Bob Franken

DEFAULT FUTURE SHOCK

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

DEFAULT FUTURE SHOCK

Do you know the difference between company and labor negotiations at Kellogg’s in Battle Creek, Michigan, and the Republican-Democrat debt ceiling battle? Among other things, it’s leverage. Fourteen hundred cereal workers are on strike at Kellogg’s after a year-long impasse at the bargaining table between management and a local chapter of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. What’s the worst that can happen? The kiddies could be deprived of Frosted Flakes.
But what’s the worst that can happen if the debt limit negotiations ultimately break down in Washington? How about calamity — or you pick the word for economic catastrophe for billions of people. It would be a version of Mutually Assured Destruction, so MAD that it’s the ultimate leverage because no one wants to go there. But drama queen or drama king politicians (pardon the redundancies) get their thrills dipping their toes in the abyss of the fiscal apocalypse to prove that they are macho or macha grandstanders who are not about to be pushed around until they are forced to back away, like they did when they moved away for a couple months from the apocalypse.
That’s what would happen if Congress won’t ultimately approve an increase or suspension of the debt limit, the borrowing authority for the United States of America to take out more loans. We’ve never defaulted on them before, and our national debt stands at this second at about $29 trillion … a ton of money.
A trillion dollars stacked end to end would be more than the distance from Earth to the sun, meaning that our debt would make the trip 29 times. Talk about climate change! Which, by the way, shows why I hate it so much when the TV anchor uses some similar comparison for an illustration.

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INFORMING AND NOT PREACHING

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

INFORMING AND NOT PREACHING

When does journalism turn to propaganda? (Fellow journalists, let’s not get sanctimonious too quickly.) It’s not as simple as someone with a point of view spinning like a whirling dervish preaching to a choir, like Donald Trump speaking at a rally. Media influencing is really more subtle than that.
Journalists use the word “moderates” to describe those of both parties — Republicans and Democrats — who are realists and have already accepted the concept that give-and-take means you can’t bargain if you’re not willing to give. So what’s the opposite of moderates? “Immoderates”? Well-intentioned reporters toss around words like “moderate” off the walls of the political arena to describe somebody who is not an off-the-wall fanatic.
Here’s another one: “faith,” as in “man of faith” or “woman of faith,” of course. The question is faith in what? Faith in whom? All of the great religions of the world fall short of knowing. And yet they fight great wars over their faiths, and send huge crowds of men (and a few women, but usually men) to die with the promise of great rewards, but until then it’s just conjecture.
And what about life before birth? Isn’t the bitter abortion argument about what constitutes life? The descriptors “pro-choice” and “pro-life” are totally misleading. And yet we journalists use them, possibly out of laziness because we don’t want to do the hard work or suffer the wrath of one side or the other in this fundamentalist fight.
Until you define the fetus inside a woman — is it life or is it an extension of the woman — you can’t define an action as a “choice” between obliviously aborting it or, if the opposite is true and it is a separate life, murder.
And we can’t leave that up to religions, which are historically institutions of male oppression.

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WOODY WOODPECKER IS NOT LAUGHING

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

WOODY WOODPECKER IS NOT LAUGHING

Unless you’re a member of the Audubon Society, you’re about to learn more about woodpeckers than you ever thought you’d know. Or care to.
I hate those detective shows where they say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” But yeah, it’s like that. I’m REALLY sorry for your loss because, I don’t know how to break it to you, but Woody Woodpecker is dead. He’s been officially declared extinct by a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which keeps track of such things. Amy Trahan wrote the official report on the demise of the ivory-billed woodpecker — the species that was the model for Universal Studios’ character Woody, of “Heh-heh-heh-HEH-heh” fame. He (or she) is not to be confused with the pileated woodpecker, which makes more of a jackhammer sound as he scrounges for bugs (don’t we all) in a tree’s bark.
This is the genuine Woody, an ivory-billed.
He hasn’t been seen, that we know of, since back in 2005 in Arkansas. He (or she) was unmistakable. He was a big bird. In fact, (choose your pronoun) was nicknamed “The Lord God Bird,” because when people saw one they’d exclaim, “Lord God! What a bird!”
But 2005 was the last time and long enough. “He no longer exists,” said Ms. Trahan. And she checked the box for “delist based on extinction.”

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CODE CASH

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

CODE CASH

The phone company is going about it all wrong: The Washington, D.C., area is getting a new area code (771), and instead of fending off complaints because new lines aren’t getting the traditional 202, they should charge more for the new one. That way, the customer can avoid the embarrassment of being associated with Washington, the seat of national government.
Is it any wonder there’s no argument when the District of Columbia is called “the Swamp,” where progress goes to die in a quagmire of corruption, ineptitude and bureaucracy? Once again, we’ve faced the threat of that very government shutting down — well, not shutting down fully, more like partially. Essential services will continue, like military and federal law enforcement, etc., and lifesaving financial services continue. But unessential services — and that includes most of them — will by law expire, because Congress can’t get its act together.
We will put off a discussion about why so much of the nation’s business is “unessential”; that’s for another day. But a government shutdown means the poor schlub who’s “essential” must work but not get paid right away, while Mr. and Ms. Unessential don’t work but will also eventually get paid, just not right away.
It’s a huge amount of bother for nothing, and expensive, too. But that’s not the worst of it.

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GABBY FEVER

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

GABBY FEVER

If you’ve turned on the news or surfed the internet, you likely know who Gabrielle Petito is. Until a few days ago, the 22-year-old “van life” blogger was missing, and her story has been incessantly covered by media around the world. Her body was found days ago in Wyoming, and the search is on for her missing boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. She is also white.
But do we know who Desheena Kyle is? The 26-year-old woman has been missing for almost three months now, from Knoxville, Tennessee. She is among the 75,000 women and girls of color who have vanished, basically ignored by newspapers and TV stations that will pay only occasional attention to them. As for the story or two that’s run when the issue of disparate coverage is raised, we can call them “guilt stories.”
The difference in coverage between Petito and Kyle comes down to “missing white woman syndrome”, a term coined by my late friend Gwen Ifill. It can be described as the inordinate number of stories any time a white female disappears, particularly a young attractive one like Petito.
That’s not to belittle the agony that any parents goes through when their beloved child cannot be found and is a suspected victim of the worst kind of foul play. But don’t moms and dads of color go through the same torture?

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