“Where have you gone, Mario Cuomo; Our nation turns its’ lonely eyes to you.”



Thirty years ago this week, my son Matt Villano came with me to work on a Saturday when I accompanied my then-boss, Governor Mario Matthew Cuomo to give a speech before a scouting group. Cuomo, who was an inspiration to me, my son and many others, would often punctuate his speeches with references to the Paul Simon line of the need for heroes, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” With the degradation of politics and the repulsive pre-pubescent, anti-immigrant political campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, it’s time for a paraphrase: “Where have you gone, Mario Cuomo; our nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you…”

I LOVE to say I told you so…”The Quasimodo of Queens” is a Media Creation, as is the Army of Drumpf’s Dumkopfs

With much of the “respectable” media now tripping over itself to engage in a tsunami of “Mea Culpa-ing” over having helped create The Deranged Dictator Donald Drumpf (with the notable exceptions of CBS’ Les Mooves, and NBC’s Brian Roberts and Steve Burke as well as Reality-TV guru Mark Burnett–all busy gleefully counting their gold generated by the Gold-Lame Liar) , I am compelled to reprint my blog from four months ago, where I laid out the media’s mendacity in feeding the facile Fascist monster.

I also want to shove this piece in the face of Fox News–now sanctimoniously harumpfing over Drumpf’s harassment of Megyn Kelly– the Murdoch/Ailes propaganda machine which made millions fanning the flames of fanaticism of Drumpfs Dumkopfs over the decades, and NBC’s Chuck Toddler of “Meet The Press” who FINALLY recognized that doing “phone-in” interviews with a phony does not qualify as even a high-school level of journalism.

Ah, it’s so tough being so far ahead of one’s time:


NBC & Mark Burnett’s New Reality Show:  “The Quasimodo of Queens.”

Tom Brokaw’s two and one-half minute noble tsk-tsking of Donald Trump’s full-blown Fascism—coming at the tail end of a little-watched Tuesday night 6 pm newscast—was far too little, way too late from the Broadcast network which made Trump an international TV star and helped launch his political career.

Now that Trump’s big, ugly Un-American backside has been bared for all to see, those wonderful folks who gave this monster a global platform to pedal his pernicious views, are beginning to have some second thoughts, but very few have anything to do with soul searching. NBC, for example did pay Donald Trump a total of $213, 606, 575 in salary to host 14 seasons of “The Apprentice”—an average of about $15 million per season, according to documents Trump’s campaign filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Then, after they handed Trump the bully’s pulpit to pick on everyone from the disabled, to Mexicans, to Syrian Refugees, to wounded war veterans, to Muslims, NBC—no longer seeing profit in Trump’s pugnaciousness—fired the Towering Inferno after he insulted all Mexicans in late June, 2015, during his announcement for President. NBC’s Latino market was just too big for the network to fail.

Financially, as well as cosmetically, NBC’s announcement to Dump Trump was good business. Following its’ first five years, “ The Apprentice” began to rapidly lose market share. NBC meanwhile, had become the NBC/Universal/Comcast monolith after 2009, rolling up big new profits in its cable, movie and amusement park businesses. Donald Trump, like Brian Williams, was expendable, especially since company chiefs Brian Roberts and Steve Burke are attached to their $30 million plus annual salaries. Trump no longer fit Comcast’s “do no fiscal harm policy”; the days of Trump and Mark Burnett’s United Artists Media Group raising revenue and NBC’s prime time ratings were over.

NBC and Burnett made Donald Trump—long viewed as another wannabe starlet in New York politics–richer, far more famous, and extraordinarily more powerful than he had ever been before. Trump’s small million dollar start up loan from his father, inheritance of the Trump real estate fortune built with federal funds for constructing middle-income housing, and even a New York Daily News front page headline boasting of the “Best Sex I’ve Ever Had” with Marla Maples, weren’t enough to get him the kind of attention he craved. He looked like a silly little post-card painter without serious recognition of his talent.

Then, along came Mark Burnett and NBC, and the inner Trump was let loose in the living rooms of millions of Americans through the mindlessness of Reality TV. Burnett, Trump’s co-producer on “Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice”, and a prime mover in bringing Reality TV to American television with his “Survivor” in 2000, and other programming such as “The Voice,” “Shark Tank,” “ Sarah Palin’s Alaska (yes, that too) and, the aptly named “Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?” boasts a net worth estimated at somewhere between $385 million to $450 million—a fortune built on convincing Americans that eating bugs and spitting bile at people was entertainment. Trump spotted a winning formula for his brand of bragadaccio, and a malleable audience to swallow his hollow values and hateful views.

