What starts with a tingle of excitement, is followed by a surge of activity, frantic yelling and empty promises, but is quickly spent, leaving you feeling just as empty and unfulfilled as before? Answer: a Japanese election.

While it took some Americans well into the second term of President Barack Obama's "change you can believe in" presidency to realize that voting may be a waste of time, decades of rule by an unchanging coven of bureaucrats and Liberal Democratic Party parliamentarians have given the Japanese more time to become accustomed to the impotence of their own democratic processes.

Still, you would be hard-pressed to identify a more flaccid poll than the one that will reach a predictable climax on Sunday. Unleashed abruptly after some desultory denials-as-foreplay, the Nov. 21 dissolution of the Diet was so sudden that it will apparently disenfranchise the crews of long-distance Japanese fishing boats that had already left port when faxable ballots were made available. Of course, even if they had received them, how could the nation's piscators know how to vote, out there on the empty sea with nary a candidate driving by in a sound truck screaming their name and party affiliation?