FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE BY BOB FRANKEN THE NONESSENTIALS No matter what the paralyzing national crisis, some things never change, like the inevitable disputes over who is “essential” and which jobs are “nonessential.” Through all the ...
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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. THE NONESSENTIALS
  2. COMMANDER COVID
  3. THE BS TEST
  4. TESTING OUR SOCIETY
  5. NON STOP SURPRISES
  6. More Recent Articles

THE NONESSENTIALS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

THE NONESSENTIALS

No matter what the paralyzing national crisis, some things never change, like the inevitable disputes over who is “essential” and which jobs are “nonessential.” Through all the partial federal government shutdowns, that distinction has become a status symbol. And even though this worldwide medical calamity is an infinitely more serious threat to millions of people it’s still left to some federal, state or local official to determine what private services are essential and what should be shut down, with millions sent to almost solitary confinement, or even worse, forced to spend all their time with the kids, imprisoned by a scary organism.
The newscasts are filled with gargantuan cancellations or postponements: The Olympics just set back for a year; many schools shut down for the semester; restaurants, deemed a luxury in these dangerous times, are ordered closed in the name of “social distancing.”
You might have guessed where I am going with this. Certainly many in the public health field would like to declare President Donald Trump definitely nonessential — or worse, an impediment to their efforts to save the planet, or at least the nation, from this frightening plague. As a matter of fact, in their heart of hearts they would prefer that he enter lockdown, voluntary or not.
Because nearly every time he appears on TV for the daily briefing he says something stupid, something that interrupts the professionals as they go about their tedious chipping away at this complex problem.
But President Trump, who is the boss man at the moment, is a mile wide and an inch deep, too shallow for tedium or, for that matter, complexity. He cannot wait for the experts to do their job and methodically develop a way to treat this stealthy invader. He always finds it necessary to muddy the waters, recklessly spouting off misinformation — for instance, his unschooled analysis of drugs that may or may not work.

Where patience is necessary, he is impatient. After the experts he assembled convinced enough state and local officials that a historic economic shutdown was needed to combat this microscopic monster, he got in the way. He has an election coming up, by the way, and the economic devastation that battling COVID has caused is unacceptable. Now Trump has semi-promised that the national ordeal will be over by Easter, and public health officials are horrified. He brushed off their loud complaints by insisting that the nation needs to get up and running again.
Even some of his fellow Republicans were appalled. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine sputtered, “The fact is, we save our economy by first saving lives, and we have to do it in that order.” Trump isn’t used to that kind of friction, certainly not from the totally intimidated members of his own party. So DeWine is now enshrined on the Donald Trump snit list.
He joins longtime member Mitt Romney, who, after all, was the GOP senator who voted to remove Trump from office during the impeachment crisis (remember that one?).
During the coronavirus scare, Mitt decided to self-quarantine. When he heard the news from reporters, the Trumpster reacted with dripping sarcasm. Now it turns out that Romney tested negative. Trump has not lost his taste for sarcasm: “This is really great news! I am so happy I can barely speak. He may have been a terrible presidential candidate and an even worse U.S. senator, but he is a RINO, and I like him a lot!”
These days, RINO, a Republican in name only, means a Republican who would actually dare to defy the Don while the rest of the GOP mob is too frightened to.
Certainly, the mild-mannered scientists aren’t emotionally equipped to fight him; although gentleman Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has emerged a key task force health advisor, kills him with kindness. But the better way to combat this existential threat is to declare the president nonessential and get him out of the way.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

