Charisma

Some random thoughts. The New York Post says that Sarah Palin is not selling well on the lecture circuit. Maybe it’s her six-figure fee. But I’m not counting her out. Anyone who thinks she can’t fill a hall and rock a crowd is underestimating her and the Post will be proved wrong.

Her book is already a best seller. I’m more skeptical of that. Bookstores are stocking up, but when you check out the NYT best seller list, look for that little thingy that indicates bulk orders. One way to get to the top is to buy truckloads of your own book.

Ever hear of Aimee Semple McPherson? She was a player too–sexy, religious and patriotic. She founded the first megachurch and got very rich before she ran off the rails. It’s a hazard of being a mavericky rogue.

Profiting From Insecurity

I’ve seen the commercials on daytime TV, promising health insurance for just pennies a day. No physical exam needed. They seemed to be targeting the elderly, and I figured it was probably a scam to get people to pay for what is already covered on Medicare.

It’s not just the elderly who can be tempted, though. When people get worried, or desperate, they can make ‘bad choices’. And the present situation doesn’t offer many good ones…

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed suit Wednesday against two out-of-state health insurance companies.

The suit alleges that the two companies, Missouri-based Consumer Health Benefits Association and Nevada-based Home Health America, duped consumers into believing they were buying affordable health coverage, when in fact they were purchasing non-insurance products with few benefits.

“Many people are struggling with skyrocketing health insurance premiums,” Swanson said in a statement. “Some companies are exploiting the lack of affordable health coverage by aggressively promoting risky, unregulated health coverage products that offer little or no financial protection if you get sick.”

This is one situation where the free market is a little too free and a state has to step in to protect its citizens. When people have a real choice of well-regulated insurance providers and a pubic option these exploitative schemes will find no buyers.

A Few of His Closest Friends

Newt Gingrich must be a very busy man these days. His fund-raising group is selling his personal time to every listing in the Yellow Pages. Who, I wonder, has not been invited to get close to him for a mere few thousand dollars?

But he’s got standards. That’s why he rescinded the invitation he sent to Alison Vivas, when he found out she ran a porn business. (Love for Sale From Politicians).

And his 527 organization has done it again, disinviting the owner of a strip club from the awards dinner she’d paid $5,000 to attend.

Dawn Rizos didn’t need any formal recognition that The Lodge, one of the best-known gentlemen’s clubs in Dallas, was a successful small business.

But when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s conservative group named her an “Entrepreneur of the Year,” she was thrilled by the opportunity to accept the award in Washington and speak about ways to help small businesses.

That all changed, however, when Gingrich realized that The Lodge was a topless bar, not some other business in Virginia. He rescinded Rizos’ invitation to a private dinner and returned the $5,000 donation she made to his group, American Solutions for Winning the Future.

“It was disappointing,” Rizos said. “We were looking forward to sharing our political views with Newt Gingrich.”

Actually, that is so rude to invite, then disinvite someone. And they did it twice. What would Miss Manners say?

Clearly Gingrich is using an organization that does a lousy job of checking out who they beg money from. They must send out tens of thousands of special personal honors and have Newt running from banquet to banquet to greet his new best friends. Funny that he doesn’t have more empathy for people who sell their charm.

Campaign finance reform is a hard sell, because all the people who managed to get elected were able to take advantage of every possible loophole. With so much else going on, this is not the most pressing issue. But the future calls. Though it’s too late to make an honest man out of Newt, we have to do it for the children.

Update– I might have been too easy on Newt. Daily Kos has specifics on how Gingrich and some of his Republican allies flood the professional world with honors and invitations, sometimes mistaken by the recipients as something other than a mass mailing fundraising tool. I have to say that I’m hurt that they’ve neglected to name me ‘nurse of the year’ and they’ll pay for it at the voting booth.

Ehrenreich Argues for Better Thinking, Not Positive Thinking

I will definitely need to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s newest book. Not only is she one of my favorite political writers, but now she is delving into cultural criticism related to the mental health field’s relentless pursuit of “positive thinking.”

Newsweek’s Julia Baird provides a short review:

[...] In her new book, Bright-Sided: How Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, Barbara Ehrenreich calls positive thinking a “mass delusion.” She argues that an unrelenting drive to train our brains to overlook problems and blame ourselves for failures has blinded us to inequality, incompetence, and stupidity.

The philosophy of positive thinking, she argues, developed both as a reaction to the negativity of Calvinism and a salve for the sick and anxious, but has, over time, been turned into a kind of blind optimism. At the heart of positive thinking is a belief that you can will anything you like into happening: recovering from cancer, getting a promotion, becoming a millionaire. Often, the worse things are, the more vehemently people are encouraged to be sunny. The more companies downsized and restructured in the ’80s and ’90s, the more popular affirmation-chanting, team-building consultants became. And all the while, as the country’s wealth shot up, the gap between rich and poor ballooned.

