Open Wide! Three New Books Now Available Everywhere!

I recently went “wide” with three of my book titles, meaning they were once available only through Amazon, but now they’re available through booksellers all over the world! Now available everywhere:

Fake News & Real Bullshit: Government, Media, and Justice in America. Essays. Satirical, and occasionally serious, essays about government, media, and justice in America.

The Mud Man. Novel, thriller. A stonemason learns how to reanimate the ashes of the dead into living clay…but his murdered son-in-law has plans for revenge!

Autism Dad 3: Life Skills & Life Lessons. Essays. A father helps his special needs prepare for adulthood, with the help of Power Mom and Super Sister!

Rob Errera Aggressively Interviews Rob Errera About His New Book, Fake News and Real Bullsh*t: Government, Media, and Justice In America

Rob Errera Aggressively Interviews Rob Errera About His New Book, Fake News and Real Bullsh*t: Government, Media, and Justice In America

This cover is divisive and inflammatory. What gives you the right to bully the President of The United States?
The First Amendment gives every citizen the right to free expression. Cover artist Dominic Wilde captured the spirit of this book perfectly. There’s a lot of anger, outrage, and injustice inside the book as well as on the cover. But it’s not a Trump-bashing book, other than noting The Donald stole the term “fake news” from me.

You’re accusing the President of theft? Can you prove the term “fake news” is your intellectual property?
I can prove I used it in a 2008 essay, but I don’t own any property, intellectual or otherwise.

What is this book about?
It’s a collection of essays examining how the news media has deteriorated over the last two decades.

What do you know about it?
I’ve been a journalist for nearly 30 years. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the news business since my days as a local newspaper reporter. Things have gone from bad to worse.

Is this leftist, lib-tard propaganda?
No. I dump equally on Republicans and Democrats in these essays. My main target is the news media tasked with keeping elected officials honest. The news media has become a propaganda machine rather than an unbiased source of information.

Why should I read this book?
If you’re under forty, this book will give you a sense of journalism’s history, how it has progressed and where it has regressed. Readers over forty will find a path through the confusing maze of Info Age insta-news…and maybe a bit of nostalgia.

Is this book funny? Serious? WTF is it?
Most of the essays are tongue-in-cheek, but a couple are somber—like my 9/11 and OJ Simpson essays.

Sounds heavy. I don’t like heavy thinking. It hurts my head. I want to keep it light, and breezy.
There’s fun in Fake News and Real Bullshit. Great info, too. In addition to explaining the breakdown of modern journalism, I also explain national healthcare, gasoline prices, Big Pharma scandals, cute cat memes, and why Nancy Grace sucks.

Nancy Grace doesn’t suck! She’s awesome! I love Nancy Grace!
Come on. Nobody loves Nancy Grace except for my wife. And Mr. Grace. Maybe.

You’re disrespectful and rude. Does your book have a surly, insolent tone?
I suppose. That’s my writing style. But you’ll find a few smiles and laughs there, too. Maybe even a few ideas worth remembering.

Why is the “i” in bullshit replaced with an “*” on the cover?
My publishers at Giantdog Books were afraid readers might be offended by the word “bullshit”.

That’s bullshit.
Fucking A.

Are you on drugs?
I don’t see how that’s your business.

Of course it’s my business. It’s everybody’s business. You’re trying to sell yourself as an “honest journalist.” You can’t have secrets!

Autism Dad 2—'Tween Edition: Continuing Adventures in Autism, Adolescence & Fatherhood
Autism Dad 2: Autism, Adolescence & Fatherhood

Yeah, sure. Okay. I take 10mg of Lexapro every day. It’s a life saver, and keeps me semi-normal. You can read all about my mental breakdown in Autism Dad 2, if you’re really interested.

Oh brother! Are you an attention-seeking exhibitionist?
I’m an author trying to promote a book, so…yeah.

I don’t have time to read. Is this available as an audiobook?
Not yet. The essays in Fake News and Real Bullshit only run about 500 words each, so its an easy book to pick up, put down, and skip around. I grouped the essays by theme, but you don’t have to start at the beginning—read whatever looks interesting first. It’s a great read for the beach…or the bathroom.

Yuck! You’re disgusting! Nobody reads fecal splattered books and magazines in the bathroom anymore! You look at your phone!
Ah. I stand corrected. Don’t you put your dirty phone up against your face to make a call?

