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, FEB. 23, 2018 THE EMPATHY DEFICIT DISORDER The skeptics among us, and I’m one of them, will say ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. THE EMPATHY DEFICIT DISORDER
  2. GUNS AND RUSSIANS
  3. MODERN DUCK AND COVER
  4. SHE SAID, HE SAID
  5. REIGN ON MY PARADE
  6. More Recent Articles

THE EMPATHY DEFICIT DISORDER

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, FEB. 23, 2018

THE EMPATHY DEFICIT DISORDER

The skeptics among us, and I’m one of them, will say that the White House “listening event” for those directly affected by mass killings was contrived by Donald Trump’s image-makers. Look no further than the note card he foolishly left out for cameras to see. It listed five reminders for him to show empathy. Since it’s obvious that Donald Trump has severe EDD, they probably were necessary, including No. 5, which was a suggestion that he say, at some point, “I hear you.”
For once, he followed the script. The upshot was the rare appearance of Trump displaying presidential leadership. Unfortunately, when it comes to guns, he’s leading us in the wrong direction. Of all the suggestions that flowed from those whose raw emotions came from the wrenching loss of children or friends, the suggestion he seemed to embrace the most was the one that would lead to more lethal hardware out there, not less. That means it’s the one that is most encouraged by the National Rifle Association and the other merchants of death.
The proposal would arm teachers and other adults in the schools with their own weapons. They’d somehow be trained to effectively stop an assailant by shooting him or her in the critical few minutes before first responders arrived. Or not. No mention of whether they’d be using pistols or assault rifles. The NRA opposes any limits on assault rifles, even though they are the choice of most mass murderers. Therefore, the trembling politicians refuse to prohibit them.

 

At least no one is advocating that the students themselves bring their own. Or are they? Even the idea of the teacher, coach or janitor packing heat is considered so dopey that virtually every teacher, coach or janitor organization hates the idea. And now we find out that there was an armed presence at the school: a deputy sheriff, presumably trained. What does the video show that he did? He apparently hid. That’s what he did.
Obscene dopiness dishonors the victims of each and every bloodbath. In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, some of the gun fanatics out there -- the really beastly ones -- are trolling social media and sadly gaining traction with their absurd claim that student leaders are really just “actors,” hired by liberals -- or, in the case of 17-year-old David Hogg, a “crisis actor.” Hogg is a survivor from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, where 17 died. He has emerged as a leader of the young people movement determined to break through the timid-politics-as-usual barricades that wall off any meaningful reform. Of course, the gun nuts believe that he must be discredited. So he’s labeled a “crisis actor.”
It’s that type of abuse along the lawless frontier of social media that has caused Twitter to be the latest to do a mild purge of its most blatantly phony accounts. Guess who’s up in, uh, arms over this? You got it: the right-wing extremists who are hashtagging their outrage. One of them is #Twitterlockout. May I recommend #idiotic? Even the Russians, who flood American politics with disruptive anti-social media, are whining #Naglost, which is the Russian word for “chutzpah.”
The passion of many gun owners knows few bounds. Predictably, the NRA is firing back. A new video ad rips into us journalists: “The mainstream media love mass shootings” because they “juice their ratings and push their agenda.”
Meanwhile, Wayne LaPierre, who heads the group, told a conservative gathering that “Evil walks among us, And God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids.” Like that deputy sheriff “hardened” the school he was protecting, maybe? President Trump doubled down, saying that school officials who agree to take up arms might get “a bonus.” Now we’re talking.
The students are beginning their crusade to make a difference. The truth is that so far, little has changed.

