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Common programming errors and presidential inaugurations

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 by Nigel Jones

I don’t normally link politics and embedded systems, but something happened today at the inauguration of Barack Obama that struck me as an obvious error, but which my family and I suspect 99.999% of the rest of the viewers accepted without question. I’m referring to the third paragraph of Rick Warren’s invocation where he stated:

Now, today, we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time. We celebrate a …

Well it seems to me that if Barack Obama is the 44th president of the USA, then there can only have ever been 43 transitions of power. I suppose that one could claim that when Washington became president, it was a transition of power. However no one could possibly claim it was peaceful!

What’s my point? Well Rick Warren had just made a classic programming blunder. I’m guessing that his invocation was scrutinized by an army of political hacks, many with advanced degrees from top universities – yet despite this the error was not caught. I guess next time you make this mistake in your code, you can console yourself with this information.

BTW, you will not be surprised to know that my wife and kids just think that this confirms their belief that I’m a complete Nerd who is in desperate need of a life!

4 Responses to “Common programming errors and presidential inaugurations”

  1. David Klein says:

    It is kinda hard to consider Johnson’s takeover after the assassination of Kennedy or Lincoln as “peaceful” either.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Not so fast…Grover Cleveland was president for two non-consecutive terms. So indeed Barack Obama is the 44th president and this was the 44th peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to the next.

  3. Nigel Jones says:

    I’m not sure I follow your logic. Grover Cleveland was indeed president for two non-consecutive terms, meaning that there have been 43 different men that have served as President. However, he is treated as both the 22nd and the 24th president (see, for example, here). Thus unless I’m missing something there have been 43 transfers of power. As David Klein pointed out, the question of ‘peaceful’ is much more debatable.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You suggested that the "transition of power" when George Washington became President wasn't particularly peaceful.It was always my understanding, however, that both the ratification of the Constitution and the election of G.W. were quite peaceful. I assume that even Cyrus Griffin stepped down gracefully.Not that the affair wasn't politically tricky, mind you; the Articles of Confederation may have been clearly insufficient, but that didn't mean that everyone was excited about the Constitution.Well, perhaps we could quibble over the "State of Franklin"; one might argue that the military actions by North Carolina placed something of a "violent chill" over those states who would have preferred a more independent government…

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