Palm Beach Residents Getting Heated Over Trump Visits

Escaping the NYC cold wave down in South Florida, I dropped by Palm Beach’s Mar-a-Lago vicinity to check the temperature of the locals on President Trump’s non-stop visits to his seaside palace.

Many were boiling. As if residents don’t have enough problems with their eroding beaches and snowbirds clogging their roads and favorite restaurants, they now have Trump regularly swooping in (five of the past seven weekends) and wreaking havoc on their community.

“This is getting way out of hand,” Palm Beach resident Mike Blazic told me angrily. “We’re paying for police overtime, additional services — our taxes will rise to cover him coming down here all the time. It hurts our economy.” Palm Beach County has paid more than $1 million for security, overtime pay and other Trump-related expenses in the past few months, according to Money.com.

New Yorkers can relate. From Election Day to inauguration, it cost us $24 million to provide security at Trump Tower, and we continue to pay six figures a day to protect first lady Melania Trump and their son, Barron. Rep. Carolyn Maloney has asked Congress to reimburse NYC.

Meanwhile, Palm Beach workers and businesses are suffering financially. Landscapers and pool cleaners are banned from the island after 3 p.m. on Fridays through May 1, and nearby Lantana Airport is on lockdown. It bleeds money every time Trump jets in for meetings and rounds of golf.

Trump mocked President Barack Obama for wasting taxpayers’ money on far fewer trips. But that was yesterday. The Mar-a-Lago visits provide free publicity for the Trump-owned resort, and initiation fees for membership were recently doubled to $200,000.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner is attempting to designate Mar-a-Lago as a “municipal service benefit unit” and asking the resort to help defray the costs of Trump’s visits. “These trips are costing us a fortune, and we should be compensated for it,” says resident Richard Horowitz.

I wouldn’t hold my breath, guys. But hang in there, Palm Beachers, a solution may be in sight. If Trump’s proposal to slash the Environmental Protection Agency goes through, Mar-a-Lago will be under water before you know it.

 

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Seriously Liar, Your Pants are on Fire

Either one of the stupidest pranks in history took place last week__or a miracle.

In case you missed it, a lawyer’s pants burst into flames in a Miami courtroom while defending a client on arson charges. No, that’s not a joke. The lawyer, Stephen Gutierrez, claims that a faulty battery in an e-cigarette in his pocket suddenly exploded. Gutierrez denies deliberately setting it off to prove his case that his client’s car could have“spontaneously combusted.”

Hmm, sounds a little fishy. But what if he’s telling the truth?

Then this moves from a classic “Flori-duh” tale to the greatest story ever told__undeniable proof of the existence of God. Imagine if this is a trial run from heaven?

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if every time a lawyer, or unfaithful partner, or yes, politician lied, their pants burst into flames? Do you see where I’m going with this?

Just a few days before Gutierrez ignited, about 90 miles up the road, President Donald Trump was furiously tweeting from his Mar-a-Lago retreat. Without offering a shred of proof, Trump claimed that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. After a series of rapid-fire accusations, he suddenly stopped. Did his pajamas spontaneously combust?

Were these tweets aimed to deflect attention from reports that members of Trump’s team held covert meetings with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign?

Is Trump blithely flinging pants-on-fire style fibs about everything from “millions of illegal voters” to the media deliberately underestimating the size of his Inauguration crowd to make us cynical of all news sources, lumping fringe sites with legitimate, established media sources as “fake news?”

Trusting our president is vital for democracy. If we suddenly were to attack North Korea, or Iran, some will wonder if it’s for legitimate purposes, or a more sinister deflection.

As evidence that members of the Trump campaign secretly met with Russia officials during our election process continues to be revealed, a special prosecutor seems likely to be called in. And it’s quite likely Trump himself will be required to testify.

If so, I’ve got the perfect lawyer for him. Gutierrez’ burns were superficial, and he’s ready to go!

 

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Time to Put Daylight Saving To Bed?

How do you “spring ahead” when you’re exhausted?

You’ve got just a few days to solve that riddle, because this Sunday, daylight saving (not “savings”) time springs upon us, again.

Sure, in 2017, losing an hour of sleep seems the least of our problems. But DST does affect us, often in dangerous ways, according to a number of studies. Some have even questioned the need for it.

When we roll the clocks ahead from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday, it not only costs us a precious hour of sleep, but stresses our minds and bodies long past that. A spike in heart attacks has been linked to the first week of DST, according to an American Journal of Cardiology study.

All this from losing an hour of sleep? We insomniacs can’t help but laugh. I’m often up half the night, but on the plus side, it gives me extra time for things, like writing this column in the dark (insert obvious joke here). I suspect the greatest impact in NYC will be thousands of people showing up late for brunch.