Forbes reported earlier this year that Trump’s entertainment-related income since 2004—the first, and most successful year of “The Apprentice”– was approximately $500 million, from his books, speeches, beauty pageants and Reality-TV employment, the bulk of which, came from NBC, and was made possible by his ten-year run on the NBC aired reality show–including nearly $100 million in product-placement fees Trump and “Apprentice” co-producer Burnett got from shaking down program sponsors like Pepsi and Crest.

NBC can roll out all of the Tom Brokaw mea culpa commentaries it wants; it can feign high-dudgeon by having Joe Scarborough cut off Trump after allowing the Quasimodo of Queens to rant on for four minutes. The network created this monster, and, with the willing leadership of programming ghouls like Mark Burnett, it disarmed the audience of any analytical ability to recognize that its collective brain was being snatched.


Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan & AIDS


(Michael Specter, who has written about HIV/AIDS for more than 30 years, wrote yet another eloquent piece in The New Yorker on-line, on March 11, 2016, following Hillary Clinton’s praise–and then apology–for praising Nancy Reagan for “bringing HIV/AIDS to the world’s attention”, when in fact the Reagans did exactly the opposite.  I have re-printed Specter’s powerful piece on my blog “Radical Correspondence” because he I cannot express my thoughts better than he has on this matter.)

It will take somebody with more psychiatric sophistication than me to figure out how Hillary Clinton could have come to praise Ronald and Nancy Reagan, as she initially did earlier today, for having started the American conversation about AIDS “when, before, nobody talked about it.”

President Reagan’s first speech on the subject wasn’t until May 31, 1987. By then, more than twenty-five thousand people, the majority of them gay men, had died in the United States. His Administration ridiculed people with AIDS—his spokesman, Larry Speakes, made jokes about them at press conferences—and while I do think it rude to speak ill of the dead, particularly on the day of a funeral, this issue cannot be ignored. Mrs. Reagan refused to act in any way in 1985 to help her friend Rock Hudson when he was in Paris dying of AIDS. (Last year, Buzzfeed published documents that make this clear.)
Clinton’s comments caused an outcry and she apologized rapidly, writing, in a statement issued on Twitter, “While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, I misspoke about their record on H.I.V. and AIDS. For that, I’m sorry.” She deserves recognition for that. But her correction, while not nearly as offensive as her earlier comments, was also misguided.

In the nineteen-eighties, I covered the AIDS epidemic and the stem-cell wars for the Washington Post. I do not recall any occasion on which Ronald Reagan said or did anything that could be considered as “strong” advocacy for stem-cell research. One son, Ron, Jr., was in favor of the research and said so at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, the year his father died. That same year, Michael, Reagan’s other son, made a statement about that issue to anti-abortion-rights publications, that nobody ever contradicted: “The media continues to report that the Reagan ‘family’ is in favor of [embryonic] stem cell research, when the truth is that two members of the family have been long time foes of this process of manufacturing human beings—my dad, Ronald Reagan during his lifetime, and I.”

The idea that Ronald Reagan finally did focus on AIDS, if only belatedly, is also a fiction. Reagan was outraged in 1986, when his Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, one of the great heroes of the AIDS epidemic, issued a report that, as I wrote when Koop died, recommended a program of compulsory sex education in schools and argued that, by the time they reached third grade, children should be taught how to use condoms.

In 1990, when Ryan White died of AIDS, Reagan wrote a letter than ended with the words, “Ryan, my dear young friend, we will see you again.” But that letter really just shows the limits of Reagan’s sympathy. Ryan White was an absolutely delightful Indiana schoolboy who, in the early nineteen-eighties, received a transfusion of H.I.V.-infected blood. So he was an “innocent” AIDS victim, unlike the gay men Reagan did not like to mention. It is no coincidence that Reagan would feel comfortable singling White out to honor, nor is it by chance that the single biggest piece of H.I.V. legislation ever enacted in the United States is called the Ryan White Act. If the boy had happened to be a gay teen-ager, does anyone think Ronald Reagan would have written that letter? (I want to stress that this is not meant in any way to diminish the courage of Ryan White, whom I knew and wrote about more than thirty years ago. He was a wonderful person. It wasn’t his fault that he happened to be a straight white teen-ager from the Midwest, rather than a gay man from San Francisco.)

