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, SEPT. 25, 2018 THE BALLOT BALLGAME --- It happens several times a game: I’ll announce to the ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. THE BALLOT BALLGAME
  2. "HE SAID-SHE SAID" FUTILITY
  3. STINKY CHEESE
  4. THE GERSHWIN CHORTLE
  5. LIES AND THE BITTER TRUTH
  6. More Recent Articles

THE BALLOT BALLGAME

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, SEPT. 25, 2018

 

THE BALLOT BALLGAME
---
It happens several times a game: I’ll announce to the world, “The entire season rests on this pitch (shot/play/whatever).” My friends long ago learned simply to ignore my sarcasm, which makes it difficult when I’m being serious. Such as when I announce, “The fate of the nation might rest on the upcoming election.”
For real. Even though Donald Trump is not on the ballot, the midterms will determine if Congress can take a role in restraining his worst impulses. Just about all of his impulses fall into that category, so it should be obvious to those horrified by his presidency that they must install an effective opposition, which is to say a Democratic majority not only in the House of Representatives, but also in the Senate. That can happen only if all those millions of people who claim to be part of a so-called resistance show up at the polling places in massive numbers, turnout that will overwhelm those in Trump’s so-called base who will be there, inspired by his message of hate and ignorance, and his constant stream of outright lies.
That is a big “if.” It’s always a challenge to Democratic Party leadership to get those on the left to find common ground with those in the middle, particularly when that leadership is nonexistent. Turnout for midterm elections is low anyway, but it will be high for those who are passionately pro-gun and anti-immigrant, meaning the pro-Trump millions. A large portion of the anti-Trump crowd is really just insipid about most everything, except maybe their anti-Donald feelings.

In addition, those who are center and left are afflicted by a sense of fair play. That has never concerned those on the right. The fact of the matter is, in politics, as legendary pro football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” By the way, Lombardi actually stole the line, but let’s not lose sight of the point: It’s not how you play the game, it’s who wins. You can’t deliver a knockout in a slugfest if you’re wringing your hands at whatever the other side is doing. And the Trumpsters are always doing something abusive. The Rod Rosenstein crisis is just the latest chaos as they rip apart a democracy that has been a work in progress since the founders first designed it.
With all that, Democrats are in for a brawl. Every time they hear someone predict that victory for control of the House is assured, their leaders, wherever they are, should cringe. Such cockiness breeds lethargy, which becomes a feeling that it’s not all that important to stand in line at the polls.
Besides, taking back the House is not enough. The Democrats really need the Senate, too, and that’s an uphill battle. Under Mitch McConnell and the Republicans, the United States Senate has merely enabled Donald Trump and pursued conservative goals that favor the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Besides, it’s only the Senate that can block the federal court system from being taken over by regressive hard-liners. The GOP made a mockery of the Constitution when it shamelessly blocked Merrick Garland from even being considered for the Supreme Court simply because he was nominated by President Barack Obama. They are ruthless when it comes to packing the judiciary.
If, perchance, the various charges of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh are enough to send his nomination down in flames, if President Trump and his forces are not successful in dismissing them as a partisan “smear,” the Republicans in Trump’s White House will simply name another reactionary. Only a Democratic Senate can advise and deny consent.
Trump is fully aware that a Democratic Congress can make his life a living hell, with its broad subpoena power. His disregard for the institutions and laws that make America what it claims to be can only be combated by a loyal opposition in Congress. Unless those who oppose Trump all get out and vote, they’ll be forfeiting this vital election to his team and forfeiting the country.

© 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

"HE SAID-SHE SAID" FUTILITY

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, SEPT. 21, 2018

‘HE SAID-SHE SAID" FUTILITY
---
Even in their agony, all of those who despise anyone or anything having to do with Donald Trump at least can take some comfort in the ridicule that accompanies his every buffoonish action and the preposterously polluted stream of consciousness that spills out of the very impaired frontal lobe of his brain.
He was at it again -- not on Twitter, where he usually vents his spleen, but in an interview with Hill.TV. He was escalating his relentless attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had the audacity to recuse himself and leave the president (meaning him) exposed to a Robert Mueller investigation to determine whether he cooperated with Vladimir Putin’s Russian government with its insidious influence over the election. “I don’t have an attorney general,” he complained. “It’s very sad.”