COMMANDER COVID

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

COMMANDER COVID

Donald Trump has taken to declaring himself a “wartime president,” but the commander in chief cannot resist getting in the way of what few competent generals he has at his disposal. No matter how hard he pretends, Commander Covid is unable to rise to the occasion and rise above his flimflam flimsiness.
Try as he might, he just can’t sell his con, and nothing aggravates him more than the realization that his scam isn’t working.
One thing about the Trump era, it has been a case study of the two H’s: hostility and hucksterism. And by now, a growing number of us have long recognized that he never can sustain his playacting for more than a day or so. So when he assumes the role of chief executive, he just can’t pull it off. He will inevitably be betrayed by his limited intellect and an inability to tamp down his obnoxious impulsiveness.
So it was that Donald Trump, despite his early insistence that this was all a “hoax,” was at the same time ignoring secret warnings from intelligence agencies that the coming crisis was a potential danger. But when it became clear that he could no longer escape grim realities, he stopped with his phony assurances and tried to lead from behind as what few genuine experts he had retained advocated a stern response — one that, out of necessity, ratchets up the pain that is necessary to combat the scourge.

All he has ever known is superficial branding ... it’s all about image to him. Unfortunately, this is one of these times where the substantive complexities are inescapable, try as he might. The list of his premature and outright inaccurate pronouncements grows every time he inserts himself in the regular briefings his task force gives to impart information. Unfortunately, Trump specializes in misinformation and raising false hopes.
Among his latest examples is his declaration that a drug long approved for treating malaria has shown promise of resisting the coronavirus in some exceedingly small studies. So, in his effort to take undue credit, there he was announcing that doctors are allowed to prescribe pharmaceuticals that are officially approved for one purpose, for another. It’s a legal practice called “off-label” use. And when the Trumpster spouted off about it, the phones in medical practitioners’ offices started ringing off the hook from patients demanding a prescription, despite the immediate disclaimers from the experts that it might not work at all for the coronavirus. The particular drug in question also has dangerous side effects, so only time-consuming big studies could determine whether it meets the usual “safe and effective” standard.
So far, Commander Covid has proven to be unsafe and ineffective in reassuring the nation, as evidenced by the fact that usually every time he opens his mouth the financial markets tank.
So now that his faux statesmanship has been exposed as mistakesmanship, he’s reverted to form. Suddenly he has resumed his attacks against the media. The highest compliment I can give a reporter is to describe him or her as “solid,” meaning he or she is careful but persistent. NBC’s Peter Alexander is solid. But Donald Trump prefers journalistic sycophancy. And when Alexander dared to politely ask, “What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?” — not a particularly impertinent question — Trump took umbrage anyway, and as he frequently does, responded with a personal attack:
“I say that you’re a terrible reporter,” he told Alexander, “that’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question. And I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers, and they’re looking for hope.”
He’s right about that. We are looking for answers and hope in the face of this severe attack on our well-being. Unfortunately, the “wartime president” is adding to the nation’s problems.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

THE BS TEST

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

THE BS TEST
---
It’s high time someone came up with a way to quantify the BS factor. No, that doesn’t mean what you think it does. What this one would measure is the number of times officials at their various task force public briefings Bow and Scrape to President Donald Trump, obsequiously flattering him and ignoring his daily deluge of nonsense. I suppose that nonsense could have its own BS rating. But whichever, a unit of measurement could be developed that would range on the sycophant scale from a Fauci to a Pence.
Again, Trump has constantly demonstrated that he’s way over his head. But even he has concluded that the pandemic is more than a “hoax.” What is needed right now is leadership by the nation’s chief executive, but the nation is not getting it. Instead, it’s coming from elsewhere -- governors, mayors, the private sector and a few experts sprinkled in the federal bureaucracy -- those who have survived his various purges. While he fumbles, they are carrying the ball.
And so are those who lead the Congress. Swimming against the toxic stream of poisonous division, the politicians in the legislative branch have found a sliver of bipartisanship and have managed to pass constructive measures that have addressed the very real problems of America going through a tremendous scourge. Among those treated kindly by history might even be Steve Mnuchin, who has emerged as an honest broker as he represents the administration in maneuvering through the treacherous and differing policy outlooks and egos.

