FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019 CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236 BOB FRANKEN FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 2019 THE FINAL FOUR --- The Democrats could use some sex education. Right now, their ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. THE FINAL FOUR
  2. THE REAL AMERIICAN ECONOMIC LESSSON
  3. FIRING LINES
  4. THE POLITICAL KENNEL
  5. REFORM SCHOOL
  6. More Recent Articles

THE FINAL FOUR

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 2019

THE FINAL FOUR
---
The Democrats could use some sex education. Right now, their candidates are multiplying like crazy, all clamoring for that top berth on the party’s presidential ticket. They’re clearly in need of some berth control.
Absent any family planning, however, they’ll keep sprouting -- young sprouts and old ones, black and white, male, female and alternative. There’s even an avatar named Beto. Beto O’Rourke is an empty baseball-cap-wearing concoction of millennial cliches, sharing every facet of his existence on social media.
Naturally, like every new bright, shiny object, he’s seduced the media, even scoring big wet kisses from Vanity Fair and Oprah. You don’t play the superficiality field better than that. His pronouncements are innocuous platitudes clearly aimed at the younger generation, but they borrow heavily from previous ones. Beto:
“We must all ask what each of us can give to this country and to the people who will inherit the consequences of our choices.”
Is it just coincidence, or is that borrowed from an applause line delivered more than 58 years ago by John F. Kennedy at his inaugural address? “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.”

 

Thus far, Beto is coming across as being as authentic as a college admission application. Speaking of college (get ready for a totally clever segue), the Democrats should steal from college basketball to handle the logistics of their logjam of candidates, in arranging the debates for instance.
What better way to bring order to their party’s madness than March Madness? The selection committee can choose up to 68 candidates to appear in the debates. (They’re not there yet, but who knows?) They could be spread out over the country for their big dances. The Eastern regional would be held in New Hampshire. The state must have a big-enough arena somewhere. The Midwest obviously should be in Des Moines, even though the election game is played by completely weird caucus rules in Iowa. California, probably Los Angeles, would be the site of the Western region tourney, and South Carolina would host the Southern one. We’d do away with seeds. For those people too sane to get caught up in college hoops, a “seed” is kinda like a rating system, from the “top seed” on down. It’s somewhat arbitrary. Besides, what politician would want to be chosen as the most seedy?
It would be an elimination, the winners determined by polls to choose the most scathing sound bite.
The losers would drop out of the brackets. (Yes, there would be brackets -- how else would everyone gamble?) That would leave the “sweet sixteen” candidates. They’d play off in the Super Tuesday tournaments.
Ultimately, they’d end up in Milwaukee, with the champions standing for president and vice president. That will probably be somebody and Beto O’Rourke, the grown-up and the empty slate. Much like George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle. Or like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush.
But wait, we are just beginning. After all that, it’s on to the REALLY big dance, the Final Four battle with the incumbent, Donald Trump, and his lackey, Mike Pence. Has anyone noticed, perchance, that Pence came from Indiana, just like Quayle? Not everybody in Indiana is thrilled about that.
But back to the election madness. When it comes to a competition with Trump, there are no fouls; in fact, there are no rules whatsoever. The Trumpster strategy is the same one he’s always used: lying, cheating, hatred, all his usual stuff. His shower of tweets routinely contains all of that as he sets the agenda and steals his opponents’ message of the day. It works. Therefore Democrats, whoever they are, would do well not to get too smug about their superior qualifications.
One would think that given Trump’s unpopularity, it would be easy to wipe the floor with him. But that is anything but a slam dunk.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

