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Since forever, women have endured the calumny that they aren’t good leaders because they are too emotional, irrational, non-competitive, and weak to oversee or be equals with men in the workplace. What harm would it do if for a while we indulge the opposite conclusion: that men are too territorial, unitasking, uncooperative, combative, and prone to sexual stimulation to be leaders, to be over-represented in the workforce or be overcompensated in pay? Just for fun, what if we thought that way for a while?

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Media Monopoly

In journalism school, in a class on ethics, we were assigned to read “The Media Monopoly,” a thoroughly depressing screed about the onset of media consolidation with dire, unrelenting bad news that we young journalists were about to enter a field of whoredom owned by a handful of self-interested media conglomerates. These companies were filtering out far-ranging, dissenting voices (it was a prep of sorts for Noam Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent.”) It left a big mark on me. The book’s author Ben Bagdikian has just left us now.  RIP. (You can read his obituary here.)

I feel two ways about his book in hindsight. In one sense he was absolutely correct: Most of the big media is owned by the same conglomerates who pollute our water and build war materiel and would indeed like to keep us in the dark. At the same time, the Internet has recreated journalism as cottage industry where even the most extreme voices (communists and global warming deniers alike) are free to put their wares in the marketplace of ideas and have them amplified. That’s given us the multiplicity of voices, but it’s also given us a lot of echo chambers for aspirational opinion havers to confirm their own biases with selective research. To the new voices, pretenses to objectivity are boorish, arcane and disingenuous. The kind of serious investigative, bias-free journalism we used to rely on from professionals becomes harder to find and fund, and must often be paid for by philanthropist billionaires –the patronage of the modern tech Medici. Meanwhile, a lot of old-time professional journalists are simply getting out of the business because there’s no money in it and going into PR.

The Internet age has led us to a kind of anarchy of opposing realities where you can choose your own facts and deny things that are indisputable–global warming, the Sandy Hook massacre or the fact that the Sept. 11 attacks were planned by Muslim extremists. The Internet has given people the confidence to say they trust nothing they read. But it hasn’t confronted them with the consequences of that sentiment: You now have more work to do in scrutinizing what is real by taking multiple viewpoints into account and understanding your own subjective interference in it, including the value system given to your by your peers and parents. Somebody somewhere on the Internet right now will be very happy to let you off the hook for this work by coddling you and your values, and in this you are just as manipulated as you would be by General Electric trying to bury a pollution story.

In this light, the handful of sober conglomerate voices Bagdikian warned us against don’t look all that bad, frankly.

But here we are. Change is change and not to be judged, least of all by me. Powerful money interests have lost a great deal of power over information. It happened quite naturally in a technological upheaval. Power over it has come back to the people, even sweaty, frustrated schizophrenics sitting on their laptops at night. Many people, however, will likely not know what to do with all the conflicting information they have. They will be confused and they will turn to the people they trust, and once again risk becoming tools of somebody else’s will. They will repeat others’ ideas, not innovate on them, and act as if this is some sort of emancipation. The power only to repeat.

So mission accomplished. Patriarchy smashed. Hope you have some idea what you’re in for.

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My wife and I have been provisioning all day for the monstrous Hurricane Irene. How temperamental is she? She keeps changing her category! This storm is such a raging bitch that not only have 370,000 New Yorkers been ordered evacuated, but the New York Times has momentarily given away free storm stories on its Web site. This evil hurricane is already messing with our Web business models!

This has been a summer of firsts for me. Not only have I had my first baby, but three days ago I experienced my first earthquake, and this weekend, I’ll face down my first hurricane, and all at an age where you stop having firsts. It probably also bears mentioning that you shouldn’t be dealing with any of these things in New York City, perhaps even the baby part.

My wife and I are thankfully not in one of the flood zones, but we have big windows on a high floor and are wondering if we will have to be spending the weekend bodily shielding our baby Xander against flying tempered glass.  New York supposedly upgraded its building codes in 2008 to stiffen them against hurricane winds, but in a city where pragmatism must be mixed into politics like milk into chocolate, many existing buildings didn’t have to meet these codes. At the height my wife and I live, there’s a danger of glass, gravel, and other items flying off adjacent roofs (even those of shorter buildings) and creating a debris field. We hear different pieces of advice about how risky it is to stay where we are, but at this point, we have few choices. I’ll let you know if things start flying through our living room.

