May I Have a Word With You?

Quetzal. Know what it means? If you’re a Scrabble player, you might. Thursday is National Scrabble Day, which reminds me how much pleasure being a Scrabble nerd has given me since childhood__and how stupid we’ve become as a nation.

Sure, some words are a waste of time to learn. Did you know that “za” is a legit word, slang meaning pizza? Did anyone ever asked for a slice of za?

But building vocabulary is important, and a thirst for knowledge even more so. Love of learning has always been a cornerstone of American innovation and world leadership.

Unfortunately, we also have a parallel history of anti-intellectualism, and it’s getting worse. “Idiot America” author Charles Pierce wrote “the rise of Idiot America today represents…the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is good.”

It’s no accident that the majority of students at New York City’s elite public schools Bronx Science and Stuyvesant are Asian immigrants, or the children of immigrants. Meanwhile, the children of Indian-American immigrants dominate the National Spelling Bee

When American basketball stars Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O’Neal recently insisted that the world is flat, many howled with laughter. But too many of those chuckling scoff at other settled science. Our most watched news network, Fox News, regularly mocks climate change science, and has even suggested “fair and balanced” teaching of evolution to include creationism.

Hey, why not also have flat earth proponents present their case in American classrooms? After all, those who have fallen off the edge of the earth can’t speak for themselves, right?

Pierce was inspired to write Idiot America at the Creation Museum of Kentucky, which displays a dinosaur wearing a saddle. But this isn’t about a war between religious fundamentalists and scientists: it’s about glorifying ignorance.

President Trump has called global warming “a hoax, created by the Chinese.” At last week’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the subject was scrupulously avoided. In the battle to save the planet, America is going AWOL. It’s flat-out embarrassing.

Oh, and quetzal? It’s a brightly colored species of tropical bird. But don’t worry about learning the word__it may become extinct if global warming remains unchecked. Talk about angry birds!

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The Real Housewives of the White House

What comes to mind when you think of conflict, chaos, extravagance and treachery? Hollywood? Politics? Perhaps Ramona, Teresa, and Bethenny of Bravo’s The Real Housewives?

Or Ivanka, Melania, Kellyanne, and Omarosa of the Real White House?

It’s getting harder and harder to separate reality shows from reality.

Has Countess LuAnn jetted off to Cancun? Is Melania at Mar-a-Largo? And how did Donald Trump’s controversial Apprentice contestant Omarosa Manigault wind up in the White House, recently informing PBS’ Frontline that “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump?”

For liberals and some moderate Republicans baffled by how Trump was elected, I suggest watching The Real Housewives series. It’s no accident that the franchise is such a cash cow for Bravo. Network president Andy Cohen recently called Trump a “first season Real Housewife”, and told NBC’s Seth Meyers that “there are so many parallels” between the Housewives and Trump’s election.

Why would anyone enjoy watching narcissistic, entitled brats living in gated communities go at each other? For the same reason Trump is in the White House: Whether in the movies, on TV or stage, we can’t get enough of conflict, drama and chutzpah. I’ve learned the hard way that without injecting constant conflict into my plays, people start to tune out. It’s just human nature. Ask any actor: The juiciest role is the villain.

No one knows this better than Trump. Even at 70, he is the embodiment of the modern TV reality star. His Apprentice followed the same script as his election, knocking out competitors one by one. Whatever your politics, it’s undeniable that the Trump presidency has been virtually non-stop conflict and drama. That’s no accident__Trump instinctively knows how to exploit people’s craving for never-ending spectacle and suspense. And it’s paid off for him “bigly”, both in entertainment and politics.

Al Gore might have made a fine president. Unfortunately, he was also a crashing bore. We live in a short attention span world, and we’re not going back anytime soon. If the Democrats nominate another Gore or John Kerry or yes, Hillary Clinton in 2020, they deserve whatever they get. I’m not saying it’s fair, or even right__but it’s definitely reality.







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Trump Has Resigned! April Fool!

Nothing says love more than making fools of your loved ones. On Saturday, thousands of misguided mischief-seekers will attempt to prove both their wit and affection by pulling April Fools’ Day pranks on their siblings, friends or partner. A word to the wise: this can be carried too far.

For example, in 2013, 18-year-old Tori Wheeler of Oklahoma pranked her boyfriend, Derek Bauer, by announcing she was pregnant, according to The New York Times. When Bauer reacted angrily, Wheeler pulled a knife on him. OK, pretty funny so far. But Bauer then called the cops on Wheeler. Enraged at his lack of humor, she cut him on the neck, which required seven stitches. Arresting officers said Bauer also had two bite marks. April fool!

So no fake pregnancy jokes, OK?

What I suggest instead are tasteful pranks that anyone would appreciate. Rearrange a close friend’s furniture while he or she is sleeping, or better yet, paint it all purple. Surprise! Or move your brother’s car around the block, and when he reports it stolen and the cops show up, yell, “April fool!” That’s when the fun really begins!

In my old trade reporter job, we used to send the new guy up to the roof to wait for the airmail. Yes, just mean and stupid 364 days a year, but a real knee-slapper when pulled on April 1.

New York City provides an endless supply of opportunities for April Fools’ mischief. For example, the MTA can shake its humorless reputation by announcing, “No Service Changes This Weekend” on its website. Then when you board an F train to Prospect Park, it skips 12 stops and winds up in Coney Island, as the conductor blurts, “April fool!” (and May, and June).

Or maybe, for just one day, make all the subway announcements audible? How about beside the bike lanes, post separate lanes for tricycles?

But we New Yorkers are pretty savvy. Would any of us fall for one of these stupid pranks?

By the way, to gather material for future columns, the editors have notified me that I’ll be going on an around-the-world, all-expenses paid trip, beginning April 1.

Only three more days!

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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

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’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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