The Sunday Read: Thanksgiving still worth celebrating despite COVID-19, government restrictions

(The Center Square) – My Thanksgiving plans changed.

Allow me to explain why.

I live in Illinois. Check that. I reside in Illinois.

I wouldn’t say that any of us is living here. Just surviving. Hanging in there. Getting by.

You can’t make plans here. Not any meaningful plans that involve others. Just can’t do it.

Most places where you would want to go are closed. The city streets of Chicago are empty. If Hollywood had plans to make a sequel to Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” shooting locations would be plentiful.

Of course, it may be too dangerous to film there anyway because while almost all other recollections of normalcy ceased months ago, gun crime has trended upwards and the city is on pace to challenge a record number of homicides this calendar year.

The presidential election remains undetermined. Voter fraud has been alleged. Nobody in the legacy media seems to care much. Not enough to look into it. Like the fly that landed on the vice president’s head during the debate season, more focus was given this week to the president’s attorney’s Grecian Formula drip than what he had to say. The presumptive winners continue to tell the presumptive losers to hug it out and get over it. I don’t see that happening anytime soon. A poll suggested that 47% of Americans don’t believe the results of the election were correct.

This time of year, night falls before 5 in the afternoon and temperatures are dropping. The sun only makes guest appearances here between October and March anyway. It’ll snow again soon.

Like you, I have lost track of where I can go. I think the answer is to essential places for essential supplies to do essential things. I am not sure what that means anymore.

I guess I could go the grocery store, you know, beat the rush to stock up on toilet paper, bottled water and whiskey. Maybe try to find an ammo store with anything other than nothing on the shelves.

Amidst all of that, all I truly was thinking about was celebrating my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving.

I will do that at home, I guess, with most members of my immediate family. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I had other ideas.

My state’s governor is concerned that I am going to kill all of my older relatives. He said so this week when he canceled my Thanksgiving trip.

I intended to go to Pennsylvania, where I was born. It would have been about 1,000 miles round trip in a minivan. The governor there didn’t want me to come any more than the governor here wanted me to leave. The governor in Pennsylvania made the lift so heavy – with requirements both before I left Illinois and after I arrived in the Keystone State – that the family in my traveling party couldn’t do it. They are not testing people who are well.

No test, no travel. No Thanksgiving with my extended family.

Set the bar high enough, and Olympic pole vaulters can’t clear it.

My governor was talking late last week about flying to his mansion in Florida for Thanksgiving. Or maybe he was staying in Illinois at a different mansion. He may have a mansion in Wisconsin. Maybe two. I lost track because I didn’t care in the first place. And I have things to consider that supersede wherever he decides to fill his gravy bowls.

Journalists are not special people. We have a special responsibility. We are entrusted to be fair, contextually complete and to tell the truth.

The truth is that I am not certain where permissions and liberty intersect, or if they intersect. Context is becoming more difficult to dial in. I consider that a fair and honest appraisal of all things.

A lot has changed. Most Americans now live in regions rather than villages, cities or counties. These regions are randomly color coded or designated as operating in mitigation “phases” that are as straightforward as common-core math. The colors change every so often. So do the phases. It’s confusing.

Oh, and there’s the COVID to deal with, too. It’s a virus. You may have seen something about it on TV.

So I am staying home. Not because the government told me to. No, because now I want to.

I’d rather focus on the holiday. Maybe think about things a bit more. Make some plans that I can keep.

So Happy Thanksgiving.

May you and your family find peace and happiness this week however you best see fit and wherever you wish to celebrate it.

* * * *

Elsewhere in America…

NEW YORK

A bill introduced this month in the New York Senate would provide for annual increases to the state’s minimum wage, tied to inflation. The maximum that would be allowed each year would be a 3.5% hike. The current minimum wage in New York City is $15 an hour, while most of the rest of the state is at $11.80 an hour and due to increase to $12.50 an hour starting Jan. 1. New York has been aggressive in increasing the minimum wage in recent years, drawing accusations from the Republican minority in the Legislature that the state’s struggling small businesses are being driven to insolvency.

