it’s like demanding royalties from your doctor because you got sick and thus gave him business. A Comedy Central Twitter feed sardonically noted, “Watching this ad is like receiving a thank you note from a guy who ‘borrowed’ your credit card information.” It followed up with an incredulous blog post that started: “AIG may be a corporate behemoth that needed billions of taxpayer dollars to pay off its toxic debts (and to sponsor an English soccer team and pay huge executive bonuses), but darn it, it’s a polite corporate behemoth.”

It escapes no one’s notice that, during the throes of the financial crisis, when money was hard to come by, AIG wrenched $182bn from the federal government because of two factors: its enormous importance to the financial system, and its repetitive tendency to shoot itself in the foot with over-reaching investments. This is in keeping with AIG’s history of being dragged, kicking and screaming, to every bit of financial discipline that saved the company. There are many who would say that the four years that the company spent in the finely manicured hands of treasury secretary Tim Geithner were the only thing that saved AIG from its own past of self-destructive investing impulses.

“This is a real slap at the taxpayers of the country and a real slap at the government of the United States,” the head of the NY Fed tells Marketplace.

Related: A letter from AIG (humor)

2) ST. PAUL’S LIPSTICK

When Macy’s announced it is shutting down its Saint Paul store last week, reporters dutifully reported the apparent giddiness of city officials, who claimed it presents a “great opportunity” to the city, no longer as susceptible to the economic blows it once was.

A week later, someone is saying what a lot of people have been thinking. Paul Olson, the former president of the Blandin Foundation, writes in an op-ed that city leaders are engaging in “deception,” criticizing both city officials and the media for putting lipstick on a pig.

Olson says the projects downtown boosters cite — a Saints ballpark, light rail, the Xcel — are almost all government-funded projects, not private investments in a thriving downtown.

Recall the once-grand headquarters of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads, which J.J. Hill promised would create the Inland Empire, starting here! Remember that 3M once thrived on St. Paul’s feisty East Side, and that West Publishing was in the heart of the city. And the oldest corporate citizen, The St. Paul Companies, was headquartered here.

There were breweries, like Hamm’s and Schmidt’s. Northwest Airlines was based on St. Paul land granted to build the airport. Weyerhauser, American Hoist, the Ford assembly plant — all are gone.

Sure, some of this is the result of the “creative destruction” that is a necessary part of capitalism. But who at City Hall ran up a red flag and asked: Why are so many major firms departing, and what can we do to prevent future losses?

These departures have decimated the service businesses left behind. St. Paul once boasted the Minnesota Club, where Hill and the other captains of industry dreamed about a vital region based on agriculture, forestry, mining, transportation and finance, then recruited millions of immigrants to make it happen.

Related: Here it is, your daily dose of hopelessness…

3) THE RIGHT TO VIDEOTAPE POLICE

It’s not real hard to figure out why some law enforcement members aren’t thrilled with the idea of someone holding a camera, filming them making an arrest. But the Constitution says we the people have a right to do just that. And yet, we get a constant stream of stories about people running afoul of officers for doing that.

The Pioneer Press today carries the story of Andrew Henderson, who filmed Ramsey County sheriff deputies frisk a man.


Henderson, 28, took out his small handheld video camera and began recording. It’s something he does regularly with law enforcement.

But what happened next was different. The deputy, Jacqueline Muellner, approached him and snatched the camera from his hand, Henderson said.

“We’ll just take this for evidence,” Muellner said. Their voices were recorded on Henderson’s cellphone as they spoke, and Henderson provided a copy of the audio file to the Pioneer Press. “If I end up on YouTube, I’m gonna be upset.”

Henderson calmly insisted he was within his rights to do what he was doing. He refused to give his name.

His is the latest in a string of cases nationwide involving citizens who record police activities.

Henderson got his camera back. Everything on it had been deleted.

He was also charged with violating privacy laws, a charge a law school professor describes as “nonsense.”

4) KLUWE ON KLUWE

Chris Kluwe, the Vikings punter who is so much more around here, has been on the national stage the last 24 hours. Last night he was on the Colbert Report.

Yesterday, Mother Jones provided an additional interview with Kluwe


MJ: Speaking of consequences, you’ve been tweeting a bit about warm winter temperatures in the Twin Cities. Can we expect a climate screed sometime soon?