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

    

GUNS AND RUSSIANS

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, FEB. 20, 2018

GUNS AND RUSSIANS
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Mark the date on your calendar: March 24. It’s a Saturday. It’ll be a test for the up-and-coming generation. For that matter, it will be a test for the United States of America and a system of government that gets many failing grades because it has corruption baked in.
Saturday, March 24, is the day that student organizers have announced a rally in Washington -- “March for our Lives.” Anything short of an enormous turnout will reinforce the craven politicians’ belief that they can wait out the outrage that accompanies each regularly occurring mass gun slaughter, such as the latest one in Florida, by uttering a few “thoughts and prayers” statements. That way, they avoid the wrath of the National Rifle Association and its accomplices, who combine intimidation with campaign contributions to those who cower before them.
Only crowds that are even bigger than those that attended President Donald Trump’s inauguration can begin to cure America’s sickness: our irrational attachment to weapons of mass destruction. Even such an outpouring might not be enough. This is a nation with up to 300 million privately owned weapons, many in the hands of millions of people who feel they must jealously guard them with their lives -- or more accurately, the lives of the victims of the latest massacre.
It also will be a test for a country where most of us have the attention span of a gnat. Our thinking, or lack thereof, is shaped these days by social media, where it’s easy to take full advantage of our inherent superficiality. A certain president uses Twitter to great effect.
Others prefer Facebook, like the Russian government. The latest indictment from Robert Mueller’s special counsel operation nails Vladimir Putin’s henchmen by detailing the highly organized ways they distorted the 2016 election. True, it did not allege that Trump or his campaign heavies knowingly participated in the Russian operation. That accusation of complicity, if there are such charges, would come in subsequent indictments. What Mueller’s grand jury did was to outline crimes allegedly committed by the Russians. Their next batch might very well specify co-conspirators, Americans who may be charged as willing participants.
Trump, as always, did some distorting of his own. For instance, he insisted that these indictments did not accuse his forces of collusion. That is sort of true, but premature. He chose to you ignore the probability that more indictments will be coming that hit closer to the home, maybe even his home, the White House.
What also is true is that he has not indicated in response that he’ll take on Moscow, even with this new damning bill of particulars. Could this be his continuing collusion?

He’s also continuing his wimpy reaction to the gun issue even with the horror of the Parkland, Florida, high-school bloodbath. He’s now on board grudgingly supporting some unspecified restrictions on those bump stocks, which turn the assault rifle semi automatic into a virtual machine gun. as well as allowing he’d back improvements in background checks, but he’s shied away from the subject for the most part, emphasizing instead the usual platitude about mental health. Oh yes, he’s also continuing his campaign to discredit the FBI, which apparently blew a chance to stop the carnage by mishandling tips that Nikolas Cruz, the alleged assailant, was a lethal explosion waiting to ignite.
In one tweet, Trump tried to conflate the tragedy and his ongoing disdain for the Russia investigation. Critics charged that what he said on Twitter was astonishingly self-centered, even for Donald Trump. You decide:
“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.”
But wait, there’s more: In still another tweet he contended “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow.” Perhaps they are. However, this rally, which is another attempt to take American democracy back from all the foreign and domestic malefactors, can succeed only if it produces a gargantuan turnout in late March. If it is not huge, the Russians will have more reason to laugh.

    

MODERN DUCK AND COVER

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, FEB. 16, 2018

MODERN DUCK AND COVER
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The “duck and cover” drills in our nation’s schools from the 1950s and ’60s, captured in the rudimentary videos of that generation, are now quaint images. They were supposed to help protect students and teachers from a nuclear attack, a futile exercise indeed. As the Cold War waned (if it really did), those regular civil defense run-throughs ran out.
They’ve been replaced in many schools by a different kind of drill: In modern times, the repetitious routine now include what to do in case of a fire, but, ominously, ways to respond to an attack from a mass murderer with deadly weapons. More often than not, the arsenal will include an AR-15-stylesemi-automatic rifle, which is legal. Instead of the Soviet Union or China, now the enemy is us.
In the United States of America, most anybody can obtain these armaments, which have no purpose other than to kill people. They are readily available even to those who are later described as “weird” or “troubled,” as the alleged shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was. Nikolas Cruz had been expelled from the huge but highly regarded Douglas High after repeated confrontations. He was a classic loner and such a troublemaker that he had been reported to the authorities, including the FBI, which was a waste of time, as it turns out.
Such details are somewhat different each time, but the outline is the same. Someone disturbed with a grievance decides to avenge it by slaughtering innocents. It’s all too familiar because it happens over and over again in the U.S.; each time it does, we recoil in horror, as we should, and the politicians react with “thoughts and prayers” statements, and then do nothing. That is because they cower before the fearsome enablers of human-caused catastrophes, the National Rifle Association.

