Bob Franken


June 18, 2007
Ham Sandwiches (Bob Franken)
@ 6:54 am

If he feels like it, a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. It’s a cliche, but it speaks to the power we give those who can and sometimes do sweep aside our so-called presumption of innocence. They can easily get life-ruining indictments from poorly informed grand juries, based on dismally low standards of proof.

Let’s be clear There is no comparison between Patrick Fitzgerald and Mike Nifong. Unlike Nifong, Fitzgerald has scrupulously followed the rules that delineate his power. But do the rules give him and all prosecutors too much power?

And do the pliant judges who rule in their favor care more about protecting a legal system than the rights of those who run afoul of it?

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June 15, 2007
Pardon or Warden (Bob Franken)
@ 10:47 am

The question has us all atwitter: Will the president keep Scooter Libby out of prison? But actually, here’s the tougher question: SHOULD Libby go to prison? I’m having great difficulty with this.

Let’s face it. This is a political conviction. The investigation into the leaks of Valerie Plame’s CIA identity was the result of a political uproar over the sleazy way her cover was blown as retribution. The administration had been embarrassed by her husband’s disclosure of the president’s Iraq weapons deceptions.

But should Libby go behind bars for lying and malicious conduct? If that’s the standard, we in Washington should be worried. Very worried.

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June 14, 2007
Ill Suited (Bob Franken)
@ 10:19 am

Tort reform. No, it is not about the pastry business. For years various interest groups have complained that the unscrupulous have abused the right to sue. They’ve tangled business, medicine, all of us, in a fear of litigation. Far too many decisions are based less on merit than on protecting one’s legal butt.

And now, they have another poster child — that D.C. lawyer and his pants suit. He’s demanding $50 million-plus from a dry cleaner who allegedly gave him the wrong trousers. Even when he loses, his small-business defendants will have also lost — their attorney fees will just about wipe them out.

It just goes to show, the reformers argue, that there must be protection against these frivolous, malicious lawsuits. Or at least limitations.

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News Blues (Bob Franken)
@ 11:40 am

I attended an awards dinner last night put on by the Society of Professional Journalists and came away with a number of questions:

1) In TV news, is it really only a choice between buffoonery and news from the crypt? Why is it so often a choice between Paris Hilton and something akin to watching paint dry?

2) In print: Actually, the questions are the same.

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June 12, 2007
‘Do-Nothing’ Programming (Bob Franken)
@ 10:17 am

I have such a GREAT idea for C-SPAN. Picture watching this: The Senate grinds on up to the point that someone announces debate is about to begin on the immigration legislation. Then the screen goes blank. Well, in this case, maybe it simply shows a 700-mile-long fence. But the point is that no one would have missed anything.

Think of the possibilities: On the cable news networks, aerial shots of Paris Hilton’s motorcade could suddenly end. Fade to black.

Of course that will never happen. There would be an uproar. Besides, ratings would plummet. I mean, people really care about Paris Hilton. And as we found out, they really care about the “Sopranos”‘ ending, too, or the lack thereof.

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