Category Archives: Op-Eds

Gridlock Just Ain’t What it Used to be

Photo by Martin Falbisoner. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Photo by Martin Falbisoner. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The 2022 midterm election results “stand as an expression of overwhelming lack of confidence in the major parties,” J.D. Tuccille writes at Reason magazine, “with a resulting breather for the country resulting from the split decision’s ensuing, and quite welcome, gridlock.”

Tuccille’s sigh of relief is only partial. While Republicans’ slight majority in the House of Representatives and 40+ seat “filibuster-capable” Senate minority means the most ambitious Democratic legislation won’t make it to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law, he notes, “[t]he increasingly autocratic nature of the presidency allows enormous room for the nation’s chief executive to act unilaterally.”

Like his predecessors, Biden has a pen and a phone. And he’s proven himself at least as, if not more, inclined to use them to buy time (and more importantly, as columnist James Bovard notes with regard to “student loan forgiveness,” buy votes) even when he freely admits in advance that the courts will likely overturn his orders.

I’m even less optimistic than Tuccille about the potential benefits of gridlock — because it just ain’t what it used to be.

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, Congress at least occasionally fought real battles, over real issues, with winners and losers. Legislation passed or it didn’t. The Current Thing got done, or it got thrown into the dustbin (until after the next election, anyway).

These days, ideas that can’t pass as stand-alone bills get slipped into “must-pass” omnibus bills.

Take, for example, Democrats’ desire to add women to the Selective Service System’s draft registration requirements. That’s in the current “National Defense Authorization Act.”

“The defense bill isn’t the place for Democrats to indulge the wild ideas of their latest social experiments, like forcing women to register for the draft,” US Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) complains.

It looks like Cotton may have to either give up his love of big military spending — fat chance — or vote for a bill including said “social experiment.”

And Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) seems to be planning to fold the NDAA into an even larger end-of-year spending package, forcing other members of Congress to make such all-or-nothing decisions.

That’s the problem with the current version of “gridlock”: Instead of neither side getting anything it wants, both sides get the WORST things they want, even before the president pulls out his pen and starts fiddling with his phone.

That’s not “gridlock” — it’s unlimited government.

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

#leavingtwitter is Tiresome Performance Art

Photo by Ben Schumin. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Photo by Ben Schumin. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Have you ever encountered a klansman at the grocery store? I have. I instantly recognized him as a member of the Ku Klux Klan because I’d seen him speak (sans hood) at a Klan rally (I was one of the protesters, not one of the klansmen) and on local TV repping the organization.

I didn’t speak with him, both because I didn’t want to and because I didn’t have to.

I also didn’t roll my cart to the front of the store, abandon it, loudly announce that if he was allowed to shop there I wouldn’t be shopping there, stomp out in a huff, and tell all my friends that if they ever wanted to talk to me a grocery store, I’d be at the one across town.

Shortly after Elon Musk purchased and took control of Twitter, the hashtag #leavingtwitter began to trend as various people (including “celebrities,” many of whom I’ve never heard)  metaphorically stomped off of the platform because … well, because.

There are lots of reasons to leave Twitter.

Some of those reasons — it’s turned into a time-wasting addiction, it feels creepy to be advertised to based on the algorithm’s surveillance of one’s interests, etc. — make sense to me. It’s not that they’re good or bad per se. They’re just personal choices that make sense to the people leaving.  And with numerous alternatives to choose from, it’s not like #leavingtwitter means doing without social media. No biggie.

The biggest factor driving the #leavingtwitter trend, though, seems to be the equivalent of noticing the klansman in the grocery store and storming out theatrically. That’s incredibly dumb.

Yes, Musk has told the Bad People they can stay (or return), with wider permissions to say Bad Things on his newly acquired platform.

But nobody has to talk with the Bad People or listen to the Bad Things. Everyone’s free to ignore the Bad People, and can even block those Bad People so as to never be forced to notice their Bad Shouting.

Good Person A can get her social media “groceries,” and Bad Person B can get his, without the two ever interacting at all beyond Good Person A noticing Bad Person B’s presence and hitting the “block” link.

So far as I can tell, #leavingtwitter is largely an exercise in performance art — tiresome performance art.

If other people (even Bad People) saying what they want to say (even Bad Things) troubles you that much, especially when you have the power to keep that speech out of your own “hearing,” you’re as much a part of society’s problems as they are.

The cure for bad speech is more speech, not self-imposed exile.

Do as you like, but I’m not #leavingtwitter.

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

Thankful 2022

Thanksgiving board

It’s that time of year again. As I write this, the US Thanksgiving holiday approaches and many of us take stock of just what we’re thankful for.

I recently ran into a situation that summarizes my biggest “thankful” takeaway from 2022: A crowded Walmart. As in REALLY crowded. Uncomfortably crowded. “Please let me out of here” crowded.

No, I don’t like shopping, nor am I fond of packed crowds in stores. In fact, for a few years in the early 2000s, I suffered a PTSD-like effect. I just couldn’t tolerate it and simply fled more than once.

But this is 2022, and crowded stores mean that the COVID-19 pandemic panic is over. I couldn’t wait to get out of that Walmart, but not because everyone’s face was covered and everyone was WORRIED sick about the possibility of GETTING sick.

That’s not to say that COVID-19 is over.  As of mid-November, according to Worldometer, the US was still experiencing nearly 40,000 new cases, and suffering more than 300 deaths, per day. Whether we think of that as “pandemic” or “endemic,” the virus is obviously still with us and likely to remain with us. Many of us have lost loved ones and that can still happen.

But we seem to be done with the irrational panic that politicians and “public health” authorities used as an excuse mangle the economy, keep us separated from family and friends, and force us to wear  masks — the equivalent, vis a vis the spread of viral infection, of lucky rabbit’s feet, St. Christopher medals, or “Whip Inflation Now” buttons — nearly everywhere we went.

I’m thankful beyond words that the public has finally calmed down (despite the best efforts of the aforementioned politicians and bureaucrats), and hopeful that we’ll get some measure of accountability for those who turned a bad situation into a worse situation because they believed they could get away with doing so.

In talking with friends about their holiday travel plans, I’ve run into not so much as a single “is it safe?” worry of the type that characterized 2020 and lingered through 2021. Grandparents will see their grandchildren this Thanksgiving and/or Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Yule/etc., and vice versa, some for the first time in nearly three years.

A return to “normal” political polarization, wars and rumors of wars, etc. may not be an improvement, but it’s at least a relief that — for me, anyway — overshadows the various bad news elements of 2022.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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