PENNSYLVANIA

In 2018, Pennsylvania began allowing gambling on sporting events at the state’s casinos. Now, as the sports gaming program gets up to full steam more than two years later, it’s evident that wagering is wildly popular in the commonwealth, not to mention a boon to government revenues. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board revealed this week that sportsbooks took in $525.8 million in wagers in October, the first time the state had crossed the half-billion dollar threshold and behind only Nevada and New Jersey nationally.

OHIO

More Ohio parents could soon have more freedom for their children’s education thanks to a bill that is nearing passage in the General Assembly. State Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, announced a conference committee solution on Senate Bill 89 between the Senate and House that could provide more scholarships to students in low-income communities and in low-performing schools so they can attend a private school of their family’s choice.

ILLINOIS

More Illinois House Democrats have said they won’t support Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan for another term. Every two years, the Illinois House votes for speaker; 60 votes are needed. The office manages how the House operates. Madigan, D-Chicago, has held that spot for all but two years since 1983. He recently has been implicated in several federal indictments against other people, but hasn’t himself been charged with a crime. He has denied wrongdoing. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has called on Madigan to answer questions or resign after federal prosecutors indicted two former ComEd executives and two former ComEd lobbyists with close ties to the speaker. Earlier this year, ComEd admitted to handing out jobs that required little or no work to those close to Madigan in an effort to influence the speaker.

The misuse of overtime hours in the Illinois Department of Corrections continues to be a problem, costing taxpayers millions. At a hearing Tuesday, the Legislative Audit Commission revealed millions has been spent on overtime for two years ending in 2018, including $10 million at Stateville Correctional Center alone. There also were numerous instances of an employee using a full day leave the same day the employee worked overtime. State Sen. Chapin Rose said he is tired of hearing the same story year after year. “I’ve been here too long to keep hearing director after director come in to various committees and say ‘the last director did this’ and it just seems like we get the next audit later and it doesn’t happen,” he said.

MICHIGAN

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the state is responding to a surge in COVID-19 cases by imposing a shutdown of indoor gatherings in both public and business settings. Restaurants and bars are closed to indoor dining, and indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people from no more than two households, and allowed only at non-residential venues. Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, said the shutdown would force layoffs of approximately 250,000 employees during the 2020 holiday season. He also said an additional 6,000 restaurants may be forced to close permanently, and that 2,000 restaurants have already shuttered for good.

Hours after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used her health department to shut down some businesses statewide for three weeks, Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford, and nine other Republican lawmakers called for impeachment hearings for the first-term Democrat.

After the Michigan Court of Claims rejected an emergency motion to stop certification of votes in Wayne County, the challengers appealed their case to the Michigan Supreme Court. Time is of the essence. The Wayne County Board of Canvassers meets at 3 p.m. Tuesday to vote on certifying election results. The lawsuit alleges widespread fraud in the TCF Center in Detroit, including counting ballots of people who weren’t on the official voter roll, election poll workers coaching voters to vote for the Democratic party, and using false information to process ballots.

Whitmer also said she plans to revoke and terminate an easement that has allowed Enbridge to transport petroleum products across the Straits of Mackinac in Lake Michigan since 1953. The notice demands the company cease Line 5 operations in May 2021. Enbridge warns that a disruption of this supply would result in “devastating consequences” including higher energy costs for consumers in a number of Midwest states and the loss of thousands of jobs.

MINNESOTA

After a seven-month battle and a lawsuit, conservative lawyer and Powerline blog contributor Scott Johnson won access back into the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) media briefings. Johnson sued MDH after he was excluded from the news briefings on April 27 for what Johnson thought was asking a critical question regarding Gov. Tim Walz’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least one Republican is irked at how Walz will spend a majority of the state’s disaster relief fund on what she contends isn’t a natural emergency. Sen. Julie Rosen, R- Fairmont, disagreed with the decision to spend $11.7 million to rebuild Hennepin County after May riots and noted Republicans have blamed Walz for the $500 million damage done in the Twin Cities for not activating the National Guard sooner in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

WISCONSIN

The campaign of President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked for a recount in Milwaukee and Dane counties. “The people of Wisconsin deserve to know whether their election processes worked in a legal and transparent way,” former Dane County Judge Jim Troupis said. “Regrettably, the integrity of the election results cannot be trusted without a recount in these two counties and uniform enforcement of Wisconsin absentee ballot requirements.”

