All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

Get Brittney Griner Back? Sure — But Release Her Counterparts in America, Too

Reefer_Madness_(1936)

On July 27, the Biden administration offered their Russian counterparts a deal: Release WNBA player Brittney Griner and alleged US spy Paul Whelan, in return for the US releasing Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Griner, currently on trial, faces a ten-year sentence if convicted of possessing cannabis. She was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 after officials allegedly found vape cartridges containing “hash oil” in her possession.

I’d personally like to see Griner released. I suspect most Americans agree with me. But the political outrage over her arrest feels quite manufactured given that hundreds of thousands of Americans get treated like Griner every year by their own governments.

Even though a super-majority of Americans support legalization of marijuana, and even though a number of states have moved in that direction on both medical and recreational use, the Center for American Progress reports that US law enforcement agencies still make more than 600,000 marijuana arrests every year. At any given time, tens of thousands of Americans languish behind bars for the very “crime” Griner stands accused of in Russia.

There’s no doubt that marijuana is winning, and was always going to win, the “war on marijuana.”

The only winners in that “war” have been black market drug dealers, law enforcement budgets, and opportunistic politicians.

Everyone else loses. Not just marijuana users. Non-user taxpayers have to not only foot the bill, but put up with the possibility that they and their family members and friends may, at any moment, suffer police harassment and search on suspicion of harboring the devil weed in their cars, homes, blood, or urine.

The US government cares about Brittney Griner because she’s a celebrity who’s been arrested by America’s Enemy of the Week.

If she’d been one of us nobodies and had been arrested anywhere else in the world — including in the US itself — she’d have been just another number in the war on marijuana’s ugly casualty statistics. We’d have never seen her name outside of local police blotter and court reportage.

That doesn’t mean she should go to prison. She shouldn’t. But neither should anyone else, anywhere, go to prison for possession of a beneficial plant.

Bring Brittney Griner home … and send her US counterparts home, too. Release them from America’s prisons, expunge their convictions, end the war on marijuana, and let them — and the rest of us — get on with our lives without further ado.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) 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

The Respect for Marriage Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Photo by RF Vila. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Photo by RF Vila. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The sound of the US Supreme Court’s  June ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationoverturning half a century of abortion jurisprudence under Roe v. Wade,  is the sound of multiple cans of worms popping open, particularly in light of associate justice Clarence Thomas’s concurrence, which calls for the court to “correct the error” of “substantive due process” by overturning other previous court decisions based on it.

Potentially on that chopping block: Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the court held that both “substantive due process” and “equal protection” require all states to recognize same-sex marriage.

Rather than eat the worms in question, the US House of Representatives resurrected and passed (with significant Republican support) something called the “Respect for Marriage Act.”

The act, which may or may not survive Senate politics, hangs its hat on a third constitutional justification unmentioned in Obergefell: The “full faith and credit” clause.

“Full Faith and Credit,” Article IV, Section 1 of the US Constitution commands, “shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.”

The Respect for Marriage Act “prescribes … the Effect thereof” by requiring states to recognize marriages licensed in other states without discrimination on the basis of “the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin” of the married individuals.

In plain English: If you get legally married in Massachusetts, then go to Mississippi, you’re still legally married in Mississippi even if Mississippi’s government doesn’t like it.

That makes sense, at least within the context of “marriage” as a state-sanctioned privilege requiring a “license.” It’s clearly constitutional, and its likely effect is to protect rights.

But why are state governments regulating and licensing marriage in the first place?

We know why they started doing so in the 19th century: To stop white folk from marrying black folk. That wasn’t a good reason then and wouldn’t be a good reason now even if the court hadn’t ruled it unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia.

Instead of hoping the federal government will protect our rights from state governments in the issuance of “licenses,” we’d all be better off with government out of marriage entirely.

Yes, entirely. No licensing. No social engineering with tax privileges or penalties. No conditioning of hospital visitation rights on possession of a “license.”

There are two widely held views of marriage.

One is that it’s a religious sacrament, the contents and obligations of which vary from religion to religion.

The other is that it’s a contractual commitment/obligation, and there’s no compelling reason why the content of such a contract shouldn’t vary from marriage to marriage.

In neither case should government, at any level, be in the business of prescribing the content or requiring a license for the practice.

The Respect for Marriage Act may be a good start, but marriage freedom for couples — and non-couple groups — is the finish line.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) 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

COVID-19: Block the “Emergency” to “New Normal” Pipeline

CDC COVID-19 Checklist for Face Coverings Do's and Don'ts. Public Domain.
CDC COVID-19 Checklist for Face Coverings Do’s and Don’ts. Public Domain.

In mid-July, the Biden administration extended a January 2020 COVID-19 “public health emergency” declaration  through mid-October of this year. An administration official justifies the renewal of the “emergency” declaration because it “continues to provide us with tools and authorities needed to respond” to  the virus.

But COVID-19 is no longer a “pandemic.” It’s become “endemic,” like the flu or the common cold. The latest variant of “concern,” BA.5, continues to follow the usual path of viral evolution, becoming more contagious but less deadly. While cases are increasing, hospitalizations and deaths remain near low points since this thing began.

And yet around the country, at all levels of government, we see which “tools and authorities” remain in vogue: Mask mandates and “advisories” are sprouting back up.

At this point, however, our masters are fresh out of true “public health” excuses for such mandates.

The state of “the science” on masking as of the beginning of the pandemic was summed up by NIAID director Anthony Fauci: “[T]here’s no reason to be walking around with a mask …. wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better, and it might even block a droplet. But it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is.”

Despite herculean efforts on the part of “public health” advocates to make science conform with the politically motivated desire to mandate masking over the last two years, the actual science remains the same. There wasn’t good evidence that masking reduces the spread of viral disease as of early 2020. There’s no such evidence now.

So, why the continued fascination with mask mandates?

Hanlon’s Razor — “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” —  tempt as an explanation, but it’s unsatisfactory. Government “experts” have access to the same peer-reviewed scientific studies the rest of us do. In fact, they largely funded those very studies. They know that the evidence for masking is about as good as the evidence for lucky rabbit’s feet or St. Christopher medals.

The next best explanation is that for any issue, politicians and bureaucrats always feel the need to “do something,” whether that something works or not. Mask mandates are “something.”

But now that the COVID-19 “issue” is fading into  just another endemic condition that kills a few and produces minor, if any, illness in most, a third explanation makes the most sense:

It’s about power. Our rulers seized a lot of it using the pandemic as an excuse, and they don’t want to give it up.

We’re still taking off our shoes in airport lines on command more than 20 years after Richard Reid’s unsuccessful attempt to blow up a plane.

If the political class has its way, we’ll still be donning ceremonial headgear on command 20 years from now.

If the Biden administration won’t shut this “emergency” nonsense down in law, Americans should shut it down in action. It’s time to take back the powers we let government seize, and then some. Resist the “new normal” they’re trying to foist on us.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) 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