Ed Driscoll

"The Paper God"

“Remind me to stay out of Washington”, Robert McHenry writes in Tech Central Station–and it’s sound advice. “Weird stuff happens there, and for all I know it’s catching”:

Take paper. Plain, ordinary paper, such as your office and mine are full of, even though somebody or other some years ago promised that if we would just buy these computers and things the paper would go away and our work would be oh! so much easier. Maybe the Paper God heard about the paperless office and decided to remind us who’s who in the cosmos. Anyway, paper is acting up in D.C.

Sandy Berger wanders innocently into the National Archives, putters about for a while, easy as you please, and leaves. End of story? Not hardly. Somehow a bunch of important papers end up stuffed down his pants and in his socks, and he has no idea how it happened.

OK, one incident could be a fluke, a statistical offchance. Nobody called in the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

But then Sen. Mel Martinez walks into the Senate, reaches in his pocket, and pulls out a paper that he’s never seen before and can’t account for. He doesn’t notice that it’s a paper he’s never seen, though, so he gives it to Tom Harkin, who doesn’t look at it. Later it turns out to be a paper that nobody wrote, which is good, because nobody should have written it. When somebody eventually does look at it, everybody is in trouble.

The crafty hand of the Paper God, no? He has lots of tricks, and one of them is to make stupid pieces of paper look not stupid. Everybody falls for this one, but some fall more often and harder, like journalists.

Johnny Carson once quipped that “New York is an exciting town where something is happening all the time, most of it unsolved”–and that goes double for the District of Columbia.