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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Wholesale Heroes

How do you know you’ve made it as an American icon? When your birthday’s declared a national holiday, as is Martin Luther King Jr.’s this coming weekend? No doubt. But only when your birthday is associated with shop-till-you-drop sales do you become a true American legend.

I Googled King’s birthday. Along with biographical information, “Cheap flights Martin Luther King Day” and “The best 15 sales of MLK Day” also popped up. When he made his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech, I doubt he dreamt of being associated with BOGOs and half-off sales.

But King isn’t alone. Prodded by retailers and travel groups, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, when George Washington posthumously had his birthday bumped from Feb. 22 to the third Monday in February. Columbus Day and Memorial Day were also moved to three-day weekends, with MLK Day added later. Congress declared it would bring “substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the nation.”

I’m not sold on the spiritual part, but there’s no doubting the economic boost the three-day holidays give retailers.

Presidents Day is officially designated Washington’s Birthday in New York, while called Washington-Lincoln Day in Colorado. In Alabama, the date is known as George Washington’s and Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, even though Jefferson was born in April. Guess they’re not big fans of Lincoln, for some reason.

Meanwhile, do we really honor America’s great leaders by running mattress sales? In recent years, some marketers have gotten a bit carried away, from Hennessy cognac advertising “drinks MLK Jr. would be proud of” to a “Freedom 2 Twerk” dance party in Michigan with a flier superimposing King’s head onto the body of a man wearing a thick gold chain, according to cbsnews.com. The event was eventually canceled.

You can’t blame retailers for holding sales on days when we have time to shop. But would it be too much to keep them in good taste?

So enjoy your three-day weekend. And while you’re out shopping or whatever, it wouldn’t hurt to spend a few minutes thinking about the message of the man it supposedly honors.

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Trump’s Lack of Humor Far From Funny

If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? Certainly not the president elect!

While most Democrats and a number of Republicans (even some who voted for him) are wary of Donald Trump for a number of reasons, including his coziness with Russia, mocking of a disabled reporter, etc., my gripe is a bit different.

As someone who started my creative career writing material for Rodney Dangerfield, a man who made a living joking about the lack of respect he gets, I have always been suspicious of those who can’t laugh at themselves.

A great example of someone who can’t take a joke or any criticism is Russian president Vladimir Putin. When the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot tried to make a satirical video entitled “Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland”, they were brutally attacked by the Cossack militia, whipped and hospitalized.

That type of behavior is foreign to us. Going back to Mark Twain, satire is as American as apple pie. Whether in politics or personal friendships, the ability to take a joke means something, and being thin-skinned is frowned upon.

Saturday Night Live has been mocking our presidents for decades, and most have been good sports about it.

Until now.

Chevy Chase made a name for himself playing former President Gerald Ford as a total klutz, doing clumsy pratfalls in a more extreme satire than Alec Baldwin’s impression of Trump.

But in a recent SNL sketch making fun of Trump’s impulsive tweeting, our president-elect instantly tweeted “Unwatchable! Totally bad! Not funny!” Irony, anyone?

Trump actually can be humorous, which helped him win the election. Unfortunately, that sense of humor doesn’t seem to extend to himself. So here’s some unsolicited advice: people soon tire of those who seem like they can give it, but can’t take it.

Mr. President-elect, after your mocking of President Obama and both Clintons, not to mention Republican primary opponents including Rick Perry (“he puts on glasses so people will think he’s smart”) and Mitt Romney (a “choker” who “walks like a penguin”) you should know more than anyone__that’s part of the deal. You “don’t get no respect?” Welcome to the club!

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2017 Should Be a Wild Ride

My friend the Brooklyn genie, who sleeps all year in a magic lamp on the Coney Island beach, emerges again to make his annual predictions__and he’s got some real doozies for 2017. So if you don’t like them, blame the genie.

January 20th, 2017. Donald Trump is sworn in as our 45th President. The Inaugural Ball entertainment is provided by Kanye West and Ted Nugent, who harmonize beautifully on “Ebony and Ivory” before getting into a fistfight and being dragged out by the Secret Service.

February 2nd: Visiting Staten Island on Groundhog Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio flashes a “thumbs up” when told that he has no credible opponent in the 2017 mayoral race. Meanwhile, groundhog Staten Island Chuck Jr. avenges the demise of Staten Island Charlotte (who died after de Blasio dropped her on her head) by chomping on the mayor’s extended thumb.

March 11th: Responding to Trump’s relentless Twitter attacks on him for his devastating impression of the president on Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin announces that he will run for president on the Democratic ticket against Trump in 2020__and will campaign wearing the blond wig.

April 18th: The new administration reveals that the last prisoners have been moved out of Guantanamo Bay. In a related development, Trump Kids Inc. announces that they will be turning Gitmo into a “fabulous, world-class resort__the best!” President Trump says he was “surprised and delighted when my children told me about it this morning.”

June 4th: A Saudi prince visiting the White House purchases $3 million worth of bangles from the Ivanka Trump jewelry collection. The president growls at the perception that the prince is buying influence: “He just knows great jewelry when he sees it. The best!”

July 8th: Former NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly enters the mayoral race, using the slogan “Thumbs Down on de Blasio!”

August 21: The world braces for the first total solar eclipse since 1979. When it again gets light, we discover Trump has disappeared from the White House, tweeting “Who needs this aggravation? Good luck, Mike!”

August 22nd: Mike Pence is sworn in as our 46th President.

November 7th: Ray Kelly is elected mayor of New York. De Blasio consoles himself with a lovely carriage horse ride around Central Park.