You’ve heard all this before -- from me, for starters -- and each time the preaching falls on deaf ears. That’s because what is even sicker than the individual who administers the latest massacre is the entire country; the United States of America is mentally ill as a nation when it comes to our love affair with guns.
Americans privately own 300 million or so weapons of mass destruction, and most efforts to impose severe limitations are doomed to failure. Revulsion at the carnage, the loss of precious young lives, is overridden by this twisted attachment to our guns.
As an exercise in futility, let’s discuss some solutions: Confiscation is not possible, we can’t even seriously limit the purchase of new hardware. But what about imposing a huge sales tax, similar to the one we impose on lethal cigarettes? What about making the manufacture and sale of the most egregious weapons a crime? What about finally including these semi-automatics, which are the weapon of choice for mowing down human beings, in gun laws.
None of that will happen, because those who make the laws are largely complicit. They believe that they won’t get re-elected if they cross the NRA, so it’s a waste of time to even try to get our government to take action. Besides, our leaders are too busy making the rich richer.
All we can be thankful for is that the assailant was not black, Muslim or an immigrant. Otherwise, President Trump would have been all over it. He was left with little to say. In his vapid speech to the nation, he made no mention of gun control at all, showing once again he’s a follower, not a leader, pandering to our darkest impulses. Oh, he did recite a new mantra: “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
Well, they do, Mr. President, and their families live in fear. They have every reason to be scared to death, with each and every drill about how to survive the threat from heavily armed American maniacs. The ones about how to survive a nuclear attack are history now, even with North Korea. And Russia has found new ways to attack, by sabotaging our elections and perhaps by infiltrating the top echelons of our government. Meanwhile, our gun sickness inside means we cannot feel safe anywhere, certainly not our schools.

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

    

SHE SAID, HE SAID

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, FEB. 13, 2018

SHE SAID, HE SAID
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There are so many problems in making a charge of sexual misbehavior and even more starkly when it comes to accusations of domestic abuse. Not the least of this is when Person No. 1 (usually, but not always, a woman) points the finger at Person No. 2 (usually, but not always, a man). When the man denies the allegations, we often are left with uncertainty over which one to believe. That’s exactly what the administration faced with two key people on the president’s staff -- Rob Porter, the man who handled all the presidential paperwork and the most classified material, along with speechwriter David Sorensen. Both were accused by various ex-wives of physical and emotional abuse; both adamantly reject the charges. We are left with the classic “she said, he said” situation.
Unfortunately, it’s what their bosses, particularly chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn, did NOT say that is the problem here. Each should have said, “No way,” as in there’s no way the men should have such critical roles until they could dispose of these matters that are so severe that they were denied full-fledged security clearances, as they nevertheless dealt with state secrets. Both Kelly and McGahn were well-aware. The FBI, which conducts the investigations, made sure they knew. But, for whatever reason, they decided to bring these guys on even with these serious questions about their past.
They’d still be there, except media reports suddenly blew up in their faces. Porter and then Sorensen quickly resigned. There wasn’t even a whimper about “fake news.” There was, however, a discernible roar about the way Kelly, in particular, handled it. Even after the stories spread, he lauded Porter: “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.” The moment a picture was subsequently published showing one of the exes with a black eye, Kelly, the war-hero-turned-Trump-tough-guy, went into full CYA mode. First, he expressed “shock,” then he tried to revise history by saying he had acted immediately.

