Out Of The Electronic Many, One

Location: Washington, DC, United States

Saturday, December 30, 2006

R.I.P. FEDERALIST 2006 2006-2006

This is it for me, so I'm closing big. Some of you may remember this from the grad reading series earlier this year - the ages are a little off, but no big deal. Thanks so much to everyone who came and read and commented.

Federalist 2006 is loosed from this digital coil...

To Anyone Over Sixteen Without An Ulcer.

I. Stock of the Situation

I work in a grocery store. I am 26 years old, and a man on all counts biological, intellectual, and sexual. Professionally, however, I am a Stock Boy. I have a college degree – in English – that qualifies me to make excellent conversation while shelving groceries. I am currently working on my Masters degree – in writing – which should qualify me to create erudite dialogue while shelving groceries.

I would say that I am typical, excepting that I know things like the German word for ‘strawberry’ and that Tycho Brahe died from a burst bladder after drinking too much wine at a royal dinner where it was against protocol to take bathroom breaks. I am over-educated and under-utilized. I am deeply in debt, but very good at Jeopardy. I have three email accounts and an iPod. I read the newspaper on the Internet. I listen to Jay-Z and Willie Nelson. It’s a good bet that I am cooler than everyone older than me. A day in my life is, as near as one could say it, a day in the life of the average young American.

At work the other day, I noticed that the cost of spices has gone up. We do price changes every Wednesday, and ordinarily they don’t make any impression on me, but this sent through my mind faint tolls of distant alarm bells. Some of the prices rose thirty cents, some as much as seventy-five. Vanilla was up a dollar. Cardamom had taken on two.

Consider the early spice trade: a battle on a delivery route, some local ruler’s bad attitude, inclement weather; any of these things could drive up the prices of pepper or cinnamon, affecting, in one blow, the daily life of a continent. Today we are insulated from these kinds of wild vacillations. It takes a long and a complicated sequence of events to even notice the far-off rumble of the machinations of states. There are headlines, and a din of pundits, but for the most part, we seldom notice politics in our wallets. The story here on the ground, in our schools, in our homes, in our grocery stores, remains stable. Only now the cost of spices has gone up. Those events have been set in motion, and the fallen dominoes – dwindling oil supplies, the collapsing dollar, inflated domestic poverty, the growing expense of transportation, etc – have conspired to raise the prices of our seasonings.

II. My Zeitgeist Ate My Weltanschauung

The eyes of the nation, and consequently the world, are now turned towards America’s youth. For a long time now, young people have been the engine for progress in this country. Every time the establishment falters we look to the anti-establishment, the naïve, idealistic, vigorous young. It is that time again. Debt and unemployment, a failing war, enemies all around, fewer friends than ever. As a good friend of mine put it, “This is some Roman Empire shit going down right here.”

Which raises the question: What is on the minds of America’s Youth? It must be asked, not in a baited attempt to get us to defend ourselves, but because there is no encouraging, cohesive concept of my generation. No one knows what is on our minds. We have not articulated a profound collective sentiment. Hell, we grew up hearing that ‘collective’ was a bad word. All the knowledge that exists of my generation is comprised of polling data and market analysis, a few one-dimensional, clichéd representations, graphing and pie-charting our favorite flavors and colors. Though, we have been tagged and released many times, as Generation X, the Internet Generation, the Whatever generation, and most recently the iPod Generation, the labels applied serve merely to comfort those that fail to understand us. They are dismissive and trite, consistently portraying us as a fickle citizenry, sensational nihilists swept up in some fleeting newness. We are left defined by our fads.

It is easy, then, to say that there is nothing on the mind of America’s youth, and plenty of evidence – as with any generation – that we are going to blow the whole damn thing. It makes great copy to reduce us to our apathy, our obsessions with video games and hip-hop beats, to note how quickly we can be lured by loud explosions or the promise of college girls with their shirts above their heads, and it is all too easy from this to reach the ultimate conclusion: We are all screwed.

III. Remembrance of Things Past

It often seems to me that my generation and my nation have grown up together, by which I mean that both of us have only recently acquired what might be called a real history.

The time has come where the significant, the living past, bears enough resemblance to our current world that we can learn a few things. It is easier to see now in 2006, from looking back, what things have been gained and what have been lost. Of course, the United States has a long history, but what I am referring to is not a simple backlog of years, but a sense of familiarity, a recognition of this place, and the place we are heading, of having been in the same spot before.

