Note to Biden Administration: Election Years Are Particularly Bad Times to Call Black Voters Stupid

Photo by Amaury Laporte. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Photo by Amaury Laporte. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

A year ago, the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration was poised to propose a ban on menthol cigarettes.

On April 28 the US Food and Drug Administration (supposedly an independent agency, but clearly operating per Joe Biden’s “suggestions”) finally announced its plan to move forward with the ban, which also includes cigars.

Now, as then, the main justification offered for the ban is that menthol cigarettes are disproportionately used by black smokers. 85% of black, versus only 29% of white, smokers choose menthol. QED, banning menthol will save black lives.

Let’s translate that justification into English: Black people are stupid. Too stupid to make their own decisions, and definitely too stupid to get around an FDA edict intended to take those decisions away from them.

Banning the sale of menthol cigarettes and cigars won’t stop Americans of any skin hue from smoking menthol cigarettes and cigars.

As a long-time menthol smoker, I’ve been “rolling my own” for years, using loose menthol tobacco, pre-made filter tubes, and an inexpensive machine. Yes, it’s a little more trouble, but it also saves me money. In fact, a carton (ten packs) of self-rolled cigarettes costs me just a little more than I’d pay for a single  pack of generic smokes.

Anyone who finds “roll your own” too inconvenient will see new products on their local store shelves the instant the ban goes into effect: Little crushable menthol capsules to stick in cigarette filters. Little spray bottles of menthol flavoring. Various products that transform “regular” cigarettes into the minty fresh product they prefer. These products already exist. At the moment they’re more a mail-order thing. The ban will change that.

And any smoker who finds THAT too inconvenient may just switch from menthol to “regular.”

The number who quit because of the ban will be minuscule.

About 9.3 million black Americans smoke. About 8 million of them smoke menthol.

Insulting the intelligence of America’s 30 million black voters, and going especially hard on a third of those voters, doesn’t seem like the smart play in an election year when the Democratic Party — which usually enjoys high turnout and  overwhelming support from those voters — is already in trouble.

Black smokers — black VOTERS — aren’t going to stop smoking menthol cigarettes. They’re just going to get righteously pissed at the people who make it harder for them to do so. And instead of voting Democrat, they may not bother to vote at all.

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.


Can Elon Musk Save Twitter?

Elon Musk Twitter Interview at TED 2022. Photo by Steve Jurvetson. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Elon Musk Twitter Interview at TED 2022. Photo by Steve Jurvetson. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Mere days after my column explaining why Elon Musk shouldn’t buy Twitter, Elon Musk bought Twitter  — sort of. His offer’s been accepted, but there’s likely a good deal of red tape to get over before he hands over the cash and the current board hands over the keys. Given his continually adversarial relationship with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, it my take a little while.

That guy, he never listens to me. But he seems to have done pretty well for himself anyway.  Not everyone can swing a $44 billion deal on a hot property. Or build an electric car that accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds. Or send people to space and bring them back, then re-use the rockets.

Can he save Twitter? Well, he seems like a guy who gets things done. I wouldn’t bet against him.

And, make no mistake, Twitter’s in desperate need of saving.  It’s been declining for years, shedding real users and picking up annoying spam bots under management that seems less concerned with operating a high-engagement platform for all comers than with carrying water for the American political establishment and scolding and ostracizing wrong-thinkers.

Many Twitter users disagree. They’ve become accustomed to living in a walled garden, protected from viewpoints that make them uncomfortable. And the possibility that new ownership might tell them to grow up, stop whining, and learn to use the “block” button enrages them.

Only a few months ago, those users and I were in general agreement:

It’s Twitter’s platform. Twitter gets to set the rules for using that platform. If you don’t like Twitter’s rules, find or start a platform with rules you like better. Problem solved.

Now  those rules may change,  because the platform’s ownership is changing. But my position remains the same, because that position wasn’t based on happening to like the rules. It was based on respect for the property rights of the platform’s owners.

Now that the ownership is changing, which may portend the rules changing, some who agreed with me when they liked the rules are  hanging out on  (virtual) street corners in sackcloth and ashes, waving THE END IS NEAR signs, and even urging the SEC to nix the deal so they can return to their version of Eden, undisturbed by serpents peddling heterodoxy.

Apparently “it’s a private company and can set whatever rules it wants” was a position of convenience, not principle.  Go figure.

Musk has a tough row to hoe. Changing an entrenched corporate culture and bringing an aging platform up to date to deal with its infestation of spammers and scammers won’t be easy.  I still think he’d have been smarter to start from scratch. But I wish him luck.

If he can transform Twitter back into a bona fide public square, he’ll be due the thanks of a grateful user base. And he’ll probably get some of that thanks, mixed in with complaints from those who pine for the return of their former idea-proof safe space.

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.


Will Ron DeSantis’s Latest Mickey Mouse Political Tantrum Cost Him His Career?

Ron DeSantis with self-inflicted black eye.

On April 22, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill dissolving the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Put that way, it sounds rather routine, but it isn’t. DeSantis called a special session of the legislature  just to get this done. The only thing routine about it is that it’s an example of Rule Number One in Florida politics since 2018: Don’t publicly disagree with Ron DeSantis, or he’ll throw a tantrum and try to punish you.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District is, as you’ve probably heard by now, 38.5 square miles of land in Orange and Osceola Counties owned by the Walt Disney Company. In 1967, the man himself decided to build an amusement park in the area, but he wanted — and got — something in return: Self-governance.

Disney ran Reedy Creek as, essentially, its own polity. It taxed itself to build roads and provide services normally provided by government elsewhere.  And it largely got to do things its way instead of Tallahassee’s way.

As a result, the Orlando area became a global tourist mecca. Disney did well, of course, but so did the area’s other businesses and the two counties’ residents. Among other things, the population of the Orlando metro area grew from about 275,000 to more than two million over the 55 years of the district’s existence.

Then Disney said something Ron DeSantis didn’t like. Specifically, it condemned the state’s recently passed “parental rights” law, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. And for that, DeSantis decided, Disney had to pay.

The move was also presumably politically calculating. Positioning himself as opposed to “woke” Disney couldn’t possibly hurt him with Florida’s Trump-addled Republican base, and Orange and Osceola counties voted for his Democratic opponent by huge margins in 2018 anyway. What could possibly go wrong?

The answer is: A lot.

From here on out, instead of taxing itself liberally to provide excellent public services, Disney will just fork over  taxes to the counties’ governments. Disney may actually end up paying more, but local residents are likely to get less for the money. After all, those governments aren’t used to doing the things that Disney’s been doing (and doing pretty well) for 55 years.

And Disney’s self-taxation subsidized lower property taxes for the counties’ residents, whose property taxes will likely go up by 20-25%.

Then there are the district’s bond obligations. With the passage of DeSantis’s revenge bill, those obligations — about $1 billion — are no longer Disney’s. They’re now owed by the county governments. The counties’ taxpayers will take it in the shorts yet again.

In 2018, DeSantis received 218,856 votes in Orange and Osceola Counties … and won the statewide gubernatorial election by only 32,463 votes.

Holding everything else constant, only 16,232 — 7.4% — of his 2018 voters in those two counties would have to change their minds in 2022 to send Ron DeSantis packing.

When the voters in the two counties see their new tax bills, revised upward  courtesy of DeSantis’s tantrum, they’re going to be mad. And they’re going to know who to be mad AT.

Messing with Mickey may have just ended DeSantis’s political career.

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.