Friday, May 25, 2012

Lese Majesty

A farmer decides, in the wake of the Mad Cow outbreak to conduct tests above and beyond those required by the government in order to advertise that his beef is safer than the national standard. The USDA doesn’t allow him to do so, he cannot conduct his own tests with his own money.

Many consumers are worried, maybe rightly and maybe wrongly, about Genetically Modified Organisms in their food. Seeing that there is a demand, some food producers decided to label their food as "GMO free." The FDA would not allow it, not because the advertisement was false, but because the FDA has decided that GMO foods are safe and this label would cause some to think otherwise.

When the banks were bailed out, it is rumored that some of the banks didn’t need a bailout. They were told that they had to accept a bailout anyway lest the public come to the conclusion that said banks were safer. The government had determined that the bailout would make the unsafe banks as safe as the banks that did not need a bailout. A bank not receiving a bailout would be an indication it was more safe in spite of the government saying all the banks were now safe. Of course this is more of a rumor than a substantiated story.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, private efforts to assist people in New Orleans attempted to operate along side the government efforts. The private rescuers were turned aside prolonging the suffering of some in New Orleans.

When the TSA first launched the BXR and MMW body scanners, it was pointed out repeatedly that these scanners cannot scan inside a body cavity. A news story from Saudi Arabia was presented pointing out that a terrorist there had hidden a bomb in his rectum. Eventually the TSA announced that their searches would be intensified because of the possibility of surgically implanted device. Those who most vociferously criticize the TSA realized this was their response to realizing the presented threat was valid but not being able to acknowledge an idea coming from outside their own organization.

What these all have in common is an effort by the government to forbid doubt of the competence and effectiveness of the government and its actions. It is Lese Majesty in its modern form, where it is wrong to insult the image of the king. This isn’t Sedition, which also should not be considered wrong, but merely the crime of causing people to doubt the goodness of the government. It has died out in most monarchies. In the United States it has returned and is regulated out of existence rather than banned because that would be too obvious.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Recasting Romney

For several decades Senator John McCain was regarded as the Democrat's favorite Republican. He was widely praised for cooperating with the Democrats on bi-partisan legislation while in the Senate. He was not considered radical or extreme at all, except by libertarians who viewed him as extreme for having the flaws of both Democrats and Republicans in one person.

Then Senator McCain became the Republican presidential nominee. In the course of one month he was regularly regarded and depicted as a radical hard-core right-wing extremist. All of the people who had previous praised him as a model of what a Republican can be and should be forgot everything nice they had ever said about him.

Once the election was over, Senator McCain was "rehabilitated" and is again regarded as a positive example of a Republican. Once President Barack Obama started experiencing problems during his administration it became important to portray Obama has having defeated a much more moderate Republican in order to show he had wider support when he had run.

There is no question about Governor Mitt Romney's conservative credentials. He is approximately as conservative as Senator McCain. It is Governor Romney who introduced Romneycare as the most glaring example among many of how his own beliefs are so far out of line with what Republicans allegedly believe (but quite in line with what they actually believe).

During the Republican presidential primary, it was widely regarded that the Tea Party constituency had no love for Governor Romney, preferring candidates such as Governor Rick Perry or Herman Cain. Now that the primary is essentially over, Governor Romney is being recast.

Looking at the preliminary Democratic campaign material in support of the reelection of President Obama, there is an attempt to associate Governor Romney with the Tea Party, portray him as an opponent of government-run health care, and strangely enough as radically different from President Obama.

The problem is, this rhetoric trying to portray Governor Romney as different from President Obama may work. With many of the United States electorate educated by government schools, and getting their news only from CNN or Fox, the facts matter less and less each year. And with the rhetoric from each side presenting the opponent as different in spite of the facts, this will become yet another in a long line of "most importation election ever" campaigns that will be used to argue that it is now too critical to vote third party.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Outrage Fatigue

At the Independent Institute, Anthony Gregory asks the question "Have We Become Accustomed to Police Brutality?" He makes a strong case, in that incidents of police brutality, had they occurred in the past, would have evoked a much stronger reaction than they do today. Comparing the beating of Rodney King to the beating of Kelly Thomas leaves a person wondering what has happened in the years between the two beatings.