CK: [Laughs.] Quite possibly. It’s one of the things that infuriates me–people who say, “Oh, there’s no climate change, just a local hot phenomenon.” You can’t argue with the scientific data that storms are getting more severe and droughts are getting more severe, and the planet is heating up. One of my favorite cartoons has one lecturer standing next to another lecturer saying, “What if we’re all terribly wrong and we made the world a better place for no reason whatsoever?”

MJ: What else drives you nuts?

CK: Stupidity in general. Willful ignorance. Not being able to look at the long-term consequences of your actions and realizing what you do will have ripple effects down the line. It pervades everything single aspect of our society. Look at football. Football is a growing business right now and we’re cutting funds to NASA and all sorts of science programs. You’re telling me that us running around playing a kid’s games is more important than our children learning? That, to me, is ridiculous.

Related: An update on the young man near Rochester, NY, who caught the attention of Adrian Peterson this week:

5) THE DAY ON PLANET CREEPY

Some people still don’t see what the big deal was the other night during the college football championship game.

ESPN has apologized for Brent Musberger’s comments. SB Nation’s Bill Hanstock explains the problem:


Musburger was held accountable, as he was the person in our ears waxing lascivious over a woman who had no idea she was being spoken about at that moment, or in what capacity. Musburger’s comments, taken at face value, insinuated that Webb had worth based solely on her looks and that an attractive woman should be incentive for youngsters to want to play football. Because women, according to Musburger’s ramblings, are prizes to be won. Foregone conclusions. If you play quarterback for Alabama, you will be given a woman that will make an ESPN announcer say, “WHOA!” on the air.

Musburger felt comfortable insinuating those things on a national broadcast in the year 2013. This, above all else, is why someone needs to be held accountable. Because it has to start somewhere.

Musberger’s reaction was creepy, indeed, in keeping with the entire beauty pageant culture, a world where the goal is to get people — including 70-year sports broadcasters — to say “whoa,” for all the wrong reasons.

miss_alabama.jpg

As a result of all of this controversy since the game, Donald Trump has invited Katherine Webb to be a judge at his Miss Universe pageant.

Related (and you know it is): Trafficking of girls a bigger problem than most believe, officials say

Bonus I: Following up on yesterday afternoon’s post on the “D” grade assigned to Minnesota schools by Michelle Rhee’s group, here’s the entire documentary that aired last night from PBS’ Frontline. It was an excellent piece of journalism.

Watch The Education of Michelle Rhee on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Bonus II: A rare sight in the Twin Cities these days. People playing musical instruments like violins and cellos.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Today is the 100th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s birth. Today’s Question: How would you describe Richard Nixon’s legacy?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Why it’s hard to make it in America.

Second hour: The pumpless heart.

Third hour: Transportation issues before the Legislature.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): On what would have been President Nixon’s 100th birthday, historians discuss his complicated legacy.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - NPR considers how to deal with unwanted donations in the wake of a major disaster. People often flood charity groups with helpful donations — food, clothing, medicine. Well-meaning donors also send Frisbees, chandeliers, and other not-so-helpful items. Unfortunately, those wind up getting in the way of urgent relief efforts.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Not to take AIG’s side, but their board of directors is only hearing Greenberg’s case to join his lawsuit. No decision has been made. The “Marketplace” story suggests that while the insurance giant will pay lip service to Greenberg and other stockholders suing the feds, they would be crazy to vote in favor of the plan.

  • http://twitter.com/derushaj Jason DeRusha

    I look forward to ESPN apologizing for selecting the camera shots of attractive women during every single sporting event they broadcast.

    Honest question: is there a difference on the inappropriate scale between pointing out the attractiveness of a woman who is a former Miss Something USA and a current model versus pointing out the attractiveness of a random woman in the crowd?

  • John O.

    #2) Mr. Olson’s OpEd (no relation to me) conveniently overlooks the fact that most states/counties/cities all have “deals” available for “economic development.” Why would the CEO of a private company NOT ask about how much money or other incentives he/she can get from the taxpayer for a *possible* expansion?

  • BJ

    4) KLUWE ON KLUWE

    Did Kluwe get Stephen Colbert to break (almost) character? (I would throw glitter)

    I don’t watch Colbert but thought his thing was ultra conservative?

  • Bob Collins

    // is there a difference on the inappropriate scale between pointing out the attractiveness of a woman who is a former Miss Something USA and a current model versus pointing out the attractiveness of a random woman in the crowd?

