Your Personal Subway Officer Will Be Moving Shortly

Hooray! Mayor de Blasio is expanding his “friendly faces” neighborhood policing to the subways. Cops will be assigned to specific subway stations and lines, and their names and e-mail addresses made public knowledge. Sounds good. But will it work in real life__and in real time?

According to the mayor, Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs) will be at our beck and call should a problem arise.

But what about in a subway emergency? If the city is increasing the number of cops who patrol subway stations, that’s great, as is knowing their names and faces. But it remains unclear how many more officers will be actively patrolling subway cars. That’s priority #1. In a crisis, will having the NCO’s e-mail really help?

Let’s take what happened last week, when a guy sprawled out across a number of seats on the A train, riders complained, and he pepper sprayed a woman in the face.

Say your friendly NCO is nowhere in sight, and pepper spray guy is coming down the car toward you.

I pull out my cell and frantically e-mail.

“Hi, Officer Friendly! How R U? There’s a guy pepper spraying people in the 3rd car of the A train at the High Street Station. If you are on this train, could you scoot over? Thanks!”

The lunatic gets closer to you, spraying away while screaming “I’m Donald Trump!”

You e-mail again. “Officer Friendly? The guy’s just a few feet away now, still spraying—Aggh! I canned sea! Gelp!”

What are the odds your NCO is going to check his in box and get to you in time? Wait a minute—an answer! Hard to read it with my eyes burning, but I think it says “I will be moving shortly.”

So let’s assume e-mails are primarily for resolving non-crisis situations. According to NYPD Chief of Transit Edward Delatorre, “If the NCO happens to be away, on vacation, or for whatever reason, the NCOs are not available…we’ll make sure somebody gets back to that person. In a perfect world, my vision is that you connect to the officer, you discuss the problem, if the officer can’t resolve it through email, the officer will reach out to the station manager, and maybe set up a meeting.”

Feel better?

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It’s Not Fun to Live in the R-U-S-A

After numerous shady occurrences, from his less-than-credible re-election to hacking our elections, has Vladimir Putin really been invited by President Donald Trump to visit the White House? The Kremlin says yes, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirms the two have discussed meeting in the “not too distant future.”

Here’s an advance copy I received from a highly unreliable source of the speech Putin plans to give here:

“Greetings American comrades! I am humbled that President Trump has honored me with a visit to your beautiful White House, although I have advised him to change the Oval Office drapes, the furniture and the attorney general. He and I were delighted to discover we have so many dreams in common, from doing away with presidential term limits to jailing journalists and political opponents.

“Some dare suggest your president is somehow compromised, a ‘Putin puppet,’ as one reporter who recently disappeared put it. I can assure my American friends that no one ever tells your stable, genius president what to do or say. Isn’t that right, Donald?

“As our talks progressed, a visionary idea struck me: Why not merge into a super force? As a fan of American baseball, I told him it’s like Giancarlo Stanton joining Aaron Judge on the Yankees. What team could be more powerful? Who could challenge us? Incredible! A winner! Trump agreed.

“So, hold tight to your babushkas — the United States and Russia will soon merge into one powerhouse nation! The name we’ve chosen? R-U-S-A. President Trump thinks it’s catchy and marketable, and an offer he can’t refuse. I will keep the title of president, while he chose the designation ‘world’s most brilliant leader.’ Both our national anthems will be maintained, honored and respected (anyone taking a knee in protest during their playing will be kneecapped). In addition, a joint national anthem titled ‘RUSA’ has been composed, to be debuted by the exciting new vocal group ‘Jared and the Useful Village Idiots.’

“So now let’s hear everyone sing loudly: R-U-S-A! It’s fun to live in the R-U-S-A! Did I spot someone out there not singing along? Lock him up!”

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PC, Funny, Or Just Stupid?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently told a Harlem Baptist church congregation that Jews “have no rhythm.” Was this our governor showing he’s not politically correct, trying to be funny, or just being stupid?

I vote stupid.

Cuomo said Catholics and Baptists share many beliefs, but Catholics “do it without the rhythm. But we try. We are not as without rhythm as our Jewish brothers and sisters.” He then pointed to Jewish political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, moving to the music in the front pew, and called his movements “ugly.”

Oy vey. Being politically correct used to mean being respectful of others, but now is viewed as being rigid, humorless and dogmatic. Donald Trump is president partly because Americans are sick of political correctness. Trump campaigned on being non-PC, honest and blunt, not a liar or bigot. You be the judge on how that turned out.