So far, the House and Senate have declared a cease fire in their usual warfare. To quote the philosopher Mitch McConnell: “We occasionally have these great crises. And when they occur, we’re able to rise above our normal partisanship and many times our normal positions because these are not ordinary times. This is not an ordinary situation, and so it requires extraordinary measures.”
It’s been extraordinary for some in the private sector who have realized that making money is not their only duty, not their be-all-end-all. Those that have are motivating the haves in our society to remember the have-nots with an outpouring of altruism.
Meanwhile, it’s plain to see that not even the Democrats who are running to replace Donald Trump ... all two of them, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are not getting in the way. There is now pressure on Sanders to pull out and bring things down to just Biden, who has taken a commanding lead particularly because of the coronavirus; the Bern has nowhere to go. Any record of the 2020 election, at least the Democrat version, will have to include an asterisk to designate the efforts to contain the contagion have included a delay in the primaries, moving forward.
Will Sanders abandon his quest in the name of party unity? Or will he stick around to pressure Biden on their significant policy differences. One of his top campaign officials offered a clue: “Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign.”
How long will he "assess"? Is he really in this for the long haul? How long is a long haul anyway? If and when he pulls out, can he persuade his passionate supporters to be just as passionate about Biden? Much depends on how Sanders whips up his followers. Is he in a dealing mode or will he wait for the campaign silly season to restart with the state primaries that were only delayed?
They have not been canceled, after all. Theoretically, Sanders could sweep them, winning enough delegates to overtake Biden. It won’t happen, but it begs the question: Will the nation have emerged from the pandemic rubble by the party conventions? By general Election Day? Significantly, will the Democrats allow Donald Trump to emerge from the rubble and actually win? That’s always possible, and that is no BS.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

TESTING OUR SOCIETY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TESTING OUR SOCIETY

Admit it. Many of you who heard that President Donald Trump had finally decided to take a coronavirus test were rooting for it to come back positive, meaning he had contracted the disease and at the very least would have to self-quarantine.
That is not acceptable, people. We can’t wish harm on anyone — not even Donald Trump, not anyone. Period. The very fact that so many were wishing for the worst for him is a reflection of how toxic the atmosphere has become in our society, thanks in great part to where he has taken us. But repeat after me: The negative result for Trump is a good thing, like it would be for any human. Unfortunately, too many humans are being threatened by this new pestilence that a malicious Mother Nature has unleashed on an unprepared world.
A few of our leaders have been heroic, but all too often they have not, to put it mildly. Through blithering incompetence they have retreated to wishful thinking, ignoring the warnings of the true experts, like Tony Fauci, who has been around worldwide public health crises for decades as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (Put him in the heroic category). But for the most part, the ones they report to have wasted valuable time with their bluster and outright ignorance.
In addition, they are saddled with a U.S. health care system that could be charitably described as rickety, made worse by a series of past decisions that were based on politics or budget considerations. As a result of this absence of well thought out analysis, future catastrophes were inevitable — like this one, where we are clearly unprepared. Glossing over these many shortcomings just won’t cut it. The lack of tests and hospital emergency equipment are just some of the examples of the current breakdown. Finally, officials are scrambling to catch up. That is inherently difficult, particularly in an environment polluted by self-serving infighting instead of the pulling together that is vital if we are going to dig out of the mess and address this problem effectively, before it overwhelms us.

