Vaccinated, but Really Not Ready to Leave the Pandemic Cocoon

Steve Petrow writing in The Washington Post:

I know I can only keep my vaccine status quiet so long — without appearing to be anti-vaccine. (Clearly, I’ve blown my cover with this essay.) To help me, I’ve found myself thinking about the yoga retreats I’ve attended. Toward the end of these retreats, the teacher will usually ask, “How do you take what you learned on the mat off of the mat?” The answer: intention and discipline.

The stress I currently feel with regards to the pandemic is more about the growing pressure to re-emerge into public. At the end of 2019, I had the goal to slow down and say no to more. For folks like me (which I suppose might mean an undiagnosed social phobia of some sort), the pandemic was freeing.

University of Iowa Gives Athletics $50 million ‘Loan’

Vanessa Miller for The Gazette:

Given tens of millions in losses the University of Iowa Department of Athletics is absorbing from COVID-19’s devastating impact, outgoing UI President Bruce Harreld has agreed to permanently end an earlier deal requiring athletics to contribute $2 million a year in direct support to the main campus.

Additionally, the UI main campus — facing budget cuts and tens of millions in pandemic-propelled losses of its own — is nonetheless shipping $50 million to the typically self-sustaining athletics department this budget year.

The University of Iowa’s self-sustaining athletics department has an endowed head football coach who has long been the highest paid public employee in the state.

Voters with Uncounted Ballots on Rita Hart’s Challenge Withdrawal

Zachary Oren Smith reporting for the Press-Citizen:

After filling out her ballot, Loetz said she was preparing to put it into her secrecy envelope but she’s allergic to the glue in some envelopes, so rather than licking it, used a bit of water to seal it. In the process, she said, the envelope ripped. Rather than starting over, she decided to take it to the Scott County Auditor’s Office to see if it would work. According to Loetz, she asked the elections worker if the envelope would be a problem, but says she was told it would work.

These are stories that got lost in the both-sides reporting of Iowa’s Second Congressional District: 22 people whose votes were not counted for technical reasons.

This wasn’t an attempt to steal an election like Donald Trump, who was demanding ballots from precincts that went heavily Democrat Joe Biden be tossed in bulk. Rita Hart was asking — consistently — to have specific ballots considered in a recount.

Hart was asking that voters, including those who voted for her opponent, not be disenfranchised.

Rita Hart Had to Take One for the Team

John Deeth on the historically close Second Congressional District race after Rita Hart dropped her challenge, pushing to count 22 ballots in a race she lost by six-vote margin:

Hart had the worst possible luck. It wasn’t just that she had the closest congressional race in at least 40 years, and that it turned on minor clerical errors. It was that this happened at the same time as a defeated president lied about massive voter fraud, refused to concede, and gave aid and comfort to criminals who invaded our Capitol and murdered police officers. If it weren’t for that, the 2nd District challenge would still have been bitter and partisan and controversial. But it would have been possible. Instead, we had an environment where immeasurable imaginary fraud and 22 very specific examples of minor mistakes were treated as Both Sides Identical.

It’s always worth reading Deeth on Iowa politics, but I want to call attention to the media piece here, because this is what stuck out to me. “Both sides do it” is, in this case, malpractice.

The Republicans who were pushing this through a “Pelosi is trying to steal a seat” tale where many of the same characters who were silent or vocally supportive of Trump’s Big Lie and deadly riot incitement. And, yet, they got their he-said turn uncritically reported.

The Power of Political Disinformation in Iowa

Peter Slevin for The New Yorker:

Whatever their emerging record, Democrats must also overcome a fearsome wall of mistrust, and a broad willingness among Republicans to believe the worst about them. Nowhere is this clearer than in Iowa, where Republicans rolled to one victory after another last November, powered by support for Trump and disdain for the Democrats. Trump beat Biden there by eight points, a dozen years after the Obama-Biden ticket carried the state by nine. Senator Joni Ernst, once considered vulnerable, was outpolled by Trump, but still collected fifty-two per cent of the vote to defeat her Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield. Democrats lost six state House seats and two congressional seats, including one by an excruciating six votes out of nearly three hundred and ninety-four thousand cast. (The Democrat, Rita Hart, is continuing to contest the results.) The other seat belonged to Abby Finkenauer, an energetic first-term Democrat, who was blindsided by her defeat.

Any Iowan paying attention knows how true this feels.

I keep returning to this:

In 2018, Bobby Kaufman, who’s dad is the Iowa GOP chair, defeated Jodi Clemons, who later was an organizer for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, by 11 points and 1,700 votes.

In 2020, Kaufmann faced Lonny Pulkrabek, Johnson County’s Democratic sheriff for 16 years.

Kaufmann ran a TV ad suggesting Pulkrabek stood by while rioters defaced beloved Kinnick Stadium (meanwhile, Pulkrabek caught heat in his jurisdiction for a Facebook post expressing sadness at the spray painting).

Pulkrabek was relatively well funded and objectively a good fit for the district.

Kaufmann beat the Democrat by 20 points and 3,700 votes.

 

Our Great Reopening is Stressful AF for Some of  Us

Matt Richtel reporting for The New York Times:

When the pandemic narrowed the world, Jonathan Hirshon stopped traveling, eating out, going to cocktail parties and commuting to the office.

What a relief.

Unlike Hirshon, I’m not diagnosed with anxiety, let alone severe social anxiety, but, despite the stress of the pandemic, I’ve found comfort in my introversion and staying home.

My ideal pre-pandemic weekend was, well, staying home. I hope very much to hold on to that as much as I can, and get anxious AF when I think about what returning to the wider world.

A Reporter Arrested while Covering a Protest Faces Trial Monday. Here’s Why You Should Care.

Nicole Carroll, editor-in-chief of USA Today:

Over the summer, six USA Today Network journalists were taken into police custody while doing their jobs, reporting from various racial justice protests. Three were jailed. They yelled, “I’m press, I’m press,” as they were tackled. Forced to the ground. Pepper sprayed. Handcuffed.

One of them, Andrea Sahouri, is going to trial Monday. The Des Moines Register reporter, eyes still burning from pepper spray, spoke about her arrest on video as she sat in the back of the police van last May. […]

“It’s clearly sending a signal, whether it’s intentional or not, to other reporters,” Ardia said. “Don’t cover protests in Des Moines.”

Iowa Told Counties 8 Minutes Before Expanding Vaccine Access by 1 Million People

Ethan Stein reporting for KCRG:

An email KCRG-TV9′s i9 Investigative Unit received shows the Iowa Department of Public Health only alerted county health departments it was expanding eligibility criteria for COVID-19 vaccinations 8-minutes before the announcement was made.

Iowa’s response has been, um, chaotic. Much of the work has fallen to underfunded, “exhausted” county public health departments to deal with shifting requirements, mandates and policies.

An Oral History of the Indoor Rainforest Iowa Almost Built

Peter Rugg writing for Inverse:

Picture this:

A glass dome a sixth of a mile long and 20 stories tall buffers a lush canopy against the windswept winters. Beneath it free-roaming bonobos, toucans, sloths, and piranha, shanghaied from the jungles of Central and South America, form a free-wheeling menagerie among ferns and vines and hundred-foot-tall-trees reaching towards the expansive sky.

That is what Townsend wanted, what some big thinkers back east wanted, and what the U.S. Senate thought might be crazy enough to work.

I think about this oral history of the Iowa Child Project’s proposed rainforest in Coralville, Iowa, which was a thing while I was finishing high school and into my college years and was planned for what is now Xtreme Arena and the Iowa River Landing, surprisingly often.