KENTUCKY

Organizations representing Kentucky cities and counties want lawmakers to pass a gas tax increase when they return to session in January. The Kentucky Association of Counties and Kentucky League of Cities pushed for the gas tax hike during a presentation before the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government. They hope the increase will help improve roads and bridges throughout the state.

GEORGIA

All eyes were on Georgia and its recount/audit of the state’s presidential election last week. President Donald Trump said Monday that Georgia’s recount was pointless without a review of the state’s signature match process after attorney Lin Wood filed a lawsuit, suing Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. On Tuesday, elections officials discovered a misplaced memory card of more than 2,700 votes in Fayette County, and voting system implementation manager Gabriel Sterling said the vote audit wasn’t going to change the original election results based on a review of state law. Georgia revealed the number of absentee ballots that were rejected because of signature issues Thursday after another tweet from Trump on Wednesday, the same day Wood filed an emergency motion to stop the certification of the state’s election results until his lawsuit could be heard. A judge rejected Wood’s motion Thursday, and hours later results of the recount/audit confirmed presumptive President-elect Joe Biden won the state.

VIRGINIA

Making recreational marijuana use legal in Virginia could create up to 18,000 jobs and generate up to $308 million in annual tax revenue, a new legislative report said. Gov. Ralph Northam said last week he will introduce and support legislation to legalize marijuana next year. Revenue generated through a marijuana tax has been used for a variety of programs in states that already have legal marijuana, including public education, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project said.

LOUISIANA

Republican legislators called for Louisiana to eliminate state income taxes while acknowledging that the chances of doing so anytime soon are slim at best. On a webcast hosted by the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, said repealing personal and corporate income taxes would solve two problems at once by making the state more attractive to businesses and residents while dismantling a system in which most of the tax dollars flow through the state Capitol.

TEXAS

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath says that “in-school transmission of the coronavirus happens exceedingly rarely” among public school students. With many students participating in online and remote learning, Morath told the State Board of Education that data show there has been a significant decline in coursework progress among middle- and low-income students. “The data is sort of growing by the week and leads us to the conclusion that … the protocols that have been put in place have made schools, all things considered for the pandemic, remarkably safe environments,” Morath said.

ARIZONA

We’re still diligently tracking post-election efforts by Republicans in many states. In Arizona, a Maricopa County judge denied an attempt by the state’s Republican Party to force a recount of ballots. Judge John R. Hannah delivered the decision Thursday afternoon. Had the GOP succeeded, it would have put a hold on the vote finalization process while the county began the arduous process of recounting ballots by precinct. The previous audits conducted by voting centers found no errors, though the Republican representative refused to sign off on the authentication of the process.

CALIFORNIA

Roman Catholic priest Fr. Trevor Burfitt is suing California Gov. Gavin Newsom, county and local officials over restrictions on worship services. After the lawsuit was filed, attorneys for the Thomas More Society claim government officials have been harassing congregants, including issuing citations to two women wearing prayer veils at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Arcadia, California, after they left the church building. “There are dozens of churches in Arcadia – and hundreds in Los Angeles County – yet the parish of Father Burfitt, who is suing Los Angeles County, happens to be a church that these county workers choose to spy on and harass,” Thomas More Society Special Counsel Paul Jonna said. Newsome was spotted dining inside, with a party larger than 10, not wearing masks, at an indoor dining facility last week.

COLORADO

New unemployment claims in Colorado are at the highest point since July, as COVID-19 cases rise across the state and government officials ramp up restrictions. Several counties across the state – including Denver and Boulder – are moving to red or “severe risk” level of COVID-19 restrictions, which means another closure of bars and indoor dining at restaurants. The General Assembly will head back to the Capitol building in a special session focused on providing more pandemic relief.

OREGON

A deposition in a federal lawsuit brought by three Christian private schools against the state of Oregon revealed Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill planned on sending five million federally provided KN95 face masks to public schools only. “I did not plan on providing any to private schools,” read a text message from Gill, which was presented during the lawsuit that alleged state orders violated the schools’ First Amendment rights to gather for worship.

Chris Krug is publisher of The Center Square. Executive Editor Dan McCaleb, and regional editors J.D. Davidson, Derek Draplin, Delphine Luneau, Brett Rowland, Jason Schaumburg and Bruce Walker contributed to the column.

By Chris Krug | The Center Square
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Reposted with permission

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