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Planning to rent a car at Miami's airport? First, you'll have to walk, walk and walk

WALK, THEY SAID: After my flight from Newark to Miami, I picked up my luggage and set off for the rental-car center, using elevators, ...

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Humped by Trump: He's a Putin rootin' serial liar and tax cheat full of nasty tweets

Cartoonist Ed Wexler of PoliticalCartoons.com portrays President Trump in a hell of his own making, being manipulated by Russian dictator and war criminal Vladimir Putin.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- "He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat," Michael Cohen told Congress on Wednesday, describing President Trump, whom he served for a decade as a lawyer and fixer.

Imagine what he is saying behind closed doors today.

In a powerful closing statement on Wednesday, Cohen spoke directly to Trump, according to NBC News:

"I'd like to say directly to the president: We honor our veterans — even in the rain. We tell the truth even when it doesn't aggrandize you. You respect the law and our incredible law enforcement agents. You don't villainize them.
"You don't disparage generals, Gold Star families, prisoners of war and other heroes who had the courage to fight for this country. You don't attack the media and those who question what you don't like or what you don't want them to say and you take responsibility for your own dirty deeds.
"You don't use your power of your bully pulpit to destroy the credibility of those who speak out against you. You don’t separate families from one another or demonize those looking to America for a better life. You don't vilify people based on the god they pray to and you don’t cuddle up to our adversaries at the expense of our allies.
"And finally you don’t shut down the government before Christmas and New Year's just to simply appease your base.
"This behavior is churlish, it denigrates the office of the president and it's un-American and it's not you." 

Cohen described Trump's illegal acts during the 2016 presidential campaign and during his presidency, and said the president's goal was to make the Trump brand great:

"Donald Trump ... ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation -- only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.

"Mr. Trump would often say, This campaign was going to be the 'greatest infomercial in political history.'"

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Here is a great Bergen County dining deal: $29 for three courses with a glass of wine

MEYER LEMON: My entree of Seared Mahi-Mahi with bok choy and oyster mushrooms was moist and tender, and the wild-caught fish was swimming in a bright Meyer Lemon vinaigrette.
ORGANIC GREENS: I started with a salad of Organic Greens with cherry tomatoes, feta and cucumber in a sherry vinaigrette.


CLOSTER, N.J. -- This seafood lover has traveled to Iceland and Alaska to enjoy their bounties of wild fish, but now I've found their match much closer to home.

The Hill is a fine-dining restaurant in the upscale borough of Closter with a celebrated chef and cookbook author, and a focus on seafood.

Better yet, its "First On The Scene" menu offers a terrific fixed-price menu of three courses, plus a glass of wine, for only $29, plus tax and tip.

The dinner menu, which is available four days a week, offers a choice of two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts and two wines (see days and hours below). 

(The Hill should get extra points for calling the menu First on The Scene, a clever take on the early bird menus beloved of older Americans like me.

(Did you know the Early Bird is the state bird of Florida?) 

'Elevated dining'

The Hill says it offers "elevated dining," and "seasonal American cooking with the lightness and bright global flavors" the chef is known for.

That's not an idle boast.

The beautiful hunk of Mahi-Mahi I was served on Thursday evening was moist and tender, the equal in preparation of the incredible North Atlantic fish I enjoyed at premier seafood restaurants in Reykjavic, Iceland's capital.

As someone who tries to avoid butter, I was delighted with the Meyer Lemon vinaigrette the fish was swimming in.

Chef Ben Pollinger of The Hill received a Michelin star and three stars from The New York Times when he was at the helm of Oceana, an upscale seafood restaurant in midtown Manhattan.

His cookbook, "School of Fish," has chapters on how you can eat fish raw or bake, roast, braise, broil, steam, poach, grill, fry, sear or saute your catch from the market.

Although The Hill's fixed-price dinner with a glass of wine is only $29, we didn't feel cheated: 

The service was more than attentive, and the ingredients and preparation were at the same level you'd find in a fine-dining restaurant in Manhattan.

A la carte menu

Entrees on The Hill's a la carte dinner menu on Thursday ran from $27 to $38. 

One of the specials was a 40-ounce Porterhouse Steak for 2 at $85 with a suggested glass of Syrah for $15.

Another special, Wild Maine Belon Oysters in a sherry mignonette, were $3.25 each (I was tempted).

