Comment of the Day

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Responding to this post at Alicublog:

Balko is merely a useful idiot on this issue and probably not a bigot in the slightest.

But muckraking about legitimate abuses of police power at a glibertarian site, where your function in the local machine is chiefly to show that extra-judicial executions in places like Mississippi means that there shouldn’t be laws regulating trans-fats in San Francisco, is pretty much the textbook definition of useful idiot.

The awesome thing is that person was defending me. Also needs to look up the origin of the phrase useful idiot.

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44 Responses to “Comment of the Day”

  1. #1 |  Mister DNA | 

    I liked where he said “glibertarian”. I shot black-market unpasteurized milk out my nose and my monocle popped out of my eye from laughing so hard.

    I was sorely disappointed that no one mentioned Somalia in the comments…

  2. #2 |  SJE | 

    Interesting how someone else defines what Radley is supposed to write about, but then accuses him of being a cog in the machine.

  3. #3 |  claude | 

    There is a much worse thread than that regarding u over there:

    waldo
    Maybe he could be tempted into a game of Russian roulette.

    manwith7talents
    With 5 of the 6 chambers loaded.

    :(

  4. #4 |  r3VOLutionist777 | 

    “I shot black-market unpasteurized milk out my nose and my monocle popped out of my eye from laughing so hard.”

    Hahaha. Good one, DNA.

    If I could get any around here, I would have done the same.

  5. #5 |  Radley Balko | 

    With 5 of the 6 chambers loaded.

    It’s that sort of violent rhetoric that makes unstable people assassinate politicians.

    Or something like that.

  6. #6 |  Tweets that mention Comment of the Day | The Agitator -- Topsy.com | 

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by teaist atts, FoxArtCultTech. FoxArtCultTech said: Comment of the Day http://goo.gl/fb/7ZWjV […]

  7. #7 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    I too liked the “glibertarian”, in that it saved me from wasting time reading the rest of the article. The childish well-poisoning makes it obvious this was intended primarily as an exercise in partisan cheerleading, rather than any serious discussion of the ideas involved.

  8. #8 |  nospam | 

    I still can’t get my hands around all the calories “they” burn attacking people of our ilk. I mean, come on, we’re what…1% of the country on a good day? Like we’re about to march into power with a groundswell of public support. Maybe if there were at least one Libertarian party member holding office in DC they might have a little something to worry about. Are they that much of a band of pussies that they have to keep attacking people they have outnumbered thousands to one?

  9. #9 |  random guy | 

    nospam – we get the hate because we challenge the worldview of the partisans. Those people have to believe their party can fix everything, and that the other side is pure evil. Libertarians tend to point out how the D’s and R’s are essentially the exact same big government pro-corporate parties who occasionally squabble over how to slice the pie. We challenge the partisans by pointing out that attempts to ban smoking or trans-fats are just as small minded as banning pot, or that both of our current wars, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention, and the patriot act have unilateral bi-partisan support.

    The most vile thing to say to a partisan is to identify him as being no different from his favorite enemy. Which is pretty much all libertarians have the power to do these days.

  10. #10 |  luvzbob | 

    I have to a agree with the comment – although Balko seems well informed on the police-ing issues which he has researched thoroughly ( although i think he underestimates the problem- the “wall of silence” indicates the problem is virtually every cop in america, not a few bad apples), his comments on other facets of american life consistently appear uninformed, polyannish and “glib”.

    Recent example:” Never mind that the increase came only after a 30-year free-fall during which pedestrian fatalities halved…” – Here Balko is arguing against gov’t regulation of public safety without acknowledging that the “free-fall” in pedestrian fatalities was largely due NHSTA and state agency promotion of safer vehicles, streets and signage. Arguing against government imposed safety regulation by pointing out its success without acknowledging the reason behind that success is at least “glib” and possible worse.

    P.S. the “Nanny-state” term frequently thrown around here certainly fits the definition of “childish well-poisoning” Stormy Dragon complains about.