Colonial America is to us, positively antediluvian; the 1800s a time of horse-drawn buggies and ridiculous wigs; even the early 20th century speaks to us more as mythology than model. But as the War in Iraq further echoes that in Vietnam, other similarities begin to become apparent. The 90s boom and bust begins to look a lot like the boom and bust of the 1920s. The Patriot Act is our House Un-American Activities Committee. Gay Rights our Civil Rights. George W. Bush our George H.W. Bush. We are growing into it. America has met the horizon envisioned many years ago, when after World War II we positioned ourselves as fledgling leaders of a new world order. Half a century established the nation in that role and, no matter what resentment or criticism may arise in other countries, in the face of global issues – terrorism, poverty, free trade, Communism – America, my America, my generation, is fully expected to lead. Our troublesome characteristics, our idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes are not youthful folly anymore; their consequences are no longer growing pains.

We are learning which mistakes we are doomed to repeat, uncovering, as a country, our pathologies. Our trouble is in learning that we need to learn. My generation did not lose its sense of history. Until now, we never had one. The days and years of our parents are archaic, lost in slowness and quaint ignorance. Our own pasts return to us as times of clunky objects and bad haircuts. Tender, gentle images of today hold no stature with us; the present is a drowsy dream from which we are trying to wake up. Everything we own is obsolete as soon as we turn around. Why would we wish to inhabit or understand the unstreamlined, unsophisticated eras that preceded us?

IV. Become As Little Children

I turned 26 years old last November. When I was 15, playing little league baseball, I remember the games always began with the national anthem. Usually it was played through a crappy public address speaker, often from a mic held directly to the speakers of a miniature boom box. It was never beautiful or rousing or terribly inspiring, but I always felt something. I was as naïve about government and politics then as I was about love and sex. I felt it as a gift, to have nothing more pressing than to spend the afternoon playing baseball, in a safe place, in a nation that afforded me such luxury.

I still cling to this idealism. Even with what I have learned, with all the jingoism and racism and corruption that I witness, I hang on to an America that I love deeply. This is, I believe, what is on the minds of the youth. We talk about avoiding the “real world” that assiduously lays claim to our childhood, but with a lament that knows that it is too late. We have already been grotesquely thrust outward, prematurely exposed by way of the internet, by way of cell phones, to impatience, to sex, drugs, and innocuously blue, uncalloused and bright Tuesday mornings.

One of the follies and charms of youth is the ability to live life in the abstract: to bear along with meaning minus consequences. The American youth have all experienced at least one day in which the illusion dissipated. We are all, in some manner, members of the Class of September 11th 2001. It was unavoidable that we would have graduated to something, some further understanding revealed in that morning and its aftermath. We cannot elude the changes, whether they come in shifts of personal, political, cultural, or economic consciousness, or only in the prices of our cardamom.

But I am not worried. It is this fusion of innocence and travail that gives my generation strength, and we will thrive because we are neither whimsical nor cynical. When the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded, we will not be tethered to the artifices of our mothers and fathers, and we will not refuse our time for dreaming of a fuller, prouder destiny. As mixed up as things get, as mixed up as they are now, and as they will be, I say that we see them as they are, and we face them as we will.

We may look inauspicious with our unprofessional piercings, our bad habits and our ordinary shoes, but are we not the generation of Star Wars? Of The Bad News Bears? Of The Goonies? Are we not the very rag-tag bunch of weirdoes, underdogs, and rejects from whom the world has come to expect salvation?

Oily-haired nerds, bored office denizens, thugs, protesters, soldiers, video-gamers, riot grrls, punk rockers, ravers, vegans, neo-hippies, frustrated stock men! We are the next generation, and not because Pepsi said so. I know so many brilliant, concerned, passionate people you would never even believe me; I know that one day, near or distant, the world will turn its gaze back to our time, to our plot of history, and see our battles, with tyranny, with waste, poverty, and apathy, and as time opens towards yet another new horizon, say of our enemies, “And they would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.”

Monday, December 04, 2006


John Bolton To Leave UN
Blogger Agrees To Spare Readers Bolten Boltin’ Puns

John "I Ain't Fer It, I'm Agin' It" Bolton announced today that he will be leaving his post as the US envoy to the United Nations when his term expires in early January.

Bolten was appointed by the President during a Congressional recess in August of 2005. Members of both parties, unable to confirm or deny Bolton per the procedural rules, logged vocal opposition and allowed his official hearing to languish in committee for over a year.

Members of the 110th Congress have made it clear that Bolton is unlikely to be confirmed in the coming session. Incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, said he saw ''no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again.''

