Cake, Lies and Audiotape

While a paltry 18 percent of his fellow New Yorkers voted for President Donald Trump, we are all thrilled to celebrate his birthday. Assuming his birth certificate is real, Trump turns 71 today.

What’s that? You’re not thrilled? What if I tell you wife Melania’s gift to him was moving into the White House Sunday?

Which means we can stop paying six figures daily to protect her and their son at Trump Tower. Yes, the government recently allocated $68 million to help repay us, but whether we will ever get fully reimbursed remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, it’s a good bet Trump will enjoy a royal chunk of chocolate cake today. When the U.S. military launched a missile strike on Syria while he ate dessert with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, Trump seemed more excited about “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen.” Don’t be surprised if he has that same chef flown up to Washington to bake his favorite cake — hopefully not at taxpayers’ expense.

Unfortunately, Trump has bigger problems than cake on his birthday. He knows the story of his presidency has not been the majestic wall he promised, with Mexico paying for it (never will happen), or a Trumpcare health plan in which “no one will lose coverage” (24 million Americans could).

No, the constant theme of his presidency is unfulfilled promises and lies. Whether you believed James Comey last week when he said Trump told “lies, pure and simple,” or Trump when he insisted that it was Comey who lied under oath, we know that only one can be telling the truth.

Trump has now made a “100 percent” offer to testify under oath. If he does, he’ll be grilled about what he knew about secret contacts between his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russia, as well as back-channel contacts between that nation and others on his team. Did he secretly tape Comey? Then let’s hear it! If Trump testifies and lies, it’s perjury — and the likely end to his presidency.

Mr. President, it was bold of you to put that offer out there. Unfortunately, birthday boy, you can’t have your cake and eat it. The time has come to put up or shut up. Happy birthday!

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Where Everybody Doesn’t Know Your Name

It takes all kinds, and that’s what makes New York great. At the same time, gentrification has created resentments that can bubble up without warning.

The corner of Prospect Park West and 16th Street in Brooklyn’s Windsor Terrace is a prime example.

On one corner sits Farrell’s, the legendary cop and working-class watering hole that opened in the 1930s and is reputed to serve more Budweiser than any NYC tavern.

Across the street is The Double Windsor, a more upscale neighborhood hipster tavern that launched in 2009, offering an extensive menu and microbrews.

Management at both establishments radiates good will. “Sure the neighborhood has changed, but still good people,” Farrell’s co-owner Jimmy Houlihan cheerfully told me.

At The Double Windsor, bartender Khara Gilvey agreed: “The owners and bartenders at Farrell’s are kind to me.”

But scratch just under the surface, and the picture becomes a bit less rosy.

“They call us leftovers,” said Ronnie Homan, a regular at Farrell’s. “I was brought up in this neighborhood, but some of the newcomers look down on us, like we don’t belong here.”

Nearby, Ann Marie Perry nodded her head. “I’ve been coming to Farrell’s for decades, since I was 16,” Perry said. “Oops, maybe I shouldn’t say that . . .

“This neighborhood has turned into Yuppieville, and I don’t mean that as a compliment,” Perry said. “No offense to that place across the street, but the real men drink here.”

In The Double Windsor, “that place across the street,” some regulars returned fire. “Who wants to hang out with a bunch of retired cops?” asked a young woman who identified herself only as Mel. “I don’t come to a bar to be policed. No thanks!”

Her friend June jumped in. “For years, the Farrell’s crowd would stand outside on the sidewalk and guzzle their containers of beer,” she said. “If we did that, we’d be busted. Double standard.”

When I told Mel that some Farrell’s regulars feel some of the new crowd look down on them, she said, “Maybe they have a complex.”

Call me cynical, but I don’t see these two taverns having joint picnics in Prospect Park anytime soon.

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No News Is Bad News

Donald Trump has called the news media “the enemy of the American people” and even banned major outlets from some press briefings. If the trend continues, here’s a peek at what a 2018 presidential news conference might look like:

Trump: “Good morning, media flunkies! I mean, fearless journalists. Now that I’ve gotten rid of the fake media, I’m open to discuss anything, including that Russian collaboration nonsense. OK, the gentleman from Tass.”

“Thank you, fearless leader. I notice the price of Russian vodka in America has gone way down. Did you have anything to do with this wonderful news?

Trump: “You bet — the art of the deal. I lift sanctions against Russia and cripple NATO, and you guys give us vodka at half price. A win-win! OK, the reporter wearing the Make America Great Again cap is next.”

“After you dumped Sean Spicer and named that congressman who body-slammed a reporter as your press secretary, some complained that you sent a chilling message to the media. Your response?”

Trump: “Of course it did! That’s why we’ve placed bouncers at the doors. I see the gentleman from Breitbart has a question.”

“Sir, how is your effort to repeal the First Amendment and end democracy as we know it coming along?”

Trump: “Splendidly and bigly! Since we put reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC and CNN in Guantánamo, you guys notice the difference, right? Who needs the First Amendment? Did a free press really keep us honest? Tell me the truth, do I sound more honest to you?”

“Not at all, sir!”

Trump: “Exactly! OK, the babe from Fox News in the tight red sweater has been patient. Oh, and you’re a ‘10,’ by the way.”

“Thank you, sir! My question is, are you really 72 years old? Because you look so youthful and virile!”

Trump: “So true. As my doctor verifies, I am in amazing shape. He’s never seen anything like it. And for those who want to see my medical records, I promise to release them very soon. Probably the day after I release my tax returns. Hah–kidding!

“OK, someone from the Trump Observer has a question. Mr. Kushner?”

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Obesity Gets a Boost From the White House

Americans love to chant, “We’re No. 1!” But sometimes that’s not a good thing — like being the fattest nation in the world. Yep, that’s us. USA! USA!

According to a recent survey from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the U.S. obesity rate has reached a frightening 38.2% of the population older than 15.

Our closest competitor in national chubbiness is Mexico, which owns a 32.4% obesity rate. Can it overtake us? Not if our fast-food loving president has anything to say about it.

President Donald Trump responded to the national crisis by putting the brakes on Michelle Obama’s program to fight childhood obesity. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue has said we will be slowing her initiative aimed at improving school lunch nutrition.

But Trump isn’t the only politician who scoffs at such efforts. When running for president, Sen. Ted Cruz promised that “if [his wife] Heidi is first lady, French fries are coming back into the classroom.” The former first lady’s food program also angered New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (insert joke here). “It’s none of her business!” he thundered.

Do they care that childhood obesity has more than tripled in America since the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?

Meanwhile, fewer obese adult Americans are trying to lose weight. “Socially accepted normal body weight is shifting toward heavier weight,” Jian Zhang, a public health researcher at Georgia Southern University, told The Associated Press. “As more people around us are getting heavier, we simply believe we are fine, and no need to do anything with it.”

Except for the heart disease, diabetes and other life-shortening illnesses obesity causes. But hey, that’s what denial is for.

At least NYC does a bit better, with a 22% obesity rate. The fact that New Yorkers walk everywhere and climb subway steps daily plays no small role. Still, 22% is too high. In Japan, for example, only 3.7% of the population is obese.

It’s time to face reality. If you’re still not convinced being overweight shortens life, check out the seniors you see strolling around the city. Almost all of them are trim. Gee, where did all the obese ones go?

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All Of This For Only $2.75?

Is it me, or is the subway system out of control? Aggressive panhandlers and other miscreants are back in force, and delays are rampant.

This week I was affected by both. As the uptown 1 train thundered into the 23rd Street station, I spotted a few empty seats, and rushed to the door of that car. I should have known. Sprawled across the seats was a foul-smelling man spewing profanity and scratching like crazy.

At 59th Street, the guy rose and stood by the door, deciding whether to depart, stepping in and out. Since the train was frozen at the station for 10 minutes, he had plenty of time. Finally, the conductor barked, “Stand clear of the closing door!” as the entire car silently rooted for Mr. Itchy to get lost. I can’t say we breathed a sigh of relief when he departed, because the car still reeked too badly to breathe deeply, but we were relieved.


Seconds later, a tall, lanky guy entered. He waited for the doors to shut before he started his all-too-familiar spiel: “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want to hurt anyone . . .”


“I’m not going to lie to you people. I recently was released from state prison . . .”