Don’t get smart! You don’t know me! You don’t know who I be! Cash me outside!
Wait…when did you become a thug?

See! That’s what I’m talking about! You can’t judge me by the way I act and speak! That’s profiling!
I can judge you by how you act and what you say! That’s how you’re supposed to judge character. I’m not judging you by your appearance. That’s profiling.

You profile as a fat, middle-aged white guy.
No, you profile as a fat, middle-aged white guy!

No, you!
You!

Are you nuts?
Yes! I told you about the Lexapro!

I bet your book sucks because you suck.
The rise of social media has eliminated the buffer between artists and fans, making it impossible to separate an artist from his or her work. I may (and often do) suck on a number of personal and professional levels, but my book does not. Fake News and Real Bullshit can hold its own against anything published in the last year.

That’s a bold statement.
How do you know? What have you read in the last year?

I know a bold statement when I hear one, and that’s a bold statement.
Read the book and decide for yourself.

What’s your book called again?
You are the world’s worse interviewer.

No, you!
You!

Fake News and Real Bullsh*t: Government, Media, and Justice In America by Rob Errera releases July 4th 2018. Order your copy now!

While you’re at it, buy ALL of Rob Errera’s books! (And leave five-star reviews!)

Autism Dad 1

Autism Dad 2

Autism Dad 3

Santa’s Little Helper Wants To Eat Your Children

Fake News and Real Bullshit

8 Strange Stories

Hangman’s Jam

Songs In The Key Of Madness

Sensual Nightmares

The Mud Man

-30-

New Jersey’s Death Row A Comfortable Wait

Some people deserve to die. Jesse Timmendequas is one of those people.

In 1994, Timmendequas lured 7-year-old Megan Kanka to his home by saying he wanted to show her a puppy. He then raped her, beat her and strangled her with a belt. A day later, he led police to her body. His crimes lead to the passage of Megan’s Law.

But Jesse Timmendequas is not going to be executed for his crimes even though he was sentenced to death in 1997. Last month New Jersey became the first state in more than three decades to abolish the death penalty. A state commission ruled the punishment “inconsistent with evolving standards of decency.” Jesse Timmendequas’ death sentence – along with the death sentences of the other 12 prisoners on New Jersey’s death row – was commuted to life in prison.

The way I see it, the standards of decency, both in New Jersey and abroad, seem to be devolving rather than evolving. Society is breaking down, falling apart. The only way to halt the decline is to draw a clear line in the sand: some crimes are going to cost you your life. Serial rapists and murderers. People who commit heinous crimes against the young, the old, or the vulnerable. There is no place in society for these people. If civilization were a tree these are the diseased limbs that need pruning.

Wait-Comfortably-Until Death Row

Just down the hall from Jesse Timmendequas (on what’s now called “wait-comfortably-until-you-die row”) is Robert Marshall, subject of the best-selling book “Blind Faith.” Marshall, a once-prominent Toms River insurance broker was sentenced to death in 1986 for hiring three men to murder his wife, Maria, so he could collect $1.4 million in life insurance and begin a new life with another woman. Marshall, who maintains his innocence, also had his death sentence commuted to life in prison.

Jesse Timmendequas, the scumbag who inspired Megan's Law, enjoys a cozy life in prison courtesy of your tax dollars.
Jesse Timmendequas, the scumbag who inspired Megan’s Law, enjoys a cozy life in prison courtesy of your tax dollars.

Death penalty opponents have a million arguments, the most significant being “we’ve taken dangerous criminals off the streets; do we really need to take their lives, too?” I say yes. A life in prison is still a life. You can still read, write, pray, meditate, whatever. You can still grow as a person, even behind bars. I don’t think hardcore criminals deserve the opportunity to grow. They certainly denied it of their victims. Death penalty opponents also contend that, once you factor in all the appeals, it is more expensive to execute a prisoner than to keep him or her in jail for life. If this is true, it says more about the flaws of our legal system than it does about the quest for true justice. Three strikes and you’re out, three appeals and you’re done. Why does it have to be more complicated than that?

