Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Church of England

For something non-political, a prediction of sorts.

N.T. Wright is a very well known theologian, academic, Anglican priest, and most recently Bishop of Durham. Wright spent 20 years as a university professor before being moved into official Anglican roles -- Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, Canon of Westminster, and most recently as a bishop. It isn't clear whether Bishop Wright initiated the move away from academia or if others have moved him into it. He continues to publish scholarly and popular works, but much slower than in the past.

My own thought is that the Anglican establishment looks on Bishop Wright as a candidate for Archbishop of Canterbury. He is a conservative / traditionalist in his theology and beliefs yet is not strongly dogmatic and open to discussion and the ideas of others. He is well respective by liberals and conservatives, including many who differ from his views.

Look for Bishop Wright as a candidate if a new Archbishop is to be appointed.

Deception and today's election in Colorado

Colorado votes on a dozen or so voter initiatives today. This election is the most deceptive I've seen in over 30 years of voting. I'm not talking about political candidates (though there are enough scandals for conspiracy theorists to have a field day). Rather, look at Colorado's proposed amendments. There are 18 ballot measures. The way Colorado law works, the measures can be constitutional amendments, voter initiated laws, or voter repeal of laws. Most are consitutional amendments since these have to stay in force. Some proposals are regular laws, but the legislature could turn around and repeal the laws easily. Voter repeal of laws is rare, my understanding is that the legislature routinely marks laws as "emergency" to make them immune from a vote.

There are four main categories of initiatives today. Social conservative, pro business, anti business, and various tax initiatives. All new or increased taxes must be voted on in Colorado (and tax receipts over a set limit refunded) so there are always tax initiatives.

On the social conservative front, amendment 46 bans affirmative action, but is phrased as banning preferential treatment (e.g. ban discrimination) on the basis of race, sex, etc. Amendment 48 bans abortion by defining a person as being from fertilization. While 48 is clear, 46 is phrased as an anti-discrimination law (though it is against affirmative action, which many feel retores discrimination).

The pro business amendments are really anti-union. There are three, two of which don't even mention unions. Amendment 47 enforce "right to work" by outlawing required union dues. Apparently in response to the Governor issuing an executive order unionizing state workers (opponents view), actually only authorizing unions.

Amendment 49 limits the number of things public employers can withhold from paychecks. Now the deception begins. The primary effect of this law is to prohibit witholding union dues from paychecks. It is written to allow all other types of common withholding (charities, benefits, retirement, savings, etc). Proponents call it "non-controversial". Opponents never say what it does, just that it hurts workes.

Similarly, Amendment 54 is phrased as prohibiting campaign contributions from those who receive government contracts. But as written, it is only "single source" contracts, which as phrased is primarily labor unions (presuming most government contracts are by competetive bid). Here again proponents sahy it's not controversial, saying it doesn't silence unions, they just can't receive sole source contracts (in other words, a labor agreement with government). Opponents again don't say what it is, they just oppose it.

On the anti-business side, we have Amendment 53, which makes corporate executives liable for violating any law. This means violating any civil business law has just become a criminal offense. A late tax return (the accountant forgot to mail it) leaves the business owner criminally liable. Proponents say it's to reign in corporate fraud (popular today with the banking crisis, which will require a corporate scapegoat at some point). One note says it was done in response to Amendment 47 (right to work).

Amendment 55 requires that employees be fired "for cause", and lists the allowed causes. Low business income is not allowed, it says "documented economic circumstances which adversely affect the employer". It applies to businesses employing at least 20, but non-profits must employ at least 1000. Government is also exempt, of course. This one at least isn't so deceptive, other than that it apparently exists in response to amendment 47.

Amendment 56 requires employers provide health coverage, and 57 rqeuires "safe workplaces" and allows workers compensation recipients to sue. Interestingly, these 4 anti-business measure have been withdrawn. While they are still on the ballot, they won't count. Comments say that this was in response to a $3 million payment payment by business.

The tax increases all have their proponents and reasons. The increases generally have earmarks for the money, though in a deceptive manner (as has been done in the past) -- money is directed to a certain use such as education, but there is no guarantee that existing funding will remain. So the earmarked money goes to its purpose and the general state funding is reduced.

There is also the (standard these days) attempt to remove the effect of TABOR. TABOR, in addition to requiring votes for tax increases, requires that excess money be refunded to the people rather than kept by government. Amendment 59 earmarks all excess money to K-12 education (though doesn't protect existing funding, of course). Not mentioned is it appears to repeal a guaranteed increase in education funding which goes for a few more years.

Finally, the state is attempting to clean up the plethora of constitutional amendments. Since the only way to prevent the legislature from repealing a voter initiative is to amend the constitution (which is now a very long, messy document after 130 years of amendments), Referendum O makes it harder to propose consitutional amendments and requires a supermajority of 2/3 in the legislature to modify or repeal voter legislation. This is not too bad, but again the opponents are deceptive (misreading a provision on the number of signatures per congressional district).

So we see great polarization (extreme anti union and anti business proposals) along with the usual deception. The union and business amendments point to a much more polarized environment which seems to be appearing across the country (and even around the world).