Please, lie to us.

The train ground to a halt again before the 72nd Street station, giving him ample opportunity to finish his bellowing speech, then berate us for being so cheap. Yet another subway delay. Meanwhile, from 23rd until I got off at 86th, not a single uniformed cop entered the car. We were on our own.

Yes, a typical day on the subway — and that’s the problem. Aggressive panhandlers have little fear of arrest. Train delays have tripled in the past five years because infrastructure is crumbling. Many blame Mayor Bill de Blasio for the increasingly inefficient service, but control rests with the state. Last week. subway riders, sick of the delays and disregard, protested outside of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s city office.

How do other nations manage to offer clean, safe and reliable subway service, while we can’t? Like the universal health care those nations provide, the solution is obvious — but our priorities clearly are not.

Federal funding would certainly help. Don’t hold your breath.

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Happy Birthday, Stephen: You’ve Come a Long Way

Raised in the deep south and the youngest of 11 children, Stephen was never like the other kids. Somewhat of a loner, he escaped into fantasy by reading science fiction and playing Dungeons & Dragons.

His South Carolina upbringing included a strong Catholic faith, which he continues to this day. Watching TV as a child, Stephen realized early on that southerners were often depicted as stupid, and he made a concerted effort to not sound southern by studying speech patterns of anchormen on the national news shows.

When he was ten years old, Stephen’s dad and two of his brothers were killed in the crash of an Eastern Airlines plane attempting to land in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As a teenager, Stephen dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, but surgery on a perforated eardrum left him deaf in his right ear and unable to pursue a career involving scuba diving.

Instead, he turned his attention elsewhere, enrolling as a theater major at Northwestern University. After graduation, he joined Chicago’s Second City improv group, and eventually found a measure of success on the TV sketch comedy show Exit 57.

One thing led to another, and Stephen joined The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn in 1997. Two years later, Jon Stewart took over as host, the show became sharply political, and Stephen’s career began to skyrocket.

In 2005, he hosted his own show, The Colbert Report, playing a Bill O’Reilly type blowhard. In 2015 he took over for David Letterman as the host of The Late Show on CBS.

Trailing Jimmy Fallon in the ratings, Colbert’s show shot to the top soon after Donald Trump was elected president. Colbert attacked Trump’s excesses head on, in biting comedy monologues and skits.

Last week, Colbert fiercely defended widely respected newsman John Dickerson, a CBS colleague belittled and banished by Trump, calling Trump a “presi-dunce” who is “turning into a real prick-tator” (and this was before Trump fired FBI director James Comey). Colbert also made what some called a homophobic remark.

Now the FCC may step in (you know how sensitive the Trump administration is about bigoted slurs) but the comic remains unapologetic. “I have the jokes, he has the launch codes,” said Colbert, “so it’s a fair fight.”

This Saturday, May 13th, is Stephen Colbert’s 53rd birthday. The shy southern kid has come a long way.


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Is This the Biggest Con in American History?

Who doesn’t love charming con artists? Sure, people who’ve been scammed by them, but let’s not nitpick.

Check forger and fake airline pilot Frank Abagnale was immortalized in the movie “Catch Me If You Can.” Charles Ponzi tricked investors out of millions in the early 1900s by transferring money from new investors to existing ones. And of course, Bernie Madoff, who took the Ponzi scheme to dizzying levels.

During the presidential primaries, Sen. Marco Rubio called Donald Trump a con artist. Was he right? After Trump launched his tax code initiative last week, which would balloon his bank account and our deficit, more than a few people squirmed. The New York Times’s editorial board labeled it “President Trump’s Laughable Plan to Cut His Own Taxes.”

But is this fair? Is Trump using our nation’s highest office to enrich himself? As the Trump team says about its Russian connections, is there any evidence?

Good question. For starters, Trump has virtually ignored the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits him from accepting gifts or other benefits from foreign leaders.

“That’s money from foreign governments going into our president’s pocket while he is making decisions that affect those countries,” Zephyr Teachout, an associate law professor at Fordham University, told National Public Radio.

