Dysfunctional Democracy

California’s 50th District primary election is being touted as a victory by both the Republican Party (their candidate won) and the Democratic Party (their candidate didn’t lose by as much as usual), but the truth is that this election was nothing less than a loss for all things democratic. Why would I say this?

Here are the facts: less than 50% of eligible citizens in the district are registered to vote. Of those who are registered, only 33% turned out to cast a ballot. That represents a whopping 16.5% of eligible citizens who voted in this race. Sixteen and a frigging half per cent! How can this possibly be called “the will of the people” when half of the people who could vote didn’t even bother to register? And of those who did, only a third even bothered? This is hardly what a healthy democracy looks like.

This is why any claims of mandates are ridiculous. This is why any claims of majority rule are laughable. Hell, at this rate, the vast majority are saying they want nothing to do with what our political system has become. Clearly, the parties have succeeded if their goal has been to reduce voters to the slimmest segments of society.

It is obvious to me that a society that does not invoke their rights of self-determination by the simple act of showing up to cast a vote, or better yet, by voting absentee (which creates no hardship on anyone who wants to vote) deserves the corrupted, cynical government they have. For the few of us who actually care and want to exercise our voices, this is grim indeed.

What About the Canadian Border?

News of a foiled terrorist cell in Canada this week begs the question, “What are we doing to secure the northern border?” Well, aside from the stalled RealID bill in Congress, the answer is, “about as much as we’ve done to secure the southern border.”

While this coup for Canadian law enforcement is a victory for all of us, the responses from the White House is less than encouraging.

“We’re vulnerable at all our points of entry,” said Frances Townsend, homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush.

Gee, thanks Frances, for stating the obvious. And while this break-up in Canada means one less band of lunies are running around, stockpiling fertilizer to make bombs, the presence of this Canadian terror cell is likely to fuel the fire under Team Bush and their never-ending campaign of fearmongering. “See, they’re right next door, waiting to strike us again. This is why we need to continue to tap all of your communications, secretly break into your homes, and indefinitely incarcerate people we don’t like.”

Clearly America must protect our borders and ports of entry. But far greater progress can be made in the “War on Terror” by stopping policies that fuel hatred and by unshackling ourselves from the need for foreign oil.

We all know that danger is lurks in the shadows. But the right response is not to clamp down on civil liberties in free nations. The right response lies in ending the double standards in our foreign policies. The right response lies in ending a doctrine of pre-emptive warfare against third world countries. The right response is to marginalize these lunatics through the proliferation of good deeds, real friendship, and honest dialogue with the average citizens in the Muslim world.

China’s Growing Deserts

And they say that man has no major effects on nature. Tell that to China. Environmental experts in that country are searching for ways to halt the expansion of two major desert regions in its northern districts, deserts whose expansion of 1500 square miles a year (about the size of Rhode Island) is threatening villages and towns as it makes its way closer to the Chinese capitol of Beijing.

While China has always had desert regions within its borders, the current expansion can be tied to the 1950’s and the Maoist government’s Great Leap Forward program that attempted to increase the amount of arable land by diverting rivers in the region and forming reservoirs. Also included in the program was the intentional deforestation and over cultivation of lands in that area.

Now with over one billion people, it is easy to understand why China needed to increase food production, but the solution, while briefly successful, has now created a situation where food production is being hampered and all efforts to stave the growing sand dunes have proved ineffective. Sometimes, you can’t turn back the clock no matter how hard you try.

“We must find ways to live with nature in some kind of balance,” said Chai Erhong, an environmentalist and writer who lives in Minqin. “The government mainly wants to control nature, which is what did all the harm in the first place.”

Indeed. Every time man tries to harness nature to serve his needs, the results tend to create an opposite result. Maybe not immediately, but certainly eventually. And when man seeks to reverse the effects of his meddling, we find that you can’t always put the puzzle back together like it was before.

Wang Tao, who heads the 937 Project, said the only viable strategy to save arid land in Gansu, Inner Mongolia and Ningxia is to move people out, reduce production, form conservation parks and let nature heal itself.

“Minqin is not going to get more water,” he said in a telephone interview from his base in Lanzhou. “It needs fewer people.”

Easier said than done I’m afraid. Even with China’s one child policy, their population is still growing. As China, which has one of the world largest populations, moves to become more modernized, we feel the squeeze in oil availability. Will we soon be feeling the squeeze on water availability too? Or will China seek to expand their own borders in order to find the resources it needs to assure a minimum supply of water and land for its people? I’ve said before that our economic imbalance with China is going to cause us problems at some point. I still believe that is the case. But perhaps China’s water problems, and loss of livable land, will become a bigger problem, one that will create instability to all of Asia as their need for land and water increases. What then?