FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019 CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236 FOR ELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2017 BY BOB FRANKEN CRASHING DOWN TO EARTH --- Let’s dispense with ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. CRASHING DOWN TO EARTH
  2. WHERE THERE'S SMOKE THERE'S LIAR
  3. SKINNY BUT OVERWEIGHT
  4. THE NATIONAL ILLNESS
  5. OPEN MOUTH, TALK STUPID
  6. More Recent Articles

CRASHING DOWN TO EARTH

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR ELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

CRASHING DOWN TO EARTH
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Let’s dispense with the sanctimony and admit it: Most of us really enjoy piling on. I know I do. There are few things more exhilarating than participating in mass malice. Rarely do we get such an obvious opportunity for schadenfreude than the Trump-Ryan health care debacle. Maybe Donald Trump should have his ghostwriter create a new book: “The Thwart of the Deal.”
And while we are being brutally honest (or is it honestly brutal?), let’s acknowledge that such cheap shots like that are the best shots. They’re certainly no cheaper than all the promises Trump made while campaigning -- like his repeated pledge to dismantle Obamacare “first thing.” He denies saying that, but he did. It was a regular dose of the snake oil he sold, lapped up by millions of rubes who elected him president. He obviously was pandering to those right-wingers who still foam at the mouth at anything Obama.
In office, Trump realized how serpentine the issue is, exclaiming last month that “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Well, I don’t know how to break it to you Mr. President, but a lot of people knew. It’s just that some demagogues carelessly peddle the idea that they have simple solutions to impossibly complex problems.
That also would explain why Trump and his merry gang of misfits so badly botched their anti-Muslim immigration blockade. They haven’t even gotten to walling off Mexico yet.
Instead of “Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump’s motto should be: “Used to be I couldn’t spell ‘president.’ Now I are one.” He’s like that country bumpkin Gomer Pyle (do a web search, kiddies) who would be awestruck and exclaim “Gawwww-leeeee.” Except Gomer Trump is a city bumpkin who tries to cover up his ineptitude with nastiness, usually unleashed on Twitter.

 

Actually, in the case of his humiliation in the House, Trump switched tactics, trying out a humble act, telling a Washington Post reporter, “We learned a lot.” What he should have learned is that making the wheels turn in our ridiculously convoluted government is not for know-it-all rookies. Negotiating policy is much tougher than any real estate deal. For starters, in real estate all sides are united in their greed for money. Members of Congress are motivated by principle: staying in office. It is why so many who are successful in private enterprise are humbled when they dabble in public service.
While their word is law in the corporate world, that’s not how it works in government. In business, all they have to do is write checks. In this democracy, there are checks and balances. It’s easy to understand why Donald Trump likes executive orders. There is no one to get in the way, certainly not the gang of sycophants around him, who save their greatest treachery for each other.
That is not to say that all the players are inexperienced. Paul Ryan didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. After all, he was the author of the health care plan that his GOP colleagues shredded. He’s been in Congress since 1999, and before that was an aide to various Washington figures, ever-flattering them to move ever-upward. He was Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential candidate in 2012 and managed to slip-slide for or against Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, depending on how the ill wind was blowing. He presents himself as the principled political professional.
Health care has knocked him off his high horse. He had the good sense to admit that this was “a setback, no two ways about it.” He can count on the gnat-sized memory of the American people to forget about this setback as he shifts to some other way to further his ambitions. Or at least to stay out of the way when everybody is piling on Donald Trump for some other amateur mistake.

© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE THERE'S LIAR

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE THERE'S LIAR

Before Donald Trump and his language manipulators can really plan to “drain the swamp,” as they like to say, he and his cohorts need to stop fouling the air. The “swamp,” as we well know, is Washington and its stagnant slime of corruption, combined with an atmosphere of deception. The stench of D.C. air is particularly bad these days, worsened by the constant smoke screens deployed to manipulate reaction to the outrages that permeate the infant — make that infantile — Trump presidency.
Blatant lies pile upon blatant lies, followed by buffoonish rationalizations designed to obfuscate — smoke screens, in other words. None of them was more obvious than the attempt by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to confuse the folks about the overwhelming evidence that Trump’s Twitter tantrum was utterly false when he banged out on March 4: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.”
Since then, Trump and his accomplices have tried to wriggle out of that one, but each attempt has been met with increasingly authoritative rejection of the entire claim. None was more devastating to Trump than the testimony of FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, who is in charge of the government’s electronic surveillance, that nothing of the sort happened. They were appearing at a rare public hearing of House Intelligence to discuss the allegations that Donald Trump and/or his people colluded with Vladimir Putin and the Russian government to throw the election Trump’s way. We learned that the FBI is taking that charge seriously enough to be engaged in a full-scale investigation. We also learned from the ones who would know that the surveillance accusation against President Barack Obama was total bunk.