Bolton was a brusque figure in the world of international diplomacy, regularly incorporating a blunt-instrument approach to complicated foreign affairs. He initially established his presence in the UN chambers by publicly beating the Norwegian Foreign Minister into a three-day coma on his first day in the UN Cafeteria.

Supporters praised Bolton’s no-nonsense posture, saying it brought a necessary focus to UN proceedings on matters concerning North Korea and the development of nuclear capabilities in Iran. Others, however, felt his aggressive unilateralism verged on bullying and disrupted the collaborative mission of the international body.

To commemorate Mr. Bolton’s many months of service, I present the greatest hits of our soon-to-be-former UN Ambassador.

It’s got all the famous sayings you remember reading earlier this year. Hits like:

“There's no such thing as the United Nations. If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.”

“There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world and that is the United States when it suits our interest and when we can get others to go along. And I think it would be a real mistake to count on the U.N. as if it is some disembodied entity out there that can function on its own.”

It has the softer side:

“Not only do I not care about losing the General Assembly vote but actually see it as a 'make my day' outcome.”

“Diplomacy is not an end [in] itself if it does not advance U.S. interests.”

And who could forget JB’s negotiation philosophy:

“I don’t do carrots.”

One can only imagine the sanguine splendor of the Bolton family home.

The President, possibly hinting as his own historical legacy, stated that he accepted the decision “with deep regret.”

It is rumored that Bolton is considering a spokesperson position with the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


A Platteville, Wisconsin man is being sued after legally changing his name to Andrew Jackson Griffith in a failed bid for the Sheriff's office in Grant County. Griffith nee William H. Fenrick is being taken to court by the real Andy Griffith for violating copyright laws and encroaching on the privacy of the actor.

Fake Griffith says that the suit is unfounded because he received no personal gain through the use of Real Griffith's name, and that his sole intent was to use Real's "notoriety" to score votes. It is a reasonable position, as Griffith 2006 spent $5,000 of his own money only managed the support of 1,248 voters. He cited in his loss depressed turnout from southwestern Wisconsin's Mental Dementia and Postmodern Irony voting blocs. The winner, who countered by releasing his own plan to protect all pies on window sills, received 8,452 votes.

Nü Griffth said he did not believe that anyone thought he actually was the actor. He further accused the Matlock-Griffith of behaving in an "un-American" way for attempting to punish his political gimmickry and offered that he was merely working off the model of other idiots who have been elected on the strength of name recognition and resemblance to a fake law-man.

The legal ramifications of the case are unclear. One proposed solution is to have the two Griffiths dress in sheriff uniforms, wrestle, and let a representative from the Estate of Don Knotts shoot whichever one he feels is the fake Andy Griffith.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Just a quick word on William Styron, who died earlier today of pneumonia at his home in Martha's Vineyard. He was 81. He was the author of several books, including The Confessions of Nat Turner, Set This House On Fire, Sophie's Choice, and Darkness Visible.

Styron's writing inhabited a unique territory, running on the plain-spoken cadences of writers like Salinger and Vonnegut, without forefeiting lushness in style or drama. This was true whether he was writing about the glowing and idle rich in an Italian Villa, or his weathered, ossified father in Port Warwick, the fictional city modeled on my and Styron's shared hometown, Newport News, Virginia, or as he slowly waded his way through a stark and compelling deconsruction of his battle with clinical depression.

Styron's work was gorgeous and intricate without being ornate, and never lacked for humor or distinct and engaging drama. There was, to me, something particularly American about his prose: Golden Age of Hollywood plots with distilled human emotions as raw as any Beckett. He was careful not to give anything more tenderness than God had already provided. His was real romance, without sentimentality.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I found a great Conservative Republican costume at the Wal Mart. I chose it because, unlike the runner-up - Naughty Nurse - this one came with a free copy of National Review. Check it out:

With only one week left until election day, I think it is only proper to give the voters a fair warning about what will happen if they heed the calls of the liberal media and vote into office a new round of Democratic legislators and Governors. To do so, I am giving you a glimpse into a day in the life of a Democratic Congressman:

9:30 AM - Arrives at work in his Prius, already thinking about how he can raise taxes, expand our entitlement programs, and gut all prospects for what makes our country great: competitive American spirit and ingenuity.

9:45 AM - Over a gluten-free, vegan croissant, he writes a letter to Iran and North Korea apologizing for being "so mean" in the last few years, and agrees that it is okay if their people live without freedom and commerce, so long as they have unfettered access to late-term abortions and gay marriage. He spends the next twenty minutes daydreaming about similar oppression in the U.S., imagining days when the government is so huge and invasive that it can subvert the foundations of civilized, moral society with its radical agenda.