Meanwhile, I don’t think Cuomo is prejudiced, but he did violate the two basic rules when trying to be non-PC. The remark has to be funny, and must have some truth to it.

I’m not going to waste your time listing Jews with rhythm. OK, here’s a few: Billy Joel, Paula Abdul, Pink, Drake, the Beastie Boys, Bob Dylan and Adam Levine (yes, I’m pushing it here). For God’s sake, Jewish Brooklynite George Gershwin wrote the song “I Got Rhythm.”

But I digress. Whatever you think of Trump, he did tap into something real. Americans are tired of walking on eggshells. For example, Halloween used to be fun, but now scolds go haywire if a woman dares dress as Pocahontas. (Bigotry! Cultural appropriation!)

As Bill Maher of HBO’s “Real Time” (formerly “Politically Incorrect”) puts it, “The PC police has to stop lecturing us on what Halloween costumes are appropriate, and leave Halloween for the people it was created for: middle-aged gay men.”

Do you find that funny, or offensive? Cuomo meant no harm with his remark, and seemed miffed anyone would not find it amusing. I’m certain he would be the first to laugh at another politician telling a similar joke containing a moronic stereotype about Italians.

Sure he would. Absolutely.

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Is Privacy a Thing of the Past?

Has Facebook reached its tipping point?

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book of the same name, a tipping point is “a moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”

The recent school shooting in Florida and the massive student response, including huge rallies this past weekend, may have been the tipping point on finally passing sane gun laws, while Harvey Weinstein’s repulsive behavior toward women seemed to have been the last straw regarding predators getting a pass on sexual harassment.

Last week Facebook reached its own moment of reckoning with the revelation that Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained personal data from 50 million unsuspecting Facebook users in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been asked to appear before a Congressional committee to answer questions on how such a breach could occur.

Facebook collects information on everything from our birthdays, families and friends to where we live and work. I’m shocked that this info could be misused. Maybe because I’ve been too busy dealing with the fallout from my personal data being stolen from Equifax, Target, and eBay.

Have you recently filled out a fun quiz on Facebook designed to trick you into revealing personal data? Join the crowd. We have been mindlessly relinquishing our privacy, and are now paying the price. Sure, it’s nice to get birthday wishes from scores of friends (some whom you wouldn’t recognize if you tripped over them), but is it worth the tradeoff? Did you think Zuckerberg is letting you share photos of your cat out of the goodness of his heart?

Facebook is far from the only social media network profiting from your personal data, and monetizing personal information is nothing new. But when it is used for questionable purposes, and without our knowledge, a red line has been crossed.

Mining personal data affects everything in our lives, from getting a job or loan to being detained at an airport. Too many vital decisions are already made without our knowledge, input or consent. If we don’t demand laws mandating a ban on unauthorized data collection, we only have ourselves to blame.

Feel free to comment on this column. Just remember, I know where you live. Kidding! (Or am I?)

 

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Say Hello To My Little Staff

“My! People seem to come and go so quickly here!”  (Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz).

You can’t quit, you’re fired! seems to be the new catchphrase of The Apprentice, White House edition. The number of those either quitting, reading termination tweets or being dragged kicking and screaming from the White House seems to have surpassed the number of trains departing Grand Central Station at rush hour.

Last week it was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The week before was economic advisor Gary Cohn, and the week before that communications director Hope Hicks. Now rumored to be on his way out is national security advisor H.R. McMaster, although White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted “no changes at the NSC.” Which means McMaster should start packing his bags pronto.

Meanwhile, a trip down memory lane brings a tear to my eye. Remember Omarosa? Spicey? The Mooch? (no, I’m not talking about treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, who allegedly flew with his wife at taxpayer expense to Fort Knox to view the solar eclipse. He’s still around).

As special counsel Robert Mueller draws the noose tighter, the sharper rats quickly scurry from the sinking White House ship. The Democrats shocking Congressional seat victory in a rock solid Republican Pennsylvania district last week was the canary in the coal mine for the GOP.

When Mueller releases the information he is methodically gathering (my bet is late fall), every Democrat in the U.S. will be lined up to vote at 6 a.m. Election Day. By January, a Congress of cowards who put party over patriotism will be history.

How will this all end? The last scene from Scarface, with Al Pacino as a raving Tony Montana, comes to mind. I see a defiant Trump stepping from the Oval Office, no one left at the White House to stand beside him except a quivering Stephen Miller, as the Feds charge up the stairs.

Trump bellows “Say hello to my little friend!”, but Miller has dived under the desk. Donnie Darko is now all alone, ranting about the great ratings this will receive, as the Feds drag him out.

