Category Archives: Op-Eds

Obama Visits Havana: Cuba Libre For Real?

"fight against which is impossible and wi...
“Fight against the impossible and win” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

US President Barack Obama’s late March visit to Cuba, continuing his initiative to re-establish friendly relations between the two countries, arouses opposition on both sides of the aisle in Washington.

The Republican complaints, of course, are to be expected. If Obama walked across the Florida Strait without wetting the hems of his trousers, Ted Cruz would ask why the president can’t swim.

But some Democrats also oppose breaking the ice with Havana. “It is totally unacceptable for the president of the United States to reward a dictatorial regime,” says US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). “The president is again prioritizing short-term economic interests over long-term American values.”

Let’s be honest here: Cruz, Menendez and their ilk have done as much to prop up Fidel Castro’s regime as Castro’s own secret police agents or neighborhood “Committees for the Defense of the Revolution” ever could, if not more. Half a century and change of sanctions and embargo have strengthened, not weakened, popular support for the island nation’s Communist rulers.

National isolation is the desire of every dictator: If his subjects never see what a freer society looks like or have the opportunity to avail themselves of its goods and services, they have no standard against which to measure his rule and find it wanting.

If a powerful, threatening external enemy actively aids him in achieving that isolation, so much the better: For now even if his subjects DO get a glimpse of higher living standards and relative freedom to travel, speak and worship, he can just blame that external enemy for denying them such things.

This is the dynamic which has kept the mullahs in charge in Tehran since 1979 and the Communist Party in charge in Havana since 1959. It is this dynamic which Obama hopes, by way of burnishing his presidential legacy, to interrupt with his Jeffersonian (“friendship and commerce with all nations”) overtures to Cuba.

The beneficiaries of the US embargo on Cuba have been the Castro regime, the US military industrial complex, the US sugar industry, and a few professional “opposition exiles” living on CIA funds and hoping to one day ride into Havana on American tanks. Its victims are legion and include the entire populations of Cuba and the United States.

Just as it was a myth that “only Nixon could go to China,” any president could have gone to Havana. One finally has. And we’re all better off for it.

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.


The FBI Has an Enemies List: First They Came for Free Talk Live …

Raid on Free Talk Live House

A typical Granite State Sunday morning on the cusp of spring, and a scene surprising no one who watches the news or any number of television shows dedicated to fictional or real-life law enforcement:

SUVs and police cruisers surrounding a house. Figures in bulletproof vests marked “FBI” hauling away computers pursuant to the warrant they’re serving. The next scene practically writes itself. We all know our lines. Time to cheer on the white knights who protect society from the scourge of child pornography.

But this time it’s different. This time we know the raiders represent the child pornographers and that their victims are journalists who exposed the FBI’s role in operating an illegal child porn web site.

The house, located in the college town of Keene, New Hampshire, serves as broadcast studio for Free Talk Live (,  a libertarian talk show airing nightly on more than 170 radio stations worldwide. FTL ranks 38th on the “Heavy 100” list of Talkers magazine, talk radio’s premier trade publication. The home does double duty as living quarters for some of the show’s hosts.

Mere weeks ago, Free Talk Live dropped a bombshell into America’s political discussion, exposing a story that had previously only been noticed very much by tech insiders.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, it seems, has been moonlighting as a provider of child pornography. After locating and seizing the servers of a child porn site on the “dark web,” known as Play Pen and reachable only via the Tor browser, the FBI decided not to shut the site down. Instead, they kept it running for two weeks, using it to spread malware that could identify and locate a handful of the site’s visitors. The vast majority of the 200,000 people downloading child porn from the site went on their way unmolested (pun intended). A few whose computers were mis-configured so as to be vulnerable to the FBI’s trick were arrested.

Read that last paragraph again. It’s illegal — and most people agree it SHOULD be illegal — to distribute child pornography.

Yet the FBI did so with complete impunity.

Now they’re harassing the journalists who told us about it, raiding their home and seizing their equipment on the unlikely, even risible, claim that a computer in that building accessed the Play Pen site.

It’s spring in New Hampshire but there’s a chill in the air — the chill of politically motivated revenge by law enforcement gone rogue.

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.


Mean-Spirited, Low-Lived Fellows Are Nothing New in American Politics

The Mount Rushmore Monument as seen from the v...
The Mount Rushmore Monument as seen from the viewing plaza. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does Donald Trump have small hands? Is Ted Cruz a wimp (this is a family-oriented column, so I’m using that term instead of the word Trump used)? Are progressives who don’t support Hillary Clinton misogynists if they’re men and traitors to their sex if they’re women? The 2016 presidential race is a bumper crop of insults, with the usual accompanying cries for a “return to civility.”

Reality check: There’s no era of civility for American politics to return to. It’s always been a rough and tumble sport. Election campaigns have never consisted of  the candidates holding hands and singing “Kum Ba Ya” with an occasional break for  sober issues discussions.

In 1800, presidential challenger Thomas Jefferson’s supporters described sitting president John Adams as possessed of a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman. Adams’s supporters retorted that Jefferson was “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel, was the target of personal insults intended to politically damage him from well before his presidency. Jackson killed one critic, Charles Dickinson, in a duel after Dickinson insulted her and accused him of cheating in a horse race.

In 1836, Martin van Buren’s opponents spread a rumor that he was the illegitimate son of former vice-president Aaron Burr, who had also famously killed someone (Alexander Hamilton) in a duel and had been tried for treason.

In 1884, supporters of Grover Cleveland chanted “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine!” Blaine supporters responded with “Ma, Ma, where’s my Paw? Gone to the White House, Haw, Haw, Haw!” referring to the (true) rumor that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock.

If you’ve been around long, you may have heard that George W. Bush was a cocaine fiend with a suppressed arrest record, that John McCain’s adopted kids are actually the children of his affairs, that Al Gore got preferential treatment in Vietnam because he was a Senator’s son, and that Barack Obama is from Kenya.

It’s ALWAYS been dirty, folks. Like Finley Peter Dunne said, “politics ain’t beanbag.” Why? Because politicians want to win. There’s an apocryphal tale of Lyndon Baines Johnson, in a pre-presidential campaign, suggesting that a press release be put out accusing his opponent of having sex with pigs. When a staffer objected that it wasn’t true, LBJ supposedly replied “I know … but let’s make him DENY it.”

I’ll be the last person to suggest that there are no real scandals  to be considered when evaluating candidates for public office. There certainly are. So pay attention. You may learn something important.

But when you’ve cleared the deck of the rumors and insults, what’s left is what matters. Do you agree with the candidate’s positions? Do you trust the candidate to tell the truth about the issues and to have the backbone to do the right thing? Choose carefully and vote accordingly.

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.