December 2nd, 2000


this was posted in ana2

From an article in which a Zimbabwe politician was quoted as saying that children should study this event closely for it shows that election fraud is not only a third world phenomenon...

1. Imagine that we read of an election occurring anywhere in the third world in which the self-declared winner was the son of the former prime minister and that former prime minister was himself the former head of that nation's secret police (CIA).

2. Imagine that the self-declared winner lost the popular vote but won based on some old colonial holdover (electoral college) from the nation's pre-democracy past.

3. Imagine that the self-declared winner's 'victory' turned on disputed votes cast in a province governed by his brother!

4. Imagine that the poorly drafted ballots of one district, a district heavily favoring the self-declared winner's opponent, led thousands of voters to vote for the wrong candidate.

5. Imagine that that members of that nation's most despised caste, fearing for their lives/livelihoods, turned out in record numbers to vote in near-universal opposition to the self-declared winner's candidacy.

6. Imagine that hundreds of members of that most-despised caste were intercepted on their way to the polls by state police operating under the authority of the self-declared winner's brother.

7. Imagine that six million people voted in the disputed province and that the self-declared winner's 'lead' was only 327 votes. Fewer, certainly, than the vote counting machines' margin of error.

8. Imagine that the self-declared winner and his political party opposed a more careful by-hand inspection and re-counting of the ballots in the disputed province or in its most hotly disputed district.

9. Imagine that the self-declared winner, himself a governor of a major province, had the worst human rights record of any province in his nation and actually led the nation in executions.

10. Imagine that a major campaign promise of the self-declared winner was to appoint like-minded human rights violators to lifetime positions on the high court of that nation.

None of us would deem such an election to be representative of anything other than the self-declared winner's will-to-power. All of us, I imagine, would wearily turn the page thinking that it was another sad tale of pitiful pre- or anti-democracy peoples in some strange elsewhere.
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I am a liberal. I am an environmentalist. I am to some extent a socialist. I am all these things because, like every other human being, I am selfish. A contradiction in terms? I don’t think so. I help people because it makes me feel good to help people. I avoid hurting people because it hurts me to hurt people. If someone did something horrible to someone I love, I would probably want to hurt them because it would make me feel good. I wish the Glen Canyon Dam didn’t exist, not because the ecosystem would be “better” without it. I am by no means qualified to make such a subjective judgement about nature. I wish it didn’t exist because I like natural canyons better than man-made lakes. Glen Canyon Dam is no more devastating than the seven lava flows that dammed the colorado 100 miles downstream 2 million years ago, filling half the Grand Canyon. 2 million years from now, nature will have largely forgotten it. I don’t like living in Phoenix because I prefer desert to asphalt, moutains to skyscrapers, saguaros to palm trees (except in the tropics where they “belong”). Paving over a valley is no different than a beaver dam flooding a meadow. From our point of view, there is a difference of scale, but nature is infinite. The beaver has a devastating effect on the local environment, wiping out plants, insects, mammalian habitats. It also creates a breeding ground for other insects, a home for fish, food for a different type of birds. I don’t believe it is possible to make a qualitative comparison between the two. The same is true of a city. The “natural” environment is paved over, new plants are introduced, human waste abounds in many forms. This new environment creates a habitat for other species who thrive on that which humans create. We may not like cockroaches, pigeons, rats, mosquitoes, and the like, but nature has no preferences. Nature doesn’t care. Nature doesn’t care about the brown cloud hanging over Phoenix. Nature will adapt. We could have a nuclear war, and nature would adapt. We already know that life exists in the most inhospitable environments. It might take billions of years to reach “intelligence”, but life tends towards complexity, so it will. The only reason to save the whales, or the rain forest, or the dolphins, or to clean up the air, or the water, is because we prefer our world to be clean and we want to share it with those creatures. There is no selfless motive, and anyone who says otherwise believes that because it makes them feel good to believe it.
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