Question the timing all you want, but last week’s legal filing by Attorney General Lisa Madigan to stop paying state-employee wages without an official appropriation is long overdue and is completely consistent with a 2016 Illinois Supreme Court ruling and with her (and the governor’s) opposition to a lawsuit brought by social-service providers.


Donald Trump. Photo by Michael Vadon.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide,” U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted in late November, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Kind of a sore winner. And now that he’s no longer just president-elect but actually president, he’s doubling down and says he “will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD ... .”

That’s dumb. And dangerous.

On a fairly regular basis back in the day, state Senator Barack Obama would walk up to the Senate press box and bum cigarettes off me. That was back when people could smoke in the Senate chambers, and back when both of us smoked. Now we both chew nicotine gum, and smoking on the Senate floor is forbidden.

Obama was mainly an OPC smoker, meaning “other peoples’ cigarettes.” I’d usually give him a little grief about how maybe he should buy his own pack once in a while, but I never denied his request unless I was almost out. He’d always take the cigarette to a room in the back of the chamber, never seeming to smoke at his desk like others did.

One day as I was wandering through the Statehouse near his office, Obama hollered out my name and asked me to join him. I presumed he wanted to bum yet another cigarette, and I was right. I tossed my pack on his desk, he took one out and lit it, and we made a little small talk.

Let’s talk about fake news stories.

There’s the garden-variety fake news that is not really “news” so much as it is titillating, tabloid-worthy material peddled by anyone with a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and an active imagination. These stories run the gamut from the ridiculous and the obviously click-baity to the satirical and politically manipulative.

Then there’s the more-devious kind of news stories circulated by one of the biggest propagators of fake news: the U.S. government.

If I had to choose a word to describe the Democrats’ nominating speeches for House Speaker Michael Madigan’s re-election last week, it would be either “defensive” or “joyless.”

The speeches seemed directly aimed at Madigan’s toughest critics – and there are plenty of those out there. The nominators at times angrily justified their own votes for Madigan and their continued willingness to support him while under siege by a hostile kabillionaire governor and much of the state’s media. They literally cannot go anywhere without being asked about why they continue to back Madigan.

Governor Bruce Rauner was asked last month by a Chicago TV reporter if he planned to run for re-election. Rauner said he wasn’t focused on such things.

Three days later, Rauner contributed $50-million to his own campaign fund.

On the Friday before Christmas – the kind of time politicians pick to do things they hope you won’t notice – U.S. president Barack Obama signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Along with the usual terrible, horrible, no good, very bad NDAA stuff (all the little mandates involved in continuing to operate the most irresponsibly bloated and expensive military machine on the planet), this NDAA included an ugly little Christmas gift for incoming President Donald Trump: The Countering Foreign Disinformation & Propaganda Act.


Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin

In early 2003, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell took the stage at the United Nations “to share with you what the United States knows about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” Powell justified the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq on the claim that Saddam Hussein’s regime continued to produce and stockpile chemical and biological weapons in violation of UN resolutions. He dazzled his audience with audio recordings and surveillance photographs that he claimed constituted evidence of Iraq’s perfidy.

Two years later, Powell called the presentation a “blot” on his record, admitting that he had deceived the UN. The “weapons of mass destruction” didn’t exist. All the Saddam-era chemical weapons recovered in Iraq since 2003 are of pre-1991 manufacture with no evidence linking them to the regime since the 1991 war.

How long can we expect to wait for the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center to admit that its report “GRIZZLY STEPPE – Russian Malicious Cyber Activity” – pre- hyped as providing “evidence” of Russian government interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election – is a reprise of Powell’s UN speech?

Mike Schulz’s review of Manchester by the Sea prompts me to write this congratulatory note that’s been my intention for years. Recognizing, analyzing while not spoiling great films for potential viewers in a review is hard enough. Scolding those responsible for lame efforts, filmic messes, and acting disasters is easier but still hard to do without unnecessary snark.

Let’s take a look at headlines from just one day in December.

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