Why all the hesitation? Was it because such accusations aren’t taken seriously by Trump higher-ups? All POTUS complained about via Twitter was that, “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by mere allegation.” He continued, “Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
What was noteworthy was what was missing from that tweet. There was no indication that he was the slightest bit concerned about what the women who made the claims might have endured. That is widely explained by Donald Trump’s own past with dozens of sordid charges against him.
Another explanation might be that Porter is now dating White House communications director Hope Hicks, who is very close to the boss and exerts tremendous influence herself. There also is a suspicion that normal discussion about full-fledged security clearances are verboten around this president, because son-in-law Jared Kushner doesn’t have one. As with the others, Kushner’s portfolio constantly exposes him to the most classified material.
Much of the glaring focus is on Kelly, the stern Marine general who was brought in to restore as much order as possible to the chaos.
While he certainly has imposed routine where there was none, he’s also revealed himself as a harsh right-winger. He called Robert E. Lee “an honorable man” and expressed the thought that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.” That begs the question: What kind of “compromise” over slavery would he have favored? But he is an equal-opportunity bigot, disparaging immigrants whenever he can. No wonder President Trump admires him. Obviously this president is not a huge fan of the “Me too” movement. He’d be more in the “Him Too” category.
© 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

REIGN ON MY PARADE

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, FEB. 9, 2018

REIGN ON MY PARADE

You know, there is such negativity out there. All President Donald Trump did was order his Pentagon higher-ups to put together a massive parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and the critics began their sniping. The Washington Post, which broke the story, reported that POTUS watched the Bastille Day parade in Paris last July and envisioned a huge military spectacle here, “bigly” even, one that would show off America’s military might on the next Veterans Day. Some ridiculed the idea that he presumably would be standing on a big reviewing stand as the parade passed by, with most of the attention focused on ... well ... him. He’d be above the fray. Except that he is the fray. But never mind that: He’s commander in chief, so the generals simply saluted smartly and said, “Yes, Sir!”
There has been no shortage of snarky comments since the Post article came out: Such displays of armed forces and their weaponry might be good for France, which, after all, is always trying to let the world know of its glory, past and present, real or imagined. The grumbling here is that the United States doesn’t need such an extravaganza, that it’s beneath the dignity of the planet’s majorest superpower. Besides, not counting France, that kind of thing is really more common in autocracies, big and small. Russia puts on a splendid one. And so does North Korea, which just did one to mark the start of the Winter Olympics. Philadelphia did another to mark the Eagles’ Super Bowl win, but that featured just a few busloads of players ... and huge crowds ... way bigger than showed up for the Trump inauguration. Just sayin’.
But that was then. This is now, and wouldn’t all that naysaying energy be put to better use trying to make it work? I mean really, isn’t it time to be positive? Never mind that Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11, five days after Election Day this year. Easy-beezy. Surely there’s an executive order for that, moving it to the Sunday before, just in case this really was a political stunt. Of course, the very thought of that would be soooooo cynical.


And why must this humongous display of patriotism be limited to the armed forces? We can get that at any ballgame. Why not invite the Russians, since they’ve become such an integral part of this country’s election process? Vladimir Putin could join his BCF (best comrade forever) Donald Trump on the reviewing stand, even if his country brings only one unit to the parade. Call it the Collusion Brigade.
They would join the paramilitary forces of the alt-right, who would carry their Tiki torches to demonstrate their loyalty to the Trump presidency. Imagine Stephen Bannon returning as the grand marshal. Of course, he’d not be dressed like one. As for President Trump, he will have to decide whether he’d openly return their unique salute. Chief of staff John Kelly obviously would. This Deplorable Battalion would be the biggest unit of all — heavily armed, of course.
What would make this parade unique would be all the deep staters who would be surrounded by a “big, beautiful wall.” They’d include all the fake newsies, Bob Mueller and his crowd of investigators, and for that matter, everyone from the intelligence community: the CIA, FBI, all those people. Of course, you’d want to round up the federal judges who refuse to rubber-stamp all the radical policy initiatives of this administration. You’d need to exclude anyone who speaks Spanish and all who had ever set foot in a “sh**hole country.”
But we absolutely must make room for Congress, which will be invited to send all the members. They’ll be stepping out, as usual, in all directions, hundreds of politicians displaying their close-order back-stabbing drills. The Democrats, as is their normal practice, would simply refuse to show up.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this exercise in saber rattling would be touted as a tribute to our military. As the thousands in uniform and their hardware turned Pennsylvania Avenue into mincemeat, many, perhaps most of them, would be thinking, “I’m marching for THIS!?”

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

    

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