As this plays out on live TV, a standing ovation fills American living rooms across the land. Ding dong, get your popcorn ready!

 

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St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2018: Pride and Tolerance

If you had the luck of the Irish

You’d be sorry and wish you were dead…

When John Lennon sang those biting lyrics in 1972, he was lamenting how the Irish suffered for decades under British rule and oppression. In the mid 19th century, the potato famine drove more than a million starving Irish from their homeland, seeking a better life in America.

Not that the Irish were in clover when they landed here. Newspaper classified ads read “No Irish need apply.” They were quickly branded as dirty, animalistic criminals stealing the jobs of real Americans. Sound familiar?

Cut to 2018. On Saturday, the Irish will march proud and free down 5th Avenue, in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, with millions watching and cheering on the sidelines and TV.

Organizers have grown more tolerant over the years, finally allowing a gay group to march under its own banner in 2015. While some hailed the decision, others grumbled, including Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who called it “contemptible.” The parade continues to become more inclusive, despite complaints from those for whom tolerance seems to be a dirty word.

“The St. Patrick’s Day parade is a New York City tradition, but for years Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride,” said Bill de Blasio, who as mayor boycotted the parade until 2016. “Finally they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.”

The spirited and hopefully peaceful parade, which dates back to 1762, will run from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m., and can be viewed from 44th to 79th Streets on 5th Avenue.

For the Irish, as well as women, gays, immigrants and those of all religions and colors, the words of John F. Kennedy, our first Irish-Catholic president, still ring true: “I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience…The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.”

Or as Lennon sang: If you could keep voices like flowers

There’d be shamrock all over the world.

Sounds like a plan. Enjoy the parade!

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Melania & Isabelle: A Tale of Two Immigrants

The EB-1 visa program allows immigrants who’ve achieved greatness in their fields to live permanently in the United States. Nicknamed the “Einstein visa,” it is reserved for a special few with “extraordinary ability.”

Immigration expert Sarah Pierce of the Migration Policy Institute said that only the top 2 percent of people in their fields qualify, telling The Washington Post that the “quintessential award you want to put on the application is Nobel Prize.”

Melania Knauss didn’t earn one of those, but in 1998 she snagged a famous boyfriend. She met Donald Trump at a party and they began dating. Two years later, Knauss was featured on the cover of British GQ, photographed nude on a fur rug on Trump’s private jet.

Did the former Slovenian model, now first lady Melania Trump, qualify for the EB-1 “extraordinary ability” visa she got?

Then what about Isabelle Muhlbauer of Jackson Heights? Muhlbauer is a Dreamer, an immigrant who was brought here illegally and who attended Baruch College. She was an intern at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office of veterans affairs casework department.

She now works as a paralegal in the Veterans Assistance Project in the New York Legal Assistance Group, Muhlbauer told The New York Times. “I have the opportunity to work with a team that is committed to helping the low-income veteran population in NYC get access to the benefits they earned through their service.”

That is, if Muhlbauer isn’t deported. “I had hoped to attend law school to further advance my career in public interest law, but given the current uncertainty of what will happen with DACA, it’s become increasingly difficult to plan for the future,” she said.

The Supreme Court declined a request last week to immediately decide whether the Trump administration can end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects some 700,000 Dreamers from deportation. It gives Muhlbauer and thousands of other law-abiding people like her breathing room until Congress or the courts act to make the Dreamers’ status legal — or not.

Meanwhile, with a green card, Melania Trump was now able to petition for her parents, who are obtaining U.S. citizenship under what her husband disparages as “chain migration.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

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Compared to NY, Other States’ Gun Laws are Obscene

Florida lawmakers apparently think we are in more danger from Stormy Daniels than a disturbed teen storming a school with an assault weapon.

The same day it voted down a proposal to ban assault rifles (despite pleas of classmates of those gunned down in their Florida high school), the state’s House of Representatives voted last week to declare pornography a public health risk.

If you need another reason to be thankful you live in the New York metropolitan area, there you go. Is there any New Yorker, liberal, conservative or other, who thinks it’s less risky to face a deranged teen firing a semi-automatic weapon than watch Daniels’ “Big Busted Goddesses of Las Vegas?”

After the Sandy Hook school massacre, Connecticut lawmakers tightened the state’s gun laws, including expanding the definition of assault weapons and banning the sale of large capacity gun magazines. The rate of gun homicides in Connecticut has since dropped to record low levels, according to state data.

In the two weeks since the Parkland, Florida massacre, Gov. Rick Scott has proposed a couple of reforms of state law, but not a word about assault rifles. Meanwhile, the state remains intent on protecting its citizens from killer smut.

