Government Has a Hard Heart for the Homeless

Homeless people living in cardboard boxes in L...
Homeless people living in cardboard boxes in Los Angeles, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elvis Summers helps the homeless. As Gale Holland of the Los Angeles Times reports, Summers has so far (with the help of $100,000 in private donations) built and placed 37 “tiny houses” in the LA metro area so that people with nowhere to live can move off the sidewalks, out of their tents or cardboard boxes, and into parking-spot-sized buildings with solar powered lighting and doors that lock.

Instead of presenting Summers with an award for improving the city and making the lives of its residents better, the city of Los Angeles has begun seizing — no, let’s not mince words, STEALING — the homes, rudely evicting the individuals and couples living in them. Why? Well, says a mayoral spokesperson, they “can be hazardous.”

It’s been 30 years since I last walked the streets of Los Angeles at night and saw people crawling into boxes to sleep on the sidewalks, but my guess is that a lockable house is now, as it would have been then, less “hazardous” than those streets.

The city has big plans for its homeless population, of course. They’re going to be moved into nice full-size apartments! When? Oh … well … someday.

Yes, the tiny houses sit on “public property.” So do the tents. So do the tarps. So do the bedrolls. Where else would they sit? It’s not like the homeless have homes to take them home to.

It’s not just Los Angeles. Across the country, local governments seem hell-bent on preventing anyone from actually helping the homeless.

In 2014, Arnold Abbot of Fort Lauderdale, Florida was ticketed by police — twice! — for the “crime” of distributing free food to those who had none. Yes, the kindness of a 90-year-old World War II veteran made him a criminal.  As of late 2014, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 39 US cities enforced laws against unauthorized feeding of the hungry.

Twice in ten years, my wife and I opened our home to friends who were temporarily without a roof overhead. Twice in ten years we were ticketed and fined by our city government for hosting guests not listed on our residency permit.

As a libertarian, I’m skeptical of claims that government can or will help the homeless (or anyone else). But is it really too much to ask for the politicians — if not out of humanity, then from a sense of moral shame — to get out of the way and let people help each other?

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.


#FreeStacy: Twitter meets the Sarkeesian Method and the Streisand Effect

American blogger/writer/columnist/journalist R...
American blogger/writer/columnist/journalist Robert Stacy McCain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I suppose I should be enjoying a bit of a schadenfreude moment: About two years ago, I was banned from commenting on Robert Stacy McCain’s blog, The Other McCain, for offending one of his gatekeepers. Now Stacy’s been banned from Twitter, apparently for offending one of its gatekeepers, professional offendee Anita Sarkeesian. But no feelings of poetic justice here. Because I’m above such petty sentiments, see?

McCain is not small beans in the twittersphere: Prior to his account suspension he had amassed more than 90,000 followers, many of whom hung on his every word. Agree with his opinions or not (I usually don’t — his career has been an exercise in continual rotation between race-baiting, gay-bashing and tormenting feminists like Anita Sarkeesian), he’s an engaging and entertaining guy.

Twitter’s business model often seems sketchy to outside observers, but there’s no doubt that it relies on one thing above all: Keeping big chunks of its 650 million users active and engaged with other users.

When the accounts of popular, prolific users with lots of followers suddenly and inexplicably disappear, eyebrows go up. And McCain is not alone. Since the Twitter’s introduction of a “Trust and Safety Council” with Sarkeesian as a member, other right-wing tweeters have have had their accounts suspended (Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos), their “verified identity” credentials pulled (actor and anti-Sarkeesian #Gamergate thought leader Adam Baldwin), and so on. Twitter’s algorithms have also seemingly been rigged to mute the spread of the news, including suppressing listing of #FreeStacy in Twitter’s “hashtag” popularity rankings.

OK, I’m a libertarian. I understand and agree with the private property argument here. Twitter provides the service. Twitter owns the servers. Twitter gets to set the rules, and anyone who doesn’t like them can go find (or build) a microblogging service with rules they DO like.

No contest. Twitter gets to be stupid if Twitter wants to be stupid. But that doesn’t mean we can’t notice that Twitter is being stupid and act accordingly. This kind of behavior could, and should, make Twitter the new MySpace, an Internet ghost town mostly remembered through mockery, in short order.

The Sarkeesian Method — Sarkeesian declares offense, Sarkeesian demands the offenders be suppressed, Sarkeesian collects a paycheck for publicly denouncing those who offended her  — tends to lead to the Streisand Effect. That is, Sarkeesian and her enablers get bad publicity instead of good publicity.

Like I said, not good business for Twitter.

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.


Win or Lose, Donald Trump Just Did the GOP a Yuuuuuuge Favor

English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in...
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fresh off his plurality win in the South Carolina primary, Donald Trump looks stronger than ever in his bid for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. Whether or not he goes the distance to the nomination and then to the White House, he’s done the Republican Party a major service by helping it put the Bush dynasty in its rearview mirror.

Nobody doubts Trump’s willingness to say unpopular things in politically dangerous venues. But some observers felt that it might have been a bridge too far even for Trump to bust Jeb Bush’s “my brother kept us safe” balloon in South Carolina (uber-hawk Lindsey Graham’s stomping ground) the week before the south’s first major primary. Would this be the mistake that brought his campaign to grief?

Nope. Trump won the primary handily, Jeb ended his campaign … and from this point on Republican candidates for the presidency and other offices will finally feel free to openly disown — or at least quit feigning nostalgia for — the eight nightmare years of George W. Bush’s administration.

Dubya’s legacy — 9/11, two failed wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the  worst economic collapse since the Great Depression — may not have been entirely his fault. In fact, I think most reasonable people can agree that bad luck and bad advice were major contributing factors.

But what happened happened. It destroyed any chance of victory John McCain might otherwise have enjoyed in 2008, then dogged Mitt Romney’s heels in 2012 as well. Sure, Romney was the weakest Republican nominee since Wendell Willkie anyway, but the Bush legacy certainly didn’t do him any favors.

The GOP’s rut really goes back to 1990, the end of the Cold War, and yet another Bush White House. Ever since, the party’s establishment has had to work overtime, with the aid of convenient menaces (Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, 9/11, etc.) to keep its post-WWII raison d’etre — maintenance of an expensive gravy train for its military-industrial complex backers — on the rails. This meant marginalizing, at every opportunity, the party’s non-interventionist wing, most famously in the persons of Ron and Rand Paul over the last three election cycles.

Those non-interventionists could be marginalized, dismissed and put to pasture because they owed a modicum of loyalty to their party. But the Donald knows no loyalties except to himself, and perhaps to his own view of the truth. By stating that view and not paying for it with the loss of a major presidential primary, or with a hit to his overall nomination prospects, he has set the Republican Party free … if free is what it wants to be. Which remains to be seen, and is a question almost certainly weighing heavily on the minds of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

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.