Monday, March 19, 2012

Optional reading: "Can't Is Not An Option"

Google "Sentinel HC", or plug that into the internal search engine at, and you'll find what resembles the right wing's secret library. Imagine a Bizzaro-world catalog of Thomas Jefferson's treatises on democracy, perverted.

You'll find titles like "She's the Boss: The Disturbing Truth About Nancy Pelosi," which posits the frightening question "Why Is Nancy Pelosi the Most Dangerous Woman in America?" For those interested, a brand-new hardback edition is available at Amazon for $1.67.

A crisp new hardback copy of "The Secret Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President: Inside the Real Watergate Conspiracy" can be had for $3.19, one of the publisher's more expensive offerings.

How about this one: "The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom," which calls itself "a non-lawyer's guide to the worst Supreme Court decisions of the modern era." Oddly, the dozen doesn't include Bush v Gore (2000).

This one's a page-turner, I suspect: "The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star." It promises to tell "the real story of the Republican vice presidential nominee and her collision with the elite liberal media," but I wonder if, like the new HBO film "Game Change," it discusses Palin's collision with high-school world history?

This is too much fun:
"Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn't Fight the Nation's Wars"
"A Field Guide to Left-Wing Wackos: And What to Do About Them"
"Your Teacher Said What?!: Defending Our Kids from the Liberal Assault on Capitalism"
"Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One"

And then you get to the autobiographies, or "memoirs": Here you'll find Donald Rumsfeld's book "Known and Unknown" (Amazon price, new hardcover, $3.33); Michele Bachmann's "Core of Conviction: My Story" (Amazon price, new hardcover, $4.00); disgraced former Congressman Tom DeLay's "No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight" (Amazon price, new hardcover, one red cent).

And this insider biography: "A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush" (Amazon price, new hardcover, $1.85).

Scratch a little more, and you'll learn that Sentinel HC was created as a subsidiary of Penguin Group, the mega-publisher, in 2003 to tap the market of conservative book-buyers. (Paging Stephen Colbert for a ruling on this. Stephen?)

That year, Penguin assigned Adrian Zackheim to helm the new offshoot, and they celebrated his assignment with this announcement:

He has a long track record of publishing books by notable conservatives, including Margaret Thatcher, Newt Gingrich, and Bob Dole.

Capable pedigree, to be sure.

Perhaps it was destiny, then, that Sentinel HC would become the publishing home to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

And, given Amazon's markdown of so many of Sentinel HC's master works, perhaps we now better understand Haley's opposition to locating an Amazon distribution center in her adopted county of Lexington. How embarrassing it will be to find her new book, "Can't Is Not An Option," remaindered so close to home.

Still, Amazon is doing its part to spray pretty colors on this situation. Haley's book will be available in stores April 3, but it's available to pre-order on already, and the promotional text is breathy. Let's read it together:

A rising star in the Republican Party shares her inspirational memoir of family, hope, and the power of the American Dream.

Decades before their daughter surprised the nation

The nation? She shocked the nation? I'm not sure the entire nation was paying such close attention to who South Carolina's installed in their governor's office in 2010 -- after all, could the average American name five of the last ten South Carolina governors? For that matter, could Haley herself name them? becoming governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley's parents had a dream. Ajit and Raj Randhawa were well-educated, well-off Sikhs in the Punjab region of India. But despite their high social status, the Randhawas wanted more for their family-the opportunities that only America could offer.

So they left behind all they had known and settled in Bamberg, South Carolina (population: 2,500).

Clearly, this promises to be a heart-warming story that celebrates America's liberal immigration policy. I'm hooked already.

As the first Indian family in a small Southern town in the early 1970s, the Randhawas faced ignorance, prejudice, and sometimes blatant hostility.

Uh-oh. Trouble in paradise. If only the Randhawas had spent a few minutes reading about South Carolina history before buying their tickets, they might have discovered that South Carolina has had a three-hundred-year-old love affair with ignorance, prejudice, and sometimes blatant hostility toward anyone who's not a white male, including white females. So the Randhawas weren't exactly discovering virgin territory. An ounce of prevention, as we say...

Nikki remembers stopping at a roadside produce stand with her father, who always wore his traditional Sikh turban. Within minutes, two police cars pulled to make sure they weren't thieves.

