All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

Hey, Rube! Why No Room for Others at the Biden/Trump Debate Circus?

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Will Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. participate in either of the two presidential election debates thus far announced by the Joe Biden and Donald Trump campaigns?

How about independents Cornel West and Afroman, Green party candidate Jill Stein, Constitution Party candidate Randall Terry, and whoever receives the Libertarian Party’s nomination over Memorial Day weekend?

The answer, at the moment, looks like a soft “no” for RFK Jr. and a hard “no” for everyone else.

Criteria for inclusion in the June 27 debate on CNN include polling a minimum of 15% in at least four “high-quality national polls,” and being on the ballot in states disposing of at least the 270 electoral votes required to win the election.

Interestingly, RFK, Jr. is closer to meeting that latter qualification than either Joe Biden or Donald Trump at the moment. He’s already on the ballot in six states and has turned in petition signatures for ballot access in five more. The grand total for Biden and Trump combined is zero states. Until and unless they’re actually nominated by their respective parties in July and August, well after the CNN debate, they won’t be on the ballot anywhere.

Kennedy’s campaign director, Amaryllis Fox, tweets that “We anticipate fulfilling all participation criteria” by the June 20th deadline.

But rules (or at least CNN policies) are, it seems, only for the little people. Axios reports that the Trump campaign claims CNN promised them “RFK will not be on that stage,” while the Biden campaign says its own criteria require “a 1:1 debate.”

Meanwhile, RFK Jr. himself claims — fairly, it seems to me — that “Presidents Trump and Biden are colluding to lock America into a head-to-head match-up that 70% say they do not want.”

He also claims that they’re doing so “because they are afraid I would win.” Probably not. RFK Jr. has a slightly better chance of becoming president than you or me, but that’s like saying someone who buys two lottery tickets has a better chance of winning the billion-dollar jackpot than the guy who just buys one.

The real fear for Biden and Trump isn’t that RFK Jr. might win the election. Rather, it’s that small but decisive numbers of voters might abandon one, the other, or both of them for a third option, with an unpredictable impact on which of the two “big players” wins.

Their “collusive” response, right out of The Naked Gun: “Alright, move on, nothing to see here.”

While presidential debates may feel like they’ve been around forever, the first general election debate — featuring John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon — occurred only 64 years ago.

After the League of Women Voters refused to rig debates to include only the two “major” party candidates, those “major” parties created the Commission on Presidential Debates in 1987 to do the rigging themselves. Trump and Biden dumped the CPD this year and went to direct personal election-rigging.

Why the “Hey, Rube!” collusion? Because the debates are really just  circuses, and “major party” carnies always stick together against outsiders — including the voting public.

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


Biden’s Latest Trumpian Tariff Scheme: Buying Your Vote With Your Money

Coronation of the autocrat of protection, June 16, 1896 - Dalrymple. LCCN2012648538

“President Joe Biden,” USA Today reports, “is raising tariffs significantly on electric vehicles, semiconductors and several other goods imported from China, moves his administration says are meant to ‘level the playing field’ in sectors where the Biden administration has made major investments.”

The USA Today story notes, in passing, one of the two real reasons for Biden’s latest Trumpian scheme:  He’s “courting the support of working-class voters in Midwest battleground states including Michigan, the center of the U.S. auto industry.”

The other reason is to court campaign  donations (financial and in-kind, direct and indirect) from various lobbying groups, including labor unions and American businesses.

“Level the playing field” is code for “tax American consumers so that American businesses and workers don’t have to compete with foreign products on price for value.”

Tariffs are not levied “on” the tariffed goods. They’re levied “on” the BUYERS of the tariffed goods.

If you’re in the market for an electric car, computer, solar panel, etc., Biden’s plan is to jack the prices up on some of your options (made in China) so that you’ll be more inclined to buy from the voters, labor unions, and businesses he’s “courting” with your money.

The “investments” Biden brags about making come out of your pocket as well. He’s forking over billions of dollars in corporate welfare to build factories for his friends in Big Business and maybe (maybe) provide better jobs for voters he wants to like him more than they like Donald Trump this November.

It’s the same game Trump himself played before, and pledges to play again, if he wins the presidential election.

The real case for tariffs, once we set aside “level the playing field” nonsense, is that tariffs let crooked politicians reward their friends and the voters they’re targeting … with your money.

That’s also the main argument AGAINST tariffs, but there are others.

One of the most important, to steal a phrase, is the “national security” argument. Trump and Biden have both used “national security” as an excuse for imposing trade restrictions in the past, but they always get it backward.

Free trade promotes peace. The freer the trade, the less likely war is to break out, for the simple reason that when two countries’ economies depend on trade with each other, they’re less likely to go to war with each other.

The opposite is also true. As Otto P. Mallery wrote, “If soldiers are not to cross international boundaries, goods must do so. Unless the Shackles can be dropped from trade, bombs will be dropped from the sky.”

I don’t know you; I don’t know if your vote is up for sale to the highest bidder.

If it isn’t, you should keep in mind what Biden and Trump have both done, and promise to continue doing, to you.

If it is, I hope you can do better than a Pawn Stars style “best I can do is raise your cost of living and increase your risk of death in a nuclear exchange.”

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


We’ve Already Got an “Antisemitism Awareness Act.” It’s Called the First Amendment.

Warsaw during World War II: Tram with sign "Nur für Juden - Tylko dla Żydów" (Only for Jews). Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L14404 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Warsaw during World War II: Tram with sign “Nur für Juden – Tylko dla Żydów” (Only for Jews). Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L14404 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

On May 1, the US House of Representatives passed the fraudulently titled “Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023.” It’s not yet law, pending Senate passage and a presidential signature, but the lopsided House vote (320 to 91) should worry all Americans, including the country’s 7.6 million Jews.

In theory, the bill merely clarifies how the US Department of Education should interpret Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of  race, color, religion, sex, and national origin by “federally funded programs,” including most colleges and universities.

In fact, however, the bill — by adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s “working definition of antisemitism” — reveals itself as just another underhanded attempt to suppress freedom of speech by placing new conditions on federal funding.

The bill expressly includes “the ‘[c]ontemporary examples of antisemitism’ identified in the IHRA definition” in its own definition of antisemitism.

Those examples include “[d]enying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” as well as “[d]rawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

“Jews” (who, by the way, are not the only “semites”) and “Israel” are two entirely different things.

Jews are an ethnic group bound together partly by ancestry and partly by ancestral religious beliefs.

Israel is a Middle Eastern nation-state which clearly, unambiguously, and openly bases itself on a supremacist ideology (Zionism) exploiting that ethnic bond. The Israeli regime treats non-Jews as, at best, second-class citizens in Israel and as rightsless non-citizens in large swaths of occupied territory next door. Comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany or apartheid-era South Africa aren’t unreasonable.

Most of the world’s Jews choose — in individual acts of “self-determination” —  to live outside Israel. In fact, more Jews live in the United States than live in Israel. Many of those Jews  oppose Zionism on principle, and Israeli policies toward neighboring Arab populations in practice.

Under the “Antisemitism Awareness Act,” a university could lose its federal funding if it allowed Jewish students and faculty to express their political opinions. Not because those opinions are “antisemitic,” but because those opinions don’t toe a pro-Israel line.

We already have laws against violence and harrassment, which apply whether the victims are Jewish or not.

We also have a First Amendment which protects the right to free speech, even if that speech criticizes Israel — and even if that speech is ACTUALLY antisemitic — whether the speakers are Jews or non-Jews.

“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education,” the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

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