Perhaps a just resolve to New Jersey’s death penalty ban would be to put the former Death Row prisoners back into general population. A guy who kills his wife for insurance money like Robert Marshall would probably be allowed to spend the rest of his life in jail. But a child rapist and murderer like Jesse Timmendequas wouldn’t last more than a year or two before the other inmates kill him, in some way that is decidedly cruel and unusual. That’s what happened to Jeffery Dahmer, who was beaten to death with a piece of gym equipment by a fellow inmate who believed he was doing “the work of God.” Harsh as it seems, perhaps that is what’s meant to happen. There is an honor among thieves; rapists and murderers, too. All agree that child molesters are the lowest of the low. Even the wicked have a moral code, a pecking order of bad, a line they won’t sink beneath. Elected officials and bleeding-heart bureaucrats may bungle it, but maybe the “prison justice” of convicted felons can set it right again.

-30-

Originally publish in Wayne TODAY, January 2008

Cutting Costs and Alienating People With New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

christie on letterman
NJ Governor Chris Christie munches a donut on Late Night with David Letterman, because watching fat people eat unhealthy food is funny.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a hard man to love.

Since taking the state’s top office in January, Christie has managed to tick off state workers at all levels. His “tough-love” budget cuts and ultra-conservative fiscal approach has raised the ire of teachers, school employees, public servants, police officers and elected officials, including some within his own party.

Ticking people off isn’t necessarily a bad thing. State spending was out of control and the new guv promised to reign in the budget. You can’t cut spending without upsetting someone. The difference here is that Christie seems to have upset everyone.

Personal Politics

All politics is local, personal. Your opinions are formed by how government affects you, your family, and your lifestyle. So when Christie’s reduction in school funding threatened my sister’s teaching job in South Jersey and the jobs of the classroom aides in my son’s special ed class, I jumped on the Christie-hater bandwagon.

We’ve seen this cut-from-the-bottom act before in both the government and private sector. Workers on the bottom of the pay scale lose wages and benefits, “money-men” don’t lose a dime, and the budget never gets balanced. To clean up an old adage, “fecal matter rolls downhill” and all too often employees in the foothills find themselves with the dirty end of the stick.

But like a crazed monkey, Governor Christie is flinging feces everywhere, and Jerseyans of every socio-economic class are feeling the effects. (Feel free to make a “900-pound gorilla” joke here at Christie’s expense…as a fellow fat man I can’t go there.) In a rare show of political might, Christie is actually rolling feces uphill, and those at top of the ladder are getting dirty, too.

Christie aggravated school administrators by proposing a salary cap for superintendents based on the size of the districts they serve. Under Christie’s proposal, the maximum salary for a superintendent in a K-8 district would be $120,000, and districts with student populations up to 10,000 would be capped at $175,000. Supers overseeing bigger school districts would be eligible for a bigger salary. According to the state, NJ would save $9.8 million a year by enacting a salary cap for superintendents.

Costello Cashes Out

One of the more recent victims of Christie’s financial belt-tightening is West Milford Police Chief Paul Costello, who announced a quickie retirement the first of the month in order to preserve his six-figure benefits package. Governor Christie is pushing legislation that caps compensation for accrued sick time at $15,000 and impacts retirement benefits for state employees working without a contract. If the legislation is approved, Costello could lose part of his annual $100,000 retirement benefits as well as a hefty check for his unused sick time. To avoid being caught by the proposed legislation, Costello opted to quickly retire on August 1.

Chief Costello deserves every penny of his retirement/benefits package. He served the Borough of West Milford for 36 years, also serving as president of the Passaic County Police Chiefs Association. He’s a great police officer and it’s a shame to see him go.

But it’s hard to feel sorry for him. Retired at age 57, with a hefty pension and lifetime benefits, former Chief Costello has more security than many of his peers.

Chris Christie shouts
Chris Christie’s budget cuts and salary caps have angered employees in all branches of state government … but wouldn’t it be funny if I Photoshopped a big, drippy ice cream cone into the Governor’s hand in this photo?

What’s Your Job Worth?

The same can be said for the school superintendents who earn well over six figures. Shouldn’t teachers who educate children be paid as much, if not more, than administrators who manage them? After all, Yankee manager Joe Girardi earns $2.5 million per year while his star player, Alex Rodriguez, earns more than ten times that. Giaradi is a fine manager, worth every penny, but Rodriguez hits homers that win ballgames and bring in fans. He’s paid big bucks because he’s got “the skillz that pay the bills.”  I’m not sure why superintendents, principals, business managers and other school administrators make so much more than the teachers and classroom aides who do the actual hands-on work of educating children.

