“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

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Mask Wearing: Lessons from the NBA, NHL and MLB

On Tuesday, I voted as a member of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to suspend an emergency rule issued by the Department of Public Health (DPH) which adds language to enforce the Governor’s statewide emergency order on face coverings and social distancing.  The rule requires all persons over age two to wear a face covering, or to maintain social distance of at least six feet, or both, and provides for enforcement through formalized, graduated means. The rule was issued in a way which had the effect of limiting statutory law. Statutes take precedence over administrative actions and thus the rule is, for that and for a number of other reasons, in my opinion unenforceable.

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There are some who interpret my procedural position on an administrative rule as saying that I voted against wearing masks. That’s not the case at all. I haven’t had the opportunity to vote on the issue of mask wearing, that’s something that is done by the Legislature, not JCAR. Perhaps those who would ascribe motives to my vote should take the time to learn something about the legislative process instead of flapping their gums about something they don’t understand.  If they did that, they would then join me in urging the Governor to call a special session of the Legislature to weigh in on the subject. That’s exactly what I told the Governor when he called me on Monday night, but he said it’d be something we’d take up in January. I have every intention of being there in January, but if COVID-19 makes a return engagement before then in a more virulent way, then all bets are off, especially if (when) his rule which flouts Illinois statutory law is itself flouted.

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While we’re on the subject, I think we can all learn a lot about the effectiveness of reasonable adherence to sensible social activities by watching what’s going on in the NBA, the NHL and Major League Baseball. All three leagues have begun play, with the NBA and NHL living and playing in a “bubble”, which strictly prohibits those in the bubble from leaving it. As a result, there hasn’t been a single case of COVID-19 in the weeks that they’ve been inside it. MLB has been pretty good about keeping itself virus-free, even though the teams are traveling from one city to another. Every team, that is, except for the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals, who had players and/or staff violate team rules by going out in public and bringing the virus back to the clubhouse. As a result, the Cardinals have only played five games all season.

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I think this is pretty solid evidence that sensible measures work. We can’t all live in a bubble like the NBA and NHL, we’re more like MLB, but we should take these lessons and apply them in our own lives.

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This is now just as much a political pandemic as a health pandemic, and mask wearing is the flashpoint. I mean, how many times have you seen someone in the bathroom washing his hands and having someone tell him: “Dude, real men don’t wash their hands. If you do that, you’re just giving in to the Governor’s agenda of executive overreach!”

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No, it’s the mask that’s become the talisman of the political pandemic, because the mask is visible; if you refuse to wear a mask, you’re showing that you’re standing up to The Man.

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Leadership isn’t telling people to do things “my way or else”. That’s where the Governor and I part ways. Leadership is shown in the ability to explain why something is important and convincing people that to follow is in everyone’s best interest. At this, he’s missed his opportunity.

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Look, I’m dead set against having the police tell you to wear a mask and then turn you into a criminal for refusing to do so, but here’s the deal: there are those, including my opponent in the November election, who won’t hesitate to do that. He’s on the record (albeit behind a pay wall) as having said so. If you aren’t going to live in a bubble, then take a cue from what seems to work for those who do.  We’ll get through this, but if we don’t turn the boil down to a simmer, it’s going to take longer to both climb out of this mess and to recover. Wear a damned mask.

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Silence is Corruption – Time for Dems to Break Their Silence on Speaker Madigan

Once again the smell of corruption is wafting through the Illinois House of Representatives. This time the smell is coming from the office of the Speaker, who’s been subpoenaed as part of a bribery investigation involving Com Ed. While he hasn’t been indicted, and may never be, there’s a point at which someone has to say “enough is enough”.

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When is this going to end? How much humiliation and ridicule will we have to endure while the rest of the world points fingers at our State and says: “Oh, that’s just the way things are in Illinois, everybody knows it.”

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I’ll tell you when this is going to end. It’s going to end when Democrats, both those who are now in the House and those who hope to be in the House next session stand up and say something more than “if he’s guilty, he must resign”, if they’re saying anything at all.

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Not having been indicted or found guilty of public corruption is a pretty low bar to be eligible to hold a position of public trust. The people of this State deserve something better from those who they elect to govern them. Otherwise we get what we now have: government through the back door, legislation like the ethics bills Republicans have tried to introduce that get bottled up in the Rules Committee, a Speaker who famously doesn’t have a cell phone or email account, so he can claim plausible deniability to being directly connected to the corruption swirling around him, a State in financial collapse.

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If the Governor is serious about turning the page, he needs to call a special session of the legislature to address this issue.

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And those, like my opponent, who’ve had ample time to consider what this means, it’s time to say something, even if it’s nothing more than “if he’s found guilty…” After all, on his own website he says: “I believe we need honest, ethical individuals to represent us at all levels of government.”

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Sager WebsiteWell, Mr. Mayor, here’s your chance. But when you list the Woodstock City Hall as your campaign office, you really aren’t off to a very good start yourself. That building belongs to the people of Woodstock, not your campaign.

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Governor Pritzker Follows the Science Only Up to the Point Where It Interferes With Politics

RallyOn June 6th, Governor Pritzker and Attorney General Kwame Raoul attended a South Suburban Day of Action event in Calumet City. Yesterday A.G. Raoul announced that he’s tested positive for COVID-19. The Attorney General’s office said he had been in his Chicago office for the last couple of weeks, and most of his meetings and events have been conducted via video link, so it seems very possible, if not probable, that he contracted the virus at that event. Right after the protests arising from the death of George Floyd, health officials urged people who attended the protests to self-quarantine for 14 days to fight the possible spread of coronavirus.

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Ten days later, the Governor got a test for COVID-19, and was found to not have been infected. Good for him, and I wish a speedy recovery for the Attorney General.

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But the Governor apparently didn’t get the self-quarantine memo, because what did Governor “Don’t Second-Guess Me Because I Follow the Science” do in the intervening days? Here’s an archive of his public events from June 8th through the 15th, taken from the Illinois Playbook published every weekday morning:

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  • June 8th: At the Thompson Center for a 1:30 p.m. briefing on insurance coverage for rebuilding businesses. In the late afternoon, Prtizker will attend the South Suburban March for Justice and Love that starts at Victory Apostolic Church.
  • June 9th: At Union Baptist Church in Springfield at noon for a roundtable discussion with state Sen. Andy Manar, local aldermen, T. Ray McJunkins, and teen organizers of a Black Lives Matter march. Then the governor will tour the Decatur Boys & Girls Club’s Child Care Facility and discuss early childhood education issues.
  • June 10th: At Skip-a-Long Child Development Services at 11 a.m. in Moline with Rep. Cheri Bustos, state Rep. Michael Halpin, Mayor Stephanie Acri and others to discuss the Child Care Restoration Grants program to provide emergency relief to childcare providers. Then, at 2 p.m. he’ll be at the Rockford YMCA with Bustos, state Rep. Maurice West and others to talk about emergency relief there, too.
  • June 11th – 14th: No public events.
  • June 15th: At the Community Interfaith Pantry in Belleville at 11 a.m. to discuss grants administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity. He’ll address the grants again at 2 p.m. at the Crosswalk Community Action Agency in West Frankfort.

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The fact that the Governor tested negative is beside the point. He was violating his own Executive Order 2020-38 which limits gatherings to no more than ten people, and he was ignoring his own epidemiologists’ recommendation for self-quarantining.

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But the most infuriating thing is what he did to possibly expose other people to the virus because he had to make a political statement. The first thing out of his mouth in Calumet City was a pitch for his progressive income tax. He’s willing to expose people to COVID-19 for that? I guess following the science only goes so far.

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Those people at the Thompson Center, the Victory Apostolic Church, the Union Baptist Church, the Decatur Boys & Girls Club’s Child Care Facility, Skip-a-Long Child Development Services, the Rockford YMCA, the Community Interfaith Pantry in Belleville and the Crosswalk Community Action Agency in West Frankfurt, did they know they were at risk? Were they subject to the contact tracing that’s part of the Governor’s Phase 3 Recovery Plan? Were they told to get tested and self-quarantine? It doesn’t matter that Pritzker tested negative this week, at the time he met with these folks, he didn’t know.

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Governor, though I’ve tried to get you to allow my county, among others, to determine for themselves the pace at which they open up, I’ve been pretty supportive of your calls for social distancing and sensible personal actions to slow the spread of coronavirus. But you’re losing me and whatever credibility you had at the beginning of this pandemic with your opportunistic disregard for your own injunctions. If we get hit by a second wave in the fall, you’ll have lost that credibility just when you’re going to need it most. Elected officials don’t lead by making pronouncements and issuing Executive Orders, they lead by example. With this action, you aren’t setting a very good one.

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How Soon We Recover Depends Upon Us

Great InfluenzaAs we move into Phase 3 of the “Restore Illinois” plan tomorrow, there are a few things that need to be said.

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None of us are happy about the pace at which life is returning to “normal”. We all want to enjoy the warmer weather and do the things that define summertime for us. We’ve seen surrounding states loosen their restrictions on businesses and social activities and chafe at the notion that we’re still where we are. I get that. I’ve been as adamant as anyone in calling for a loosening of restrictions on public activity and to go to a more regional approach to opening up our economy.

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But there’s something that we all need to understand. Moving to Phase 3 is not a license to let the good times roll. I’m reading “The Great Influenza”, the classic narrative of the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic that swept the world toward the end of World War I, killing over 100 million people, and that narrative is chilling.

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The influenza came in three waves, the first being a mild form of flu that most people took in stride. However, in a matter of a few months, the virus mutated into such a lethal form that the second wave caused thousands to fall ill daily. The influenza virus is very adept at changing its form within a few generations, gaining lethality as it does. There’s no reason to think that this one is any different.

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I’m not saying this as a prediction that what we’re now experiencing will be followed by a much more deadly strain in the fall. What I am saying is that neither I nor anyone else knows what is coming. But if we see in the fall what the world saw in 1918, we have very little with which to fight it.

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That’s because, short of developing a vaccine in the near future, we’ve shot the only arrow we had in our quiver. By shutting down the entire economy, our schools, elective surgeries and all the rest, we’ve put ourselves into a position where, if this virus comes back with a vengeance, it’s going to be very difficult to institute a second shutdown without resorting to the kind of enforcement mechanisms that none of us want. Not only would people accuse the government of crying wolf, but an economy which would just be starting to climb back would be thrown back onto the mat.

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The people who’ve been standing on the front lines of this pandemic, our first responders, doctors and nurses and technicians in our ICU’s, grocery clerks and truck drivers all deserve our thanks. But they deserve something else, as well. They need to know that we’re going to be sensible to the continuing threat that a resurgence of this virus can bring if we aren’t careful about how we exercise the responsibility we have to our families, to them and to each other.

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That begins by taking the lessons we’ve learned about how to bend the curve of this disease downward and continuing to do so, even as we move into a more open economy. There isn’t one of us who wants to move back into shutdown and the chaos that goes along with it. Exercising sensible precautions is a tradeoff we should be willing to accept, because if we have to go backwards, it’s going to be a lot worse.

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“Mort de la Guerre”

GraveOver forty years ago while bicycling through eastern France, I took a break and walked into a small grove of trees which grew in the middle of a wheat field. There, sitting in a small clearing was a simple stone, inscribed with the phrase “mort de la guerre”.

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There was no name, no date and no means of identification, just a simple stone marking the final resting place of someone who had fallen in defense of Liberty.

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Since then, the men and women of the United States armed forces have been sent to the far corners of the world to defend the Liberty that we so often take for granted. It’s only appropriate that we dedicate at least one day a year in remembrance of those who didn’t come back.

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This weekend there will be remembrances, parades, and family gatherings. To those of you for whom that family gathering will be to honor one of their own who, in words attributed to Lincoln: “laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom”, we should all offer a silent moment of thanks.

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Secretary of State Colin Powell said in 2003:

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“Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.”

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Cemeteries around the world stand as testimony to the price our country has been willing to pay for our freedom. But whether it’s the beautifully manicured grounds at Arlington or Normandy or an anonymous grave in eastern France, our obligation is the same: to remember the cost of freedom and to honor all who were “mort de la guerre”.

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