All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

Florida Senate: Wrong on Cuba

RGBStock Havana

On March 24, Florida’s State Senate voted 39-1 to condemn recent moves by president Barack Obama toward normalizing US relations with Cuba.

There’s no nice way to put this: Those 39 state senators voted in favor of maintaining the Castro regime in perpetuity. They voted against freedom for 11 million Cubans. Incidentally, they also voted against the economic interests of all Floridians and against reunification for Florida’s families of Cuban descent.

Freedom is a virus. Wherever free people go, they spread the desire for freedom to those less free than themselves. That desire is infectious. It’s also deadly to authoritarian regimes.

For 55 years, the US government has quarantined Cuba via embargo. That quarantine didn’t prevent the spread of authoritarianism from Cuba to other parts of the world (see, for example, Nicaragua and Venezuela). It just prevented the spread freedom to Cuba.

We’ve seen this effect, and its opposite, elsewhere. The obvious pairing to demonstrate the claim is China versus North Korea. China has become progressively more free over the decades in which it has enjoyed normalized relations with the US. Not completely free by any stretch of the imagination, but much freer. North Korea, under sanction and embargo, remains an utterly totalitarian state.

In Cuba, the embargo’s beneficiaries are the Castros and their henchmen.

In America, the embargo’s beneficiaries are moneyed interests who don’t want to compete with Cuban sugar, cigars or tourist destinations, as well as generations of “anti-Castro” Cuban emigre politicos who procure donations and US government grants to think about and talk about overthrowing the Castro regime … with no prospect of ever actually doing so, and no desire to see it done unless the transition puts them, and only them, in power in Cuba.

In Cuba and in America, everyone else is a victim, not a beneficiary, of the embargo.

It’s time for Cuban students to start attending America’s universities and for Cuban farmers to start selling their goods in America’s markets.

It’s time for American tourists to start visiting Cuba’s beaches and for American engineers to start improving Cuba’s infrastructure.

It’s time for Florida and Cuba alike to gain the advantages of new nearby trade partners (Tampa is closer to Havana than it is to Atlanta).

It’s time to end the quarantine and spread the freedom virus.

If Florida’s politicians won’t lead on this issue, they should at least get out of the way.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

It’s Not About Religious Freedom. It’s About Freedom.

RGBStock Holding Hands

There is no right to enslave others. In this day and age, that claim should be non-controversial. But apparently some people just haven’t got the memo. It’s called the 13th Amendment and it was ratified 150 years ago this coming December:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Freedom of association has been on a roll lately. Same-sex marriage is now de facto legal in 36 states and looks set to win national recognition once the US Supreme Court rules on the matter. Oklahoma’s state legislature is even considering a bill to get government out of the marriage licensing business entirely, limiting it to the function of registrar.

Libertarians have supported marriage freedom and legal equality for same-sex couples for decades — since long before Democrats (and some Republicans) came around. We’re happy to see these freedoms blossom.

Unfortunately some LGBTQ activists aren’t satisfied. They want more.

Specifically, they want cake and wedding photos. And they think that they have the right to cake and wedding photos from bakers and photographers who don’t want to bake or shoot photos for them.

The backlash: Some state legislatures are rolling out “religious freedom” laws specifying that bakers don’t have to bake and photographers don’t have to photograph if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs.

But wait a minute: Why should freedom to associate or not associate with, or to work for or not work for anyone, be conditioned on religious beliefs?

If I don’t want to mow a neo-Nazi’s lawn, should I have to point out a Bible verse that justifies my decision not to do so?

If I don’t want to build a Kingdom Hall for my local Jehovah’s Witnesses, am I be required to attest that I’m turning down their offer because I’m a Baptist?

If I run a bar that caters to the LGBTQ crowd, must I demonstrate religious conviction as my reason for refusing to host a heterosexual “speed dating” event?

No. I’m not a slave. Neither are you. Any law which treats us as slaves is unconstitutional. Not to mention morally repugnant.

Freedom of association should never be conditioned on anything other than one’s personal desire to associate or not associate.

I’m with Martin Luther King, Jr. on this: I dream of a society in which we all judge each other by the content of our characters, not by skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other non-essential.

We’ll get to that society through persuasion, not force. We’ll get there by breaking old shackles, not by putting new ones on.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Don’t Look, Ethel! (Really — Just Don’t Look)

RGBStock -- Naked Dolls

First, credit where credit is due:  Charlotte, North Carolina police haven’t arrested Gerard Leeper for standing naked in the doorway of his home in the city’s Cardinal Glen neighborhood. Yet.

Why? Because it’s not illegal to go naked on one’s own property in Charlotte. Yet. So, good call, Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD.

According to the Charlotte Observer, however, the CMPD is “trying to build a case against” Leeper and “will likely approach the legislature to recommend a stronger indecent exposure law.” They want it changed to cover things which can be seen from, not just in, “public spaces.”

That’s disturbing, for two reasons.

First, the job of the CMPD is to enforce the law, not to lobby the legislature.

Secondly, unless CMPD has solved all the real crimes in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, they shouldn’t even have time to worry about — let alone “try to build a case against” — some guy for standing around naked in his own house. Perhaps the county should look at cutting CMPD’s budget and manpower if it has spare resources to waste on this kind of non-problem.

But that’s the thing: Some of Leeper’s neighbors don’t consider it a non-problem. They complain that he stands naked in his doorway several times a week and has for a decade. They don’t like it. They don’t want to see it. They’ve had Home Owners Association meetings to discuss it. They’ve complained to Leeper. They’ve complained to the police.

And of course the police department — which answers to local politicians and taps the area’s taxpayers for its funding — hates telling local homeowners things they’d rather not hear. Thus the “case-building” and prospective politicking.

It seems to me that a ready answer to this “problem” can be found in the work of prominent American comedic singer/songwriter Ray Stevens. Specifically, in a line from his 1974 hit “The Streak.” In three simple words:

“Don’t look, Ethel!”

Yes, really. Just don’t look.

If you don’t want to see Gerard Leeper naked, don’t look at him.

If you can’t make yourself not look at him when you pass by his house, go out of your way to not pass by his house.

If you can’t avoid passing by his house, and can’t drag your eyes away from his occasional nakedness when you do, and just can’t stand what you see, move.

Yes, really. Move.

It’s not the government’s job to make sure you never, ever, ever see anything you don’t like, especially (although not only) when it’s on someone else’s private property. That’s YOUR job.

Leave the police out of it. Unless you see Sheb Wooley’s one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people eater. In that case, you should call 911 ASAP.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY