Thursday, January 03, 2008

Tomorrow will be the first day . . .

By Carol Gee

. . . of the rest of the U.S. presidential candidates' political lives. The much awaited Iowa caucuses will happen in each of their 99 counties. Over 100,000 Iowa political junkies like me will go to a home, a church , a fire hall or somewhere else. They will eventually stand in a corner in support of someone who very much wants to be our next president. This is the first time in over fifty years that the race is completely open. None of the candidates is an incumbent or former Veep. And it seems very exciting to a lot of people.

Therefore, because I am on hold until the caucus results come in, I am posting today related bits and pieces of stuff I wrote in the past for South by Southwest that never made it to The Reaction. It is sort of like cleaning out the 2007 files.

"In Search of Excellence" (1/2/08)

Tomorrow in Iowa starts the search for an excellent new president. It will be a long time before we finish the election process, but it will be worth all the work. We have seven years years of governance behind us that stand in stark contrast to anything beginning to resemble executive excellence. Leadership excellence is hard to describe. But, if you look closely, you know it when you see it.

These are the leadership traits that make it for me -- authenticity, wisdom, honesty, accountability, self-awareness, intelligence, ability to articulate, toughness, stability, capacity to hold onto the big picture, empathy, world view based on experience or background, and a good self-deprecating sense of humor.

I have been catching up with my favorite bloggers this morning and remembered once again why they are all on my favorites list. I present them in no particular order and with no specific definitions of why they show excellence. Just read their stuff and you will understand.
  1. "The Brzezinski Challenge for Presidential Contenders in 2008," by Steve Clemons of The Washington Note. The post contains several interesting Z. Brzezinski doodle/drawings.

  2. "9/11 Commission: Our investigation was obstructed," by Glenn Greenwald at Just the best investigative journalist around.

  3. Authors "Lapopessa" and "Buckarooskidoo," blog at Make it Stop! Make it Stop! Features an important editorial and a great best-worst list.

  4. "Today I'm burning despair's chair," by "txsharon" at Bluedaze. Passionate and personal from a warrior woman.

"Grabbing the News Isn't That Simple" (12/12/07)

Staying informed and in the know is not easy for a news junkie like me. I watch some television, mainly C-SPAN, but I find myself missing the pleasures of well written words. My local newspaper changed hands and changed format, so I rarely read it any more. That leaves me, like many of you, to reliance on the Internet for news.
The latest news via RSS feeds is the way many of us go on line to get our current events info. Bloglines is where I get my 111 feeds. Signing up for that many stories every day was just crazy. MSNBC claimed in 2004 that about 50 such feeds would be the average for a typical user of the RSS method. There is no way in the world that I will be "well read" as a result of my scanning marathons. And with Bloglines, I only have room for 200 items from any one subscription. So unread, they just stacked up and quit - getting stale as the days passed.

So my next project will be to delete at least half of my feeds. Those I keep will be based on several factors. I want to read well written and accurate material. I want to read the latest important news. I want viewpoints from around the world. I want to keep up in my special areas of interest. And I want to read regularly from familiar writers.

My folder categories will eventually include the only the following:
  1. My Favorites -- These are my "blog friends." I try to visit these writers almost every day. These writers always have something interesting to say, or lead interesting lives that they share openly and authentically with their readers. I have been reading some of them for years.

  2. Essential U.S. Newspapers -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the LA Times. Others will have a different list, perhaps one that includes their hometown newspaper.

  3. Essential News Services & Magazines -- McClatchy and Reuters news services, as well as Slate Magazine and US News & World Report. The news services often have a breaking story first. Notice that I do not subscribe to Google or Yahoo! news, nor to USA Today or any television feeds.

  4. Recognized Blogs -- Glenn Greenwald @ Salon is my intelligence specialist. Steve Clemons @ The Washington Note works at a Washington think tank and mingles with important politicians here and abroad. Juan Cole @ Informed Comment is my Middle East specialist. Andrew Sullivan @ The Atlantic is a thoughtful and articulate Conservative. The Mahablog is done by a full time blogger who is fierce and prolific. Steve Benen @ The Carpetbagger Report is a very trustworthy progressive who writes very well. Empty Wheel just got launched after beginning at Firedoglake. Over the years I have come to trust what these folks post.

