All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

The Kids Are All Right. It’s the Cops and Bureaucrats Who Need to Chill.

RGBStock Hand in Hand

Growing up in small-town southern Missouri, I never realized how good I had it. After school and all summer, I roamed. Alone or with friends, restrained by little other than parental orders to stay within a reasonably large area and check in occasionally, I enjoyed the freedom of childhood.

These days, government treats unaccompanied pre-teens like re-enactments of the Charles Lindbergh, Jr. kidnapping — and their parents like Bruno Richard Hauptmann, executed in 1936 for that abduction and murder.

Ten-year-old Raffi Meitiv, 10, and his six-year-old sister Dvora, have been abducted off the streets of Silver Springs, Maryland. Twice. Not by Hauptmann-style evil-doers, but by police. They’ve been held by Child Protective Services. Their parents have been deemed guilty of “non-specific neglect” for allowing them to walk to and from a park near their home.

The ransom demand in the second of these abductions? That Raffi and Dvora’s parents sign a “temporary safety plan” agreeing to never, ever, ever let the kids go outside by themselves.

The Meitivs have focused media attention on the issue with their courageous decision to fight the nanny state nonsense instead of just doing as they’re told. Their situation is not at all unusual. Similar idiocy takes place every day, all over.

As Lenore Skenazy, “Free-Range Kids” blogger and host of the “World’s Worst Mom” reality TV show notes at Reason, “we all are beginning to understand just how insane, paranoid, and vindictive the state can be when it comes to respecting human rights — in [the Meitiv’s] case, the right of parents who love their kids to raise them the way they see fit.”

When my youngest son was five, he wanted to walk to the deli a block from our house — accessible via quiet, sidewalked, residential streets — and buy his own sandwich. After strict instructions to stay away from the busier street on which the deli fronted, I let him do his big-boy thing.

The first time, I concealed myself and watched him carefully. Once it became a regular thing, I awaited his return on the front porch, prepared to check on him if he was gone longer than expected. Then one day he arrived home in the back of a police car, and I got a lecture on how dangerous it was to let him walk a block and back by himself.

Nonsense! What’s dangerous is treating kids like babies well into their teens, then expecting them to magically blossom into full-blown responsible adults at 18 on the dot. Responsibility is a product of the freedom to learn and grow. When government gets in the way of that freedom, we’re all worse off for the increasingly infantilized society that results.

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




Security Theater: Fake Bullets Over Broadway

English: FBI Mobile Command Center in Washingt...
FBI Mobile Command Center in Washington DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested two New York City women, Noelle Velentzas and  Asia Siddiqui, on April 2. The two were charged with conspiring to build and detonate a bomb in the style of the 2013 Boston Marathon attack. After more than a year of talking about it, they hadn’t actually done anything about it. Reasonable people might conclude they just relished terror trash talk.

On April 10, the FBI arrested Topeka, Kansas resident John T. Booker as he attempted to arm a 1,000 pound bomb outside the US Army base at Fort Riley. The bomb was fake, as was the entire plan for the attack, drummed up and pushed at Booker by undercover federal agents. The FBI knew that Booker was mentally ill. In fact, two of its agents had taken Booker to a local Muslim imam in 2014 to procure counseling for him, telling the imam that Booker suffered from bipolar disorder.

G-Men Thwart Islamist Bomb Plot! Like a TV series that keeps getting renewed despite dismal ratings, some variant of that headline pops up every few days. And like that imaginary TV series — “How I Foiled Your Jihadist?” — the whole thing consists largely of recycled plot lines and cheap special effects.

What we’re watching is not a war on terror. It’s not desperate police work versus very dire, and very real, threats. It’s theater, scripted entirely for public consumption and for the purpose of maintaining the post-9/11 “homeland security” funding bonanza.

As of 2001, the FBI’s annual budget came to $3.3 billion (that’s $4.4 billion in inflated 2015 dollars). Its 2014 budget weighed in at nearly twice the spending: $8.3 billion. Director James Comey’s 2016 budget request would increase that to $8.48 billion. In his March statement to the US Senate committee evaluating that request, his top sales point was that “the terrorist threat against the United States remains persistent and acute.”

But that “terrorist threat” is, to all appearances, largely manufactured by the FBI itself. And as for real terrorist threats, we know how to reduce them: By ending the foreign military adventurism that has, each and every time, preceded and been used as justification for terror attacks on US soil.

The solution to terrorism isn’t to give James Comey more money to spend creating fake terrorists. It’s to give US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter less money to spend creating real ones.

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



Constitutional Convention: A Dangerous and Unnecessary Game

English: Painting, 1856, by Junius Brutus Stea...
English: Painting, 1856, by Junius Brutus Stearns, Washington at Constitutional Convention of 1787, signing of U.S. Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Supporters of a national constitutional convention, as provided for in Article V of the US Constitution, have gained the support of 27 state legislatures for the idea. They need 34.

Republicans and Democrats are at war both with each other and within their own parties over the proposal. Some Republicans want such a convention for the purpose of getting a “balanced budget” amendment.

Some Democrats also want a convention for the purpose of overturning the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and regulating political campaign spending.

Some members of both parties fear that a convention might get out of hand, producing unforeseen  results. History says these Cassandras are correct.

In May of 1787, delegates from 12 of the 13 states met in Philadelphia to propose amendments to the young nation’s Articles of Confederation. With Rhode Island boycotting and the Articles requiring ratification by all 13 states to amend, the idea looked dead on arrival.

But the Philadelphia convention was, in essence, the first stage of a coup d’etat. Instead of proposing amendments for unanimous consent, the delegates rolled out plans to abandon the Articles for an entirely new system of government, peremptorily re-setting the bar for their new “Constitution.” It would, they announced, become effective upon ratification by only nine states.

For better or worse, they pulled it off.  The US Constitution has been “the supreme law of the land” since 1789.

A new constitutional convention is a bad idea for two reasons, both rooted in our history.

The first reason, as outlined above, is that regardless of the reasons for calling such a convention, it would likely end up recommending amendments above and beyond — or contrary to — those its promoters contemplate. It could even go rogue, as Philadelphia’s cabal did.

The second reason is that, just as the existing Constitution  is more honored in the breach than in the observance, any amendments moved by a new convention and ratified by the states would be similarly treated. New government powers created by the new amendments would be vigorously used. New limits on government power so created would simply be ignored.

We don’t need a balanced budget amendment. If Congress wanted to balance the budget, it would do so. If the Constitution requires it to do so and forbids it to borrow money, the politicians will find a way. There will likely be an exception for times of war, so they’ll just declare war and never undeclare it. Or they’ll just print money and give it to themselves to spend, inflating the money in our pockets as a hidden tax.

As far as money in politics is concerned, there’s no chance whatsoever of reining that in. Money always finds open wallets to worm its way into, constitutions and laws notwithstanding.

If the promoters of a constitutional convention place so much importance on the US Constitution, perhaps they should turn their attention to making America’s politicians obey it as it exists. That would be a good start toward meaningful change.

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