I’ve spent most of the day stocking up. It’s strange how people predicting the end of the world recently (Glenn Beck comes to mind) have been admonishing you to invest in gold. But after spending the day looking for larder items, I’d say the smarter money is on peanut butter. That and bread seem to be the two items my neighbors can’t live without, and every store I’ve been to today has been robbed of its creamy spreads and whole wheat breads. Where other nonperishable items like beans and soup and Chips Ahoy remained, peanut butter seems to be the rock star staple food of the nascent storm survivalist. How you gonna eat gold, after all, when the flood comes?

When you are provisioning, I’ve found it helps to be counter-intuitive. Most stores I went to had run out of flashlights and D batteries by 2 p.m. today. But if you were willing to walk into one of the tiny newsstands, you found lots of D batteries. And my wife said there were tons of flashlights at Gracious Home. I found it better to look for each prized survival item at the place where it was most novel. Water at the health and beauty store. Batteries at the bodega. Cereal at Bed, Bath & Beyond. If anything, however, today’s shopping lesson was a bog standard lesson in supply and demand. Items that are unremarkable one day become as valuable as silver the next.

Another lesson for you disaster watchers is to listen to the voices in the street for the stirrings of public skepticism. There are a few lone voices out there who insist Mike Bloomberg, our billionaire mayor, is fear mongering and exaggerating the threat of the storm. The city has launched New York’s first mandatory evacuation ever from the flood zones in all five boroughs and mass transit will shut down at noon on Saturday. In a mordant moment at a press conference Thursday, Bloomberg said that he’s asking residents of those areas to leave so as they do not, you know, die. But skepticism of his motives has already risen among those who feel he’s making up for a botched response to last winter’s Snowmageddon.There’s a lot of dismissive sneers by those who say we’re having our chains pulled. New York hasn’t seen a major hurricane in decades.

It makes you think briefly about politics. To doubt something that’s factual (indeed, to ignore myriad satellite pictures and weatherman showing you exactly how Hurricane Irene is going to hand your ass to you) is something damn near instinctual among us. Perhaps political parties grow from these abundant small disagreements more organically than we think. I wrote earlier this year after the Japan earthquake about the need to politicize acts of God, comparing the event to Hurricane Katrina. Is there something good about doubting people who would take you out of harm’s way? Does it help us to constantly question and be skeptical of things insight tells us are true, in hopes of constantly making insight better? Is it better to have a foil political party or group always saying “Nay,” no matter what the question? Is this what actually makes democracy work?

Perhaps we don’t choose the dialectic. Perhaps it chooses us.

I’ll leave with that thought and hope Hurricane Irene does not choose me or my family this weekend. If you don’t hear much from me in the next couple of days (and hate seeing egregious spelling errors sitting uncorrected in the post) it’s because my power is likely down or because my son won’t let me type for two seconds. In fact, I’m amazed I wrote this much.

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Friends of a man accused of shooting dozens at a convenience store in Friarsburg, North Dakota saw it coming a mile away, they said Thursday.

Brad James Cheltenham, a part-time janitor and full-time Illuminati and CIA history buff, was arrested last Wednesday after shooting at 36 customers at the Wiggle Pig bodega, a rampage that ended in the parking lot after police disabled Cheltenham with a shot to the leg.

“No surprise here,” says Cheltenham’s best friend Stu Ryerson. “Brad’s a friggin’ nut. He used to stand in my driveway and yell word salad at me–that I was a devil pinko with a bifurcated tail. I put up with it because he was good at basketball.”

Cheltenham’s one-time possible girlfriend also had long anticipated the day that she would see the man she dated for five hours at a Sonic drive-in being dragged across America’s TV screens and accused of a mass shooting as cops sprayed grapeshot at him and gas spewed all over the ground.

“File this under ‘Totally expected,'” she said. “I remember when I first met him at the airport. He had screamed at the desk clerk that he was going to miss his connecting flight, and what should have been grumbling turned into something like a grand mal seizure and he took a swing at the poor woman and pretty soon he was in the anti-terrorist holding tank. Dunno why I agreed to go on a date with him. He knew a lot about Dostoevsky.”

