For James H. 'Jim'
27 October, 2006
My son is taking a class on 'Elements
of Comedy' at his school this quarter. Hearing him talk of distinctions
between 'ridiculous' and 'ludicrous', 'preposterous' and 'absurd', all
of which we had in our ignorance hitherto classed as 'funny', our household
has lately been awakened to a heightened appreciation of why, specifically,
we have been laughing at various things all these years. A Moliere within
a Moliere, as it were. Now that would be an irony, I should think. Or
is it a case of circular logic? I give up. His headache, not mine.
But can any number of comedy
studies classes prepare one for something like this?
Voting Machines Chop Off Candidates' Names
Computer Glitch Affects Voters in 3 Jurisdictions; Error Cannot Be Fixed
by Nov. 7
By Leef Smith
Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 24, 2006; B04
U.S. Senate candidate
James Webb's last name has been cut off on part of the electronic ballot
used by voters in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville because
of a computer glitch that also affects other candidates with long names,
city officials said yesterday.
Thus, Democratic candidate Webb will appear with his first name and
nickname only -- or "James H. 'Jim' " -- on summary pages
in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville...
There, but for the grace
of God... was my first thought as I read the report. If the machine
deemed "James H. 'Jim' Webb" too long, I could only thank
my luck that I had firmly turned down all requests to run for the Senate
from Virginia this year.
I scanned the Post quickly
to see if a similar fate had attended George Allen, Webb's incumbent
opponent in the race. A quick tally revealed that George Allen had more
letters in his name than James Webb -- and even more, if you added recently-acquired
middle names like 'Macaca' and 'Stock Option'.
Actually, Allen did pretty
well in what might be termed Great Ballot Massacre of 2006. The report
goes on to say George Allen is one of the few whose names appear in
full, although his party affiliation has been cut off. Fortune finally
appears to be shining on Allen. What a godsend, in a time when according
to every poll, the presence of the letter 'R' after the candidate's
name is tantamount to electoral cyanide!
Diebold has really outdone
itself this time, I said to myself as I read the story. Except the company
in charge of messing up elections in Virginia is, it turns out, not
Diebold but another called Hart InterCivic, whose name appears in full
in the WP report. Was it Tolstoy who wrote that happy families are all
alike, while each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way? One type
of mess in Florida, another in Ohio, yet another in Virginia... Who
says originality is dead in America?
Hart InterCivic and Virginia's
Secretary of Elections were both assuring the public, (per the Post
report on Page B4) in rather chirpy terms, that Hart InterCivic intends
to install the newer system version before the next election in 2007.
In an brilliant article (The
Evening of Empire) in Counterpunch recently, the analyst Werther set
out a grim view of our situation, drawing parallels between the mendacity,
authoritarianism and unrelieved bungling that will forever mark America
in the Bush years, with identical trends which characterized the last
years of the Roman Empire.
Ah, but was Rome ever this
funny, er...burlesque? farcical? parodic?
Niranjan Ramakrishnan can be reached at email@example.com.
His blog is at
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