One could argue that police brutality is a new prison normal and that what is actually an unnatural situation has become normal because people have adapted, adjusted their expectations. Just as people have come to regard 3% inflation as normal, they come to regard police not being held accountable for violating the law as normal, and they come to regard police brutality as normal. If a person were to argue that, it would be a pretty strong argument as well.

Another factor, though, could be outrage fatigue. There are more and more stories about police abuse, it is difficult to get outraged over and over again. It is especially difficult when those experiencing the prison normal of police abuse seem to not understand why civil libertarians are getting all worked up over what is, to them, just a police beating.

Eventually it becomes difficult to maintain any sense of urgency for what is becoming a common occurrence, and it becomes difficult to maintain any sense of importance in the face of masses who cannot see any significance to the incident being discussed. It becomes tiring to try to fight for liberty get a disinterested reaction from the very people they are trying to protect from the government.

To answer Anthony Gregory’s question, for many people it is a new prison normal. And for libertarians it is outrage fatigue.

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Third Party Game

The Third Party Game refers to all the ways the major parties use or manipulate third parties for their own advantage. The Republicans are far better at it than the Democrats are.

One way that it is played is to make donations to third parties that rival the opposition party. Democrats are still complaining about how Ralph Nader "stole" the 2000 election from Al Gore, but what made that "theft" possible was Republican donations to Nader. It is no secret that many of the donations for Nader's campaign came from Republicans.

If someone were to suggest to a Democrat that a donation be made to, say, the Constitution Party, the response would be shock and horror. "Oh no, they're evil, they want to destroy everything I believe in, I could never donate to them." Republicans didn't donate to Nader in order to advance Nader's agenda, but their donations weren't intended to advance Nader's agenda.

The other way that the Third Party Game is played is to nullify threats. Republicans also are better at this, sending Patrick Buchanan into the Reform Party, Alan Keyes into the Constitution Party, and sending Bob Barr into the Libertarian Party. Patrick Buchanan was able to destroy the Reform Party through an internal civil war. Alan Keyes didn't get the Constitution Party nomination, but did get the ballot line in California and thus lowering the nation-wide totals for their candidate Chuck Baldwin. Bob Barr (who has since endorsed Newt Gingrich) and Wayne Root (who has since endorsed Mitt Romney) alienated a sufficient portion of the Libertarian Party base that many wrote in Ron Paul, and thus lowered the totals for the Libertarian Party as well.

These tactics may be underhanded, but there are no rules saying not to do either of those actions with regards to third parties. What is interesting is that the Democratic Party leadership does such a poor job of doing the same thing. Perhaps it is a lingering sentiment of there being "no enemy to the left" so they cannot bring themselves to label parties such as the Green Party as enemies. Republicans have no such compunctions holding them back. Democrats are quite willing to share a stage at allies with various independent groups of a shared platform; the Republicans did a deliberate take over of the Tea Party when it appeared that a stage might be shared.

It will be interesting to see how the Third Party Game might be shared in the 2012 election cycle.

It is also possible, but somewhat far fetched, to suggest that occasionally Republicans support a party or candidate outside their own party that they would normally squash. This would be done to prevent a different third party from gaining prominence. Although Ross Perot did much to spoil George Bush's chances at re-election, he also gathered up all of the internal dissent that might have gone to more established third parties and catapulted them to prominence. Although John Anderson did not threaten Reagan, he did absorb much of the third party protest vote without even having much to offer in the way of concrete ideas. Perhaps Republicans are willing to throw an election in order to preserve the status quo of two parties interchangeable.