THE REAL AMERIICAN ECONOMIC LESSSON

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2019

THE REAL AMERICAN ECONOMIC LESSON
---
Actually, the college admission bribery case, where rich, doting parents bribed their underachieving offspring into elite universities, is a possible scandal within a scandal. It is true that the U.S. Department of Justice indicted several wealthy individuals, including movie stars, for allegedly paying a fixer and athletic coaches, among others, to help their kiddies cheat their way into various prestige schools. But go back and reread the list of affected institutions at the highest levels of higher education. Notice which one is not mentioned. That’s right, Trump University is nowhere to be found.
How could that be? Is there some hidden chicanery involved? Did the Trump administration’s Justice Department just turn a blind eye to please the boss? An inquiring mind wants to know. Oh wait, isn’t that similar to “An Enquiring Mind Wants to Know,” which was the slogan for the National Enquirer back in the days when it was “catching and killing” stories about Donald Trump fooling around? That’s still reverberating today, still being probed. Should Bob Mueller sic his investigators to determine if there was any collusion involved in the exclusion of Trump U?
Or is there an innocent explanation, like the fact that T.U. is now defunct (D.T.U.?) Or that it wasn’t ilisted in the U.S. News and World Report’s catalog of colleges even when it was still funct, unless U.S News had a scam category. Then again, the magazine also didn’t include Deep State University.

 

Dabbling in seriousness for just an instant, can we consider the possibility that these charges of the rich using their wherewithal to game the system and get their unqualified sons and daughters into high status schools are relatively minor mischief? Even in those cases where the accused coaches would allegedly agree to put them on phony lists of athletes to give them a leg up -- to the extent that they’d edit their head onto the picture of a real jock -- that might really be a small-time outrage. After all, as many others have pointed out, it is perfectly legal for Daddy or Mummy ante up some big bucks on a university that just so happens to accept their lunkhead offspring who finished prep school but weren’t intellectually qualified enough to turn that advantage into meritorious admission at a socially acceptable college.
Jared Kushner is frequently cited as one example of such favored treatment. In Kushner’s case, his father coincidentally contributed $2.5 million to Harvard at the time that Jared, with his mediocre scholastic record, was nonetheless accepted. Of course it was his father-in-law who later got him into the White House.
By now, most Americans have angrily concluded that the concept of upward mobility in the United States is fiction. Billie Holiday wrote and performed “God Bless the Child” back in 1939:

“Them that’s got shall have,
Them that’s not shall lose,
So the Bible said, and it still is news.”

It’s old news 80 years later. In the U.S. of A. The economic caste system has been cast in concrete. A recent Equality of Opportunity Project study showed that more of the entrenched 1 percenters enrolled their children in elite universities than the lower 60 percent.
It’s a combination of factors. The wealthy can afford to enroll their kids in private kindergartens through high school, where an education can be pounded in most of their young heads, while us riffraff must struggle with public schools that often are deficient or overwhelmed with society’s problems. Those fortunate heirs to great fortunes either start with that advantage or benefit from rich parents who are willing to pay the price of success their young ones haven’t earned.
So the bribery story involving some celebs, coaches, etc., is really kind of chintzy and pales in comparison with an education system that fails overall to serve our entire population, part of an economic structure that keeps out all but those who are already prosperous. That’s the real scandal.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

FIRING LINES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 12, 2019

FIRING LINES
---
I’ve always wanted host a telecast and start it off with, “A hearty welcome to our dozens of viewers around the world.” Alas, there would always be some humorless executives (I know, a redundancy) who would refuse to allow it. Perhaps they wouldn’t want to call attention to the fact that many of my programs could, in fact, count the audience in the dozens.
In those cases, it wouldn’t be long before they either replaced me on the show or just canceled it. They wouldn’t announce that I had been a total loser. No, they’d mercifully cushion the truth, stating that I had been “reassigned.” Never mind that I would work out my contract on the overnight shift, reporting on sports, with an emphasis on curling. My main competition on the other channels would be infomercials. Those details wouldn’t be spelled out.
My dozens of readers might remember how I’m fascinated by the way we go to such lengths to camouflage failure. The memo declaring that someone has been fired never say it that way. Usually that terminated someone “resigned,” and the suddenly former employer always, always will “wish him well,” which really means “may the scumbag burn in hell.”