Some believe we should roll back the clock 60 years this Sunday to honor President Donald Trump’s mission to “Make America great again” by sweeping us back to the 1950s. For some reason, many women, gays and people of color aren’t thrilled with that quest.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio seems to have scaled back his “Make America late again” campaign, making more of an effort lately to show up for events on time. Hopefully, moving the clocks ahead one hour doesn’t cause a relapse.

As for the rest of us, the response to DST is decidedly mixed.

My girlfriend hates it. “I need my early morning jog — now I’ll be going out in the dark!” she complains. Many will go to work on Monday in a stupor.

So do we get rid of daylight saving time?

According to Business Insider, car crashes tend to decrease from March through November because it’s still light when people drive home from work or school. Energy use is reduced, serotonin levels boosted and depression lifted.

So I vote yes on DST. We can all use a little more sunlight in our lives. Especially now.

 

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From the Hood to the White House: “Stop Snitching!”

A crime wave terrorizes a neighborhood. A brave citizen identifies the gang leaders behind it to the authorities, and the perpetrators are caught and locked up. The whistleblower gets a medal of courage from the mayor, as we all cheer.

Nice story. But today, such heroes are often vilified — from the hood to the White House.

In Baltimore, in 2004, a “Stop Snitchin’ ” campaign gained national attention when a DVD of that name began to circulate. Local gang members in the video threatened violence against anyone who reported their crimes.

Since then, a number of rappers have popularized the “Stop Snitchin’ ” theme. Harlem-born rapper Cam’ron told “60 Minutes” he’d never “snitch” on a criminal, even a serial killer, because telling the police would only “hurt his record sales.”

But the “Stop Snitchin’ ” message doesn’t emanate just from the hood.

“The spotlight has finally been put on lowlife leakers! They will be caught!”

Guess who issued that threat? Hint: He’s also a native New Yorker, but now lives in Washington, D.C.

Does President Donald Trump realize that message makes him seem less concerned about members of his team illegally communicating with Russia and more concerned about who spilled the beans?

Trump recently blasted the FBI for not finding out who told CNN that Trump campaign staffers were talking to Russian officials during the 2016 race. “The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers,’ ” Trump tweeted. “Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S.,” he tweeted. FIND NOW.”

Yes, track down those dirty snitches! They could get me in real trouble!

In this frightening new world, illegal activity isn’t the problem, it’s bringing it to light. As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. So close those damn shades!

From Frank Serpico, who exposed corruption in the NYPD in the 1970s, to Jeffrey Wigand, who revealed tobacco companies hiding the lethal effects of cigarettes in the 1990s, many whistleblowers were put through living hell before later being recognized as heroes. Do we really want a repeat of this in 2017?

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My Dream Interview With Kellyanne Conway

I scored a huge, exclusive interview with Kellyanne Conway, adviser to President Donald Trump! OK, it might have been a Conway impersonator, but she sure sounded like her. It went like this:

MV: Why does the president insist there was widespread voter fraud when there is no evidence of it? And that he won the Electoral College vote by the biggest margin since Reagan, when that’s not true?

KC: It’s ridiculous to say the popular vote is more important than the Electoral College vote.

MV: Huh? I didn’t say that. I’m not questioning the Electoral College results.

KC: Some people are.

MV: I’m not. Why don’t you answer my question?

KC: Why don’t you answer mine?

MV: OK, let’s move on.

KC: MoveOn is a left-wing, Trump-hating group. Why do you promote it?

MV: I just said, “Let’s move on.”

KC: Exactly.

MV: Fine, let’s proceed. When you said, “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff” after Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump’s line, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said you were being “counseled” about government ethics rules.  Did you mind that, and is there bad blood between you and Spicer?

KC: Absolutely not! More fake news. We get along great. And I get very angry when people like you say that he’s a crackhead.

MV: I never said Spicer was a crackhead.

KC: Did you say he wasn’t?

MV: What? No!

KC: I rest my case.

MV: Let’s move — uh, proceed. Why does the president keep bashing the media? Sen. John McCain says a free press is vital to democracy.

KC: Fake news.

MV: It’s not! Every president is criticized and questioned — that’s part of the deal.

KC: You mean “Art of the Deal.” Go out and buy it!

MV: Last question: After repeated probes into Benghazi, isn’t one called for about Russian interference in our election process?

KC: I didn’t say that.

MV: I know you didn’t. I’m asking you.

KC: Why don’t you ask me about Hillary’s emails?

MV: Because Clinton’s not the president. She lost. You won.

KC: Aha! Say it again! Who won?

MV: You guys did.

KC: By the biggest margin in history!

MV: Thanks Kellyanne. I’m going to take a nap.

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In Midst of Chaos, Donald Sees Dollar Signs

Even before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, he was gleefully picking his slogan for re-election.