FLATIRON STEAK: For her entree, my wife ordered the Grilled Flatiron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce. The presentation could have been improved by fanning the slices over the parsnip puree, but she loved the dish, especially the caramelized Brussels sprouts, which I kept stealing.
WINE AND FOCACCIA: My glass of Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon and the restaurant's focaccia, served with extra-virgin olive oil. The focaccia proved addictive.
SECONDS? Our server offered us a second serving of focaccia, but we declined. She also offered to make my wife a new serving of her appetizer, Carnaroli Risotto with Hon Shimeji and Maitake mushrooms, when she saw her picking out the mushrooms, which she doesn't eat. I had them instead.
DESSERT: I was happy with pomegranate sorbet for dessert, and declined the ice cream that came with it. My wife chose the Maple Panna Cotta, a softly set Italian pudding made with sweetened cream and gelatin, below.

DETAILS: The fixed-price "First On The Scene" menu is offered Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and on Sundays from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended. The Hill is at 252 Schraalenburgh Road, Closter; 201-899-4700. Website: Bright Global Flavors
FULL BAR: In addition to the main dining room, there is seating in a bar room and in a private dining room.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Auto lovers gather in Manhattan for lunch and laughter, but fortunately no hard sell

The main speaker on Tuesday at Sardi's Restaurant was John Nikas (not "Dikas," as I wrote earlier), author of "Rule Britannia: When British Sports Cars Saved a Nation." Nikas noted the miniskirt was named after Mini Cooper cars of the 1960s.

Members' sense of humor drew me
 to the Madison Avenue Sports Car
 Driving & Chowder Society


NEW YORK, N.Y. -- I've never owned a sports car, British or otherwise, but that didn't stop me from asking to join the Chowderheads.

They describe themselves as "a cheerful gathering of people with one main interest in common -- sports cars and automotive competition" -- and their full name is the Madison Avenue Sports Car Driving & Chowder Society (MASCDCS).

So, my lifelong love affair with auto racing -- from vintage sports cars to Formula 1 -- prompted me to ask a member to sponsor me, and I attended my first luncheon meeting at Sardi's in the heart of the Theater District on Tuesday.

I'm a VP

Upon paying the $50 membership fee, I immediately was elevated to vice president, as explained on the club's website, MASCDCS.ORG:

"The Society had its first meeting March 12th, 1957, with 93 members who, at that time became Members of the Board. Everyone else, since that time, became only Vice Presidents.
"The club is based on three principles:
  1. We have no known purpose.
  2. We have accomplished nothing.
  3. We ain't mad at nobody.

The membership card notes club officials won't assume "liability for any claims, including bar bills, arising from the actions of the holder, ... put up bail for him, or ... even, when in decent company, recognize him on the street.

"Cash value of this card is 1/10 of a cent."

The annual $50 membership fee "permits you to hobnob with lively, witty, charming, famous and talented people -- like yourself" -- and on Tuesday, when I looked around the upstairs dining room at Sardi's, I saw older people like myself, the vast majority of them retired.


Late last year, I was bounced from the International Motor Press Association, a group of auto writers and journalists, as well as public relations professionals, after I called all the free stuff writers accept from carmakers "bribes."

I first joined IMPA in the late 1980s, when I was a business reporter for The Record of Hackensack, covering Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo and other importers based in northern New Jersey and writing monthly road tests of new vehicles.

Unlike most newspapers, IMPA doesn't have an ethics policy, and writers rarely, if ever, acknowledge the free stuff they receive in their upbeat evaluations of new cars, trucks and SUVs.

So, that's how A Girls Guide To Cars can publish a rave review of a Volvo SUV, even though Consumer Reports' readers rated their Volvos unreliable.

In 2015, seven years after I retired, I bought a Tesla Model S and started a third blog, Shocking Car News, which focused on Tesla and the transition to all-electric cars, and rejoined IMPA, which also holds monthly lunches in Manhattan.

No free lunch

Chowderheads pay $50 for their lunch at Sardi's, but Cadillac, Lincoln and Subaru and other companies provide a multi-course buffet lunch, as well as cocktails and wine, free of charge to IMPA members, as well as cater meals during that group's two-day driving event at the Monticello Motor Club. 

Along with fresh fruit and other desserts at IMPA lunches, auto executives extol the virtues of their products or explain why they are making more high-profit SUVs and pickup trucks, and in some cases eliminating sedans altogether, to take advantage of low gas prices.

That fits perfectly with the failure of IMPA and most of its members to acknowledge climate change or how gas- and diesel-powered vehicles aggravate global warming and cause the premature deaths of 53,000 people in the United States every year. 