 

Of course, that isn’t the only expression designed to soften the hard feelings of a breakup. Sacker and sackee alike put out announcements. Invariably, the one who has been excised cites a need to “spend more time with his family.” Never mind that the family might want him to spend less time, but what that excuse often means is that tensions with the boss had reached the point of no return. Let’s take Bill Shine as an example. Shine is the former Fox News muckety-muck who had been consumed by charges he had enabled all the sleazy Roger Ailes shenanigans. He was a natural fit for this White House and soon joined up, assigned to be in charge of Donald Trump’s communications. As he should have known by the long list of those who have tried and failed, Trump runs his own communications operation. It took about nine months for Bill Shine to be squeezed out, and along came the usual mealy-mouthed explanation from Shine about why he was departing.
“I’m looking forward to working on President Trump’s re-election campaign and spending more time with my family.” Ah, yes, the family, along with Shine joining the Trump re-election campaign, also known as the Trumpster Refuse Collector. The truth is that the president and Bill Shine had a falling out. Trump continued to grouse about his news coverage and blame Shine, while Shine complained that Trump really didn’t listen to him.
Oh yeah, the president put out his own ritual gratitude-for-his-service statement: “Bill Shine has done an outstanding job working for me and the administration,” “Thank you to Bill and his wonderful family!”
There it is again, the “wonderful family” platitude. By the way, the news of Shine’s demise came as the president and wife Melania were about to tour the wreckage in Alabama, where 23 lost their lives in a massive storm. On that same trip, the president stopped at a Baptist church and ended up autographing a couple of Bibles. Was this considered a book tour?
As for Bill Shine, he now answers to a new boss, Brad Parscale, the head of the re-election campaign, who of course continued the charade with his own statement:
“Bill Shine is an incredible professional and will bring insight and talent as we build a world-class campaign”
Will Trump choose still another communications director? Is anybody else willing to take such a perilous job? He or she would be smart to create in advance the platitudes explaining how he or she will be axed.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

THE POLITICAL KENNEL

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2019

THE POLITICAL KENNEL
---
Donald Trump definitely is not introspective. If he thought about it, he’d probably decide that such self-reflection is navel-gazing and a total waste of time. But, of course, since he’s not introspective, he’s never thought about it. Whatever bubbles up from the Trump sump of his mind dumps out of his mouth, with no regard for what it fouls in the process. His millions of minions love it. They roared last weekend in gusty approval at the Conservative Political Action Conference as the Trumpster let fly with a two-hour toxic stream of consciousness. Never mind that it was riddled with inaccuracies (a polite way of saying “distortions,” which is a polite way of saying “lies”) -- it didn’t matter to the rabid crowd, and it certainly didn’t matter to their president. It seems that no matter how many times his bigotry or ignorance is identified, he doesn’t ever deflate. In fact, his gas only inflates him. To his base, his ugliness is beautiful.

Not so with some of those Democrats who aspire to replace him. Now that so many have announced their candidacies, the question for a bunch of them is “Now what?” For a few, the answer is a makeover. Take Elizabeth Warren, for instance: Trump calls her “Pocahontas.” Remember, he doesn’t concern himself with whether that’s racist, just that he can ridicule her for claiming a smidgen of Native-American ancestry. Still, that’s not her biggest problem. Her biggest problem is that she comes across as a humorless schoolmarm type, definitely not affable. Correction: Her even bigger problem is the tone-deaf way she’s trying to correct that impression. There she was on New Year’s Eve, shortly after she announced she was running, livestreaming from her kitchen and asking those watching to “Hold on a sec, I’m gonna get me a beer.” The Ivy League professor was transparently phony, trying to come across as “common folk.”
That’s not her only rabble dabble. Her campaign is going to the dogs. Actually, it’s just one dog. His name is Bailey, a golden retriever puppy. You can look him up on her webpage: Bailey is all over it. Now, no one thinks goldens are cuter than I do. I have one, or rather he has me. But before we get too carried away with puppy love, let’s note that Warren’s husband gave Bailey to her last July, just when she had pretty much decided on a presidential run. She and her political consultants had presumably discussed ways to address perceptions of her frosty personality. Golden retrievers are the gold standard of warmth and fuzziness. So now we have Bailey, conveniently recruited as a way to give Elizabeth Warren a leg up.
Note that President Trump doesn’t even bother. He used to have Michael Cohen as his pit bull, but Cohen now has turned on him, joining up with that posse of investigators yapping at Donald Trump’s heels. The Trumps? No pets romping around the White House at all, unless you count Mike Pence.
Besides, Donald Trump is a master of projecting an image. He doesn’t need canine assistance. What you see is what you get, particularly if what you see is a lying purveyor of hate. He’s certainly the Republican alpha dog. As for the Democrats, what distinguishes them at this point is that none of them is distinguished. Each is trying to create an identity -- or in the case of Warren and several others, change their identity. They’ve divided into two factions: the centrists (translate: boring) or those unapologetically on the far left, the ones Republicans are painting as radically goofy. The Democratic primaries will be the party’s process of not only elimination but introspection. No matter which one ultimately prevails as the party’s candidate, the main selling point will be that he or she is not Donald Trump.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