“Are you ready?” he asked during a Washington Post interview. “Keep America Great, exclamation point. Get my lawyer!”

Oh, happy day. But just a slogan for 2020 won’t do. What about his post-presidency years? Not to worry. Trump already has set the table for that — literally. Remember when candidate Trump held a televised news conference in front of a display table piled high with Trump Steaks, Trump wine and Trump water? Imagine the possibilities. How about this slogan, Mr. President, “Trump Steaks: Hail to the Beef!”? You’re welcome.

A master at branding, Trump will find previously unimaginable ways to exploit and monetize his presidency. Don’t be shocked when Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue is renamed “President Trump Tower.”

He’s already using his bully pulpit to attack those he sees as hurting the family business. When Nordstrom decided to stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s fashion lines because of declining sales, Trump tweeted, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom,” and his aides piled on.

“This is misuse of public office for private gains,” Richard Painter, chief ethics officer for President George W. Bush, told The Daily Beast. Norm Eisen, chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, did him one better. “This is the behavior of a Mafia don . . . not the president of the United States,” he told MSNBC.

Hey guys, chill out! Don’t you see what a golden financial opportunity this presidency presents? The first lady’s lawyer does. After The Daily Mail published a blogger’s unfounded allegation that Melania Trump once worked as an escort, her lawyer, Charles Harden, sought $150 million in damages for hurting her “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” as a famous person.

After a month of pure chaos, culminating with his national security chief Michael Flynn being forced out after lying to the FBI and American Intelligence about having secretive talks with Russia, Trump sees only “White House leaks” about it as the problem, along with “so-called judges” taking our checks and balances democracy seriously.  Treason? What treason?

So back to something more important__the 2020 slogan. Do you like “Keep America Great!”? Have any other ideas? How about “Give Me Another Chance”? Or “Won’t Get Fooled Again”?

I have to admit, “Keep America Great!” is a catchy slogan, and captures the hopes of the majority of Americans for Trump’s presidency.

Short and sweet. Well, at least short.

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The Worst Job in America

Hate your job? Looking to hop into another field? Think twice before you consider hopping into mine.

According to Careercast.com’s Jobs Rated report, weighing such factors as stress, income and future, reporter was rated as 2016’s worst job in America (taxi driver and pest control also made the bottom 10). Why do I get the feeling the 2017 list will have a new No. 1: Media flak for President Donald Trump?

Yes, I’m talking about you, Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer!

Fresh out of the gate, White House Press Secretary Spicer was sent out on a kamikaze “Are you going to believe your lying eyes or what we tell you?” mission. He scolded the media for reporting Trump’s inaugural crowd was smaller than President Barack Obama’s.

When reporters said it was simply the truth, Spicer said aerial photos of the event were “intentionally framed . . . to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.” Yes, yooge crowds! Except they weren’t.

Soon after, he tried to defend Trump’s claim that he lost the popular vote because “three to five million voted illegally.” Zero evidence of this. Spicer sweated it out, batting back reporters’ challenges before bolting off the stage.

Meanwhile, Trump senior adviser Conway has been scrambling around on Sunday news shows, trying to make her boss’s latest nutty, self-serving utterances seem normal. Why did Trump ask attendees at The National Prayer Breakfast to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger and higher “New Celebrity Apprentice” ratings? Uhm, it would create more jobs?

Even Conway admits it’s not easy. Before the election, she approved her portrayal by Kate McKinnon on “Saturday Night Live” as someone frantically putting out fires in a “Kellyanne Conway’s Day Off” sketch, saying McKinnon “nailed it.”

Conway has learned being a media flak for politicians is a stressful, thankless job. She previously worked for presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, who called Trump a “pathological liar.” Now Conway’s the one who has to defend what she called the administration’s “alternative facts,” and is paying the price. She admitted on Fox News that she “hasn’t slept in a month.”

Join the crowd.

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Why I Care So Much About the Super Bowl

When I was young and confused, I dated someone who mocked my football obsession. Why do I care so much about a bunch of oversized oafs beating the crap out of each other?

Cut to years later: She’s long gone, but the “oafs” happily remain. And the answer to her question will be on full display this Super Bowl Sunday.

These are challenging times, and we need distractions more than ever. The Super Bowl provides that and more, from powerhouse teams to pageantry to Lady Gaga.

The game steadily has grown to become one of our biggest (if undeclared) national holidays, right up there with Christmas and the Fourth of July. Last year’s audience made it the third-most-watched show in TV history.

Still, some wonder why we get so excited about this distraction from serious subjects and ask, What about climate change? Worldwide famine? Donald Trump?

Bulletin: I can hold two, even three thoughts in my head at once. Watching football recharges my batteries to fight the good fight, and the timing of this year’s Super Bowl couldn’t be better. Hope is at least temporarily renewed when I and a friend or family member with radically different political outlooks wind up cheering for the same team and gleefully high-fiving after a score.