 

And then there's the New York Times story that strongly suggests he doesn't have a Deputy Attorney General either. The Times reported that Rosenstein was seriously shopping around the idea that he could surreptitiously record conversations
with the President to accumulate proof that he should be removed for incapacity under the 25th Amendment. Rosenstein vigorously denies the story, but it begs the age old question whether Mr. Trump's is paranoid, if in fact, so many people are out to get him.
At the same time the president goes to the other extreme: He seems to believe that his Cabinet members are there to blindly serve him and not the people of the United States. That is particularly outrageous when it come to the attorney general,or his deputy who are the nation’s top law enforcement officers. Nothing in the their job description states that they must have Trump’s back. But this chief executive believes, like any Mafia chieftain, that loyalty is the No. 1 qualification for his subordinates.

There are certainly indications that this assumption of absolute fealty extends to those he would put in place on the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh’s record as a judge showing extreme deference to the presidency in the constant tug of war over the country’s balance of power makes Kavanaugh the ideal Donald Trump nomination, particularly a Donald Trump who faces such legal challenges and with a Congress that might actually resist his abuses. Successfully pushing through Kavanaugh would mean that the nation’s highest court would be packed with his right wingmen.
In that regard, it’s a shame that Senate Republicans can ignore such substantive questions as the entire “advise and consent” process once again deteriorates into a “he said, she said” debate over whether Kavanaugh nearly raped a fellow teenager at a drunken party of students from private prep schools back in the 1980s. Even though the GOP senators publicly are, uh, groping to find ways to leave an impression that they are sensitive to the woman, now college professor Christine Blasey Ford, who is making that charge, they really are not.
Unsurprisingly the Trumpster doesn’t even try to hide his disdain for females who blow the whistle on male piggish behavior, tweeting: “I have no doubt that if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”
He and the Republican senators are hell-bent on rushing through Kavanaugh’s elevation to the high court before the midterm elections.
Even so, the last-minute accusations of sexual assault raise important issues, just like the Clarence Thomas hearings brought workplace harassment to the forefront back in 1991. But all that overwhelmed the real debate about whether Thomas was qualified to assume a spot in the SCOTUS bench. Today, 27 years later, similar questions are raised as the “Me Too” movement has forced us to grapple with society’s unresolved struggles with sexual relations. Certainly, we can agree that such an assault like the one alleged about Brett Kavanaugh is reprehensible, that “boys will be boys” attitudes don’t cut it. But should such conduct by a high school kid with raging hormones ever be forgiven? By the way, Kavanaugh adamantly denies he ever did any such thing.
We will find almost no certain proof one way or the other. Brett Kavanaugh probably will become Justice Kavanaugh in spite of the fact he’s a predictable partisan and not the impartial judge he claims to be. Trump will have another protector in place. Kavanaugh’s only risk will be, like Jeff Sessions, he will never do enough to please his master, Donald Trump.

© 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

STINKY CHEESE

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, SEPT. 18, 2018

STINKY CHEESE

The human aguish and cataclysmic damage of devastating storms like Florence, Harvey and Maria are natural disasters that mercifully divert the news emphasis, just for awhile, from the unnatural disaster that is the American political system. I don’t wish to be flippant about tragic and costly storms, particularly since Florence is currently dumping such misery, so I’ll spare you the glib analogies, other than to describe an American society that is being overwhelmed by floods of distrust.
The destruction is not just the result of one man -- that is, the demagogic, grossly incapable Donald Trump. Instead, it’s an accumulation over the decades of amoral self-enrichment by those in power. It has obliterated any sense of community, the belief that we are all in this together. No longer do we trust our institutions or the people in charge of them. That’s fertile ground for someone like Trump, whose election to the highest position in the United States was in large part due to millions of people being so angry at being defrauded that they were willing to take a chance on someone who’s obviously unfit, just to spite the system that, in their minds, had betrayed them.
He has lived down to our worst expectations. He is all toxic rhetoric. You’d think those opposing him would have learned a lesson from how he took advantage of their hubristic paralysis. And some of them have. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong lesson: Some of the leading lights of the Democratic Party, those who don’t even bother to hide their ambition to assume the Oval Office throne, are dimming. They’ve clearly decided to play the same game as he does, or as many others have put it, to “out-Trump Trump.” He’s had much success with his hateful con, so why not come up with their own flim-flams?
Granted, Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” remark was naive, at best. Still, with apologies to Michelle, be prepared to mud wrestle in the pigpen. However, “When they get sleazy, don’t be cheesy.”