Sadly, poor white children got that treatment, too, not to mention African-Americans of every economic stripe.

But the Randhawas taught their children that they should never think of themselves as victims. They stressed that if you work hard and stay true to yourself, you can overcome any obstacle. The key is believing that can't is not an option.

Admirable lesson. However, it seems strange that a book about eschewing victimhood begins with examples of victimhood.

But this is a pattern, isn't it? After all, Sarah Palin was victimized by the liberal media and by Senator John McCain's evil campaign staff. Michele Bachmann was victimized by the liberal media and Newsweek magazine. I haven't read Margaret Thatcher's book, but I wonder if she was victimized by anyone on her climb to ruthlessness?

The family struggled to make ends meet while starting a clothing business in their living room, eventually growing it into a multimillion- dollar success. At age twelve, Nikki started to do the bookkeeping and taxes after school.

Really? A multi-million-dollar success, but it couldn't afford an accountant? And as recently as the mid-2000s, it couldn't afford to pay her a salary more than $25,000, according to her IRS filing?

Well, okay. It's a book. James Frey wrote a book, too, called "A Million Little Pieces," and his was non-fiction too. Oprah Winfrey said so.

After graduating from college and entering the business world, she watched business owners like her parents battle government bureaucracy and overregulation.

Most college graduates are watching foreign want ads for high-paying jobs, because there aren't any here to fill. But when Haley graduated college, she watched battles with government bureaucracy and overregulation. Okay.

Her frustration inspired her to get into politics and run for the state legislature. That first campaign, against an entrenched incumbent, led to racial and religious slurs and threats-but Haley, like her parents, refused to back down.

She refused to back down! South Carolina demanded a young woman with meager qualifications to take charge and lead, and Haley refused to back down from its demand! She fit the bill!

She won on a promise to fight for reform, lean budgets, and government accountability, which is exactly what she did-much to the dismay of South Carolina's old guard politicians.

That, and Larry Koon's re-election campaign was lackluster to the point of being non-existent.

Soon she had a reputation as a conservative leader who could get things done. In the same state where her family was once ridiculed, she inspired a diverse grassroots following. In November 2010 she was elected South Carolina's first female governor and first nonwhite governor,

Um, I feel strange mentioning this, but didn't Haley herself mark government documents declaring herself "white"?

I'm sure I read that somewhere, like Mother Jones magazine in July 2011, in a note by reporter Siddhartha Mahanta, maybe:

For the children of immigrants, the road to acceptance in America can be a bumpy one. There will be pain. There will be embarrassment. There will be relentless, cruel accusations from your brethren that you are assimilating at the expense of your true cultural heritage. And the stories of the children of immigrants who rise to positions of influence and power are especially inspiring given the challenges before them.

Not so inspiring? Lying about where you're from, like South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC), the American-born child of Indian parents, might have done. The Associated Press reports that in 2001, Haley listed her race as "white" on her voter registration form.
For Haley, voter fraud is a big deal. She recently signed a new law requiring that voters present photo identification at the polls that, she says, will "improve South Carolina in terms of integrity, accountability and transparency." Voter ID laws, of course, don't actually decrease voter fraud (which is virtually nonexistent). Instead, they mostly keep Democratic voters away from the polls.
But even though she didn't exactly commit voter fraud, her self-race-mis-classification seems to undermine her credibilty as someone who wants to prevent people from lying on their way to the voting booth.

Yes, I'm sure it was Siddhartha Mahanta's item in the July 2011 edition of Mother Jones magazine. I knew I read it somewhere.

I suspect someone from Haley's office will call up Sentinel HC and Amazon to have that corrected posthaste.

Now, to continue:

...and only the second Indian American governor in the country.

Haley's story, as told firsthand in this inspiring memoir, is a testament to the power of determination, faith, and family. And it's proof that the American Dream is still strong and true in the twenty-first century.

I was sure it was going to say, also, it's proof that, thanks to our hyper-targeted marketing culture, anyone can write a book and get it published these days.

The Washington Post, not to be outdone, weighed in with a mini-review eight months ago:

Nikki Haley’s memoir, “Can’t Is Not an Option: My Story,” will be published in January 2012. So will the two negatives in the title produce a positive outcome for the South Carolina governor?

Even negative press is good press, right?

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