  11. #11 |  strech | 

    But muckraking about legitimate abuses of police power at a glibertarian site, where your function in the local machine is chiefly to show that extra-judicial executions in places like Mississippi means that there shouldn’t be laws regulating trans-fats in San Francisco

    … Man, he sounds like Glen Beck. Radley says some things you agree with and some you disagree with? Clearly, it’s a trick on orders from his corporate paymasters, to say things you agree with to get your sympathy, in order that you will then accept his corporate paymaster marching orders are legitimate expressions of opinion, or something.

  12. #12 |  Highway | 

    nospam – It may be a bit self-serving, but I attribute the vitriol now directed at ‘libertarians’ as due in part to an increasing mindshare that the concepts of over-government and government failure have gained in recent years. It also doesn’t help that some polarizing figures have self-identified as ‘libertarians’, even though the majority of actual libertarians think they’re not (guys like Glenn Beck or Bill Maher).

    and ‘luvzbob’, how many names have you gone through to keep posting here when your old name gets banned? It’s not ‘glib’ to point out that basing a call for *new regulation* based on a slight increase in injuries after a precipitous decline is poor regulation. It’s far more glib to try to ignore the decline in pedestrian accidents, even with the tremendous rise in the devices they want to regulate, as the proponents of the stupid restriction wanted to do.

  13. #13 |  Mattocracy | 

    “the “free-fall” in pedestrian fatalities was largely due NHSTA and state agency promotion of safer vehicles”

    False. To think that the only reason is this occurs is because of government intervention is a false premise. The demands of consumers can, should, and do influence market when it comes to safety measures. Otherwise automobile manufacturers wouldn’t use their vehicle safety records as a means to promote their product.

    Further, freedom should trump anything at any time. If someone wants to jog with headphones on, they don’t need to be protected from themselves. If you don’t like the term Nanny-state, then stop promoting it. It’s childish to think you should have the right boss people around for their own good.

  14. #14 |  Mattocracy | 

    “show that extra-judicial executions in places like Mississippi means that there shouldn’t be laws regulating trans-fats in San Francisco, is pretty much the textbook definition of useful idiot.”

    Um, no that’s example of a double standard. The law is only wrong when does unfair things I don’t agree with to people. But if it’s gonna punish people who want to eat things I don’t like, go for it.

    In fact, justifying the double standards of your party is…pretty much like being a useful idiot.

  15. #15 |  nospam | 

    _luvzbob_ “P.S. the “Nanny-state” term frequently thrown around here certainly fits the definition of “childish well-poisoning” Stormy Dragon complains about.”

    I agree…nanny state is an old and tired term. And not very descriptive, since not many nannies are allowed to kill you for not doing as you’re told. So how about we swap “nanny state” for “nerf-world”, the land where all the corners have been rounded off for your protection. And if you try to have corners, we’re going to send men in costumes and armed with sub-machine guns to hurt you.

  16. #16 |  Gordon | 

    @luvzbob (#10) –

    … the “free-fall” in pedestrian fatalities was largely due NHSTA and state agency promotion of safer vehicles, streets and signage. …

    [citation needed]

  17. #17 |  BSK | 

    luvzbob does have somewhat of a point… libertarians often times seem to ignore or deny any good that government HAS done. You may argue that the government should not be involved in promoting safer vehicles, but the fact is, they are, and that has had a positive effect. It is not the sole reason for the decrease in fatalities, but to act as if it had no impact is to deny reality. Much of the criticism aimed at government, here and elsewhere, is legitimate and necessary. But let’s not pretend government is inherently bad and evil and incapable of doing anything good or right. Give credit where credit is due.

  18. #18 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    P.S. the “Nanny-state” term frequently thrown around here certainly fits the definition of “childish well-poisoning” Stormy Dragon complains about.

    “Nanny State” may be unnecessarily perjorative and dismissive, but it is at least addressed to the content of the policies under discussion. I characterized “glibertarian” as well-poisoning as it asserts a character flaw, a lack of seriousness and thoughtfulness, whereby all libertarians may be ignored out of hand without even addressing the content of their arguments. It’s essentially a counterpart to the “real American” rhetoric we see among the Tea Party types–not a term used by someone who wants an actual policy debate, but someone who wants to remind the members of their tribe how much better they are then those savages in the other tribes.