 

That’s exactly what Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris did. They’ve both been afflicted by the Democratic presidential bug and were out to make a name for themselves as they aggressively grilled Trump’s Supreme Court wannabe Brett Kavanaugh. Their loyalists are already bent out of shape at the way the GOP blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Now that President Trump has put up two justices, Republicans are still running their SCOTUS scam. Now that they have the White House and Congress, they have strictly controlled the information available to minority Democrats.
So Booker was chomping at the bit at the hearing, and announced that he would risk expulsion from the Senate by publicly disclosing a confidential email. It turned out that he knew full well that the email had been cleared for public consumption. Cheesy.
But no more so than Sen. Harris doing her imitation of an ambulance-chasing lawyer pathetically trying to intimidate a witness: “Be careful with your answer,” she said to Judge Kavanagh, before asking him if he’d met with a Trump lawyer, which might have raised questions if she presented any evidence of wrong-doing. She did not. What she also did was quote Kavanaugh out of context on his abortion record, totally distorting what he had said. Not even cheesy. Velveeta maybe, but as cheese, that doesn’t even cut it.
Worst of all, the Democrats, namely Dianne Feinstein, really blew it when it came to handling -- make that mishandling -- the charge that Kavanaugh might have sexually assaulted a female student when they were both in high school in the 1980s. The accusations are murky and have only recently emerged, extremely late in Kavanaugh’s advise and consent process. But now they'll presumably get a full airing
in spite of the Democrats' ineptitude.
The stakes are incredibly high. Supreme Court justices serve for life, so these serious accusations should have been thoroughly vetted long ago. Score another one for Democratic fecklessness, which is probably the main reason that reckless Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans have any hope of staying in power to continue drowning this country.

© 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

THE GERSHWIN CHORTLE

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, SEPT. 14, 2018

THE GERSHWIN CHORTLE

“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus,
When he said the world was round.
They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.
They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother,
When they said that man could fly ...”

Who knew back in 1937, when the Gershwins wrote their song, that 81 years later someone would be singing the same tune? I’ve often suggested that one of the solutions to the federal deficit would be to sell naming rights to government properties. Buildings like the Pentagon could become the Boeing Building. Names of other sites would go to the highest bidder, just like their agencies do.
My dozens of readers have laughed, -- well, most of them really rolled their eyes-- but let’s not quibble. In any case, did you take the idea seriously? Nooooooo. How do you feel about your joshing now that NASA is considering this very idea?
Administrator Jim Bridenstine has asked his advisory council to consider selling ... wait for it ... naming rights. He would slap corporate logos on various launchers, booster rockets and all manner of spacecraft that would soar to the heavens looking like NASCAR racers. Imagine the possibilities: Nike could buy several of them and not only place the famous swoosh on the sides, but maybe also a giant picture of Colin Kaepernick. President Donald Trump would go, uh, ballistic. He’d prefer putting Kaepernick inside one of them, without a spacesuit.

