Three out of two bloggers agree!

I’ll have some more thoughts later whilst I collect my notes, but I turned up at the OMG! panel at the UND Memorial Union expecting a bit of blog-related verbal fisticuffs between Chad of NorthDecoder and Rob of SayAnything.

But where the gloves were really off, it seems, was in the “antique” media’s disdain for the new, the maintenance of Professional Journalistic Standards and feigned or (as bizarre as it seems to me) willful neutrality, versus the new-media metric of open but fairly-transparent bias, faster news and open feedback.

Utopian Experiment #3

There’s another utopian experiment on the ballot this June.  Measure 3 is the “religious liberty” measure.

I’m not sure if anyone pushing this measure has read North Dakota’s Constitution (I can’t blame anyone who’s tried and given up, what with it being a decrepit hodgepodge in desperate need of a fresh rewrite), but it starts like this:

We, the people of North Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain and establish this constitution.

Seems pretty ironclad to me.  I’ll grant that North Dakota’s own Bill of Rights reads like “Yeah, but not really” on essentially every point, but there it is in the preamble, religious liberty.

A lot of religious traditions are just odd things that don’t harm others.  A particular way of trotting out the holy book.  Ceremonial use of a drug.  An ancient language.  Dressing up its clergy and/or participants.  Like all big-league religions, the Catholic Church does all this and more, and they’re not exactly harassed a lot.  So why are they the biggest backers of Measure 3?

I could understand some concern and weight for passing this specific amendment, which sets a very large burden of proof for preventing religious practices, if there was a well-publicized Rastafarian bust.  But how exactly has the Catholic Church, the richest and most-well-attended religious institution in the world, been persecuted in the last few years enough to merit some new constitutional guarantee?

I guess some countries in Europe started taxing their land.  That sucks, I guess… but then I rather think a cathedral counts as an umpteen-million-dollar mansion.

I’m guessing the real impetus is the ongoing farce over the Affordable Care Act, which  mandates coverage of women’s healthcare for any employer that says they’re equal opportunity.  There’s already a specific loophole for religious employers who only recruit their disciples!  It seems that the Catholic Church wants to have it both ways, however:  It wants to inject its own brand of moralizing into its employee benefits… whilst still being open to godless heathens changing its linens and bedpans.

Now at best, the Catholic Church is a bit player in North Dakota medicine, so really this seems like a giant propaganda stunt with some unfortunate implications.

It’s certainly nice to think about a society where religious influence was always positive, and if people of belief were just left alone, then there’d be more happiness and harmony in society.  But do you really think that’s what we’re going to get?

When I think about what the Catholic Church may start doing under Measure 3, I think of the track record it already has, of avowedly asexual clergymen leading mobs to terrorize adult bookstores and women’s clinics.  How far will they go if they can’t be held criminally liable for their actions?  What new crusades can we expect with emboldened clergy of all stripes?

When voting on Measure 3, consider this:  Do you believe that your conscience and values place you above the courts of man?  My answer is NO.

You can read up on this June’s ballot measures, as they will be presented to the people, at the Secretary of State’s website.

Utopian Experiment #2

Measure 2 is not like the first and last questions North Dakotans will vote on this June.  Imagine a world without property taxes…  it’s a minor sort of utopian vision.

From the perspective of those with fixed incomes or uncertain crop yields, property taxes are morally questionable; how can you tax someone when you don’t actually know they’re good for it? Certainly nobody should be putting up the family home or farm for auction or mortgage just to pay taxes.

From an urban planning standpoint, wild variation in property taxes inspires urban flight.  We’ve got a situation in Cass County now where there’s a dozen different “cities” that are just subdivisions that don’t want to pay Fargo taxes. But Fargo still pays the lion’s share for the emergency services and infrastructure the region depends on to support a cushy ring of suburbs. That’s not fair, either.

Property taxes cause enough trouble, if all this measure said was “Property taxes are prohibited”, I’d seriously consider voting for it.  But saying such a thing requires a lot of cleaning up afterward and Measure 2 meddles with that part of the equation too.