  5. "Big" Progressive Political Blogs -- Firedoglake,, Talking Points Memo, DailyKos, and the Huffington Post. I read these important blogs to keep up with the latest inside stuff as well as to (naturally) reinforce my own progressive biases.

"Southwest Politics -- Flotsam and Jetsam" (12/17/07)

Because Texas is located in the Southwest certain issues are more predominant than others with us.

The Southwest in 2008 -- Given the abysmal reputation of our current president, it may be forever before another Texas Favorite Son will be elected. The Iowa Independent writer Douglas Burns thinks that the Southwest will decide the presidential election, however. He may be right if you include the West also, because Colorado and Nevada are technically Western States. Here is what he said with his Obama vice-presidential musings:

Dodd, a U.S. senator from Connecticut, and Obama clearly have respect for each other.. . . Dodd is simply a classy senator who can answer questions with reliable competency. Yes, the Southwest likely will determine the 2008 election, and sure, a Richardson vice presidential nomination makes sense because of this. But Dodd is fluent in Spanish as I saw firsthand when Lorena Lopez of La Prensa and I conducted a joint interview with him. If Obama gets the nomination Dodd complements him in a number of ways as a running mate -- including his ability to campaign in Spanish.

Dodd won't make mistakes out there and with his reassuring white hair, the elder statesman would be a nice balance for Obama. Youth and wisdom. Age and experience.

"About Spinning" (12/02/07)

One of the most frequent modern meanings of "spin" is associated with news and politics. As a modern-day blogger, my biases will inevitably put a spin on what I write. Occasionally I might label such a view as a bias or speculation if I can catch myself.

What do we mean by spin? carried these pertinent "spin" definitions:

7. to produce, fabricate, or evolve in a manner suggestive of spinning thread: to spin a tale of sailing ships and bygone days.

11.Slang. to cause to have a particular bias; influence in a certain direction: His assignment was to spin the reporters after the president's speech.
–verb (used without object)
16. to have a sensation of whirling; reel: My head began to spin and I fainted.
22. Slang. a particular viewpoint or bias, esp. in the media; slant: They tried to put a favorable spin on the news coverage of the controversial speech. . .

Bloggers sometimes choose an image of self that is not actual, and thus not literally accurate. My Blogger profile image is actually "Woman with a basket of spindles," painted in 1517 by Andrea del Sarto, a lesser known contemporary of Raphael. The painter's subject does reflect my self-image as a writer with which I am comfortable (my spin): I am lesser-known, I come prepared, and I am older. I am sort of serious, I work hard and am just a bit formal. My S/SW Intro (above) reads: "IDEAS & REFLECTIONS - my observations and commentary on people and events that affect the USA or the rest of the world."

Wikipedia used this image to illustrate its "Weaving" entry. The image label reads,

"Andrea del Sarto's iconographic choice evokes the womanly link between the two worlds."

. . . In later European folklore, weaving retained its connection with magic. Mother Goose, traditional teller of fairy tales, is often associated spinning.[1] She was known as "Goose-Footed Bertha" in French legends as spinning incredible tales that enraptured children.

I have no magical powers, I must admit. I call myself a "little" blogger, amongst thousands of others, trying to weave the day's news into a pattern that readers can see as coherent and authentic. This is, among other things, what I am willing to reveal "About Me" in my profile:

* Gender: Female
* Astrological Sign: Gemini
* Industry: Non-Profit
* Occupation: Retired Clinical Social Worker
* Location: Southwest : United States

A retired counselor, I am equal parts Techie and Artist. I am a Democrat who came to the Southwest to attend college. I married, had kids and have lived here all my adult life.

. . . For me the antidote to spin in this post was authenticity. There is precious little of that during this campaign season. Republican retirement is widespread these days but even that does not cure the spinning habit. Karl Rove wins the spin medal for this one about who wanted to go to war the worst before the invasion of Iraq. In very stark contrast, retiring Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) would win the authenticity medal from me for this (from The Swamp). To quote:
Hagel: Bush White House 'arrogant, incompetent.'Of course, many others would say I am totally biased. I guess this is politics, for better or worse.

And now, on to Iowa!

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