July 24, 2014

LESSONS FROM HARDING 'S LUST LETTERS

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, JULY 18, 2014
LESSONS FROM HARDING’S LUST LETTERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
I’m not one to celebrate the good old days, because in so many ways they were the bad old days. Nor do I begrudge the explosion of technology that shapes our lives in this century. We live in an era that benefits from a remarkably shrinking planet and remarkably expanding knowledge.
Still, it’s doubtful we will ever again leave for future generations the expressions of beauty and love that the great writers and thinkers bequeathed us in more leisurely times. And I’m not talking about that long ago. We have only to go back slightly more than a hundred years to retrieve those luscious letters that soon-to-be-President Warren G. Harding wrote to his next-door neighbor, Carrie Fulton Phillips. He went on to become arguably the worst president in U.S. history, but the boy could write a gloriously smutty letter.
Mrs. Phillips lived on his street back in Ohio, and to put it mildly, he loved his neighbor. Warren was head over heels. Never mind that each was married to someone else and never mind that she was very pro-German -- if his letters to her were any indication, he was obsessed with her.
Much of his stuff was too explicit for a family newspaper, even in these times. George Carlin would have had a field day. But let’s edit some of the good stuff, and you can fill in the blanks: Sept. 15, 1913: “Honestly, I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief until I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips and then bury my face on your pillowing (blanks)”. Nearly three years before, he wrote: “I love you more than all the world and have no hope of reward on earth or hereafter, so precious as that in your dear arms, in your thrilling lips, in your matchless (blanks), in your incomparable embrace.”
It didn’t seem that Harding was a leg man. But he sure did have a way with words. He carried on like that for 10 years, 106 letters, which stopped shortly before he became president in 1921. He died in office after just two years, suffering an apparent heart attack. Is it any wonder?

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July 23, 2014

STARTING OFF THE DAY WRONG

Another Thursday and time for my pre-dawn inspirational on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. After which you'll say "The hell with it" and call in sick.

July 21, 2014

OPEN GOVERNMENT CHARADE

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, JULY 15, 2014
OPEN-GOVERNMENT CHARADE
BY BOB FRANKEN
How is it that in and around politics, we manage to trivialize nearly every crisis and at the same time, turn what’s trivial into a crisis? The debate over the flood of child immigrants to U.S. borders is typical: Here we have a wrenching human dilemma with awful choices about removing children who have fled their brutally dangerous countries, often sent by their desperate parents.
It’s a highly complex matter, as so many are. But it is mostly reduced to pettiness by political hustlers, with shameful cooperation from those of us in media. The debate was taken over by arguments over whether President Barack Obama should make a trip down to the facilities where the kids are being taken, for what would amount to a photo op -- “theater,” as the president called it.
To his credit, he refused to go, in spite of the cheap shots heaped on him by nervous candidates from both parties, and their consultants, always at the ready to fire off a sound bite or tweet. And that wasn’t the only fiery question that obscured the real tragedy. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, trying really really hard to promote another run for the White House, made a big show of pandering to his party’s hard-liners by announcing he would not be seen shaking Mr. Obama’s hand when POTUS visited his state. That was not the kind of photo op Perry wanted to go viral.
In case you care, Perry was seen shaking Obama’s hand, and Obama didn’t head to the border, which is certainly a good thing, because it would have been a massive disruption at exactly the worst spot for any added craziness. So, by the dismal ways we usually tabulate scores, it was Obama 2, Perry 0. Absurd, isn’t it?

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July 17, 2014

DIRTY TALK

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, JULY 11, 2014
DIRTY TALK
BY BOB FRANKEN
Sex. There, I’ve said it. And yes, I want to talk about it. Trust me, though, this is not your standard titillation. Instead, it’s about the motives of those who wish to impose their restrictions on the rest of us. And, yes, that’s what so much of the debate is about these days. No matter how the issue is framed, a lot of the argument is between those who wish to make their own choices about what they do, when and with whom, and those who cling to the view that sex is supposed to be conducted only between husbands and wives of opposite genders for the purpose of having children.
That latter point of view clearly influenced the fuddy-duddy Supreme Court justices who decided that Hobby Lobby could impose on its employees its views on reproduction. It certainly excites the fever-pitch frenzy among those who oppose gay marriage and frankly anything other than the rigid straight model. (I’ve always gotten a kick out of the word “straight.” Are those who aren’t he-and-she “crooked”? Actually, the word “gay” also is puzzling: Are heteros unhappy?)
It’s amazing how many of those who would oppress make the same argument: Their faith forbids gay sex or even sex outside of marriage, as it did the rights of minorities or women. To legally require that those individuals receive the Constitution’s “equal protection of the laws” offends their religious rights. Of course, they don’t just seek exemptions from the 14th Amendment, they’re running afoul of the first one, too, which forbids the imposition of any religion on the rest of us.
So when President Barack Obama ponders an executive order requiring federal contractors to not discriminate against lesbians, gays and others who embrace an alternative lifestyle, a coalition of faith-based organizations writes a letter asking that their ancillary organizations who do business with the feds be granted a waiver so “an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need.” In other words, their missionary position on who among us qualify to be “those in need” excludes those who adhere to their literally straight and narrow morality.

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