Two years ago to the day, and roughly two months after the novel coronavirus pandemic arrived in Iowa in 2020, I published a post titled Coping With the Reality of COVID-19. One year ago to the day, and roughly two months after the national vaccine rollout, I published a follow-up post titled Coping With the Persistence of COVID-19. In this post, as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to take stock of the progress we have made in fighting the disease, and explain why you should remain vigilant even if your immediate personal risk of hospitalization and death now seems relatively remote. [ Read more ]
Since we’re still committed as a nation to mowing down roomfuls of elementary students — along with citizens in every other age group and demographic — in order to protect the emotional fragility of gun owners, I wanted to point readers to a series of posts I wrote almost a decade ago about America’s insatiable lust for violence, and our penchant for denying and obfuscating the root cause.
In the aftermath of Monday’s ritual atrocity in Texas I confess I am not at all interested in hearing anyone talk about what’s wrong or what they’re going to do about it or what they need (usually cash) in order to do something about it. Absent new rulings by the United States Supreme Court — effectively overturning prior foundational perversions of the Constitution as wrongly decided — I don’t expect anything to change in my lifetime, even if I live another twenty or thirty years.
That said, my current mindset is also informed by the thinking I did close to a decade ago, which exposed the degree to which everyone but the actual victims and their families plays a self-serving role. (That was particularly evident on social media over the past twenty-four hours, as everyone used yesterday’s act of violence to burnish their own brand — like every other day of the year.) Reading the series won’t make you feel better or prevent any future deaths, but it might help put your powerlessness in context, and make it harder for people to exploit your raw emotions for their ends.
You can read the first post here.
Update 05/27/22: We’re only three days out now from the latest firearms massacre at an elementary school in the United States, and both the press and general public are already distracting and comforting themselves by focusing on the fact that the local police department demonstrated gross dereliction and cowardice when faced with weapons of war. In the real world, however, that’s actually a rational response to those weapons regardless of your level of training, yet we insist on making those weapons absurdly easy for any citizen to procure and wield. Then, when something horrific inevitably does happen, we blame law enforcement because they don’t want to step in front of military-grade firepower which is designed to explode the human body with every impact.
It’s not that the guns are a problem, it’s just that we need more heroic and selfless law enforcement officers. Anything to avoid doing something about the availability of those weapons.
As for the killer, again we’re only three days about but law enforcement is already on the hunt for a motive, and of curse the profit-driven press will undoubtedly follow. (If you haven’t read the series of posts linked above, read the series of posts linked above.)
As for what you can do, I am under no illusion that anything will ever change. What I can say is that if you have not been radicalized by now — both by gun violence and by the governmental refusal to do anything about gun violence — to the point that you support the repeal of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, then you’re part of the problem.
Update 05/31/22: One week later.
— Mark Barrett
At my advanced age it is not very often that I read something I find viscerally disturbing, but that proved to be the case with an otherwise excellent report from Cooper Worth at the Daily Iowan on 05/12/22: UI student accused of attempted murder, robbery had multiple UIPD reports made before arrest. In reporting additional information about the psycho who strangled and robbed a female student on the University of Iowa campus, including multiple prior contacts said psycho had with the UI Department of Public Safety, one of those prior incidents was related by the victim in the passage excerpted below. [ Read more ]
In a press release today, Iowa State University (ISU) announced that “it has concluded its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU)“. For those not steeped in the arcane associations which drive meaning and relevance in much of higher education, the AAU in question is an exclusive research collective which provides no actual benefits to member schools, but nonetheless commands and confers a great deal of prestige in an industry which values tokens of esteem to an embarrassing degree. To that point, while ISU is putting the best possible gloss on this breakup, the truth is that Iowa State would not abandon its AAU membership if it was not already under threat of imminent expulsion. [ Read more ]
I was reminded recently that conventional wisdom has no inherent connection to reason or fact, or even to simple math. Over the span of a few days I ran across several individuals on social media who were talking about upcoming milestone birthdays, and as is often the case those impending dates were being viewed with a mixture of resignation and dread. In fact, such sentiments seem to be particularly common at decennial birthdays, when turning a single year older ushers in an entirely new decade of numerical ages, along with varying cultural cliches about what a given decennial portends. (Spoiler: it’s usually not good.) [ Read more ]
One year ago to the day I published a post titled ‘Coping With the Reality of COVID-19’. In a rational world that post would not have been necessary because every nation would have implemented strict policies to suppress the virus, but we humans do not live in a rational world. Instead, we live in a world constrained by our individual and collective narratives, and for the greater majority those narratives do not allow for intrusions. And a pandemic is an intrusion. [ Read more ]
After five years, eight months and fourteen days of blithering administrative idiocy, illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld is now Iowa’s former illegitimate president. As warranted I will log any lingering developments on the Harreld front in this post, but I honestly don’t expect to hear from him again unless he is called to testify in court. (When this post scrolls you can find it by searching for ‘epilogue’, or clicking the ‘Harreld’ tag in any other Harreld post.)
08/09/21 — Just flagging this for the everlasting shame — as reported by Cleo Krejci at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: UIowa only Big Ten university without masking requirement for fall semester.