Am I saying we northerners are smarter than those in Florida and other states when it comes to common sense gun laws? Absolutely! According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Florida had 12.6 deaths per 100,000 population in 2016, almost tripling New York’s 4.4. Florida’s neighbors did even worse, with Alabama averaging more than 21 deaths per capita.

It’s not an accident. New York state law bans most assault weapons and large capacity magazines, and keeps a statewide database of firearms licenses.

As fellow lawmakers continue to ignore his state’s high gun death rate and instead “study” the evil effects of porn, one Florida state representative voiced disgust. “(We are) wasting our time with debate and legislation that declares porn as a health threat,” Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Fla) told The Independent. “Meanwhile we can’t even get a single debate, vote or hearing on anything related to assault weapons.”

Yes, watching too much pornography can be harmful to your health. But I can’t recall the last death at a porn shoot.

 

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A Chill In South Florida

With all of its ex-New Yorkers, South Florida is referred to by some as the “sixth New York City borough.” Not quite.

In Florida for a break from the winter cold, I recently woke up to 80-degree sunshine. Later that day, there was horror. Seventeen people, mostly teenage students, were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, not far from where I was staying.

The day after the shooting, I took a stroll down the street. A guy held up a large sign on the corner: “GUNS”

He pointed in the direction of the Palm Beach Shooting Association store in a nearby mall. I was buzzed in to the dark store, and asked the proprietor what I’d need to purchase a gun. He said that if I had a Florida driver’s license, I could have one in three days. If I had a concealed weapons license, he could get me a gun in 15 minutes.

Michele Epstein of Wellington, Florida, a mother of two and owner of a clothing boutique in Boynton Beach, thinks Florida gun laws are much too loose. “We have killings every day here,” she said. “We were looking for a house in Parkland, because of its safe community and schools. Now this happens. When is enough, enough?”

Unlike Florida and most other states, New York makes it difficult to obtain and carry a firearm. In 2011, only about 4,000 people had permits to carry concealed handguns in New York City, according to public records reviewed by The New York Times.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 could alter that reality. The bill, which has passed the House of Representatives, would mandate that all states that issue concealed-carry permits or licenses allow people from other states to carry a concealed weapon if they qualify in their home state. Do we want those living in our “sixth borough” or any other area with permissive gun laws to bring their firearms to our streets?

For those who insist that little or nothing can be done about this, why do all other western nations have a fraction of the gun deaths we do, with no continual school shootings? Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association contributes generously to politicians who always offer “thoughts and prayers” for the children killed by gun violence — but never a single idea to stop the proliferation of guns.

My thoughts and prayers are that these political whores are voted out in November.

On my way back to the airport, I squinted at the guy still waving his “GUNS” sign. Chilling.

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On Presidents Day, Trump Dishonors Past Leaders

Monday is Presidents Day, established to honor George Washington, later adding Abraham Lincoln and all past presidents.

After leading the colonies to victory over the British and becoming our first president, Washington worked hard to set a template of fairness and integrity for commanders in chief. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump often disregards and dishonors Washington’s vision.

Washington helped establish our democracy, and appointed Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and other capable leaders to the country’s first Cabinet.

Meanwhile, Trump bashes the news media, demeans the FBI and intelligence agencies, and appointed fawning toadies to his Cabinet. The 2017 video of Trump going around a conference table as his groveling appointees paid Soviet-style tribute to him still makes me cringe.

His latest notion is to hold a military parade on Pennsylvania Avenue. The fact that 89 percent of Military Times readers say no to the idea doesn’t seem to faze him.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a former Army lieutenant colonel, tweeted: “We don’t live in a dictatorship or monarchy. I swore on an oath — in the military and the Senate — to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.”

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had his uncle killed after he allegedly confessed to planning a coup and for half-hearted applause for Kim, according to the country’s news agency. Trump suggested some Democrats were “treasonous” because of their stony reaction to his State of the Union address. Of course, things like military parades take the focus off real acts of possible treason, like conspiring with Russia in the 2016 race.

If Trump truly cares about our military, he can use the money he’d waste on a Third World-style military parade to care for homeless vets. But if he forces his parade plans, perhaps we’ll get to see Trump review the troops in full military regalia, sporting gleaming medals for hugest lie or biggest ego.

Presidents Day is intended to honor past presidents and the democracy they defended. Unfortunately, Trump’s behavior often seems to undermine the nation’s principles.

Luckily, presidents come and go. American democracy is — hopefully — forever.

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