Category Archives: Op-Eds

King for a day. The rest of the year, not so much.

English: Tomb of Martin Luther King, Jr. & Cor...
English: Tomb of Martin Luther King, Jr. & Coretta Scott King (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since 1986, Americans have observed the third Monday of January as a federal holiday: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Schools and communities put on marches and commemorative events.  Some workers (sadly not including most of the working poor of all races to whose advancement King dedicated his life) get the day off.

It’s an election year, so we can expect bombardment by politicians’ pledges of allegiance to this or that sub-set of Dr. King’s values.

Republicans will piously assure us that they hew to King’s dream of “a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Then they’ll get back to finding new ways to keep African-Americans from voting.

Democrats will highlight their support for voting rights and likely also name-check Dr. King’s final effort, the “Poor People’s Campaign,” even as they inveigh against the gun rights that made the civil rights movement possible and against the emerging sharing economy that’s freeing and empowering America’s working poor without any help from government.

Neither party’s prominent presidential candidates will likely address themselves to Dr. King’s thoughts on war and peace. The Democrats have already driven their only peace candidate, Lincoln Chafee, from the race, and on the GOP side Rand Paul’s mildly non-interventionist campaign is on life support.

King opposed the great American war of his public life, the war in Vietnam, rightly referring to the US government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

What would he think of a Democratic Party whose standard-bearers (not to mention the first African-American president!) never met a war they didn’t like, or of a Republican Party whose front-runners are so intent on fomenting war with Iran that they’d rather leave American prisoners in Iranian hands than bring them home,  and posture over the Iranian release of American naval personnel caught out in a covert operation in Iranian waters as if that constituted Iran provoking the US rather than the other way around?

I was less than two years old at the time of Dr. King’s assassination. He’s never been anything but a larger-than-life historical figure to me. Nonetheless it offends me that nearly 50 years after his death he’s become a mere plaster saint, periodically and faux-prayerfully invoked by competing political factions who want to traffic on his popularity without bothering to live his values.  It should offend you too.

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.


Yosemite Sham: Trademark Trolls Try to Tap Taxpayers

English: Picture of the Ahwahnee Hotel. I took...
The Ahwahnee Hotel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hell hath no fury like a former business partner scorned. The Associated Press reports that  a company called Delaware North, which ran Yosemite National Park’s hotels and restaurants for two decades under contract with the US National Park Service, wants a $51 million payoff after losing those concessions to a higher bidder.

Why the payoff? Delaware North claims that it owns the names of long-existing park attractions which it did not start, does not own, and only temporarily operated. The Ahwahnee Hotel. Curry Village. Oh, yes, and “Yosemite National Park.”

In response to a suit filed by Delaware North, the Park Service is temporarily changing some names (of the hotel and the “village,” but not of the park) while dickering over how much it’s willing to pay — it values the names, according to court documents, at $3.5 million.

Apparently trademark trolling is Delaware North’s big new revenue center. The company also runs concessions at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and has filed a trademark application on the name “Space Shuttle Atlantis.” No, I’m not kidding. The cost to taxpayers of building and and operating the space shuttle fleet breaks down to around $40 billion per shuttle, but Delaware North thinks it owns the name because it makes money running soda stands and gift shops that riff on the theme.

But this kind of obvious abuse isn’t the real problem. It’s just a high-profile instance of the problem. The problem is the screwed up concept of “intellectual property” itself.

Yes, it’s clearly and obviously wrong to try to patent rounded corners on devices (as Apple did) or collect royalties on century-old characters (Sherlock Holmes) or tunes (“Happy Birthday”) that have long since become organic parts of their surrounding cultures. But the less clear  and obvious cases are wrong too.

I’m no artist, but I can draw a “swoosh.” I’m no cobbler, but I could probably make a shoe. If I put that “swoosh” on that shoe, Nike will have me in court so fast my head will spin. And heaven help me if I draw a cartoon featuring a particular mouse outline. Why? Because Nike, Disney and other “intellectual property” monopolists have bribed governments to pretend that shapes can be owned.

Delaware North isn’t rightly entitled to an “intellectual property” payday. Neither are  other “intellectual property” scammers. But they’ll probably get over. “Owning” a copyright, patent or trademark? Valuable. Owning that claim’s political enforcers? Priceless.

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.


What Does the Federal Reserve Have to Hide?

Organization of the Federal Reserve System
Organization of the Federal Reserve System (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the years, dissidents in Congress (notably including former US Representative Ron Paul and current Republican and Democratic presidential contenders Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders) have periodically proposed legislation to audit the Federal Reserve. The legislation is always rejected and, when it gets any significant attention at all, roundly denounced by the Federal Reserve itself and groups like the US Chamber of Commerce.

Such was the case on January 12, when the US Senate defeated a motion to bring the latest version of “Audit the Fed” to the floor for full debate and a vote. What’s up with that?

Supporters paint a Fed audit as simple common sense; opponents as an attempt to “politicize” US monetary policy.

It seems to me that logic and reason are entirely with the pro-audit side. The Federal Reserve system was established by Congress in 1913  for the express purpose of manipulating the national currency pursuant to statutory objectives (creating and maintaining “maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates”). That’s inherently “political.”

It’s not “politicization” that audit opponents really object to. What they object to,  their dark references to “conspiracy theory” and other attempts at distraction notwithstanding, is transparency.

Why? Well, given that the primary opposition to an audit comes from the the political class and the usual Wall Street suspects — the rest of us either support an audit or, more likely, don’t think much about the matter at all — it’s pretty obvious:

The Federal Reserve operates, its statutory goals be damned, for the purpose of protecting the interests of “the 1%” in preference to the interests of, and when necessary at the expense of, the rest of us.

That’s the only plausible motive for audit opponents’ insistence that the Fed be allowed to operate in secrecy, immune from public inspection or even inspection by the political authority that created it and gave it its alleged mission.

If you’re like me, you probably find lengthy discussions of monetary policy complex and, well, boring. And therein lies the danger. For more than a century, that complexity and dullness has effectively cloaked the Federal Reserve system’s operations from public scrutiny. It’s hard to get most Americans, including me, very worked up about it.

But the political class’s fear of public scrutiny makes my ears perk up. As it should yours. Yes, we should audit the Fed, if for no other reason than that they don’t want us to.

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.