This disparity in pay scale isn’t a New Jersey problem; it’s a global one. How much you earn should relate to a) the difficulty/danger of the job, b) how much specialized training or education you need to do the job, c) your ability to do the job well, and d) experience/length of employment.

But that’s not the case in the real world. What people earn doesn’t always make sense based on what they do. To paraphrase another old adage, “there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” The government and private sector alike are rife with overpaid administrative paper-pushers. Governor Christie recognizes this and is trying to bring these bloated salaries back down to earth.

But, while Christie is making a difference as the Garden State’s 55th Governor, he’s not making many friends. For better or for worse, don’t expect to see him around for a second term.

-30-

Originally published in Wayne TODAY, August 2010

Philandered First Wives Undermine Political Credibility

huma and anthony weiner
Huma Abedin stands by her scumbag.

 With Anthony “Luke Atmee” Weiner back in the headlines, the time was right to break out this column about cheating politicians from 2008. Welcome to the Philandered First Wives Club, Huma Abedin!   

You see her on TV and in the papers looking sad and forlorn, standing by her man when no one else will, even though he doesn’t deserve it. She is a familiar figure who evokes many different feelings. Some pity her. Some snicker.

Dina and Jim Mcgreevey
Former First Lady of New Jersey, Dina McGreevey: “Gay, schmay … Jim’s a powerful man, and a snappy dresser!”

She is the wife of the fallen political figure, or, more specifically, a political figure brought down by sex scandal. We’ve seen a lot of her in recent months. First Dina McGreevey stood by her hubby when he announced he was resigning as the Governor of New Jersey after it was revealed he had an inappropriate relationship with a male staffer. Then Suzanne Craig stood by her Senator husband as he fended off allegations that he approached an undercover police officer for sex in an airport men’s room. Even Cindy McCain had to smile dutifully for the cameras while rumors surfaced that her aged husband had carried on romantically with a lobbyist during his last presidential run eight years ago. We’ve seen Silda Spitzer standing by her husband, (looking like the poster girl for Valium) as he admits his involvement in a high-priced prostitution ring.

silda and eliot spitzer
Eliot Spitzer tries to swallow his shame, while wife Silda wants to swallow another Valium.

“I’ve forgiven him … can’t you?”

By standing beside their treacherous husbands at press conferences, these women are supposedly sending a message to the public: “I’ve forgiven him…can’t you, too?” But the real message they’re sending is one about the phoniness of American politics.

Elected officials are plastic people without human emotions. They don’t act the way real people act. You’re telling me that Silda Spitzer found it in her heart to forgive her husband an $80,000, 12-month hooker binge just hours after news of it broke?  As Jay Leno put it, if Spitzer were a plumber instead of governor the only thing you’d see of his wife were her SUV tracks across his forehead.

There’s been a lot written about wives of philandering politicians standing by their men (though the media has yet to come up with a catchy moniker for this pop culture phenomenon. I’ll offer “Philandered First Ladies” or “Stand By Your Man Politicas” though both are admittedly clunky). “Expert” psychologists have offered their opinions — these women want to honor their marriage vows, they want to stand by the man they love even though it hurts, for the greater good of the marriage and the welfare of their children.

But the real reason is much simpler – and sinister. Political wives are part of a political machine. They not only promise to love, honor and cherish, they promise to play a role. That role comes with a lot of perks and power (what girl wouldn’t want to be a First Lady?) but it also carries the potential pitfall of major public humiliation. It looks bogus when wives stand by their husbands during painful public apologies. It not only undermines the integrity of their marriage, it makes you question the credibility of a political system that demands such bizarre public mea culpas. What else in politics is false? What ulterior motives do these women have in standing by their men during their hour of shame?

hillary clinton scary face
What is it about Hillary that scares me so much?

  All Hail, Queen Hillary!

Hillary Clinton knows. She’s the Queen of Philandered First Ladies. No doubt, there’s a part of her that believes she deserves to be the first woman president simply for having endured the humiliation of the Monica Lewinsky scandal (and Paula Jones…and Gennifer Flowers…) No doubt, there’s a segment of the voting public that believes the same thing.

But, like many of Hillary’s public reactions, there was something calculated, almost robotic, about her response to her husband’s affair. Just once I’d like to see one of these women react in an honest fashion and clock their husband over the head with a frying pan during one of these live press conferences. At least we’d see an honest emotion out of someone in politics. That’s the lady I’d vote for.

