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?

Every four years, the United States elects a new president. And every four years, the outcome makes some Americans so unhappy that talk of secession – never completely absent from our ongoing political discussion – gets a big bump in the “trending topics” lists. 2016 seems to be shaping up as secession’s best year since 1860.

How meaningful is the media-fueled binary battle between the deplorables and the corruptibles when the very election systems used to count the votes are susceptible to manipulation and fraud? It’s a topic very few wish to engage with. For, if true, all the spent energy and resources and the lost or frayed friendships over such a contentious national election would be for naught.

During any given campaign season, one or maybe two state-legislative campaigns wind up running ads on Chicago broadcast-television stations. But in the age of Governor Bruce Rauner’s gigantic campaign contributions, it may be easier to count the number of Chicago-area candidates who aren’t running any city broadcast ads.

A harsh new TV ad slams Representative John Bradley (D-Marion) for supporting a convicted sex offender. It’s described by the Republicans as a form of payback for all the sex-offender-related ads that the House Democrats have been using against Republicans this year and in years past.

Is Illinois the next state to deal with “voter suppression”? Maybe, depending how you look at it.

On the general-election ballot in Illinois, voters will be able to choose from four candidates for U.S. Senate: a Republican, a Democrat, a Green, and a Libertarian.

That might seem like sufficient choice - and it certainly covers a wide political spectrum - but consider that seven candidates were removed by the Illinois State Board of Elections.

That's because Illinois has put so many barriers between people who want to run for office and the ballot. Established parties - Republicans, Democrats, and Greens presently - need to collect 5,000 valid signatures for their statewide slates. Independent statewide candidates and other parties need to collect five times as many valid signatures: 25,000.

Beyond that, the petitions of third parties and independent candidates are often challenged by people working on behalf of Democratic or Republican organizations. This year, Republicans have been most active in the ballot-access wars, perceiving a threat from several limited-government parties.

These challenges have several effects. First, they make the effective signature threshold much higher. "The challenge process effectively turns the 25,000 requirement into a 50,000 requirement to account for potential[ly] invalid signatures," wrote Steve Hellin, the communications director for Illinois' Libertarian Party, in an e-mail.

Second, the financial, human, and time resources required to fight a challenge are significant and come at the expense of traditional campaign activities such as fundraising, advertising, and connecting with voters one-on-one. "Attention is put to the mechanics of existence, which may or may not be especially relevant in actually getting someone elected," wrote Phil Huckelberry, chair of the Illinois Green Party. "It's an absurd approach to democracy."

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