All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

Trump and Kennedy Say They’d Free Ross Ulbricht. Biden Can Do That Right Now.

Photo by Marc Nozell. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Photo by Marc Nozell. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

While panhandling for votes at the Libertarian National Convention over Memorial Day weekend, two non-Libertarian presidential candidates — Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. — promised to free political prisoner Ross Ulbricht if elected.

That promise is a big deal to Libertarians. Ulbricht, 40, is about a decade into his two life sentences, without the possibility of parole, for the “crime” of operating a web site.

Yes, you read that correctly.

You may hear other, darker allegations concerning what Ulbricht did, but those allegations were so weakly supported by evidence that even grandstanding, corrupt US Attorney Preet Bharara was afraid to charge Ulbricht over them.

Unfortunately, corrupt US District Judge Katherine B. Forrest, after openly rigging the trial to ensure a jury conviction, used those unproven allegations to justify the draconian sentence.

When it’s all said and done, the excuse for Ulbricht’s imprisonment comes down to this: He ran an e-commerce web site (Silk Road), and some people sold things on that site … things which the government disapproves of, like certain drugs.

That’s it. That’s all. There’s nothing else. He ran a web site, and now he’s sentenced to die behind bars for running that web site.

While I won’t be voting for Trump or RFK Jr. (I support another candidate who promises to “Free Ross,” Libertarian presidential nominee Chase Oliver), I do thank them for their offers.

But really, why should we — or, more importantly, Ross — have to wait until next January to get this matter taken care of?

Yes, Trump or RFK Jr., if elected, might keep the promise and do the right thing.

But President Joe Biden could do the right thing TODAY. Biden could commute Ross’s sentence or pardon him and put the  matter to rest.

That would be the right thing to do … and good politics as well.

Two of Biden’s leading opponents have pledged to get the job done.

With a stroke of his pardon/commutation pen, Biden could take the issue away from those opponents.

Politically, it would be an easy, all-benefit, no-cost proposition.

The constituency for freeing Ross may not be huge, but neither are the likely margins of victory this November.  Fewer than 50,000 votes in key states separated victory from defeat for Biden in 2020. He needs every vote he can get. SOME grateful Americans would reward a pardon or commutation at the polls.

The constituency for keeping Ross in prison is, for all practical purposes, non-existent. The tiny group supporting his continued incarceration wouldn’t change their votes over it.

What’s better than doing the right thing? Doing the right thing, rubbing your opponents’ noses in it, and adding votes to your column at their expense.

Mr. Biden, tear down this (prison) wall. Free Ross!

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.


What I Saw (and You Probably Didn’t) at the Libertarian National Convention

The author, wearing his "delegate" button, at the 2024 Libertarian National Convention.
The author, wearing his “delegate” button, at the 2024 Libertarian National Convention.

In presidential election years, the Libertarian Party holds its national convention over Memorial Day Weekend. I returned home from my ninth such convention yesterday.

Donald Trump and RFK Jr. spoke at our convention. You’ve probably heard about that.

We chose a presidential ticket: Chase Oliver and Mike ter Maat. You may have heard about that as well.

Unless you were actually there, or watched and paid very close attention on C-SPAN, though, you probably didn’t notice some of the ways in which a Libertarian National Convention differs from the way the “Big Two” parties do business.

The “Big Two” conventions aren’t really conventions. They’re campaign commercials.

Democratic and Republican delegates know who their presidential candidate is long before they arrive, because they are (for the most part) “bound” delegates. They’re required to vote for the candidate who won their states’ primaries and caucuses.

Democratic and Republican delegates know who their vice-presidential candidate is because their presidential candidate tells them who he or she wants. They then cast a ceremonial vote to approve.

Democratic and Republican delegates generally ratify the platform and bylaws presented to them by insider-dominated party committees. They don’t HAVE to agree, but once again it’s pretty much just ritual.