It’s interesting to note that with all of the philandering male politicians we’ve seen throughout history, we have yet to see a female politician involved in a sex scandal (unless you go back to Cleopatra or Catherine the Great — and most of that was propaganda written by their political enemies). There’s never been a press conference where a wimpy husband is forced to smile placidly as his powerful wife tries to explain away details of an illicit affair.

Senator Larry Craig and wife Suzanne
Suzanne Craig: “My husband wasn’t looking for gay sex in a public restroom! He just has a wide stance and taps his feet when he craps!”

Where is the equality in politics? Sure, politics is still a male-dominated arena, but over the last 30 years the number of women in Congress has quadrupled, and they now make up one of every six members. Considering some studies show that women are just as likely to cheat as men, odds are there are a couple of political ladies stepping out on their husbands.  Yet there’s never been one caught up in a sex scandal.

That says something about the women we are voting into office. Either they’re more trustworthy that their male counterparts … or they’re better at keeping secrets.

-30-

Originally published in Wayne TODAY, March 2008

Time To Change — And Take The Wooden Nickels

no_pennies
Love ya’, Honest Abe, but pennies stink.

Good for Canada! Pennies suck! You’re next, Nickel!

A bloated deficit. An unbalanced budget. Enormous debt.

It’s an election year, and these are the buzzwords in the air. The United States is $15 trillion dollars in debt, and the hole is getting deeper all the time.

We’ve all heard stories of wasteful government spending. The Department of Defense spent $640 on a toilet seat, and $436 for a hammer. The National Parks Department spent $797,400 on an outhouse. More than $13 billion in Iraq aid has been classified as wasted or stolen, and another $7.8 billion cannot be accounted for.

Sometimes wasteful spending takes place on an even grander scale, one so big and obvious, you have to wonder why it wasn’t addressed before.

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Enter the lowly penny and the humble nickel.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Mint, it costs 2.4 cents to make one penny in 2011, and about 11.2 cents for each nickel. In short, we’re paying more than double to make these coins than they’re actually worth.

Make sense? No. It doesn’t even make cents!

This waste of money has been going on for years. The U.S. Mint lost $116.7 million making pennies and nickels last year. Since 2006, the government has lost nearly $360 million making small change.

Nickelback Sucks

The Obama Administration recently asked Congress for permission to change the mix of metals that goes into making pennies and nickels, in hopes that a cheaper alternative can be found. The recipe for pennies and nickels hasn’t changed for the last 30 years, even though the Treasury Department has been looking for a cheaper metal blend since 2010.

But for some reason they’ve failed to come up with anything. Why? How about going back to steel pennies like they did during World War II? What about tin, plastic, or a copper-plated chunk of compressed sawdust? How about anything that costs less than a penny to make! (Or five cents, in the case of nickels.) It shouldn’t be that hard to do. Maybe the old adage is wrong—we should take (and make) wooden nickels!

Meanwhile, the treasury has a 1.4 billion surplus in presidential dollar coins that have yet to be circulated. In fact, these coins will probably never be circulated. The dollar coins, which are similar in size to quarters, were unpopular with consumers and business owners, so last year the U.S. Mint stopped making them. Yet another costly failure.

I’m a good American, and I want to help my government any way I can. So I’ll make this offer to the U.S. Treasury: I’ll sell my pennies back to you for two cents each, and I’ll let you have my nickels for ten cents apiece. That’s a bargain! I’m sure many Americans would be willing do the same!

(Shhh! Based on past decisions, I think they might go for it!)

-30-
Originally published in Wayne TODAY, January 2012

“Big Sister” Is Selling Your Name

My old newspaper columns, circa ’95-’96.

My son unearthed a bunch of my old newspaper clippings recently, so I used an ImageToText app on my iPhone to scan this one from February 28, 1996. The app worked pretty well, and idea of the government selling your mailing address (not to mention email) to marketers is as frightening and relevant today as it was almost 17 years ago. (Speaking of which, the County Clerk’s Office sucks, too!) Plus, dig my groovy Geddy Lee look!

Viva la Mullet!

 One of the wonderful things about living in the ’90s is the ability to rack up huge credit card bills without leaving the house.

Using the phone or the computer you can buy everything from Richard Simmons’ exercise videos to haircutting attachments for your vacuum, (introducing…THE FLO-BEE!) Of course, you can also buy items you might actually have a use for, like food or clothing.