In the end, as Clinton wrote, Nancy Reagan was indeed “strong” on stem-cell research and on Alzheimer’s disease. Her conversion came when her husband plunged into the darkness of the disease. She was desperate, and would have done anything for him. It was a deeply admirable stance, and rare in her conservative world. Millions of other people, however, would surely have benefitted from that kind of support—had she offered it when her husband was capable of doing something to help alleviate so much suffering.

(About Michael Specter:
Michael Specter has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1998, and has written frequently about AIDS, T.B., and malaria in the developing world, as well as about agricultural biotechnology, avian influenza, the world’s diminishing freshwater resources, and synthetic biology.)

Narcissus & GoldDrumpf



Once upon a time, there were two close friends who looked very much alike.

Both had luscious, long flowing blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. One of the friends, named Narcissus, was enamored with the beauty of the soul, and decided to dedicate his life to looking deep within. The other, named GoldDrumpf, was enamored with himself, and decided to wander the world to see if he could find anyone as great as he, and pick up girls.

One day, they were playing by a pristine pond, skipping stones across it.   Narcissus asked GoldDrumpf to stop tossing rocks for a second, so they could look at their reflections in the perfectly still water.   Narcissus leaned over the pond, and mistook his reflection for the other side of his soul, reaching out to it. He became numb, and prayed by the water’s edge, and decided to open a monastery on that very spot.

GoldDrumpf, on the other hand, looked at his reflection and was smitten. He brushed his blond hair up into a bouffant on the top of his head. He observed how each smile would be returned with one just like it; each scowl, could be commanded to come in bunches and not as single spies. He was so impressed by what he saw in the pond that he set off to see if such beauty and greatness existed anywhere else.

Narcissus built his simple monastery out of sticks and leaves, while GoldDrumpf headed off to seek fortune, fame, and fawning followers around the world. In City after City, where there were no ponds, GoldDrumpf build towers of shiny gold reflective glass. Each time he walked past one of the glitzy towers he built, he looked at the image of his face in the window, pushed his glowing blonde hair up into a bouffant, and searched for anyone as great as he. He sung to and seduced many people, but each evening he came home alone and feeling empty.

So GoldDrumpf decided to find the nearest pond and contemplate his life. He pulled a bright red silk sweatshirt over his head, tied the golden string tightly around his neck and headed to the swamps of New Jersey. He sat by the edge of the Jersey swamps, peering into the murky water to see his reflection. All he saw was endless darkness. There was no beauty there. He could not see his face, nor his golden hair.  Suddenly, he heard a deep throated, wailing sound.

“Chris-et,” the sound said. “Chris-et.”

GoldDrumpf looked down into the mud, and there, burrowed deep within was the ugliest creature he had ever seen. He picked up the creature in his hand, and stared at it.

“Chris-et,” the creature said. “Chris-et.”

He put the creature in his back pocket and decided to carry it home to show Narcissus. Surely this lowly life form must be a sign of something. When he arrived back home near the pristine pond, he found Narcissus sitting cross-legged at the door of his monastery, as if anticipating his return.

Narcissus, listened to GoldDrumpf’s tales of sturm und drang, of how he searched for one as great and beautiful as he, but always came up empty.  Narcissus shook his head, held his hand out and asked GoldDrumpf to give him the lowly creature of the Jersey Swamp.

“You must set this lowly creature free,” said Narcissus. “He is your soul. He represents all the bad memories of your deformed and wretched father which you have repressed, and run from these many years. You must face up to what a covetous, hateful creature your father was, to what you have inherited from him, and to what you want to be. You can find yourself here, in peace.”

And so, GoldDrumpf agreed to stay at the monastery with Narcissus and set his feelings free by sculpting massive statues of his father, sheathed in white, with towering white conical caps upon each statue’s head. GoldDrumpf built the statues, higher and thicker, connecting them into a huge wall; encircling himself, until the tips of all the hats met, making a yuge dome—the biggest dome anyone had ever seen–shutting out all light and air, and entombing GoldDrumpf forever, like a Pharoah.

And for all anyone ever knew, he lived happily ever after.