The bureaucratic perversion of the Iowa Board of Regents by right-wing politicians has been complete for close to a decade now, so there is little chance that new University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson will be able to convince the board to change its masking policy. (At least not until the regents have suckered as many revenue-generating students as possible to the UI campus, much as they did last year before providing the vast majority of classes online.) Adding irony to insult, the Board of Regents promotes its current president as a former physician, while at the same time allowing him to omit from his bio the fact that he is currently a casino owner and big-money Republican donor. What a world we live in when a former practicing physician is more than willing to abandon his Hippocratic Oath in service of Iowa’s thrill-killing governor, who can’t enough blood on her hands — so now she’s determined to make sure students of all ages across the state end up contracting and spreading the Delta variant.
Speaking of which…we’re only a few weeks out now from the recent tradition of the UI football program ingratiating itself to sports fans by leading The Wave at sick children looking down from the upper floors of the new UI children’s hospital. No word yet on whether the university plans to announce how many of the children at that hospital are on life support because three months ago Iowa’s Republican politicians also passed a law which makes it illegal to mandate masks for K-12. [ Read more ]
The final threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
05/16/21 — So illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld bid a fond farewell to the campus during a ‘Celebration of Graduates’ at Kinnick Stadium, and in so doing also seemed to declare the pandemic over. One notable absence at Bro Bruce’s big sendoff was UI College of Education Dean Dan Clay, who was perhaps too busy running his for-profit, private-sector business. Then again, after ripping Harreld repeatedly in his candidate forum, during his own failed bid for the Iowa presidency, it’s also possible Clay wasn’t invited. [ Read more ]
A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
04/23/21 — Video of the hour-long campus forum for University of Iowa presidential candidate Daniel L. Clay can be found here. As an internal candidate there was naturally some difference in Clay’s opening statement and in the questions he was asked, as contrasted with the three prior external candidates. Not only is there nothing wrong with that, but to pretend that Clay’s familiarity with the university was not a prominent facet of his candidacy would be absurd.
Living in the real world means acknowledging the truth of asymmetries and inequities, because the search for truth is not advanced by pretending that circumstances are other than they are. There are situations in life where it is important to treat everyone exactly the same, but evaluating Dan Clay’s forum is not one of those situations. Because he is an internal candidate I do know more about Clay than I did about the external candidates, who were all unknown to me until they were introduced over the past two weeks, but that doesn’t mean I am now obligated to empty my mind of prior knowledge to render a judgement about what Clay had to say today.
In this post I focus mostly on comments from Clay which surprised me, and there were more than I would have predicted. Those surprises may bode well or ill for Clay’s candidacy, but we will dig into specifics shortly. Because of my familiarity with Clay, however, my reading of his responses may be different from that of a casual observer of the search, and on that basis alone I encourage anyone to view the archived video if they did not watch the livestream.
Finally, like any communal human endeavor, academic administration has a political component, and at an institution the size and scope of the University of Iowa you better have mad diplomatic skills if you intend to be remembered as anything other than roadkill. There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward when you are speaking with different constituencies, but if you want people to believe your word is good then you cannot tailor who you are to fit the political moment. People can smell that kind of administrative insincerity a mile away, and a university campus is nothing if not a community of discerning noses. [ Read more ]
A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
03/28/21 — Because there were eight qualified semifinalists who interviewed for the Iowa presidency during the rigged 2015 presidential search — plus a ninth unqualified candidate in future illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld — and because the current presidential search committee has repeatedly expressed a desire to conduct a broader, more inclusive search, I initially assumed that the current committee would invite between ten and twelve candidates to participate in the semifinalist interviews at the end of next week. In various committee meetings, however — and particularly in comments from representatives of the firm facilitating the search — the number of expected semifinalists was repeatedly pegged at eight, so I began to use that target number as well. Flash forward to last Friday, and after cutting down the initial pool of 79 applicants, the committee settled on twelve semifinalists who will be interviewed on April 1st and 2nd, then reduced to three or four (or possibly five) finalists on April 3rd.
While this larger slate of semifinalists complicates the process of choosing finalists, the fact that next week’s interviews will be held online — as opposed to in-person, during what are commonly referred to as ‘airport interviews’ for that point of physical convergence — means overall time demands will be decreased, and travel requirements completely negated for all involved. (Assuming the COVID-19 pandemic lifts at some point, I will be surprised if virtual semifinalist interviews do not become the norm in academic searches, if only for their logistical ease and cost savings.) In expanding the number of semifinalists, I see that not only as a nod to this committee’s genuine interest in hearing from a wide range of candidates, but as a long-delayed response to the 2015 search, which notably concluded with the done-deal appointment of an unqualified rich old white man. To be sure, most if not all of the twenty-one members of the committee already know which of the twelve semifinalists will likely be chosen as finalists, and which candidate will likely be chosen as the next president, and industry demographics alone suggest that J. Bruce Harreld will be replaced by another white male. That outcome would not mean, however, that inviting more women and/or people of color to participate in the interview process was only done for show, because that is part of the work that needs to be done to expand future opportunities. As a candidate, if you can’t even get in the room when people are making decisions, then you have no chance. [ Read more ]