    Someone on Twitter yesterday said it was wrong because it objectified women. I *do* think there is a difference, Jason, because this particular woman’s public life was all about using her beauty to market herself.

    Now, sure, I fully expect that observation to be met with the a claim that it’s ‘blaming the victim for what she was wearing’ .

    And, yeah, I thought Musberger was pretty creepy about it, but I’m not sure it’s not hypocritical for someone who wears bikinis and high heels to insist that “I’m up here!”

  • http://twitter.com/derushaj Jason DeRusha
  • BJ

    To answer Jason’s question: Honest question: is there a difference on the inappropriate scale between pointing out the attractiveness of a woman who is a former Miss Something USA and a current model versus pointing out the attractiveness of a random woman in the crowd?

    Yes. I believe there is a difference. If your a public figure, Miss Alabama qualifies, then your level of privacy goes down. Not that it is right, it just is.

  • Loretta

    As a woman it’s been interesting to listen to the commentary about Ms. Webb. It really isn’t about what she’s wearing or whether she puts herself out there or not. Women are objectified and subjected to comments and/or assaults daily. I’m not a beauty queen but I can think of several incidents where I’ve been kissed by complete strangers at a public event. Or pregnant women are touched without permission. There is nothing wrong with noticing someone’s attractiveness, however one shouldn’t act on every impulse. Can’t we ask people to keep their thoughts, hands and tongues to themselves?

  • Bob Collins

    Yes, I think you hit it on the head. It’s not about the effect on Ms. Webb, it’s about the message and its impact on other men.

    “Hey kids, if you want beautiful women, be a quarterback and you can get one.”

    The definition of beauty being what’s in dispute here.

  • essjayok

    BJ, Jason, Bob: I think you all have missed at least part of the point.

    Yes, so she is a public figure.

    So if in that case the announcer had said, “Look there, at that public figure, great to have her in attendance supporting the team!” Whatever. Seems kosher, in fact seems similiar to what they might say about any famous person in the crowd. Just a general shout-out and nod to her attendance.

    But instead, it was her looks and physical appearance that were commented on. Why is that okay?

    This would have NEVER happened had it been a man, even a male model or male in a similar business to Ms Webb. That’s part of the point. What they were focusing on is inappropriate and sends a bad message, and it certainly would not have been the focus had Ms. Webb been Mr. Webb.

  • David

    #3) Maybe Ramsey County is just following the lead of Mpls: What’s the best way for police departments to get good PR for lowering police misconduct payouts? To first have a record year in payouts!

    Also, a little bit disappointed you didn’t pick up the Strib data privacy story from yesterday. For the Strib to use Rich Stanek as the voice of data privacy would be hilarious in a fictional novel akin to 1984.

  • Bob Collins

    // Why is that okay? This would have NEVER happened had it been a man, even a male model or male in a similar business to Ms Webb. That’s part of the point. What they were focusing on is inappropriate and sends a bad message, and it certainly would not have been the focus had Ms. Webb been Mr. Webb.

    Are we talking about a Mr. Web who appeared in a Speedo at a bodybuilding competition?

    Let’s assume it had been George Clooney and the announcers had been women and one remarked “he is one hell of a hunk of a man.” I hear that, too, although obviously not in the context I just described.

    But, as I said, we’ve got two different issues here. The message being sent to women and the impact on Ms. Webb herself.

    Ms. Webb engaged in a process — beauty pageants — that basically say, “hey, look at my body!” So to the extent that she’s a participant in the culture, it’s hard to cut her some slack.

    To the extent that she and Musberger perpetuate a culture, I believe I’ve already used a word for that and there’s no sense repeating myself.

  • BJ

    essjayok – Never? Watch the first 10 seconds of the Kluwe interview. First words are about his muscles. The first story I read on Monday about AJ McCarron (miss Webb’s BF) was about how his Tattoo looked on his chest. Many stories about Romney’s hair this past cycle. Chris Christie’s weight was questioned by no less than Barbra Walters.

    Now those are not near the coverage of Bachmann’s shoes. But the media outlets are making the physical appearance of men a bigger deal.

    Is that the equity you wanted? :) “ding ding” #Sarcasm

  • essjayok

    Alright, so “never” is a dumb word to use.