  19. #19 |  Radley Balko | 

    Ah, luvzbob. So on the issues where you agree with me I am well-informed and thoroughly researched, but on issues where we disagree, I am obviously arguing in bad faith. How coincidental!

    Others have pointed out your facile and unsourced credit to NHTSA for drops in highway/pedestrian fatalities. But also, what does that have to do with the iPod ban? The ban is being suggested by some state legislators, not NHTSA. Are you really suggesting that any time I criticize a bad law or bad proposed law, I must also give credit to all the great things government has done in the same general area of policy, or else I’m just “glib” or “possible [sic] worse”?

    Even assuming you’re right about the wonderful things NHTSA has done, couldn’t that be true and I could still be right about the ridiculousness of trying to attribute a tiny uptick in pedestrian fatalities to iPod use?

  20. #20 |  colson | 

    @BSK – I’m not sure how you make the leap in logic but you do. In essence, you say: Government involvement has had a positive effect because they are involved in vehicle safety. If simple involvement is all that is required, then you can justify just about anything and everything you want where government is involved so long as there are very subjective standard of “positive” outcomes stemming from government action.

    And I’m pretty sure that most libertarians don’t pretend government is inherently bad and evil – inherently bad and evil government is reality, any view otherwise is the subversion of reality.

  21. #21 |  Alex | 

    People should hire Radley to comment on their blogs. I scroll down the page looking for a comment by him before reading any of the other comments.

  22. #22 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    “Also needs to look up the origin of the phrase useful idiot.”

    Where he will, I suspect, find his photograph.

  23. #23 |  BSK | 

    colson-

    I’m not sure I follow. I am not saying positive impact necessarily justifies involvement or that positive impacts negate negative impacts and externalities. I am only saying that, sometimes, government has done good things and, when they have, they should be acknowledged. That doesn’t make government as a whole a necessarily good thing, just something that sometimes is capable of good. If you believe that government is incapable of good, I’d be curious to see you demonstrate this.

    Does that mean that the government is right to ban jogging with headphones on? I would say hell no. Does that mean the government is right to involve itself anywhere it might be able to do good? Again, no.

  24. #24 |  JOR | 

    “the “wall of silence” indicates the problem is virtually every cop in america, not a few bad apples”

    Well. Stopped clock, twice a day, and all that.

  25. #25 |  Theophylact | 

    I read your blog regularly because you’re really on top of police abuse and the so-called war on (some) drugs. But you can be just as doctrinaire as Edroso when it comes to the one-cure-fits-all view that all social ills can be dealt with without state actors.

    Granted, this was a private, sectarian school; granted, pressure was successfully brought on the administration to change policy. But was justice done, and innocent parties made whole? You admit that the Civil Rights Act was at least once necessary to assure the rights of a despised minority. I, for one, don’t think that the day of universal brotherhood is yet come.

  26. #26 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Played lawn darts with hookers while smoking grass and drinking Four Loco and vodka today. That is all.

  27. #27 |  MassHole | 

    Mr Durkin,

    You sir, know how to party.

  28. #28 |  KristenS | 

    I wanna go to Boyd’s house!! My day was positively Pollyannaish compared to that!

  29. #29 |  Amazed | 

    Can that person please give us an example of a “legitimate abuse[..] of police power”? I’m having trouble wrapping my pea-brain around that part.

  30. #30 |  Episiarch | 

    The most vile thing to say to a partisan is to identify him as being no different from his favorite enemy. Which is pretty much all libertarians have the power to do these days.

    Absolutely. But I will admit that we’ve been going further than that recently; many of us are actively rubbing their noses in their partisanship, and they hate it. Which makes it all that much more fun.

  31. #31 |  James J.B. | 

    Here is another libertarian way safety is improved in the past 30 yrs – lawsuits. Companies have to worry about not just the bottom line – also whether their product is safe.