The problem with buying from a direct sales catalog is the enormous amount of junk mail that floods the mailbox afterward. Once you buy one item through the mail, manufacturers must believe you want to buy everything through the mail, and catalogs featuring bizarre items from across the globe begin piling up on your doorstep.

What is most annoying about this is the fact that companies sell their mailing lists to one another.

Say I order a delicious cheese wheel from “The Cheese Hut” in Missouri. A few weeks after my delivery arrives, I’m sure to get another catalog from “The Cheese Hut,” as well as stuff from “Cracker Hut,” “Baloney Hut,” “Dairy Product of the Month Association,” “Bulk Eating Digest,” and “Lunchmeats of the World.” “Cheese Hut” has sold my name and address to these companies without my permission—an admittedly “cheesy” move, but one that goes hand-in-hand with corporate mail order.

Government Sell Out

Now comes word that the government wants to jump into the lucrative junk mail market. Governor Christine Whitman recently unveiled a plan to sell off the databases of the Division of Motor Vehicles to direct-mail advertising firms. The plan will supposedly generate $11 million for the state, money Whitman has already included in the budget for this year.

Government officials claim they’re being “extra sensitive to privacy concerns” with the database sale. The truth is, any disclosure of DMV records is a violation of privacy rights. What Whitman is doing is subjecting everyone who drives a motor vehicle to piles of junk mail. Doesn’t the government take enough tax dollars already? Do they really have to tell direct mail producers where we live, as well?

Imagine the precedent this will set if Whitman’s plan comes to fruition. Will the IRS sell off its
database too, permitting the “Cheese Huts” of the world to mail a catalog to everyone with a Social Security number? This might be good for “Cheese Hut,” but it’s bad for the rest of us who have to sort through this junk. It’s also bad for mail carriers, who will have three times as much mail to deliver, 90 percent of which will be thrown away. And what will this do to the environment? Check it out in a few years when there are miles and miles of landfill containing nothing but glossy junk mail.

A few Democratic leaders are suggesting “revisions” to Whitman’s plan, but it probably won’t make any difference. The fact remains that Governor Whitman will be selling your name and your address to a bunch of direct-
mail advertisers. And that stinks worse than an unclaimed package from “The Cheese Hut.”

Make sure you remember to thank her at the voting booth in November.

-30-

Originally published in Wayne TODAY, February 1996. 

 

True History of Thanksgiving Will Turn Your Stomach

The First Thanksgiving. The Native Americans brought food. The Pilgrims brought passive aggression.

Just in time for Turkey Day comes this cheerful little ditty from November 2005.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Feeling bloated with turkey and burnt-out on football? Well, sit back, relax, and allow me to acquaint you with the real story of Thanksgiving, the one you probably weren’t taught in grade school.

The traditional history of Thanksgiving goes something like this: In 1620, the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, MA with a boatload of settlers. The group faced a harsh winter, but fortunately for them, the “friendly savages,” AKA the Wampanoag Indians, taught the settlers techniques to cultivate corn, grow native vegetables, and how to store them. By the end of summer 1621, the Pilgrims and the Indians threw a massive three-day party to celebrate the successful growing season and to generally “give thanks” for their friendship and for having survived in this harsh, untamed “New World.”

History Isn’t Pretty

While this version of events makes for a nice, “feel good” type of tale, it skirts the truth in a number of ways. In other ways it’s an outright lie.  True, there was friendship and peace among the Pilgrims and Indians during that three-day 1621 feast, but the friendship was uneasy and the peace was short-lived. The Wampanoag Indians were invited to the feast not just to celebrate the successful growing season, but also to negotiate a treaty that would secure the lands of the Plymouth Plantation for the Pilgrims. The Indians, perhaps trying to please their Pilgrim hosts, actually brought most of the food served at that 1621 feast.

But the Pilgrims, Puritans who fled England because of religious persecution, had a strained relationship with the Native Americans. They accepted their help, but they didn’t really trust them. The Puritans were America’s original “religious right” – they saw themselves as the “Chosen Elect” mentioned in the book of Revelation, and anyone who did not agree with their strict religious beliefs was considered an enemy. This, of course, included the “heathen” Native Americans.

Indeed, as more and more Puritans arrived in the New World, the balance of power began to shift. The ungratefulness of the original Thanksgiving Day Pilgrims is exemplified by a Thanksgiving day sermon given by “Mather the Elder” in Plymouth in 1623, just two years after that first Thanksgiving. In that sermon, Mather gives thanks to God for spreading the smallpox virus among the Wampanoag Indians, especially since it killed “young men and children.” Mather the Harsh!