Isn’t it clear that the cave-in of the investment markets is really a vote of no confidence in our leaders? Is the latest Fed drop to near zero interest rates enough to ignite a recovery? Clearly not. In desperation, the captains of industry are getting involved. They are following the decisive actions of those who control the sports world, who literally stepped up to the plate by shutting down. Not only that, but the players with their deep pockets are sharing their wealth with the thousands of anonymous support workers who have no pockets at all, meaning the money they earn by working the games is what pays for their families’ food on the table. In some cases, the team owners are following suit. This kind of good behavior is also contagious.
Among those forced to do the responsible thing are the politicians. Instead of the high stakes debate before a crowd in Arizona, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden confronted each other Sunday night from a TV studio in Washington.
On the other side we have the sleazebags, who see this situation as an opportunity to run scams. They are out there in cyberspace with their wacky conspiracy theories, such as my personal favorite that this is all really a concoction of the media trying to bring down Donald Trump.
Frankly, Donald Trump is bringing himself down. For the most part, we reporters are merely the bearers of the bad news.
You really can’t have too much coverage of the coronavirus, although I have to admit that an actual Washington Post story describing the inconvenience of those guys who had scheduled their vasectomies so they could recuperate on the couch watching March Madness but now couldn’t was a bit more than I wanted to know.
So far, the coronavirus has been too much for many of our leaders. Our only hope is concerted action by the rest of our community, in spite of them.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

NON STOP SURPRISES

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

NONSTOP SURPRISES

It’s true for politics as well as investing: Bubbles will burst. Right now, for example, the economy that seemed to be riding high has suddenly been laid low by a virus that was discovered only a couple of months ago. And in politics, if I were Joe Biden, I’d be really worried about the spreading virus of success.
Suddenly he’s up, to the point that all of us are anointing him the Democratic Party nominee and writing epitaphs for the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. You remember Sanders, don’t you? He’s the socialist who just a week or two ago was at the top of the heap. The filthy rich were sweating buckets about their future accountability for conduct like how they game the system by bribing all the lawmakers — excuse me, make campaign contributions — to exempt them from paying their fair share and distribute their wealth to the rest of society.
But their panic was for naught. They should have known that the Bern would be burned, come tumbling down from his perch, a victim of the political law of gravity. And sure enough, he did fall to Earth. Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who the pundit herds had counted out, seemed to score a knockout punch on Super Tuesday, followed by another in Michigan and the rest of the states that came up a week later, vacuuming up nomination delegates, which is, after all, the name of this game.
So, Bernie Sanders has Joe Biden just where he wants him. Biden is now the favorite, and we all know what happens to favorites. Their former opponents who crowded the debate stage are now offstage, all of them who matter ... left, middle of the road. More importantly, they take all the diversity that the party bragged about with them.
The women are nearly gone, the people of color, the variety of ethnicities, sexual preferences and generations. Gone. We’re left with two old white guys, both in their 70s, running as the wave of the future, post Donald Trump. Trump is also an old white guy, also in his 70s, who is currently endangering the nation with his bumbling during the coronavirus crisis. Handling cleanup is left to his vice president and presumed running mate Mike Pence, who is 60 but has always seemed like an old white guy.

Speaking of running mate, now that the Democrats’ advantage seems to be Biden’s, most of his former opponents are flocking to endorse him. What they are really saying is that they’d love to be No. 2. It’s not as blatant as handing out their resumes, but it’s close. Guaranteed that if the pendulum swung back Bernie’s way, they’d immediately stumble all over themselves to run away from Joe, whispering something to Sanders like, “I always wanted you anyway.”
Meanwhile, Trump is preparing nicknames for all of them, so he can ridicule “Sleepy Joe” or “Crazy Bernie” and whichever candidate ends up chosen as No. 2 at the convention.
That assumes that there is a convention, that we are not still in some sort of lockdown because of coronavirus. For now it’s Biden and Sanders who must go toe to toe in their two-person debates, with no live audience ... just them and the moderators and a slew of production people. At least they’re not wearing hazmat suits.
Sanders announced shortly after his latest clobbering in Michigan, etc., that he had no intention of pulling out. The fact that he had to announce that was telling in itself, but Bernie Sanders insists that a lot of Democrats share his ideas but they don’t think he’s the one to beat Donald Trump.
Besides, it’s four months until the party convention, three and a half months until a “June surprise” engineered before the convention by disgruntled Democrats, Donald Trump’s gruntled people or perhaps Vladimir Putin that could knock Biden for a loop. At that point those other candidates could stop groveling for the No. 2 spot and go for No. 1. Stranger things have happened. And are.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

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