Live blogging the Virginia Tech Convocation

I am struggling with a complicated mix of emotions as I watch the Virginia Tech convocation, which is being covered on just about every TV station I get. It seems strange to live blog something like this, but here I go.

At the end of the convocation, Poet Nikki Giovanni got up and spoke. “We are Virginia Tech”, she repeated through her talk. For those who don’t know Nikki Giovanni, she is an incredible poet and Virginia Tech is particularly blessed to have her there as a professor, poet and speaker, especially at a time like this.

One of my favorite poems of hers is Ego Tripping.

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission

As she ends, the crowd starts chanting, “Let’s go Hokies, Let’s go Hokies”

The convocation ends with a speaker saying, “Boy, we needed that.”

OldenGoldenDecoy has the text of Nikki Giovanni's words over at

“We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. WE are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to know when to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, but neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokier Nation embraces our own with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail, we will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech. "

I hope someone puts it up on YouTube.

Two Donor Lists, Ben Smith and Don Imus

Yesterday, as I was creating the fundraising maps, I spent a bit of time thumbing through the FEC filings. There are a lot of rich people that have donated a lot of money to the Presidential campaigns. In politics, these are the ‘high dollar donors’ and the fundraising teams carefully nurture them. They get the maxed out donation, and then try to get friends of the high dollar donors to also max out.

Then, there are the ‘low dollar donors’. They are the people contributing $25 via ActBlue. They get nice emails, and maybe a mass mailing or two. They get tallied up as statistics on the quarterly reports, but don’t get any wine or hors d’oeuvres, unless they volunteer to help out at a high dollar event.

Two donor lists, two Americas. Some of us try to be in both worlds. We volunteer for high dollar events. If we are fortunate, we max out, and still get involved in nitty gritty volunteer activities. I would love to see campaigns try to bridge these two worlds.

It makes me think of Joni Mitchell’s song, “The Boho Dance”, where she talks about how when she was “working cheap”, doing the Boho Dance, yet always having well pressed jeans and “a little lace along the seams”. She contrasts that with the “a lady in a Paris dress With runs in her nylons”. Yeah, many of us straddle two Americas, whether it be two Americas of political donations, two Americas of artistic endeavor, or some other bifurcation of our country. Some of us want to bring the two Americas together. Others want to keep them apart

Don't you get sensitive on me
'Cause I know you're just too proud
You couldn't step outside the Boho dance now
Even if good fortune allowed

It isn’t just the “artists in noble poverty” that perpetuate the Boho dance. It makes good news copy. The sort of writing that Ben Smith is doing at the Politico only serves to further the rift between the two Americas, instead of bring them together. It serves to feed the divisiveness and further damage our country.

As I read about Virginia Tech, it struck me about how horrible things hit people independent of their economic status, or which America they belong to. As I read about psychological first aid, I thought about some of the ‘core actions’:

To respond to contacts initiated by affected persons, or initiate contacts in a non-intrusive, compassionate, and helpful manner.
To enhance immediate and ongoing safety, and provide physical and emotional comfort.
To calm and orient emotionally-overwhelmed/distraught survivors.
To offer practical help to the survivor in addressing immediate needs and concerns.
To help establish brief or ongoing contacts with primary support persons or other sources of support, including family members, friends, and community helping resources.
To provide information (about stress reactions and coping) to reduce distress and promote adaptive functioning

Whether or not you are a trained mental health professional providing psychological first aid, or you are simply a citizen concerned about the welfare of our country, it seems like these core actions are probably things that we would all be better off doing more of.

It is much better than trying to stir things up about how much a presidential candidate spends on a haircut, or calling basketball stars ‘nappy-headed hos’.

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Fundraising maps

The Des Moines Register has an interesting article today, looking at how the candidates did in fundraising in Iowa. Romney led the Republicans and Edwards led the Democrats. So, I thought it would be interesting to see how things look in a few other states.

In New Hampshire, Obama edged out Clinton $49,971 to $45,500. Edwards was third at $25,100. In South Carolina, Edwards far outstripped the competition $186,109 to Clinton’s $36,100 and Obama’s $31,810. Richardson and Biden did relatively well there with $22,000 and $13,000 respectively. In Nevada, it was very strongly Clinton, $317,000 to Obama’s $63,530, Edwards $45,500 and Richardson’s $32,650.

Home states when for their native sons and daughter. In New York, Clinton raised $7,034,167. In Illinois, Obama raised $3,756,756. In North Carolina, Edwards raised $1,421,149. In New Mexico, Richardson raised $2,799,017. The only other state that Richardson was the top fundraiser was Arizona where he raised $71,325. Dodd led in Connecticut with $1,006,410. Biden led in Delaware with $279,000. Those were the only two states where Dodd and Biden led.

Using a neat little Web 2.0 tool to mashup states, it was very easy to create maps showing where Obama, Clinton, and Edwards lead.




I’ll leave the interpretation of these maps as an exercise for the readers.

Note about the methodology: I downloaded the files from these candidate from the FEC website. It was a fairly long and tedious process so I didn’t bother with Kucinich or Gravel. I might go back and check them later. Using the Filter Table functionality, I extracted the SA17A records for type IND, which I understand to be the individual donations. I then used a pivot table to break it down on a state by state basis showing what I understand to be the amount available for the primary. I then combined the individual pivot tables into a single table for comparison. My numbers checked out with the Des Moines Register’s numbers, so I know that at least they used a similar methodology.
(Cross posted to Greater Democracy)

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The Culture of Cruelty’s Katrina Moment.

So, Don Imus got fired this week for racist and sexist comments about some college basketball players. He remains a top search on Technorati and a major topic on the Sunday morning talk shows. Now, everyone is putting their spin on it. People point out that Imus has always said offensive things. Why did we get a backlash this time? Media reform activists have been talking about the role of media consolidation. People have been tying this to the developments in the Duke Lacrosse case. Yet it seems as if there are some other interesting stories to be tied in.

Keith Burris had a column in the Manchester, CT Journal Inquirer where he wrote,

You don’t get to go around calling people whores, even if you, or your fans, think it is funny. It's not civilized. It's rude. It's not nice. But maybe that's the point that’s been missed. More and more in our society, you do. Uncivilized behavior and crude, rude talk, is de rigueur.

I think Burris is on to something important here. March 30th was Stop CyberBullying day. It was a day to focus on fighting back against “uncivilized behavior and crude, rude talk”. I believe that the backlash against America’s Next Top Model is part of this push back.

On Meet the Press, this morning, the discussion about Imus centered around what David Brooks called the “Culture of cruelty” and Gwen Ifill called the “Culture of meanness”

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Fiona Flying a Kite

Fiona Flying a Kite, originally uploaded by Aldon.

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