Happy New Year, and good luck to us all!


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Did You See This Coming In 2016?

Only someone awakening today from a coma can’t name the most shocking event of 2016. Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States!

But Trump’s stunning victory (and the emerging drama about Russia’s meddling in our election process) wasn’t the only notable story of this tumultuous year. Here are some others:

Pokemon Go Craze: While the Brexit vote in England, Trump’s rise and other momentous events captured the world’s attention, many were blithely wandering around parks, beaches and malls capturing Pokemon creatures. Nintendo stock zoomed, as our collective IQs plunged.

Millions of Americans with eyes glued to their smartphones, totally oblivious to the world around them, seems a perfect metaphor for what happened politically in 2016. Then summer ended and people went back to school and work. Pokemon? What’s that?

Chicago Cubs Finally Win World Series: Women couldn’t vote. The Titanic wasn’t built. You couldn’t watch the games at home, because TV hadn’t been invented. That’s 1908__the last time the Cubs won the World Series before now. Since the oldest person in the United States is a 114 year old woman from New Jersey, that means there wasn’t a Cub fan alive and rooting for both championships. Maybe the NY Jets can win the Super Bowl again before we find ourselves in the same situation.

Second Avenue Subway Poised to Open: Speaking of long hoped-for events that took about a century to happen, how about that Second Avenue Subway? The MTA has until December 31st to keep its promise of the first three stations on the line (96th, 86th and 72nd Streets) opening in 2016. Hate to be a party pooper, but will that get anyone to work? When there’s a Second Avenue subway completed that can actually take us all the way downtown to our jobs, wake me up.

The Passing of Icons: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Muhammad Ali floated away to heaven in 2016, and the world is worse for his passing. And I will miss seeing David Bowie happily roaming his adopted city of New York. Ali, Bowie, Prince, Arnold Palmer__ this was a particularly tough year for our sports and music icons. They will be missed.

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PC Clause Is Coming To Town

Oh, the weather outside is frightful — but not as frightful as what’s being done to traditional holiday tunes.

A Minnesota couple has rewritten the classic song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to fit 21st century sensitivities, according to CNN.

Josiah Lemanski and his girlfriend, Lydia Liza, have changed the original call-and-response duet, which begins, “I really can’t stay/Baby it’s cold outside,” to “I really can’t stay/Baby I’m fine with that.”

Are you fine with that?

“I’ve always had a big problem with the song,” Lemanski told CNN. “It’s so aggressive and inappropriate.”

Sorry, Josiah and Lydia, but the song is not about consent, let alone date rape. It’s about a couple in conservative 1944 America. Although she plays it coy, they clearly both want to hang out together. And no, the guy is not Bill Cosby.

But the two Minnesotans are steadfast that the lyrics are offensive and must be cleansed. You know who agrees with them? Sayyid Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood. In his book “The America I Have Seen,” he described with disgust the “arms circling waists, lips meeting lips” he observed when the song was played at a Colorado church dance he attended.

Other seasonal tunes that supposedly “will add a dash of sexism to your holidays,” according to The Huffington Post, include The Weather Girls’ “Dear Santa,” which includes the terribly offensive line, “I need a man this Christmas.” OMG! Huffington huffs, “Let it be known that women don’t need a man at Christmas to truly shine!” Give me a break.

If the PC crowd gets so worked up over Christmas songs that are at the very least open to interpretation, what will it do on Valentine’s Day with that sexist ditty “My Funny Valentine?”

Written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, the song’s lyrics range from the general insult (“Your looks are laughable, unphotographable”) to the specific (“Is your figure less than Greek? Is your mouth a little weak?”). BTW, lyricist Hart stood under 5 foot and was rather chunky. How dare he write such insulting lyrics!

So let’s update the song for him: “Oh your figure’s fine with me, ’cause your mouth is so PC.”

You’re welcome!

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75 Years Later, Pearl Harbor Still Resonates

Today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. I’ll bet half the people reading this column have little idea what that means. It marks the 75th anniversary of the devastating attack on our naval fleet stationed in Hawaii that catapulted us into World War II.

December 7, 1941 is, to those alive at that time, what September 11, 2001 is to us. On that date, Japanese planes swarmed across the harbor and bombarded the fleet, sinking or seriously damaging eight of our battleships and killing 2,388 Americans. A day later, we declared war against our mortal enemies of that era, Japan and Germany.

Those who fought and died in that war would be startled to know those two nations are now among our closest allies. Imagine Iran and North Korea being our nation’s besties 75 years from today.

In the 1990’s I spent a week in Honolulu, and felt a pull to visit Pearl Harbor. I boarded the ferry that glided me across the water to the USS Arizona Memorial site, and noticed that one of the tour guides was an older gentleman who was a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack__an eyewitness to history.

He cautioned us that the memorial was “not just another tourist attraction” and to be respectful, delivering first-hand testimony to what happened the morning of what President Franklyn D. Roosevelt called “A day which will live in infamy.”

Tourists took photos of the memorial, which sits atop the sunken battleship Arizona, the gravesite of about 900 service veterans still entombed in its wreckage.

I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the tourists were Japanese.

After watching the smiling group snap their pictures, I asked the veteran if this bothered him.

He paused a moment, his eyes staring into the distance. “No, it wasn’t them,” he replied. “Maybe their fathers, their grandfathers, but not them. You have to move forward, move on, and not blame the innocent.”

Forgiveness and compassion. We could use a large helping of that in 2016.

As for the brave U.S. servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms of speech, the press, petition, assembly and religious expression on that mournful day, let’s make certain that they are never forgotten.

 

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