  32. #32 |  BSK | 

    JamesJB-

    I’ve seen some libertarians argue that, ideally, lawsuits should happen far less frequently and be less effective than they are now. The argument seemed to be that the onus is on the purchaser to be diligent and, if he buys an unsafe product, he assumes that risk. I’ve even seen it extended to say that deliberately misleading or untrue advertising is okay, again arguing on behalf of a “buyer beware” philosophy.

    I don’t know how representative this is of other libertarians or libertarian thoughts in general (I do realize that libertarians are not monolithic, so I’m sure there is room for disagreement here), but it definitely indicates that this current form of pressure might not exist in a more libertarian world.

  33. #33 |  Radley Balko | 

    I’ve even seen it extended to say that deliberately misleading or untrue advertising is okay, again arguing on behalf of a “buyer beware” philosophy.

    Show me a libertarian who has made that argument. False advertising is fraud. I don’t know of any libertarians who who would say otherwise.

    There is an argument to be made that punitive damages can be excessive, and go well beyond making whole people who were wronged. I’m okay with some form of punitives, although I think they should be capped.

  34. #34 |  Juice | 

    random guy

    unilateral bi-partisan support

    I like that phrase. I’m stealing it.

  35. #35 |  BSK | 

    Radley-

    My hunch was it was not representative of libertarianism. I remember having some discussions over on the boards at Positive Liberty (with commenters, not the blogger themselves) in which a few people felt that fraud should not be a punishable offense and that the market would correct against fraudulent companies by offering independent consumer protections and the like. I seemed to be the sole voice of disagreement, which led me to believe this might have been a more widely held libertarian belief, even though it didn’t jibe with my understanding of the overarching philosophy.

    While I think it’s clear we agree on the immorality of fraud, do you think that punitive damages can be sought in cases where fraud didn’t exist, but things just didn’t go as planned? How legitimate are claims of negligence directed towards companies that don’t make every effort to make their products idiot proof? Or claims where things just break? I’m curious where you’d draw (and others) would draw the line with regards to when a lawsuit seeking damages is legitimate and when the losses should be assessed to the consumer and chalked up to the inherent risk of any product and purchase. I don’t ask this to be argumentative… I am generally curious. I don’t know where I’d personally draw the line, but I think it is a relevant part of the conversation when we are talking about ways for the market to stimulate better business practices.

  36. #36 |  James J.B. | 

    What is more liberty oriented than 2 individuals settling dispute in a objective forum. Wanna avoid gunfights with CEOs, don’t limit damages. Otherwise without such limits you risk violent self help when the harm is great and the victim or family has little to lose..

    Buyer beware is no good. People will not buy product if we have to worry if they are deadly. Eg imagine if lg made explosive tvs where 1 of 100 tvs exploded. You as the buyer may not be able to open up the tv and check it. If lg worries about punitive and regular damages the CEO will act to limit the defect.

  37. #37 |  Highway | 

    The problem with the area this is getting into is that there is no way to make something ‘idiot-proof’. As they say, if you try to make it idiot-proof, they’ll just make a better idiot.

    So the question becomes more: Was the item used in the specified manner, and if so, was it known that there is a risk in using it in the specified manner? For instance, a ladder can fail if you overload it. That would be outside the specification. But the same ladder can also fail with a weight that’s under the limit if you don’t maintain it, or it’s damaged in another way.

    You can’t expect a company to make “every effort” to make something idiot proof. I think there does need to be responsibility on the part of every user of every product to know how to use that product in a responsible manner within the limits of its design. If products fail when used within the specifications, then there are definitely liability issues. But if they fail when used outside those specifications, that’s a different story.

  38. #38 |  random guy | 

    BSK, I think you’re asking for some over-arching rules that simply can’t exist. The entire reason for law suits is so that each side can present their case in a (hopefully) impartial court. Whether harm was done or damages need to be corrected is for that court to decide. Trying to come up with some blanket rules about which cases are legitimate and what settlements are too excessive a priori undermines the process.

