Ross Ulbricht is a Political Prisoner Prison Photo

In early February, federal jurors convicted Ross Ulbricht on seven charges relating to the operations of the Silk Road online marketplace. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

As documented in Alex Winter’s film Deep Web, calling the three-week farce preceding these convictions a “show trial” insults both shows and trials. The fix was in from the beginning.

The “judge,” one Katherine Forrest, consistently and flagrantly acted as a dedicated member of the prosecution team. She neither required the government to prove its case nor allowed Ulbricht’s attorneys to actually present a defense.

Forrest denied Ulbricht bail on the prosecution’s charges of conspiracy to commit murder. After those charges were dropped from the indictment — their sole purpose apparently being  to poison the jury well in advance — she allowed them to be used to justify hiding witness identities, and thousands of pages of discovery material, from the defense until a few days before trial.

She excused the prosecution from revealing how it had located and seized Silk Road’s servers, allowing evidence that appears to have been the “poisoned fruit” of illegal warrantless searches. She forbade the defense to present its theory of the alleged “crimes” involving other suspects or to dissect the FBI’s technical claims using expert witnesses.

At every juncture, Forrest acted not with a view toward reaching truth or justice, but with the sole and overriding aim of getting a conviction.

And the actual charges? Boiled down, they consist of this:

Ross Ulbricht was accused and convicted of operating a business, which coordinated the sale and purchase of goods between willing sellers and willing buyers, without the permission of people who think they’re entitled to control everyone else. Full stop. THAT is what Ross Ulbricht stands convicted of.

Ross Ulbricht was convicted of living his life as a free human being instead of as a compliant, obedient slave.

The state can’t tolerate free human beings. They call its own necessity into question and must be made examples of whenever possible.

Tyrants like US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) — who made shutting down Silk Road a government priority — and bureaucratic thugs like US Attorney Preet Bharara and judge Katherine Forrest, who enforced his will, are the sworn and eternal enemies of freedom. Ross Ulbricht is their political prisoner. So long as we permit them to continue in power, so are we.

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.




An Explanation: What the Supreme Court Will Not Do to ObamaCare

rgbstock ambulance

The US Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in King v. Burwell soon. At issue in the case is whether or not the Affordable Care Act, better known as “ObamaCare,” entitles people in states which have not established their own “exchanges” to federally subsidized health coverage.

Writing for the Associated Press, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar worries that the court’s ruling “could wipe out health insurance for millions of people.”

Let me lay that fear to rest. No such outcome is possible, for the simple reason that the health plans addressed by ObamaCare are not insurance.

In fact, one effect of ObamaCare, as explained by Warren C. Gibson at the Foundation for Economic Education, was to outlaw health insurance entirely.

Insurance is a “hedged” bet. When you buy insurance — on your car, your home, your life or your health — you place a small bet (your monthly premium) that something really bad (a wreck, a fire, death or sickness) will happen. The insurance company places a large bet (the prospective payout on a claim) that no, that really bad thing will not happen.

You don’t want to win that bet. You pay $50 a month for car insurance so that IF you win your bet by having a wreck, you’re off the hook for a lot more than $50. The insurance company makes its money by carefully setting the odds such that it takes in more in small wins than it pays out in big losses.

ObamaCare is not a hedged bet against catastrophe. It’s a national system of mandatory pre-paid health care. You make a monthly payment in return for which you expect your every health need to be provided for.

We’ve been moving away from real insurance and toward pre-paid care since the early 1970s with Health Maintenance Organizations and Preferred Provider Organizations. ObamaCare brought three important new elements in:

First, you no longer have a choice. You have to subscribe to a pre-paid health service whether you want to or not. “Insurance” companies love that part. ObamaCare is a gigantic corporate welfare program.

Second, if you are a low-income American and your state has an exchange, you get a government subsidy to help cover your subscription payment (the Supreme Court is set to decide whether or not this also applies to federal exchanges in states that didn’t set up their own). The “insurance” companies love that, too (more money for them!).

Third, the “insurance” companies can’t turn anyone down. With real insurance, a pre-existing condition would be the equivalent of betting at blackjack after seeing the dealer’s hand. They don’t like that part nearly as much. It raises their costs. Which, in turn, raises yours.

If the Court rules against the Obama administration in King v. Burwell, millions of Americans will stop receiving health care subsidies. But not a single American will lose “insurance,” because that’s not what we’re getting in the first place.

What are we getting? Two things: Screwed and robbed.  Or: Government as usual.

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.