Libertarian Party convention delegates — around a thousand of them, plus alternates — sit in a crowded room for several days actually making decisions. On Sunday, business commenced at 9am and wrapped up well after midnight.

Our delegates are “unbound” and free to vote for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates we find most persuasive. Many of us arrive at the convention undecided and choose a candidate who’s actually talked not just TO us but WITH us. It often takes several rounds of balloting to choose. This year, we voted seven times, eliminating candidates with the fewest votes, before Chase Oliver received a majority vote for president. It took two ballots to choose Mike ter Maat for the veep slot.

We also choose our chair, other officers, and national committee at the convention. Those races are also often as hotly contested as the presidential race.

And we actually debate our platform and bylaws changes.

Our convention is fun, but it’s neither a campaign commercial nor a series of cocktail parties and bar crawls. It’s work. It’s HARD work. It’s IMPORTANT work. For some, it’s heart-breaking work, followed by a difficult process of trying to hug it out and move on.

Why bother? Because  every person in that room loves freedom, hates tyranny, and wants to offer Americans — including you — a chance to enthusiastically vote for what they love most, maybe for the first time, instead of reluctantly voting, yet again, against whomever they fear most.

That’s what we accomplished.

You’re welcome.

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.


Fake News Conveniently Trivializes Supreme Court Ethics Violations

Supreme Court of the United States - Roberts Court 2022

Ah, the merry month of May — and US Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito once again faces questions relating to his ethics.

Well, no, not really. What’s under question is his “impartiality.” That’s a different thing entirely … and not really a thing at all.

Fake news item number one: Alito sold his stock in Anheuser-Busch InBev last year, at the same time the company found itself boycotted by “conservative” randos who objected to the company sending a special can of beer to a social media influencer “conservative” randos don’t like.  There’s no question of insider trading or anything like that involved. Alito took a loss on his Anheuser-Busch InBev shares. Maybe he did it because he agreed with the “conservative” randos, or maybe he just needed some quick cash. To the best of my knowledge, there are no cases before the court relating to the conflict between Anheuser-Busch InBev and “conservative” randos.

Fake news item number two: In early 2021, someone (Alito says it was his wife, not him) flew an American flag upside down outside the Alitos’ home. That’s a traditional sign of emergency or distress, and coming around the time of the January 6 Capitol riot and the inauguration of a new president, it seems to convey political overtones. But there’s no law against Supreme Court justices (or their spouses) having, and expressing, political opinions.

These two fake news items are fake news neither because they’re necessarily untrue nor because they may not reveal political opinions the public might not like. They’re fake news items because they’re silly and trivial distractions from Alito’s REAL ethics problems and those of his fellow justice, Clarence Thomas.

As revealed by ProPublica last year, both Alito and Thomas accepted (and conveniently “forgot” to report) bribes … er, “gifts” … from wealthy friends with business before the court they sit on.

In Alito’s case, an expensive charter flight to Alaska and a $1,000+ per day stay at a luxury resort seemingly sufficed to buy his (non-decisive — he was one of a 7-1 majority) vote in a case worth $2.4 billion to bribe-payer … er, “gift-giver” … hedge fund manager Paul Singer.

Thomas likewise accepted unreported “gifts,” loans, and sweetheart property deals from the deep pockets of plutocrats with cases before the court. And he also got some fake news cover-up action focused on his wife’s associations with the Cult of Trump.

It doesn’t bother me if Samuel Alito takes a loss on stock because he doesn’t like a company’s politics, or if his wife flies a flag upside down over a supposed argument with a neighbor.  Nor do I think it’s reasonable to expect Alito or Thomas to control their spouses’ actions just because those actions are or might be “political.”

It does bother me that the over-the-top whining about such things obscures the real story: These two Supreme Court justices put their jurisprudence up for sale and got caught doing it. They should have been impeached and removed by now.

The bribes, and Congress yawning instead of acting, are the real scandals.

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.