Who Can Stop the Media Circus?

Roman Polanski is on my computer, on my radio, in my newspaper. A petition signed by a host of actors and writers begs for the case to be dropped. His victim, now a mature woman, is enduring a new media onslaught. Who can stop the madness?

It’s simple. Roman Polanski can stop it.

He ran from his own plea bargain. He can stop dragging this thing out and tell his lawyers to end it. He’s 76 years old. California does not want or need another geriatric ward of the state. They have more dangerous prisoners that they have to release for lack of space.

He just needs to get his lawyers and his entourage and face a judge and end this. He’s not going to persuade the US legal system that he deserves a free pass for being rich and famous, but he can probably clutch his heart a few times and cough pitifully, and persuade them that locking him up is more trouble than he’s worth.

Focused on Her Family

My grandmother was born in 1908. She was born into an America that did not grant her mother the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship. As Rosamund lay in her swaddling clothes, a first generation American-born baby girl; women were suffering slander, ridicule and violence to achieve the sacred right of suffrage. This struggle began at our nation’s birth, continued through our Civil War, and finally was granted as a political appeasement after the final War. WWI. The War that ended all Wars.

Well, that’s another story. But out of that devastation came the XIX Amendment, which established womens’ right to vote.

One of my earliest memories was being with my parents at the polling place. They must have been busy, raising seven children. They must have been tired, both having worked all day. But they radiated a sense of seriousness and excitement. My husband, whose parents bore some risk in presuming to vote while black, remembers that his mother and father always found a way to get to their voting place. They didn’t have a car, but they would walk or take a bus.

I never took the right to vote for granted. My kind wasn’t allowed at the start of the century of my birth.

In 2004 I went to New Hampshire, which has same-day registration, to get people to the polls. I talked to a grey-haired woman my own age. She had never voted. She was just off work, her clothes were worn, no one had told her that her voice mattered. It was one of the coolest American things I had ever done to tell her that she could register and vote today. This is Democracy– that rich or poor it’s one citizen–one vote.

So it’s not to get sanctimonious about it, but I’m surprised that any woman would decide to run for office after a lifetime of ignoring her civic duty.

DAVIS, Calif. Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman said Tuesday that it wasn’t until she was a chief executive in Silicon Valley that she realized why she should vote after sitting out elections for decades.

Whitman sought to explain her spotty voting record for the first time after delivering a speech to a Republican women’s group.

“I was focused on raising a family, on my husband’s career, and we moved many, many times,” she told reporters. “It is no excuse. My voting record, my registration record, is unacceptable.”

Yeah, it is. They say that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. But when you can’t claim patriotism, you can always discover a need to spend more time with your family.

I’ve always wondered about women like Phyllis Schlafly. Telling other women to get back into the kitchen while she jets around the country from conference to conference. She reveres the family. I wonder if her own family ever gets to see her.

Meg Whitman had time for a career but voting wasn’t a priority. Sadly, this is true for the majority of Americans. Maybe she can represent them.

Terminator vs Predator

I’m wondering now, if Roman Polanski is extradited back to the USA will he face charges in California, the state he fled thirty years ago?

That would be fascinating to watch. He might appeal to Governor Schwarzenegger to grant clemency. The Arnold is a film guy. He fought allegations during his campaign of a pattern of sexual bullying and a relationship with an underage girl. They called him the Gropinator. But he’s a Republican now–zero tolerance, tough on crime. I imagine he would welcome the arrival of Roman Polanski in his state about as much as he would a shipment of toxic waste.

California has more prisoners than it can feed, and there’s nothing the Governor could do with the Polanski case that wouldn’t offend some constituency. There’s sure to be Total Recall of Schwarzenegger’s own past if he tries to get righteous, and allegations of favoritism if he doesn’t throw the book.

Polanski, on his part, will be arriving on another planet. When he left California women were chicks and men were playboys. It was easy for him to write a script where he was the victim of a conniving nymphet, just doing what any guy would do given the opportunity. Now he’s hearing words not fit to print in the 70’s, such as ‘drug-facilitated rape of a child’.

The film industry, like a priesthood, is rallying behind its own. Dear old Father Macgillicuddy, he was always so good to me. And anyway, he’s old. Too bad for Polanski that this role has already been played by scores of clergy, and juries found it hackneyed and contrived.

If the state of California does show Terminator vs Predator, be prepared for astounding transformations and amazing twists of logic, scandalous exposure of hypocrisy and enough blame to go around.