Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish For, President Trump Vaccine Photo

In his first 2020 re-election campaign appearance in New Hampshire, US president Donald Trump addressed some of his typical bombast to the so-called “opioid crisis.” “If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers,” said Trump, “we’re wasting our time. That toughness includes the death penalty.”

An odd take, considering that one of Trump’s few worthwhile campaign promises was to leave the legal status of marijuana up to the states. That promise should have been kept, and extended to other drugs as well. Instead, he turned Jeff “good people don’t smoke marijuana” Sessions loose as Attorney General, to the country’s injury.

Even more odd, coming as it does from a high-level drug dealer like Donald Trump.

You know, the owner of Trump Winery. And, as of his 2016 campaign financial disclosures, a shareholder in multiple conspiracies to manufacture and traffic in drugs (including opiates) — to wit, Pfizer, Merck, Celgene, and GlaxoSmithKline.

Then again, maybe it’s not so odd. As a major league drug dealer, perhaps Trump is taking his cue from the murderous cartels of Colombia and Mexico. Now that he has the entirety of federal law enforcement and the US armed forces at his beck and call, why not just kill his competitors? Pablo Trumpobar, anyone? El Trumpo?

Or perhaps the sentiment is genuine and he intends, as soon as he gets enabling legislation for the scheme,  to turn himself in, plead guilty, don  coveralls matching his complexion, and put in one of those legendary McDonald’s orders for his last meal.

Either way, it’s a monumentally stupid idea.

First of all, the War on Drugs is over and drugs won. Continuing to pretend otherwise is just a novel way of setting taxpayer money on fire, a featherbedding scheme for law enforcement. People who want drugs are going to get drugs whether drugs are legal or not. Trump doesn’t have to like it. That’s how it is whether he likes it or not.

Secondly, the main effect of imposing the death penalty for dealing in drugs would be an increase in the general level of mayhem and murder relating to the drug trade. If you’re a drug dealer and already up for the death penalty, why not go ahead and kill anyone who gets in your way — competitors, cops, accidental witnesses, customers you suspect of being informants, etc.? It’s not like they can execute you twice, right? It won’t take long for drug dealers who think that way to replace  (posthumously, of course) drug dealers who don’t.

That’s the pragmatic case against Trump’s proposal. The moral case is that both drug prohibition and capital punishment are irredeemably evil big-government crimes against humanity. Worse crimes, by far, than Trump’s own drug dealing activities.

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.


New Hampshire: Once More Unto the Breach Vote Pencil

With nearly two years to go before the 2020 presidential primaries kick off, the vultures are already circling New Hampshire. The Washington Post‘s John Wagner reports on recent or coming visits to the state by US president Donald Trump, vice-president Mike Pence, 2016 also-ran John Kasich, and former US Senator / anti-Trump gadfly Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Republicans considering a 2020 primary challenge to Trump’s re-election have a tough row to hoe. A February poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire gives Trump 60 support among GOP primary voters. But, as Flake points out, “things can unravel pretty fast” if  the party suffers big losses in this November’s midterm congressional elections and the perceived blame for that falls squarely on Trump himself.

Democrats didn’t wait nearly as long to start hammering the Granite State. Nearly a year ago, former vice-president Joe Biden visited the state for a party fundraiser, announced “guys, I’m not running,” then launched into his first 2020 stump speech, an hour of “the vision thing.”

If he does run, Biden’s a good bet for the Democratic nomination. But can he beat Trump? His party, like the anti-Trump wing of the Republicans, faces a big problem there.

It’s not just the power of incumbency, although that’s always a major factor. It’s that so far the only strong message the anti-Trumpists have really been able to coalesce around is “we don’t like Donald Trump.”

The Republican establishment is horrified that Trump whipped 16 Republican establishment opponents in the 2016 primaries, more horrified that he went on to win the general election, and downright mortified by the possibility of a second term.

The Republican base, not so much. Yes, he’s a policy train wreck as regards almost any of the party’s proclaimed values over the last half century or so, but he’s both more entertaining and more convincing than the establishment types when he slams the elites that base loves to loathe. If he knows nothing else, he knows that having the right enemies is half the ball game.

The Democratic establishment has a different problem. Their thoroughly establishment nominee lost to Trump too, and the base wants to know why their party doesn’t seem to stand for anything anymore. Instead of answers, all the party’s establishment has to offer is assignment of blame for the loss — naturally, to everyone but themselves and their candidate.

So far, it looks like those who oppose Trump for the reasons he ought to be opposed — his tariff war on American workers and consumers, his continuation and escalation of his predecessors’ foreign military adventurism, his complete insanity on budget versus debt, his anti-American immigration policies, etc. — won’t have a major party horse worth backing in 2020.

Note to Libertarian Party: Opportunity knocks.

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.


Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality

There is currently no consensus on how closely...


Nectome, a startup headed by two former artificial intelligence researchers, is serious about immortality. They’re touting a process for preserving the human brain at the point of death (by killing the patient with the preservative), with the next (unfortunately still notional) step being to “re-start” that brain as computer software.

The quest for immortality is as old as humankind, and we’ve publicly agonized over its implications since at least as far back as the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 200 years ago. As science  seemingly moves us closer to the goal, especially if the finish line consists of transplanting brain functions from the body to a computer-generated reality, the questions become more important.

What or who is a “person” — a human being whom we recognize as having rights that ought not to be violated?

Is a physical body a necessary component of “personhood,” or would a mind running on a computer likewise enjoy the right to not be robbed or killed, the right to own property, to vote, etc.?

If so, are those rights  contingent upon the mind being the transplanted brain schematic of a former physical human, or would artificial intelligences qualify?

Would the transplanted mind of a former physical human be the same person as that human, or a different entity altogether? And what if it becomes possible for a human to “upload” his or her mind to a computer without dying? Is that second mind the first person’s property, or a new “person” in its own right?

If the process is cheap, might the state ask — or even require — retirees to “upload” and live forever like kings, at far lower cost to taxpayers than the existing Social Security system? Or might  private sector actors offer that option in return for the signing over of government or private retirement benefits? Might life insurance companies offer policies that pay for uploaded immortality instead of paying out death claims to one’s survivors?

If the rent isn’t paid on server space, electricity and computing power for your brain, can you be evicted — and thereby, in effect, killed? Or will there be the equivalent of “low-income housing” for indigent minds, running on slower servers and without as much resource-hogging cool stuff built into the living environment?

What is this possible future, really? Utopia or dystopia? Freedom or slavery? Reality or self-deception? Whatever it is, it’s coming. Time to put on our thinking caps.

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.