  • David

    essjayok, do you work in an office? In the office I work in and at my last job the only ones to ever make comments about looks, or say flirty things, or to say outright unprofessional things about looks or sex in the presence of the opposite sex were/are the women.

    In this day and age all of the men I know are well aware of the consequences and it appears the women that engage in such behavior are aware that women are extremely unlikely to suffer any consequences related to objectifying men; even if it makes the men uncomfortable or feel harassed.

    Couple this with BJ’s post and I suspect you’ll be seeing a lot more unseemly behavior by women as time progresses. That is, if you choose to acknowledge it.

  • Tyler

    Musberger’s reaction was creepy, indeed, in keeping with the entire beauty pageant culture, a world where the goal is to get people — including 70-year sports broadcasters — to say “whoa,” for all the wrong reasons.

    It’s a shame they’re perceived that way. I’ve worked at the state level for Miss USA for the last 3 years, running lights and sound, and my wife has acted as stage manager for the last 15 years.

    Several women come back year after year to compete, and my wife has developed personal relationships with these contestants. Many of them have gone on to have successful careers in broadcasting, modeling, and as self-improvement coaches as a direct result of participating in these pageants. Contestants learn a great deal about themselves as they compete, increasing their self-esteem and self-confidence in the process.

    Future Productions, for example, produces the pageants in 7 states. Each state winner’s prize package last year included:

    +$45,600 scholarship to Lindenwood University

    +dance team scholarship valued up to $43,600 to William Penn University

    +tuition scholarship valued up to $13,600 to the New York Film Academy

    +$12,000 scholarship to Alverno College

    +full tuition scholarship valued at $2,997 to attend the LEAP Leadership Seminar

    +$2,000 scholarship to Wartburg College

    +$1,000 scholarship to PCI Academy

    I think these pageants are a bit of a Rorshasch test – why are YOU watching? There’s no doubt that it’s a beauty pageant – that’s the point. Being good looking and in good shape is 2/3rds of the competition. But the interview portion is still 1/3rd of the score, too. Look up previous top 5 Miss USA interviews – being able to think on your feet and be well spoken clearly separates the winner from the other 4 every time.

  • David

    Tyler, I don’t think most people view any particular pageant as the problem. It’s the JonBenet Ramsey culture.

    To many of us outsiders it appears that little girls are indoctrinated into a life style that teaches them to obsess about weight, looks, popularity, etc. at a time when they should be just being little kids.

    I have a 4yo daughter that is incredibly intelligent and has the type of beauty that brings comments from professional photographers, family, and random people about her potential as a model or that she should join a pageant or talk to so-and-so at an agency. I have to tell you, the thought makes me sick to my stomach and not just because I’m the father of a beautiful little girl.

  • Bob Collins

    // Being good looking and in good shape is 2/3rds of the competition. But the interview portion is still 1/3rd of the score, too.

    Define “good shape.” They’re not doing pushups, right? So I assume by “good shape,” we mean , you know, “whoa.”

    Which is the problem.

    Why would anyone have to parade around in a bikini before a bunch of leering judges in order to boost self esteem and confidence?

  • http://twitter.com/derushaj Jason DeRusha

    Opening myself up to ridicule, I’ve judged a few pageants and came away with a very positive impression of the *majority* of the young women who take part in them. Especially in the early teen years – it’s an incredible training program for public speaking, personal confidence, poise, interview skills, etc. They get a bad rap, in general.

    I (obviously) agree that it’s wrong to objectify women. But blaming the announcer is the wrong target, as I indicated in my first comment. If people are really bothered by this, I suggest you petition the sports networks to stop taking cutaway shots of pretty young women in the stands.

  • Bob Collins

    // I suggest you petition the sports networks to stop taking cutaway shots of pretty young women in the stands.

    Yeah, typical “talent”, DeRusha. The on-air folks blaming the guys in the truck. :*)

    But, seriously, this wasn’t a random shot of a woman, it was a shot of the the girlfriend and his mother. That’s pretty standard fare, right, and an announcer without a demonstrated record of saying stupid things might say something like, “that’s his girlfriend on the left, and his mother on the right.”

    Then they can cut to the five guys with bare chests and a letter painted on each one that, put together, spells “Whoa!”

  • Tyler

    Jason answered the second half of your reply…

    Define “good shape.” They’re not doing pushups, right? So I assume by “good shape,” we mean , you know, “whoa.”