Even those with limited knowledge of the game can take part in the Super Bowl betting pools. BTW, why does it seem that the person who knows the least about football always wins the grand prize?

Whether it’s sports, “The Walking Dead” or “The Housewives of (Wherever),” we all need our mindless escapes. I have a football-betting buddy; each week, the loser takes the winner to dinner. Once he called me on a Sunday morning in strangely hushed tones, mumbling “Jets plus six, Patriots minus two.” I asked why he was whispering, and he told me he was at a funeral. There’s a man with his priorities straight!

So whether you’re a fan of the Patriots or Falcons, or don’t even know who they are, Sunday’s game is guaranteed to offer a great time with friends and family, and a welcome escape from reality. Who could ask for anything more?

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Is the MTA Taking Us For a Ride?

As you stand across from a mouth-breather with halitosis, gagging on your subway ride to work as the train crawls at a snail’s pace, you might think: This can’t get any worse.

Wrong! The MTA is meeting today to finalize raising the base fare from $2.75 to $3, and the 30 day unlimited from $116.50 to $121.

Since 2009, fares have gone up every other year. To get some perspective, it cost fifty cents to ride the subway in 1980. According to InflationData.com, that fifty cents has the same buying power as $1.46 in 2016. So adjusted for inflation and giving the MTA four cents extra, the fare should be $1.50 today, right?

Wrong again! Haven’t you noticed the faster service? Less crowding? Fewer breakdowns? Me neither. Which makes me wonder how the MTA justifies yet another hike. Retiring MTA chairman Tom Prendergast says the increase is necessary to maintain safety and reliability.

Some blame the fare boosts on inflated pensions and health care costs for MTA workers. Others point to the lack of adequate government funding.

Mismanagement of the MTA, which is billions in debt, certainly doesn’t help.     The grossly underestimated cost of the Second Avenue Subway is but one example. If the MTA were a private business, it would have gone bankrupt years ago.

“We’re keeping fares and tolls as low as possible,” insists Prendergast. Tolls are certainly “as low as possible” on the East River bridge crossings. They’re free.

This creates constant backups on the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, while the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel ($8 cash toll, $5.54 E-Z Pass) is often virtually empty.

Last year, two bills were introduced that would remedy this situation. Modeled on a plan by Sam Schwartz’s Move NY coalition, the legislation would install tolls on the East River bridges (while lowering other tolls). This would not only balance traffic flow, but raise substantial revenues to help keep subway fares down.

Subways provide city employers with a steady supply of labor. But when low wage workers are paying 10% of their salary to get to and from their jobs, something’s off track. Fair tolling and the new revenue stream it provides would go a long way in correcting this injustice.

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In an Alternate Universe…

Just days before Donald Trump is sworn in as president, imagine an alternate universe.

Hillary Clinton has captured the Electoral College vote (despite decisively losing the popular vote) and becomes our first female president. When Trump claims the election was “rigged,” influenced by FBI Director James Comey releasing damaging, unsubstantiated information on him in late October, Clinton mocks him as a sore loser and suggests he “get over it.”

Clinton names Marc Mezvinsky, her daughter Chelsea’s husband, as her senior adviser; Michael Moore as White House chief strategist; and Al Sharpton housing secretary.

Our madam president-elect insists her Cabinet nominees be rushed through for approval, then throws a tantrum when the federal Office of Government Ethics insists on properly vetting them.

When informed by our intelligence people that Russian operatives not only hacked into our election process, but also collected damaging information on Clinton that may be used to blackmail her, she praises Russia’s Vladimir Putin and smears American intelligence as “Nazi-like.” After Fox News questions her patriotism, she lambastes the network at a news conference, calling it “fake news.” Clinton warns that Fox and other “media liars” should be careful because, “I’m like, a really smart person!”

Clinton scolds a female reporter who brings up her husband’s sexual infidelities, saying it’s no big whoop, and brags that she herself enjoys sexually groping young men.

When a TV anchor questions this alarming admission, White House chief counsel Gloria Allred says it was just “girl talk.” Allred suggests that we “ignore what comes out of Hillary Clinton’s mouth,” and instead “look into her heart.”

Saturday Night Live continues to portray her as power hungry. Clinton sneers that the portrayal “stinks,” and that the show is “boring and unfunny” in a 3 a.m. email rant.

On Jan. 19, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) rises in Congress and warns his fellow senators that Hillary Clinton may be “The Manchurian Candidate,” a Russian puppet who can’t be allowed access to state secrets, let alone the nuclear codes. “We are in grave danger!” McCain cries in vain.

On Jan. 20, a grinning Hillary Clinton is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Whew! Thank goodness that didn’t happen, huh?

 

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