The Light Bulb Goes On
Your October 3 issue includes a special section on innovation, with nine pages of text. All of it is vigorous, trenchant, and thought-provoking, but also unnecessary, because the accompanying photograph in the table of contents really says it all. The image shows a light bulb — the old-fashioned kind that is actually bulb-shaped, which today’s infants will never know because, thanks to our friends in Congress and the Bush administration, they are all being replaced with absurd twisty things.
Instead of a reliable device that had served us well for well over a century, we now have forced on us a new technology that is expensive and much less durable than advertised, imposes an infuriating delay before it goes on, leaves users one fumble away from a hazmat citation, gives everyone in the room a ghostly pallor like Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera, and is just plain dorky-looking.
The image in the table of contents shows what American innovation used to be — and by contrast, what’s wrong with American innovation today: People are inventing to satisfy government edicts instead of consumer needs.
The Chicago Way
I was surprised by Hans A. von Spakovsky’s statement in his piece on Voter IDs (“Not a Race Card,” August 29) that drive-in voters were being paid $10 per polling place. That’s not even keeping up with inflation.
In Chicago — that paragon of fair elections — in the late 1940s, Bill would run errands for my dad any day but Election Day. He always voted and voted and voted.
It was in the days before there were homeless people. Bill was a wino. On Election Day sometime after 10 a.m. — that’s when the political parties began to get an idea of how the turnout and vote were going, precinct by precinct — the winos would be collected at the city’s numerous flophouses and bused from precinct to precinct.
He would be given the name of a voter in the precinct and a pre-marked ballot. It was his job to collect a new ballot, put the pre-marked one in the box, and come out with a clean ballot to be given to another wino.
For that he was paid $1 per vote.
But even through his muscatel haze, Bill was a believer in the one-man, one-vote concept. Before putting that pre-marked ballot in the box, he always voted for the other guy in order to spoil the ballot.
It has been many years since I lived in Chicago, but on Election Day, I always remember Bill and wonder if my vote is still being cast in the Windy City.