While China has granted Ivanka Trump trademarks, the Trump family brand has been promoted in numerous and often dubious ways. Trump has jetted down to a Trump property at least nine times since becoming president, and the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago has doubled to $200,000. Meanwhile, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway hawked Ivanka’s products on Fox News.

“It’s very possible I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Trump told Forbes in 2000. Any evidence his thinking has changed? To dodge complaints over conflict-of-interest rules, Trump has supposedly turned over his businesses to sons, vowing that he wouldn’t even discuss it with them. Hmm . . .

But as son Eric Trump told the Times, “The stars have all aligned. I think our brand’s the hottest it’s ever been.”

I wonder why?

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Will de Blasio Thank Trump if he’s Reelected?

A year ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio was struggling. His approval ratings were low and potential rivals were smelling blood. The carriage horse fiasco had hurt the mayor, while the taint of corruption haunted him.

But as 2016 drew to a close, de Blasio received an early, unexpected holiday gift. Donald Trump was elected president.

And suddenly, our sleepy mayor was energized. He will protect New Yorkers against this heartless ogre!

But isn’t homelessness still on the rise? And what about that nasty City Hall corruption scandal? Trump, the opposite of “no drama Obama,” has swept these stories off the front page.

Then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was putting heat on de Blasio about trading political favors for donations. The corruption probe was ongoing against the mayor, but last month he was suddenly pulled to safety.

Trump fired Bharara, who also was investigating Trump’s Health and Human Resources secretary, Tom Price, for improperly trading health care stocks. Five days later, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced there wouldn’t be any charges against de Blasio.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers disenchanted with the mayor now have a juicier target for their anger. Hey, maybe de Blasio isn’t so bad after all. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?

In August 2016, the mayor’s approval ratings had sunk to a dismal 42 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. By last month, the numbers had reversed, with 50 percent approving and just 42 percent disapproving of the Trump-bashing de Blasio.

So what once promised to be a dogfight for re-election seems to have turned into a leisurely stroll in the park for Mayor Bill. Potential Democratic opponents have retreated, and no strong Republican candidate has emerged. Although he’ll never admit it, you’d better believe the mayor knows when and why his fortunes suddenly turned.

So on Nov. 7, after de Blasio is elected to his second term, he will thank his wife, family and the other usual suspects. But you can safely bet he won’t be thanking the man who made it all possible: Donald Trump.

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Why The Aliens Aren’t Worried About Us

Prepare for departure! And I don’t mean on United Airlines, whose slogan now reads, “Fly the friendly skies. Ha ha, just kidding.”

I mean, “To the moon, Alice!” Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, was recently discovered to have nearly perfect conditions for life, NASA said last week.

“We now know that Enceladus has almost all of the ingredients . . . to support life as we know it on Earth,” said Linda Spilker, a scientist from NASA’s Cassini project, which made the discovery. Enceladus offers life-sustaining hydrogen, a saltwater ocean and an 18-hole golf course. The first two are actually true.

However, there are no signs yet that Enceladus can support intelligent life. Perfect! We have plenty of less-than-intelligent life to shoot its way. Just look at how some human specimens greeted this news from NASA: “Great — send the Commies up there!”

NASA also reported that the Hubble telescope found evidence that Jupiter’s moon Europa is spouting water plumes similar to those on Enceladus, as we continue to explore the possibility of life in outer space. The agency has disclosed plans to launch a mission to Europa in the 2020s. “We need to probe [both of] them,” said NASA’s director of planetary science, Jim Green.

But do we really want to introduce our way of life to neighbors in our solar system? The hatreds? The MOAB (mother of all bombs)? The Kardashians? And while we continue to “probe them,” how about the possibility of hyperintelligent space aliens probing us?

Perhaps they are checking us out as you read this. But according to famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, we have nothing to fear from aliens light years smarter than we are.

“A sufficiently intelligent civilization would have positively no interest in us at all,” said Tyson at the 2016 Starmus Festival in Spain. They’d view us “the same way as when you’re walking down a street and there’s a worm.” You might want to kill a few, he surmises, but you’d soon get bored.

“Maybe our biggest protection against being killed by alien civilizations is their conclusion there’s no intelligent life on Earth,” he said.

Wow, Tyson really knows how to hurt an earthling.

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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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