    Undoubtedly some improvements can be made in tort reform, I’m not arguing that the current system is as good as it gets. But no matter what rules we decide upon, someone will be disenfranchised. Where one set of rules benefits a case they may be detrimental to another. Not everyone will get their day in court, not every settlement will be just, and many wrongs will go un-righted. It’s sad, but its a necessary concession to reality and the limits of the justice system that we all have to live with.

    Universal justice is a noble ideal and an unreachable goal.

  39. #39 |  MPH | 

    Nospam @ #8.

    Several years ago, I read about a survey performed with people leaving polling places (don’t recall the methodology, so not sure how “scientific” the survey was). They were asking people to take the world’s smallest political quiz. If you’ve taken the quiz, you’ll recall that libertarian, authoritarian, liberal, and conservative were mapped to the 4 corners of the quiz chart, with centrists mapped to, handily enough, the center of the chart. Of these 5 divisions, centrists had the highest percentage of respondents, libertarian was 2nd. BUT, what the survey also found, was that prior to taking the quiz, a HUGE majority of people in all 5 groups had never even heard the term “libertarian” as a political philosophy. So we’re not as alone as you think.

    “They” argue against us because liberty is a powerful message and they don’t want it to catch on. Plus, many people who may agree with us on one topic, and think that it’s OK for individuals to decide for themselves on that topic, will have another topic that they want to impose their choice on the rest of us, and they’re willing to use the government to do it. They don’t see forcing the rest of us to select from only the choices that THEY approve of as oppression. Many of them will refuse to see it as oppression even when you point it out to them. The amount of calories they burn (as you put it) arguing against the libertarian view in such a situation is the defense mechanism they use to avoid the cognitive dissonance that results. They’re not trying to convince us, but are trying to continue to convince themselves. But if you can burn through the defense mechanism, and get them to confront and overcome the cognitive dissonance, you may win a convert. So keep up the discussion, in a calm and rational manner (no matter how intense their invective gets), and you can win us some converts.

  40. #40 |  Judi | 

    Gosh, did I miss out on a pissing contest again! Geesh, I gotta start getting up earlier.

    Useful idiot…eh? Well that begs the question: Is there such Useless Genius? Wouldn’t that be the opposite? Have to get back to you on that.

    @ Boyd Durkin: And we weren’t invited?

  41. #41 |  Brandon | 

    Judi, if he invited anyone else, he would’ve needed a permit.

  42. #42 |  BSK | 

    James, Highway, Random Guy-

    Thanks. That summed up my initial beliefs, which is why I balked at that guy initially. But he was so steadfast, as were his supporters, and I saw no one else disagreeing, I thought maybe I just got it wrong. I think reform is necessary, but to me, hashing it out (if done fairly) seems to be the best remedy in most scenarios.

  43. #43 |  “Our Donations Are Different” | The Agitator | 

    […] that your donors don’t abide in the real world. (But don’t mind me, I’m just the useful idiot in all of this!) I suppose the honorable thing would be for those of us in the free market movement […]

  44. #44 |  JOR | 

    BSK, I have a feeling that a lot of that sort of stuff grows out of the rhetorical commitment to “personal responsibility” in popular libertarianism, and in American pop culture generally. It’s fairly easy to get people into macho or libertoid-posturing their way to more and more ridiculous positions. In mainstream pop culture, you get rape apologists and badgelickers who claim with a straight face that a victim of cop-perpetrated cold-blooded murder brought it on themselves (because they believe in “personal responsibility”, you see; those people shouldn’t have provoked the poor rapist/cop). Among libertarians, you sometimes get people arguing that there’s nothing unlibertarian about defrauding someone or hiring a hitman to kill somebody.

    The truth is that, much like “thinking for yourself”, everyone supports “personal responsibility”; they just disagree about whose thoughts are correct or how to decide who is responsible for what. “Personal responsibility” is just another way to hide moral disagreements in neutral-sounding, non-moral, empirical terminology.

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