Cheltenham grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis and tried to attend community college there but was thrown out because “everybody knew the kid was going to go postal someday,” said the college’s vice provost, Derek Jamesian. “We got our new security cameras just for him.”

Cheltenham’s mother ran a small book store in Fargo and his father was a retired doctor who sold medical supplies.

“Yep, we knew he’d do this someday,” his now remarried mother Iris Flotsky said. “I love my son, but when you look in his eyes for two seconds, you just realize he was born without a soul. I wish you could find that out on an amniocentesis, but you can’t.”

His father, Joe P. Cheltenham, agreed: “I’d like to tell you it was his upbringing, but really the kid was sui generis, neither fish nor fowl, straight from the depths of hell Belial and Molloch wrapped into one. I think after talking to Brad for a few minutes, you might let us off the hook.”

The alleged shooter says he went on his rampage to alert people to the control government has on sans serif fonts in textbooks and also because a store clerk disrespected him a long time ago.

Friend Blake McNulty remembers going to a theme park with Cheltenham once and turned in shock when his friend started screaming at a funfair employee over how much each dart cost at the “Balloon and Dart” game.

“Brad started screeching that the game ‘was rig’ and then stuff started coming out of his mouth, and I think a bit of pus from his ears. Later he said he was fine, he was just in a bad mood right then.”

Cheltenham himself said after the shooting, “You are all very into yourselves and everything is about you. I will show you how things are also about me. Bozzle bozzle bozzle bozzle.”

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(Originally posted Monday, February 02, 2009)

Adelaide, Vermont (API) — Everybody at Hutter Farms, a free-love hippie commune in upstate Vermont, wants to sleep with the new blonde 23-year-old arrival Bethany Woodruff, the commune’s leaders reported today. Though all comers are welcome to the community, which its elders describe as a village of peace, labor and brotherhood, the elder members are a bit nonplussed by the presence of the almost-six-foot-tall blonde, whose milk-white skin and highly erotic facial structure, they worry, could upset the order of the community.

“This is just a nightmare,” said Marion “Mother Hen” Dubrowski. “The other night at the tribal meeting we asked who’d like to work with Bethany on the grist mill and about 95% of the tribe raised their hands. I mean, how could we get anything done if all we ever did was separate chaff? Am I going crazy?”

Hutter Farms, a “back-to-the-land” commune built in 1975 to espouse the values of labor, eco-friendly energy and anarcho-primitivism, has also had a free-love belief system since inception. This has led its members to tear up old social conventions, and so members ask each other for sex in weekly group meetings in which everyone is involved. As part of the mating dance, everyone weighs in with their feelings, and if the sex is to be consummated, the whole group chimes in with a mating dance with horns and songs and goat’s urine.

“I’m all about free love, but I just threw down the clipboard when I saw Bethany coming,” said tribal elder Peter “Gray Wulf” Jones. “Every once in a while this happens. Some little hottie comes along and shreds the revolutionary social fabric. I’m really depressed.”

Woodruff, a B.A. graduate in botany from Syracuse University, is five feet 11 inches with fluent limbs, a good chest, and a smattering of freckles. She came to the colony with her husband Jim Woodruff so that they could “get away from the depredations of modern industrial culture,” they said.

“Honestly, though, it was really Jimmy’s idea,” said Bethany. “Now I’m in this pit every night and each time I get here some old hippie wants to have a go at me. I’m a little frightened.”

The nightly gatherings were arranged in 1976 as a way for members to be able to ask for sex in ways that were not socially awkward.

“The old system of marriage is just so backward,” said Milton “Antler Warrior” Schonstein. “Here, it’s just laid back. You’ve got the whole camp behind you helping you tell the girl you’re attracted to that you’d love to share sex with her. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s just so much better than regular society.”

“I’m not going anywhere near that guy,” said Bethany Woodruff when asked if she would like to sleep with Schonstein. “He’s got shit in his hair.”

Hutter Farms was formed as many urbanites fled the Vietnam War and decided to recreate American society in a new pastoral idiom that eschewed war, meat, unsustainable energy and, most important, sexual inhibition.

“If we were all having sex more, there would be no more war,” said 90-year-old “Pa Hutter” who founded the society after leaving a job at Dow Chemical in 1968 over a stock options argument. “Everyone rise tonight and say who it is you’d like to express your love to!”

“Bethany!” yelled everybody.