The Puritans began invading Indian villages, killing the young, old and sick, and selling the rest off for slavery. In the span of less than a generation, the peace between the Indians and the Pilgrims had completely dissolved. The children of that first Thanksgiving, Puritan and Wampanoag alike, grew up warring with one another. The Wampanoag chief was beheaded and his head was displayed on a pike in the middle of Plymouth for the next 24 years.

History Repeats Like A Gassy Grandma

It makes you wonder how much we’ve learned as a nation in the last 375 years. The Taliban regime was our “friend” 20 years ago; we helped it oust Russian invaders from Afghanistan. Less than two decades after America helped put it in power, the Taliban government was supporting the terrorist groups that carried out the 9/11 attacks. Will our new “friends” in Iraq behave the same way? More importantly, who are the Pilgrims and who are the Indians in this scenario?  History repeats itself, but America doesn’t always learn from its mistakes.

Finally, there is another little-known history to Thanksgiving, a history that better reflects what the holiday has come to represent today. The original Plymouth colony was founded on the concept of communism; the land was owned and farmed by the community as a whole. But the results were disastrous – by 1623 starvation was imminent. In desperation, Plymouth Governor William Bradford abolished the communal concept and began distributing private plots of land among the Pilgrims. He encouraged them to plant early and farm the land as individuals, not collectively. As a result, the harvest was bountiful and the concept of private property, individual initiative, and a free marketplace all planted roots deeply in the soil of America’s capitalist system.

Now, be a good American and go out and do some Christmas shopping.

-30-

Originally published in Wayne TODAY, November 2005

Marriage Counseling: Gays Welcome!

Here are my thoughts on gay marriage published in TODAY February, 2004. I am soooo far ahead of the curve on this one! (Ouch! I dislocated my shoulder trying to pat myself on the back!) Plus, the idea of an expiring/renewable marriage license is nothing short of brilliant!

What is a marriage?

Gay Marriage—Fully endorsed by divorce lawyers everywhere!

In the eyes of the law, marriage is a union between a man and a woman. But in San Francisco, that law has changed. Newly elected Mayor Gavin Newsom recently lifted a ban on gay marriages. So far more than 3,000 same-sex couples have legally tied the knot.

But gay marriages in San Francisco may not be allowed for much longer. Several conservative groups have filed suit against the city, and the State of California is also trying to re-enforce the ban on gay marriages. “The Governator” is against it. San Francisco’s city elders have filed a counter-suit claiming that the government is violating the civil rights of its gay citizens.

The question here isn’t one of should gays be allowed to marry. It should be a question of why aren’t they allowed already. Our Constitution promises every citizen the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A certain segment of our citizenry is homosexual – it always has been and it always will be. Some people are just…gay. Yet the powers behind most government and religious institutions still refuse to recognize these citizens as equals.

Committed gay couples are entitled to the same legal benefits as married heteros; namely, some tax breaks for maintaining a home together, additional breaks if you have kids. That’s only fair – anybody who helps raise a child or maintain a piece of property in this country deserves those benefits, be they married or single, gay or straight. The Constitution also states “all men are created equal” yet they are rarely treated that way in America.

1,2,3 … What Are We Fightin’ For?

That being said, what is it the gay community really fighting for? The right to further complicate their already complex relationships by legally binding themselves to one another? How long after we hear about the first gay marriage will we hear about the first gay divorce? How will this impact our already-overwhelmed family courts?

Several years ago I wrote a column suggesting that we could reduce our nation’s high divorce rate by having marriage licenses expire after five years. A marriage would continue only upon the mutual agreement of both partners. Now, after examining the issues raised by gay marriage, I’d like to take that idea a step further – abolish marriage licenses all together. I’m not comfortable with the idea of any politician deciding who can get married and who can’t. The government shouldn’t sanction who people love. It’s not what we elected these people to do, and it’s not what the Constitution of this country intended.

Gays are fighting hard to have their relationships legally validated. Their efforts would be better spent trying to reform tax and insurance laws that would benefit any couple with a home and family. If a couple of single moms decide to buy a house together, they should get the same tax breaks as any man/woman couple who are homeowners and parents. Who cares what goes on in the bedrooms of these people? Nobody should question or pass judgement on anyone else’s sexual preference in this, “the land of the free.” Yet our nation’s leaders do it routinely. That’s why the government should get out of the marriage business.