Nunes holds a uniquely powerful position in Congress: He is chairman of the oversight committee that oversees (hence the name) the ultrasecret intelligence activities of the United States government. Due to their sensitive assignment, the committees (the Senate has one, too) are supposed to be unusually bipartisan, majority and minority members dealing with the nation’s most classified information without the taint of politics.
Nunes insists that his committee is the proper place to investigate the explosive Russian charges, not a special body, called a “select committee” in congressional parlance or an independent commission. His ranking member (Washington-speak for the leading minority member) is California Democrat Adam Schiff. Usually, where you see one publicly, you see both. But not last Wednesday.
That day, Nunes, who has struggled to maintain an image of being impartial despite the fact that he served on Trump’s transition team, obliterated any chance of his credibility being taken seriously when he struck out on his own. Regarding the discredited tweet storm about Obama, which is really a sideshow for his committee, Nunes suddenly, without consulting Schiff, appeared not once but twice before reporters, announcing he had viewed, but didn’t possess, intelligence that “seems to me to be some level of surveillance activity — perhaps legal, but I don’t know that it’s right.” He outlined a vague, and contradictory, description of “incidental” scooping up and identifying Americans while spying on foreign citizens, the only ones whom U.S. agencies can legally target. He shared what he claimed to have seen with President Trump, which also was bizarre since it’s the president and his people who are under investigation. What we had then was a classic smoke screen, which allowed Trump to claim he was “somewhat” vindicated.
Predictably, Schiff was furious, or in more Washington-speak, he had “grave concerns”: “The chairman will either need to decide if he’s leading an investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House. Because he cannot do both.”
Nunes subsequently apologized to the members of his committee for the way he blew smoke without telling them he would. The Democrats made it clear that they believe his credibility is shot. The swamp’s ooze grows even thicker.

© 2017 Bob Franken

    

SKINNY BUT OVERWEIGHT

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

SKINNY BUT OVERWEIGHT

It’s called a “skinny budget,” because it’s just a president’s blueprint for where the federal money goes, and it doesn’t get into details. Those will be fleshed out later. Actually, this one is anorexic, containing the usual bullet points that Donald Trump always prefers rather than getting tangled in the weeds of messy specifics. That would require concentration, which has definitely never been The Donald’s strong suit. However, even these budgetary bullet points target the entire notion that the United States has a kindhearted government.
The money largely affirms the idea that this is a nation in a defensive crouch. There are huge increases for our armed forces and homeland security, including that wall that has become Trump’s trademark. Somebody has to pay for all that, plus the tax cuts for the super-rich he envisions, and that would be the non-super-rich. Just like always. The programs that will be gutted feed the poor and elderly, and address the extensive hunger in children that is a shame on America. In the past, the funding has gone to support education, and protect against fouling our nation’s and the world’s environment.
It is a concoction whose recipe compiled by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney whose rationalization for abandoning the malnourished, for instance, twists the normal language into tangles of meaninglessness and, might I add, meanness. We have gotten used to the Orwellian absurdities from the Trumpsters, but try this on for size, as Mulvaney is facile about the absence of compassion in this budget. He feels too “compassionate” toward the taxpayers “to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore.’”
To pay for the Meals on Wheels program, that is a lifeline for the shut-in elderly and disabled. Or the program that would be cut that provides out-of-school meals to the children who would otherwise not eat: “We can’t do that anymore. We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good.”
This is a budget proposal that sounds good to the fat cats who will become obese. Everybody else who relies on the federal government not just for nutrition, but for consumer protection against predator banks and corporations, for basic medical research that can save millions of lives by potentially curing or eradicating killer diseases, and even for the arts, which define our culture, well, see you around.

It brings to mind the Billie Holiday musical standard “God Bless the Child”:
“Them that’s got shall get / Them that’s not shall lose.”
The millions of “Them that’s nots” who voted for Trump are now being forced to understand that the Robin Hood they passionately supported was really a Hood Robin, who robs from the poor to give to the rich. They have stuck by their man through all the irresponsible and incendiary charges that have sprung from the Twitter fingers he can’t control that are embarrassing lies, which he won’t retract because he never retracts anything. They have stayed with him through all the over-his-head embarrassments, all the indications that he had improper relations with this nation’s Russian adversaries, through the slipperiness of his business dealings and refusal to release his tax records. Now they must decide whether the change he represented was a fraud. When they are among the 20 million-plus who will lose their insurance and health, while the rich and powerful have everything that ails them miraculously cured, at some point they will have to make up their mind whether their establishment-disrupting champion is a savior or strictly a flimflam man.
You have to hand it to Trump: Whether he’s president of the United States or some other kind of entertainer, he controls the spotlight. But his reality show is turning into harsh reality. A fair question is: Will the cruelty of his “skinny budget” so weigh down the nation that we can’t recover.

© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

THE NATIONAL ILLNESS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 14, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE NATIONAL ILLNESS

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Many Republican leaders are leery about having their name attached to the GOP’s replacement for Obamacare, a health care overhaul they have demonized since it was passed seven years ago. But they’re having a devilish time coming up with one of their own that doesn’t make things worse.
It’s hard to blame them for preferring not to be identified with their American Health Care Act, which is the official title of their slapped-together replacement. They have to come up with something now that they have a lock on our government. After all, they promised incessantly to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In fact, they are actually obliterating overall about a century’s worth of progress, but let’s focus on how they are gutting health care.
White House officials made it clear that their boss doesn’t want it to be called “Trumpcare.” On down the line, those who created it also don’t care to be held responsible. After all, it manages to take all the problems of the ACA and make them worse. Still, “AHCA” could be mistaken for a sneeze. So we have to come up with a better name.
This hodge podge was prepared under the guidance of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is really into arcane policy. He’s also into maintaining the myth that there are ways to deliver health care in the United States, given our bought-and-paid-for politicians, that are more effective and less expensive than Obamacare. So he’s coceived his own scheme. Apparently he doesn’t want it to be called “Ryancare,” but it is his baby, so how about something like the Speaker’s Contrivance for Access to Medical care: SCAM?
It is a scam. While it’s presented as a more effective approach, it really provides health care coverage to fewer people and will be more expensive with most of the financial benefits going to the wealthy.

But that seems to be the direction they are heading government-wide. Washington is now a conservative’s paradise. Plans are being developed to cripple nearly all domestic programs, the ones that have been fought for over decades, the ones that provide food and shelter for those who need such things. Meanwhile, the regulations that often are the only barrier to stop the greedy from stealing even more are being shredded. The heads of the department that is there to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink are enemies of environmental protection and are beholden to the industries responsible for climate change. They would abandon what little protection we have from a future where the planet is disastrously damaged.
Much is being made about the Trump administration’s coziness with Russia, a ruthless adversary of the United States. As dangerous as Vladimir Putin’s apparatus is, the bigger danger might be from the many operating parts of Donald Trump’s government.
What’s equally pathetic is watching the opposition dither. We all recognize the ridiculous bungling that marked the Democrats’ election campaigns, but it’s also obvious that they learned absolutely nothing from their dismal failures. They’re still running around, crashing into each other with their slapstick turf battles. Even when they do draw Trump's blood on egregious issues, like the Russia connection, they fail to follow up in effective ways. Worst of all, Donald Trump, as president, has shown himself to be a buffoon largely surrounded by extremist incompetents. Have Democrats been able to exploit that? Not really. The only accountability that President Twitter has had to endure comes from the media and the courts, because neither has been intimidated by his hateful bluster. But even those institutions have been splattered by his mindless mudslinging.
Millions of Americans continue to passionately support Trump, determined to exact revenge on his political enemies, those they see as “elitist.” They are so angry that they are blind to the fact he is acting against their interests. There is no health care plan for this pervasive national sickness, and no sign of recovery.

© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

OPEN MOUTH, TALK STUPID

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 10, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

OPEN MOUTH, TALK STUPID
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I’ve hesitated to do this, but the time has come to catalog the truly dumb comments uttered by our great leaders. There is so much material, it’s an embarrassment of embarrassments.
We have to acknowledge Ben Carson, who’s now our housing secretary because, well, Donald Trump had to put him somewhere. Secretary Carson was seeking to rally his department’s troops, to inspire them with a speech about the country as a “land of dreams and opportunity.” Even if we ignore how dicey it is for any member of this administration to speak at all about immigration, Carson caused an uproar when he referred to slaves as immigrants, specifically “other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships ... they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”
Carson’s supporters point out that Barack Obama had expressed something similar in December 2015: “So life in America wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always easy for new immigrants. Certainly it wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily, and yet in their own way, were immigrants themselves.” So let’s be bipartisan about this: It was as stupid when Barack Obama said it as it was when Ben Carson did a year and a half later.
But, that was then and this is now, when Donald Trump is the main man, the supreme leader, the apprentice president himself. Unfortunately, he can’t help himself either; he’s a compulsive tweeter, a paranoid twitt-so-phrenic who communicates really crazy stuff every time he gets near a smartphone. Rambling on about President Obama wiretapping him might strike some as being little different from those who hear voices or radio waves. He's not well. So let’s be compassionate and give him a break. Like he would do if he had all his marbles.

Besides, there are so many others who could enter these creepstakes. That brings us to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who abuses power as chairman of the House Oversight Committee. While on CNN defending the new GOP health-care legislation -- which might be better described as the Take Away Health Care proposal -- Chaffetz had a solution for those too poor and strapped to afford insurance: “rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.” If his remarks seemed to have a “let them eat cake” air about them, Chaffetz might be forgiven. After all, his president had previously weighed in, exclaiming that “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Who could imagine that it might even be too multifaceted to explain in a tweet?
Meanwhile, new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos -- a billionaire who never saw a public school she liked, because she never saw a public school -- was expressing her views of historically black colleges and universities, like Howard University, which was founded in Washington in 1867. Being an outspoken advocate of school choice (another way of saying whites choosing to racially discriminate), DeVos called these black academic institutions “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”
In reality, they are monuments to a lack of choice, because blacks couldn’t get a higher education in the days of racist segregation. By the way, DeVos heads the department that provides three-quarters of the federal money the remaining traditionally black universities get.
These are just a few highlights of what passes for brilliance these days -- or perhaps it’s lowlights. And they are nothing new, which explains why the country is in such horrible shape, and under Trump, heading even further downward.

© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

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