10:30 AM - Because of the caffiene in his mocha-soy-nonfat-chai-latte, he gets very worked up trying to figure out how to take God and Jesus away from the American people. He calls in an assistant to draft a memo ordering everyone on staff to manually cross out "In God We Trust" from all legal tender. He then calls up elite Ivy League pals to have a chuckle about his plan.

12:00 PM - Sushi with Hugo Chavez.

1:00 PM - Attend vote on the floor to ban dodge ball in America. In the bill, the newly elected Democrat legislature authorizes federal intervention if the states refuse to comply with the new law. The bill also includes a rider with a tax subsidy for the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), as promised to secure molester money for their campaign.

2:15 PM - Attends a function celebrating a new provision in the Affirmative Action laws that will force employers and educators to admit and fund a certain percentage of illegal aliens over whites.

3:30 PM - Nap time. Reads a few pages of Das Kapital before falling asleep.

4:45 PM - On a conference call with Michael Moore, Al Franken, the French Ambassador, Osama Bin Laden, and Susan Sarandon, he formulates an idea to abolish the Second Amendment. Everyone agrees and offers to support his next run for office as long as he also makes sure to cut-and-run in Iraq and surrender the war on terror.

5:30 PM - Drives home in Prius. Stops on the way to fire seven police officers and sixteen fireman. This will free up money for a program to feed, clothe, educate, house, and provide medical care for spotted owls.

7:00 PM - Dinner with "partner." Conversation centers on the rising price of organic swiss chard and how to ensure the availability of pornography in public libraries.

8:30 PM - Watches a three hour adaptation of a French play about pagans.

12:00 AM - Brushes teeth, flosses, clips fingernails, and flushes a Bible down the toilet before heading to bed.

Those are the stakes. How will you vote November 7th?

Saturday, October 28, 2006


In a rare turn of nerds against computers, a team of analysts at the Center for Information Technology Policy and Department of Computer Science at Princeton University have released a report challenging the security of Diebold electronic voting machines. The team cited fundamental design flaws in hardware and software that make it very easy to tamper with electoral outcomes.

Streaming video available at the group’s website shows several mysterious hands breaking into a machine and implanting malicious code to steal votes. In the video, it takes the hands less than a minute to steal the presidency away from George Washington and hand it to Benedict Arnold.

Apparently, if Diebold had their way, we would be visiting the Arnold Monument in Arnold, D.C. and Benedict Arnold Carver would have found all kinds of things to do with peanuts. I don’t think so Diebold!

Diebold, a contributor to numerous Republican campaigns, issued a statement refuting the study, saying:

By any standard – academic or common sense – the study is unrealistic and inaccurate.

The company offered several critiques of the conditions of the study, saying that fundamental measures like security tape and tags customary in any voting situation had been ignored by the researchers.

Princeton replied, “No they weren’t.”

One would have thought that were Diebold such sticklers for detail, they would have realized earlier on that by any standard – academic or common sense – assuming that a digital voting system with no paper trail will ensure fair elections is unrealistic and inaccurate.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Finally it’s here! Get to your local waterway to watch the election year run of the Great Red Herring. They are making their way out of New Jersey right now, heading to Iowa and Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Missouri and other areas of the country where voters are less concerned about their civic and economic interests, and more worried about feeling icky.

The red herring run is happening late this season. While many expected daily sex scandals and a botched war in Iraq to keep the herring in hibernation, eager Republicans continued a vigil, watching closely for any sign of the run, knowing it to be an ancient omen of electoral victory.

A recent decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court that granted equal legal rights and financial benefits to both homo- and heterosexual couples spurned the red herring into action.

The New York Times' Sheryl GAY Stolberg reports that President Bush was in Iowa yesterday to welcome the Great Red Herring with House Candidate Jeff Lamberti, saying:

Yesterday in New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage,” Mr. Bush said at a luncheon at the Iowa State Fairgrounds that raised $400,000 for Mr. Lamberti.

The president drew applause when he reiterated his long-held stance that marriage was “a union between a man and a woman,” adding, “I believe it’s a sacred institution that is critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families, and it must be defended.”

In Virginia, where George Allen and his Keystone Klan campaign have soured voters’ feelings on the California cowboy, the herring will be running at an amazing rate, drawn to the stench of a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage and dwindling Republican polling.

It’s an issue that’s going to play a big role in the next 12 days,” Mr. Allen’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, said in an interview.

Can’t wait, dick!

In better news, there was a wonderful profile on Deval Patrick in the Washington Post this week.