And the gay community should realize that a marriage has very little to do with the documents that make it official or declare it null and void.

-30-

Originally published Wayne TODAY, February 2004

Why County Clerks Suck

[Here’s another classic rant from 1998. I’m pretty sure county clerks are still selling your name and phone number to telemarketers. And they still suck. Interesting, back in ’98 I was bitching about telemarketers disrupting my Saturday morning tea-and-writing sessions. Now weekends are packed with kids, chores, kids, errands, kids, home improvements, and kids. But I’m not bitching about it. It’s pretty awesome, actually.]

yell at phone
“Sorry to complain, Ms. Tomlin, but I wish the county clerk’s office wouldn’t sell my personal info to telemarketers!”

The phone is ringing, but I’m not going to answer it.

It’s a quiet Saturday morning. The dogs have been fed and walked. I’ve got a steaming mug of tea next to my computer, and I’m settling in, preparing to write a column. I’ve got a good, juicy topic —

There goes the phone again. Ignore it.

Anyway, the column is about Passaic County office workers selling the names, addresses, and phone numbers of local residents to junk mail companies. Evidently it’s a longstanding and lucrative side business for employees in the County Clerk’s office and the Register of Deeds. There’s nothing illegal about it — the records are public. Instead of hiring an outside researcher to gather the names, it’s quicker and easier for marketing firms to have people on the “inside” who can funnel the data to them as soon as it comes in.

Ugh, the phone again. This is the third time in 40 minutes. This time I answer it.

You’re Talking To An Idiot

“Hello?”

“Hello. Is this Robert … Ferrera?”

My middle initial is F (for Francis – hey, no laughing!). People who are reading my name off official documents often merge Robert F. Errera into Robert Ferrera. It’s a dead giveaway I’m talking to a salesman (or, as they say in the ’90s, “customer service representative“).

“Yeah, this is Robert,” I say, because I am an idiot.

“Mr. Ferrera, I’m calling today to offer you five cents per minute on all your weekend long distance calls …”

This continues for a full three minutes. The perky female on the other end of the line is good, barely pausing for breath as she chronicles the amazing deal she is offering. Finally, there is a lull in her diatribe and I see a chance to get a word in edgewise.

“Uh, thanks but I’m really not interested.”

“But Mr. Ferrera, with this select plan, you can save up to 50 percent on all your long distance calls…”

She goes on for another full minute, picking up momentum and showing no sign of slowing.

“Look, I’m really not interested,” I say, way past annoyed.

“But why, Mr. Ferrera? The service is free for 30 days and you can cancel at any time…”

These are the last words I hear before hanging up. Considered me canceled.

Cold Calls Make Me Hot

Back at my desk, the tea has cooled. I plow through the first two paragraphs of this column before the phone starts ringing again. I’m beginning to see the irony here. A glutton for punishment, I answer the phone.

complaining on phone
“I’m not Mr. Ferrera, you twit! Now stop calling me!”

“Hello, is this Mr. Ferrera?”

“He isn’t in right now, can I take a message?” I’m so clever.

“No, this is just a courtesy call. We’d like to offer Mr. Ferrera the opportunity to upgrade his windows before winter arrives. Do you think this is something he might be interested in?”

“I don’t know, and frankly it’s not my place to authorize any home improvements. You’ll have to call back some other time.”

You can see where I’m going with this. If county workers hadn’t sold my personal information to a bunch of marketing firms, maybe I could get some work done. I’ll never begrudge someone the opportunity to make extra money—lots of people, myself included, need it to make ends meet. But by doing their part-time job, these county employees have made my part-time job more difficult. The moonlighting county workers say they aren’t paid enough, and need extra income. I say quit disrupting the lives of the residents who employ you, and find a new part-time gig. (After this column, I’m sure there are plenty of county workers who’ll wish the same for me.)

The phone rang two more times since finishing this column. I didn’t answer it. The dogs bark at the postman, and I check to see what he’s brought. The mailbox is overflowing with junk — leaflets advertising aluminum siding, carpet cleaning, and discount pizzas.

In the distance I hear the demonic cackle of a county worker.

Ha-ha, Francis.

-30-

Reprinted courtesy of WAYNE TODAY, December 1998.