August 28, 2014

THE RULES OF THE RULE OF LAW

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 22, 2014
THE RULES OF THE RULE OF LAW
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s face it: We have a law-enforcement problem in this country. Far too often, the people who are supposed to protect us from the bad guys ARE the bad guys. Thanks to the widespread use of video devices, or perhaps because of them, we have witnessed a rash of violent encounters: one of New York City’s finest on July 17 used a banned chokehold on Eric Garner, whose main crime seemed to be that he was arguing that the cops were hassling him.
Earlier in the same month, a California Highway Patrol officer was taped repeatedly punching a homeless woman he had thrown to the ground after she was spotted by him walking on a roadway.
And of course, we have the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Law-enforcement forces, seemingly on a rampage at times, have been charged with overreacting to a few troublemakers while grossly mismanaging the protests of the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, who was black, by white Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson. In the aftermath, their efforts to contain the spreading violence, which they arguably share the blame for inciting with their heavy-handed tactics, have included arrests of journalists covering the mess.
What is most tragic about these incidents is that they seem to have become routine. We are constantly being exposed to images or reports of abuse by those who are supposed to protect us -- all of us -- without regard to race or economic status. Statistics show, however, that a wildly disproportionate share of arrests, traffic stops and searches are conducted against minorities. That is totally unacceptable in a country that promises equal justice.

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August 27, 2014

PREDAWN FOOLISHNESS ON MSNBC

What more appropriate way to prepare on a Thursday for the sunny Labor Day beach weekend ahead than my dark political analysis? Really dark, at 5:15 AM Eastern.

August 25, 2014

POLICING THE POLICE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 19, 2014
POLICING THE POLICE
BY BOB FRANKEN
This is a true story (as opposed to my usual falsehoods): A few years back, when the World Bank and International Monetary Fund would hold meetings of the planet’s finance ministers or other economic leaders, there would be angry demonstrations that sometimes turned violent. The different police agencies, local and federal, would plan well ahead and set up a heavily armed security presence.
It was tailor made for TV, of course, because we all knew what great video we’d get, and I’d usually end up going live from the middle of things, from some approved camera position nearby. In newsbiz, it’s a common experience, but it still can prove treacherous for those of us covering the melee.
At one of them, contrary to their public denials, the security forces fired tear gas at the advancing demonstrators, and we got video. One of the cops decided that he didn’t like the fact that we were taping, and first demanded we stop and then got pushy about it when we didn’t. He was on shaky ground; luckily, a supervisor intervened, and that was the end of it.
Actually, not quite the end of it. A few minutes later, that same policeman came over and asked when it would be on TV. When I told him I was about to go live, he asked whether he and his uniformed buddies could stand off to the side and see it. Some of them quickly called their families, and then they stood just out of the shot to watch the video on our monitor while I did my report.
That kind of rough encounter is common for journalists, although the happy ending is not always the way things work out. I’m among those who believe that most cops and other first responders are heroes who do a brutal and thankless job. But there are too many who are anything but. They can be bullies. They viscerally hate reporters for showing them doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing. They know that when they prevent us from doing our jobs, sometimes by forceful means and arrest, they may have to back off later, but they have prevented coverage that will inform citizens about what’s happening in a newsworthy situation. That way, they won’t be held accountable.

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August 21, 2014

TEEING OFF WITH AND ON THE PRESIDENT

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 15, 2014
TEEING OFF WITH AND ON THE PRESIDENT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s take a little trip down memory lane, which in this day of high tech and low retention means anything that happened more than five minutes ago. Still let’s hearken waaaay back to 2008 and that primary campaign ad for Hillary Clinton, the one that started, “It’s 3:00 in the morning at the White House” and then went on to ask who would answer when the phone rings and some crisis comes a-callin’.
The idea was that Hillary had the necessary experience to deal with the matter, while neophyte Barack Obama did not.
We all know how well that worked for her. Fast-forward six years, and President Obama now has had plenty of experience with sleep deprivation from taking those calls. (Have you noticed how gray his hair has gotten?) Hillary got the consolation prize: He named her his first secretary of state.
So here we are, facing 2016. Once again, she’s running for president, or at least dabbling in it. He’s maxed out, can’t run anymore. It’s August, he’s flown the coop, and when the phone rings at the White House at 3:00 a.m., no one’s home ...
He’s playing golf in Martha’s Vineyard; he and the fam are hobnobbing with the elite in a spot that has become a symbol of privileged leisure. In the process, he’s given Republicans still another opportunity to bludgeon him, which is one of their specialties. Actually, comparing a vacationing president to Nero fiddling while the world burns is a bipartisan cheap shot, one of the few endeavors that are bipartisan.
Still, the Obamas make it so easy. Say what you will, frolicking with the rich and famous in an exclusive venue is lousy optics, which is the political consultants’ way of saying it looks cheesy. No matter how many times the White House validly points out that POTUS is having a “working vacation,” fully in touch using all his sophisticated, albeit portable communication devices, he’s still teeing off while Iraq is teetering, under attack by ISIL fanatics, while Ukraine is fighting off Vlad Putin, while Gaza’s deadly hostility continues. Here at home, Ferguson, Missouri, erupts while many Americans are fighting off the debt collectors. True, the chief executive interrupts his golf games to address each crisis, but still ...

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