Among the other values embodied by the community are radical self-expression, respect for mother nature, respect of spirituality in all forms that are not patriarchal or demeaning, and the enlightenment that comes with cleansing the doorways of perception.

“Bethany is a great soul,” said Schonstein. “She’s come here because she’s curious and looking for answers and the deteriorating industrial ideal just held nothing for her anymore. She’s like Eve in the Garden of Eden. Naked. So naked. I really get her.”

“They want me to go to the tribal meeting tonight and talk me into having sex with somebody who’s got crab lice,” Bethany said. “Wait! Did you hear that? They’re talking about me. Somebody’s in the bushes!”

According to the tribal log, those who have expressed a desire to have sex with Woodruff are 21-year-old Denny “God Breeze” McClaine; 25-year-old Johnny “Banjo” Gansevoort; 53-year-old Michael “Dizzy Hawk” Hochstein; 28-year-old Richie “Eglantine” Prichard; 22-year-old Lyle “Rabbit Foot” Babbit; 52-year-old Sheila “Moonchild” Daniels; 62-year-old Marion “Mother Hen” Dubrowski; 72-year-old Mavis “Ghost Dog” Searling; 19-year-old Dennis “Hiawatha” Ostin; 90-year-old Lenny “Pa” Hutter; 13-year-old Starshine Mathers; 7-year-old Jake “Doolittle” Smalls; 14-year-old Charlotte “Moonbeam” Pasternak; and 42-year-old Dolores “Squeaky” Procnow.

A notable exception was Woodruff’s husband Jim.

“I’m just so over attachments and strings,” said Jim Woodruff. “I was really an unevolved person before, and I think it was holding Bethany back. It just wasn’t fair for me to be so possessive. Now she’s free and I think our love is stronger for that.”

“They’re out there!” Woodruff whispered in horror. “All of them are outside my tent waiting for me. I’m doomed. I’m a hunted animal. I think I’m losing my mind.”

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(Originally posted Monday, November 10, 2008 )

Santa Rosa, Calif. (AP) — During the battle over Proposition 8, the constitutional state ban against gay marriage, parents groups had protested loudly that it was unfair to foist the topic of gay marriage onto schoolchildren. Those groups are now rejoicing that the proposition has passed, and that schoolchildren are safe to return to much less troubling topics like the Iraq War, Chernobyl, Abu Ghraib and the Holocaust.

“It was very difficult for me as a teacher to explain gay marriage to my students,” said Santa Rosa fifth-grade teacher Margie Prendergast as her students sat in the other room watching The Sorrow and the Pity. “I mean, how do you tell a child that a princess can marry a princess? It’s just absurd.”

“I wish I was dead,” said Jonah Brooks, aged 8, after hearing what the Holocaust was. “I think at night that somebody’s going to kill me. I’m cold all over and have nightmares.”

Helen Schiffren, a 40-year-old upstate California homemaker, concurred with Prendergast.

“What people don’t understand when they’re making these decisions is that there are children in the schools who are innocent,” said Schiffren, whose 10-year-old daughter April had just seen a film of Inuits clubbing seals to death. “My daughter is innocent. Why does she have to be dragged into this?”

When asked how she liked the movie, April Schiffren said only, “The horror. The horror.” She then shook her head, walked away and refused to answer any more questions.

Coach Jed Stevens of John Milton Elementary School in San Luis Obispo said that California had done the right thing.

“What people don’t realize is that when marriage is redefined, it affects society at every level, even the level of children,” said Coach Stevens, whose class was enjoying a special viewing of Bambi. The kids emerged from the film later crying hysterically.

“Why did Bambi’s mother have to die?” said 8-year-old Robert Peters. “Coach Stevens said it was the circle of life. But what does that even mean to me? I wish I had a gun.”

Prendergast said that gay marriage would definitely affect kids, who, if it weren’t for school, would have absolutely no other way of knowing about what adults do, even in this digital age, where information feeds back at lightning speed.

“Everything kids know they know from their teachers and parents. They have no other ways to think for themselves and we must shield them from life’s most traumatizing and confusing topics like adult sexuality,” said Prendergast, right before her class asked her what Abu Ghraib was. Prendergast went into it in excruciating detail.