Come to think of it, maybe the Trump organization would buy up a bunch, since Trump’s all about branding. The problem is, they’d probably crash and burn, much like so many of his business ventures. Still, maybe he could get some of his money-laundering Russian oligarch buddies to purchase a few. Who knows, maybe Vladimir Putin himself will be interested. And we all know, what he wants from Donald Trump, he gets.
Maybe Putin would settle for a cereal box. One of Bridenstine’s other ideas is for astronauts to work deals with Wheaties to replace the athletes. Why not Vlad?
As I’ve argued, as you were scornfully tittering, we need to do something about the federal deficits and the spiraling-out-of-control national debt, made worse by the GOP/Trump tax cuts and other upward pressures.
In fact, the annual report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is dire: “The amount of debt that is projected under the extended baseline would reduce national saving and income in the long term; increase the government’s interest costs, putting more pressure on the rest of the budget; limit lawmakers’ ability to respond to unforeseen events; and increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis. (In that event, investors would become unwilling to finance the government’s borrowing unless they were compensated with very high interest rates.)”
What do the Republicans want to do about it? You guessed it: They want to lower taxes on the rich even more. Did I mention that both parties want to spend more? Call me crazy, but I’m not sure that’s a solution.
We’ll have to come up with some creative ones. Recall that, in addition to naming rights, I’ve also recommended taking the seats in the U.S. House and Senate where the public sits and dividing them into loges for sale to corporations, lobbyists and special-interest groups, so they can see firsthand the members of Congress who they’ve bought and paid for.
I’ve also long advocated closing the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base prison, which is located on prime real estate, with sea views, and turn the entire property into a condo development. It would be the ultimate gated community. It might carry the Trump brand, which is entirely appropriate, since Donald Trump is going to need a place to stay when he leaves office. His opponents want that to be sooner rather than later. Only then can they sing, as the Gershwins wrote:

“Ha ha ha, who’s got the last laugh now?”

© 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

LIES AND THE BITTER TRUTH

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, SEPT. 11, 2018

LIES AND THE BITTER TRUTH
---
We’ve all heard the description about the stages of deception, attributed separately to Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Similarly, I think there are three kinds of politicians: liars, damned liars and contemptible liars. And Donald Trump.
Yes, I know that’s four categories; I lied.
Somewhere between two and three, I’d put Supreme Court nominees who claim that our courts are not hopelessly entangled with politics. He’s hardly unique, but the latest offender is Brett Kavanaugh, involved in the brawl called “advise and consent” (another fraud) while it was going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee preliminary bout. He offered nonstop phony platitudes like: “I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”
That would be similar to John Roberts’ description of his approach to making rulings when he described himself as “an umpire” and managed to slip-slide through the Senate and be confirmed as chief justice.
So I was particularly intrigued by the weekend op-ed in The Washington Post by Jim Evans, who argued that umpires “have never been robots who simply call balls and strikes. Judges and analysts who describe an umpire’s job in those terms are oversimplifying.” It probably should be noted that Evans was a major league baseball umpire for 28 years. Unlike the New York Times, the Post even identified him.
Getting back on point, and not to get too tangled in legalese, it’s phony-baloney. Both Roberts and Kavanaugh are partisans, as is every member of the Supremes. They are nominated by presidents who are Democrats or Republicans and who expect them to be reliably conservative or liberal. The days of surprises, like Earl Warren or David Souter, are long gone. Brett Kavanaugh was chosen by the Trumpster because he will be expected to rule in ways pleasing to Donald Trump. All the justices are mostly predictable.
Clearly President Trump selected Kavanaugh because of his track record on executive power. He’s given strong indications that POTUS should be walled off from investigations like the Bob Mueller one because he’s just so darned busy. Never mind that Kavanaugh played a major official role in checking into every transgression of President Bill Clinton, including his sexual ones. And never mind that Trump finds all the time he needs for inane and hateful tweets, but he’s too busy for trifles like criminal and civil investigations.

Speaking of Trump (how can one ignore him?), you’ll recall that when it comes to lying, Donald Trump is in a class by himself. But what’s even worse than his agony of deceit is when he slips momentarily into truth about his obvious desire to become the American Autocrat.
Once again, he displayed his belief that law-enforcement agencies like the Justice Department and the FBI should be nothing more than his militias, ready to impose his every dictate. His relentless badgering of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is Exhibit A. Sessions is a right-wing extremist himself, but not loyal enough. The most recent evidence was Trump’s condemnation of the federal corruption indictments returned against two of his most fervid congressional supporters. “Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff.” In other words, Sessions and his federal agents upset the Trump Republican apple cart by having the audacity to apply the law.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, he bristled at protestors after they loudly disrupted the first day of the Kavanaugh hearing, inferring such demonstrations should be illegal: “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters.”
“ALLOW protesters”? The president of the United States finds constitutional constraints of a democracy unacceptable. As opposed to Chief Justice Roberts’ “umpire” pretense, Trump wants to be emperor. And that is no lie.

© 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

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