    Which is the problem.

    It is? By “good shape” I’m saying these women strive to strike a balance between “too thin model” and “body builder.” Obviously, some choose to spend money on breasts and teeth and lips and so on, but again – historically speaking – winners are naturally beautiful and proportional.

    There’s a difference between the Miss USA system and the Miss America system, but neither one is a wet t-shirt contest. It’s too bad that people seem to think it is.

  • Kassie

    “it’s an incredible training program for public speaking, personal confidence, poise, interview skills, etc.”

    I learned those skills in speech, spanish club and junior varsity sports and didn’t have to have someone judge my figure or get a spray tan.

  • http://twitter.com/derushaj Jason DeRusha

    As did I, Kassie, but that doesn’t discount the value of a different way of getting those skills.

    Besides, isn’t this all a little too obvious: the crowd on a Public Radio blog looking down on the pretty popular people. :-)

    Anyway, I think we’re all taking this a little too seriously. But I dated a cheerleader in high school. Who is now a doctor.

  • Bob Collins

    // are naturally beautiful and proportionnm.

    Yeah, it’s a real shame your crowd is so misunderstood. A real shame.

  • Tyler

    Bob, I’m in no way defending whatever sports announcer we’re talking about, but I feel like you’re cherry-picking negative stereotypes without being open to the possibility that pageants have redeeming virtues. Maybe I’m expressing my point of view badly – Jason seems to be saying what I’m trying to say. News Cut is about finding the new angle on a story, but not today I guess.

  • Bob Collins

    // to the possibility that pageants have redeeming virtues.

    No, what I’m saying is that one of the redeeming virtues is not conveying that a woman’s “beauty” is defined by her proportional shape. And that the culture that insists it is — even in part — is archaic.

    If the contests have redeeming values, I say ‘great.’ Stress them, expand them. The part that creates a damaging culture, drop it.

    Take a good look at Miss Alabama’s picture in the post. Tell me what the redeeming virtue is of that segment of that competition.

  • Kassie

    Umm, Jason, I AM a pretty and popular person. I mean, I’m an MPR member, of course I’m pretty and popular.

  • Tyler

    Take a good look at Miss Alabama’s picture in the post. Tell me what the redeeming virtue is of that segment of that competition.

    I see a young woman who is eating a healthy diet, is physically active, and takes pride in her appearance. To me, this is a more-redeeming television event than “Biggest Loser.” What’s wrong with being young, healthy, and being on agreeable terms with your own body?

  • Bob Collins

    //What’s wrong with being young, healthy, and being on agreeable terms with your own body?

    Being a man and also someone who only has sons, that’s a hard one to answer with any degree of expertise. So let’s put it out there for any woman who had to grow up in a culture that says that’s what beauty is.

  • Kassie

    My bigger objection is with this statement:

    I see a young woman who is eating a healthy diet, is physically active, and takes pride in her appearance.

    How do you know she is eating a healthy diet or takes pride in her appearance? She could eat only oreos and diet coke. I promise you she could tell you at least 5 things wrong with her body, every woman can.

    I never could have won a beauty pageant. Not because I wasn’t poised enough or talented enough or fit enough. I never could have won because my body does not have the proportions needed for that type of contest. Basically, I don’t have hips or an ass. That’s ridiculous.

    You don’t win the contest, or even get to be contestant, because you are on agreeable terms with your own body. You win by looking a very specific way which is based on upper class, white male standards of beauty.

  • Tyler

    Not being a woman, I can’t argue with some of your points, Kassie.

    white male standards of beauty.

    For what it’s worth the judging panels I’ve seen have been almost always 50% female, if not more. Often half the male judges are gay.

  • Kassie

    Women judge other women using the same eurocentric BS standard that men do. The standards were created by white men and we all fall into place to enforce them. See the NewsCut post a few weeks ago about the African American meteorologist who was basically called ugly by another woman because her hair was short and natural. Same thing.

  • Tyler

    More proof that beauty pageant contestants are ditzy, diet Coke-drinking self-absorbed airheads.

  • Bob Collins

    Ah, so what you’re saying Tyler is her body and proportion really weren’t indicative of being “healthy” after all.

    And if the threat of cancer was real, why would you wait until AFTER the beauty pageant to have the procedure?

    Why not have it months ago and still compete? Because, after all, it’s all about the interview, right?