If the legislature started from a clean slate, and everyone was banging at the door for a solution, the simplest way to clean up the mess would be a bill giving expanded local taxation powers: sales, income, that sort of thing. Local governments would still tax and budget as they always have. Instead, Measure 2 assumes that the legislature is going to handle the budget for the entire state forever, and sets present revenues in stone, something that almost certainly will cause entire cities to break down within ten years. It’s specifically designed for minimum flexibility and responsiveness, so that the our civic institutions choke from the bottom up.

And as upsetting and often unfair as they may be for the average person, property taxes are quite fair and useful for a few key problems:  You shouldn’t be able to build a million-dollar mansion and never pay a dime on it.  You shouldn’t be able to buy up thousands of hectares and just leave them be.  Already, rampant speculation in the west has made it impossible for regular people to afford to live out there.  If the marginal cost of land ownership is zero, the situation is only going to get worse

A vote for Measure 2 is a vote for an overworked, overpowered legislature, funding 2031 needs with 2011 budgets, whilst foreigners buy and hold every scrap of land they can.  I’m voting NO.

You can read up on this June’s ballot measures, as they will be presented to the people, at the Secretary of State’s website.

Cowardice on the ballot

Measures 1 and 4 aren’t on the ballot because of some utopian social experiment like the other measures.  They’re there because our Legislature simply could not come to the obvious, morally forthright conclusion.

A vote for Measure 1 is a vote for corruption, plain and simple. I’m voting NO.  There is not such a dire shortage of skilled people in this state that we must raid the legislature for qualified state officials.  The motives for in-term appointments only go downhill from there.  That the legislature itself put it on the ballot, hoping that the people of North Dakota would give them lease to behave inappropriately, speaks volumes on the quality of our present leadership.

Measure 4 is almost not even worth voting on, considering that each side is already drawing guns to fight over the same issue again in November.  But for what it’s worth, I’m voting YES.

Measure 4 is the result of grandstanding by the ruling party on an issue that has already been decided by the courts, a cheap way of rallying traditionalist support and promoting a North Dakota vs. THEM mentality.  The issue, which was already decided, was suddenly un-decided by state law, jeopardizing the actual performance of the sports team they were supposedly “protecting.”  There was always a right thing to do:  Just leave it alone.  But they didn’t, they played it for votes.

With respect to the June ballot, I hope the Secretary of State is correct in telling us that “YES” means “NO”.  Given that the issue has always been discussed as the logo, rather than not the logo, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ballot returns show some razor-thin margin where confused voters cancel each other out.

You can read up on this June’s ballot measures, as they will be presented to the people, at the Secretary of State’s website.

Not measuring up

Measure 2 was trashed in a Forum-Corp poll this month, and the news got broken today:  70-80% are against Measure 2, which if passed would hand the power of the purse for every hamlet, metropolis, and school over to the non-professional state legislature.

That The Forum cheerfully reports on the failure of the measure to inspire North Dakotans is indicative of the widening schism in the state GOP, between the radical ecophagic anarchocapitalists and the traditionalist powerhogs.

But you know, The Forum clearly did polls on both Measures 2 and 4, plus the state races, and there’s only one of those stories running today… Hmmmmmmm.

Drain and pollute the Missouri for FREE!

Just imagine what you could do with 120 billion liters of fresh, clean Missouri River water… Clean, pristine water from the edge of the Rockies is yours for the taking!

Want to suck that water straight from the river, load it with toxic chemicals, and blast it into the shattered earth? Want to trick hapless birds into landing in your tailings ponds?  Do you even care what happens to your hazardous runoff afterwards?  You don’t have to!

If you act now, North Dakota’s leaders will throw any talk of meaningful health and environmental regulations under the bus for NO EXTRA CHARGE!  Just fill out some form while the Army Corps of Engineers figures out that water supplies usually cost money to access.  Act NOW!!!