REFORM SCHOOL

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2019

REFORM SCHOOL
---
Reform is inevitably a difficult process, and not just for the reformees. It’s particularly painful for the reformers, no matter how meritorious their cause. Who would admit opposing fundamental changes to a health care system in this country that is glaringly overpriced and significantly underperforms? Who would resist efforts to rescue the planet from boiling away? As the reformers are learning, once they stop preaching to their own choirs and face off against those who benefit and prosper from the current setups -- like the insurance companies or the energy corporations -- their entrenched adversaries will do anything in their power to maintain things just the way they are.
The latest batch of reformers who have thundered into Washington armed with what they believe to be these obvious needs for change are facing a harsh reality. They are learning that our political system is sullied by foul play that protects the interests of those who pay for things. The real “deep state” in this country is the deep status quo protectors and their bought-and-paid-for officeholders. Their propagandists churn out a steady diatribe of accusations that those seeking change are “radicals,” or even worse, “socialists” who would destroy the American way. Seriously.

Mike Pence, venturing out from his usual role as obsequious Donald Trump suck-up, was preaching to his own choir at the Conservative Political Action Conference: “Under the guise of ‘Medicare-for-all’ and a Green New Deal, Democrats are embracing the same tired economic theories that have impoverished nations and stifled the liberties of millions over the past century.”
That relentless theme is effective in muddying the waters. The first lesson in our reform school is that special interests are not about to give up their advantages without a brutal fight. Chris Matthews has good reason to call his TV program about politics “Hardball.” The agents of basic change are so rattled they are reduced to playing whiffle ball unless they are ready to descend into the muck and get messy as they start wheeling and dealing. The newbies can ostracize their more experienced natural allies for challenging their purity all they want. The crusaders’ pithy threats to oppose fellow Democrats in the primaries will only pith off those fellow Democrats. The reformers will need the wherewithal of party members who have been around for awhile if there can be any change whatsoever.
When these rookies decided to run for Congress, they were really choosing to take part in the political establishment game. The alternative is fighting for change from the outside. On the inside, as they quickly learn, it gets ugly. For many, their brightness is rapidly reduced to a flicker. Light is called the “best antiseptic,” but our system of government is darkened by the history of double dealing. Lust, ambition and overall corrupt self-serving are the dominant motivations.
It’s true that effecting change and serving the public interest also inspire some who enter this arena, but they quickly learn their limitations. Either they become very cynical as reality is foisted on them, or they don’t give up and instead focus on seeking progress one small step after another. To those who say we don’t have time for such tippy-toeing, the alternative is going backward.
Never underestimate the desire of the rich and powerful to seek even more riches and power. The recent tax changes are a prime example, which even co-opted the word “reform,” selling it as “tax reform” instead of what it really was: a way to shift more wealth to the wealthy.
The health insurance industry is swimming in money. The energy companies are swimming in money. It takes mere petty cash to drown the reformers by paying off the officeholders.
Those who fight for change will need to gear up for a brawl in the gutters. If they wise up, they can make small improvements that might lead to more small changes. Otherwise, they become the latest victims of a system that is badly in need of change but where change is resisted at all cost.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

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