“Wow,” said Sam Singer, one of Prendergast’s 10-year-old students. “People turn into real monsters when they’re angry. Now I wonder day or night if somebody’s going to water-board me. If Ms. Prendergast is keeping out the worst stuff, then I already don’t want to live anymore.”

“Kids reflect us,” Schiffren said. “They are little perfect replicas of us. We have to protect them. For God’s sake we must, we must, we must.”

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(Originally posted Sunday, October 26, 2008 )

San Francisco (API) — The onset of gay marriage in the United States has ruined the lives of straight people, say an overwhelming majority of struggling and rageful heterosexual married couples.

Since the legalization of gay marriage in states like California, Connecticut and Massachusetts, 95% of heterosexual couples say that they can no longer enjoy their married lives at all and are feeling despondent and depressed over it. Sixty-seven percent say food doesn’t taste as good; 55% say they no longer relate to their spouse; 23% no longer perceive different colors; 10% said they can’t touch animals or certain kinds of synthetic fabric; and an overwhelming 98% say that they no longer enjoy the act of sexual intercourse.

“Gay marriage has just ruined everything,” said Wayne Betancourt of Franklin, Mississippi. “I feel like we’re all just walking around in a state of waking death at my house. And I know my neighbors feel the same way. Marriage used to be sitting down to dinner with my wife and talking about our day. Now evidently it’s supposed to be some kind of trannie Wigstock Festival listening to Kylie Minogue. I’m just shattered.”

“The other night my husband was making love to me,” said Rachel Haddingfield. “And just as he was about to reach orgasm, he stopped and said, ‘I don’t know why I bother Rachel. I mean, in today’s gay world, I might as well be cornholing you instead.’ I knew that was the beginning of the end. We’re barely speaking now.”

Since gay marriages were first made legal in San Francisco several years ago, heterosexual couples claim that their interpersonal domestic lives have been directly impacted, marked by strained communication, emotional outbursts, food phobia, psoriasis, mange and worst of all, passive-aggressive behavior such as an unwillingness to speak or take out the garbage and pay bills.

“This is only a guess, but I’d say we’ve lost about $4 trillion in productivity because of this,” said gas station attendant Lance Bangs.

Since the Supreme Court a few years ago found what many scholars say is an implicit right of gays to marry, most heterosexuals say that their belief in the legitimacy of their own marriages has now been irretrievably shaken. The divorce rate among them is now 50%.

“Can you imagine?” says John McManus of the Pew research institute. “Fifty percent! That’s half of American married people whose lives have been ruined. All by a certain group of people, I won’t say which, who want to turn a Christian institution into La Cage aux Folles.”

“My son tried to commit suicide last week,” said Foster Harrigan, a truck driver in Olympia, Washington. He refused to elaborate.

Among the traumatic feelings heterosexuals have felt since the first reports of legal gay marriage are less attraction to their spouses; worries that they themselves or their children might be gay; an unsettled feeling that all marriage is no longer valid and their relationships are thus likely to dissolve in confusion; post-coital depression; post-nasal drip; bleeding ulcers; wild swings in the stock market; and wild anxiety about a new age of violent, gay frontier justice.

“I hope the gays are happy,” said Wayne Rangel, a postal employee from Osh Kosh, Wisconsin. “They are selfish, selfish people and now their selfishness has penetrated the most intimate, sacred areas of my life. I just can’t look at my wife the same way knowing that our well-founded, healthy red-blooded heterosexual love has been turned into a mockery, a joke and a sham. Evidently now, according to the U.S. Constitution I can’t be married now unless I’m willing to be fisted by a male stranger in a Berlin bathroom stall. Am I supposed to kneel somewhere? How does this work?”

Many voiced concern that with the likely surge in gay ceremonies being performed, they won’t even know how to be married anymore.

“I mean, when I come home, do I ask my wife for a foot rub and have a romantic dinner or am I supposed to dress up like Dorothy, lube up with KY and watch Melrose Place?” asked Glenn Davis from upstate California. “I mean, we’re sitting at home now looking at each other like we’ve completely lost the script. It’s just dead silence for hours. Is it me? Am I going crazy?”

“These are our lives!” insisted kindergarten teacher Grace McCutcheon of Terre Haute, Indiana. “Marriage is a sacred Christian institution. It’s not an episode of Wonder Woman. I don’t think the gays understand that.”

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