Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Monday, March 11, 2002 Permanent link to this day

The Illuminatus! Trilogy on one (very long) page. It's been a very long time since I've read this. Somehow a browser window doesn't do it justice. [via abuddhas memes]

Voting closes

Polls are closed in Zimbabwe, with numerous "irregularities" being reported by election monitors.

Watch this

How the west helps the vote-riggers: Mark Almond on the history of election monitoring.

Determining the legitimacy of elections is not just an arithmetical exercise in checking that the returns match the declared result. It is a powerful weapon in global politics. I have seen blatantly rigged polls endorsed by official observers, and I have seen honestly conducted elections discredited. This has led me to the conclusion that - to paraphrase Stalin - it doesn't matter who votes, it matters who observes the voting. The international observers' reports form the basis of a new government's acceptability to international organisations; they also determine access to aid and investment from western taxpayers through the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and so on. A popular mandate is good, but a majority among the observers is better.

One man's utopia...

In a review of Utopias: Ideal Cities, Hugh Pearman discusses why utoptian cities rarely get built and do not succeed when they do.

But though the book omits this, it gradually makes clear what the thing is about creating ideal societies: they have to be designed as precision objects, they cannot just (pace Morris) be left to happen by themselves. To design and rule a Utopia, you must be a serious control freak. You must know exactly where everyone is, how many there are, what they are doing, where they are going, and how. The city therefore becomes a machine for life, work, and surveillance. That is why they take the forms they do -- usually grid-pattern, circular, polygonal, or, very rarely, linear. They tend to remain on paper because real life leads to compromise. Brasilia (a built Utopia of original shape that is another surprising omission from this book) quickly became engulfed in messy shantytowns as the normal order reasserted itself.

Intent is not everything, though

Demons in the night: on the reports that Britain ran biological weapons tests in the 60s by releasing bacteria in London trains and the distinction between good people and evildoers when it comes to possessing weapons of mass destruction.

So is there a moral equivalence between "our" willingness to use lethal weapons and "theirs", whether "they" be Soviet Russia or Iraq? Surely not. Christopher Hitchens, Martin Amis and others are right to argue that regimes which arbitrarily imprison, murder and torture their own people on a large scale are likely to be just as ruthless towards the nationals of other countries. Nor is it wrong to pose the question: under which regime would you rather live? People try to get out of tyrannies but to get into democracies; and even those who said "better red than dead" during the cold war implicitly accepted that this was not much of a choice. The possession of weapons, in other words, cannot sensibly be separated from the aims they are intended to support.

Zimbabwe voting extension

Zimbabwe voting is in the third day, as polls in areas where lines were the longest were ordered by the High Court to remain open. Lines are reported to be extremely long with waits in some areas ranging between 10 and 15 hours.

Shuttle landing tomorrow

The shuttle will be coming down tomorrow morning at either 4:32 or 6:32 Eastern.

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Copyright © 2001-2002 by Wes Cowley