The caricatures that make Sardi's famous line the walls of the upstairs dining room. 
The caricature of Lily Tomlin, who has us laughing on the Netflix series, "Grace and Frankie." She also may be the only character currently on TV who drives an all-electric car (Nissan Leaf).
My lunch included an entree of Orange Teriyaki Glazed Broiled Salmon with Caramelized Ginger, Sweet Potato Puree, Sauteed Spinach, Sesame Seeds and Sweet Lime Soy Sauce. The fish, cooked medium, was moist and delicious. On the other hand, the appetizer of Homemade Mozzarella and Tomato came with pale, tasteless tomatoes, not the "vine-ripened" slices listed on the menu. A small glass of Cabernet Sauvignon was $11.50, plus tax.
The bonus speaker on Tuesday was Casey Putsch, director and founder of Genius Garage in Ohio, where professional mentors guide college students as they build and then race vintage sports cars. They also are involved in both the aerospace and automotive-design industries.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Progressive officials, but not racist Trump, are targets of news media feeding frenzies

Cartoonist Daryl Cagle has fun with the sensational extortion charges leveled by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos against David Jay Pecker, publisher of the National Inquirer. That's the same rag that paid hush money to a Playboy bunny who allegedly had an affair with Donald J. Trump to boost his chances of victory in the 2016 presidential election. See more at The Cagle Post.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, do I really care whether Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren passed along family lore about her heritage as fact?

No. But I do care about what Warren will do to re-establish protections for the consumer the Trump administration dismantled, as well as her plans for taxing the rich and universal health care.

But whether Warren actually is a Native America is the subject of a news media feeding frenzy, and I'm sure I will hear about it nearly every day until the election on Nov. 3, 2020.

Another controversy getting intense media attention also involves Democrats, this one focusing on Virginia's governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Suspiciously, the official in line to take over in Richmond -- onetime capital of the Confederacy -- if all three Democrats resign, is a Republican.

Can you imagine how much damage this Republican could do by limiting instead of expanding Medicaid and suppressing voting rights until another gubernatorial election can be held?

Trumps get a pass

Yet, many of these same reporters seem to have forgotten all of President Trump's transgressions and hardly pay any attention to repeated calls for his resignation, impeachment or indictment.

Here is Trump, leader of the so-called free world, who was elected not by popular vote but with the help of a Russian disinformation campaign in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

Since he was sworn in a little over 2 years ago, a traitorous Trump has divided us more than at any time since the Civil War, and nearly every word out of his mouth is a lie.

Tax evasion, racism

He brought to the White House a history of tax evasion and cheating inherited from his father, developer Fred Trump, who denied apartments to blacks and once was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally.

Why aren't the news media focusing on any of this Trump history ad nauseum in the same way we are hearing about Democrats' flaws?

I'm still waiting for a White House reporter -- any reporter-- to confront Trump and ask, "When are you going to stop lying to the American people"

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Trump is sounding even more incoherent at new low point for his insane presidency

The biggest news out of Washington, D.C., was how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got President Trump to end the government shutdown without yielding an inch on authorizing more than $5 billion for a wall on our southern border -- as illustrated by cartoonists Daryl Cagle, above, and Adam Zyglis of The Buffalo News, below. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi showed how a strong woman can shame a shameless Trump

Here, Zyglis of The Buffalo News has another take on Trump's utter humiliation, portraying the president as Humpty Dumpty. Let's hope that like the nursery rhyme all the president's men can't put Trump back together again.

We're waiting for a reporter who asks Trump, "When are you going to stop lying to the American people?"

Cartoonist Ed Wexler has another riff on the Pelosi-Trump confrontation, with one GOP first responder declaring the president needs "some cojones STAT!!!" See more cartoons at The Cagle Post.

Trump's 'invasion' of terrorists and human traffickers came from a movie, not reality

Cartoonist Daryl Cagle has fun with Richard Nixon's declaration, "I am not a crook." He has the Nixon tattoo on Roger Stone's back telling it like it is.
Rick McKee, staff cartoonist for the Augusta Chronicle, zeroes in on Stone, the longtime confidant of Trump and a political dirty trickster, calling him the keystone of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The Buffalo News' Zyglis hits hard at the Stone-Trump relationship, showing the overweight president with a tattoo of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin on his back. Trump kowtowed to Putin with his attempt to pull American troops out of Syria and by ending a big missile treaty.

 Indictment of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone is closest Mueller has gotten -- so far