Holiday Musings: No News is Good Snooze

Forest Hills and Mt. Hope Cemetery. Peace on Earth - DPLA - b110149dc23629aa683f959f8e9a9ee4

For the last 20-odd years, my jobs have pretty much entirely revolved around, in two words, “the news.” For the last eight years, I’ve written 150 (give or take) op-eds per year here at the Garrison Center.  The basis for any good opinion column is its “news hook” — what’s going on in the world, what I think about it, and what I hope to convince YOU to think about it.

I love the job, and I hope you enjoy the columns. I’ve also (among other things) cleaned toilets for a living. I didn’t like doing that as much as I like doing this. But there’s one way in which janitorial work is more enjoyable than news work:

Once I put away my scrub brushes and mops and so forth, clocked out, and went home, I didn’t spend all evening continuing to think about toilets.

Jesus’ disciples may not have been opinion journalists, but I can’t help thinking that he laid out my job description as he addressed them in the 24th chapter of the  Gospel of Matthew:

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

That, friends, is my beat. And haven’t we had quite a year of it? 2022 has proven itself chock-full of everything he predicted, with hurricanes, mass shootings, and toxic politics to boot.

It’s enough to keep one up nights.

My family celebrates Christmas. Yours may celebrate other winter holidays with different roots and stories. But all of those holidays, I think, express in common the desire celebrated by the angels in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke:

“On earth peace, good will toward men.”

What do I want for Christmas this year? One day with no news.

Well, maybe not NO news, but at least no BAD news.

I’m fine with stories about the cute mutt who finally got adopted, the little girl whose cancer miraculously went into remission, and the teens who helped their elderly neighbor carry her groceries. A one-day hold on this “wars and rumours” of wars business.

One day, just one day, with nothing on my mind to keep me from drifting off that night, sleeping hard ALL night, and hitting snooze two or three times without a care in the world.

I guess that would put me out of work for a day or two. But I’ll always have my toilet-cleaning expertise to fall back on, right?

Happy holidays.

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.


Kate Brown Finally Finds the Courage of Her Convictions

Invitation to hanging in Baker County, Oregon 1904

Writing at The Dispatch, Kevin D. Williamson laments “adhocracy” in the form of technically legal executive action that skirts legislative prerogatives — namely, outgoing Oregon governor Kate Brown’s decision to commute the death sentences of the state’s 17 death row inmates (to life in prison without parole).

It’s not that Williamson supports the death penalty. Unlike most “conservative” commentators, he considers the outcome good. His complaint is that “executive unilateralism of the sort being practiced here by Gov. Brown is an invitation to chaos.”

He does, in a minor way, support his claim. After court decisions eviscerated the death penalty as practiced, Oregon’s voters remedied the situation with a constitutional amendment specifically providing for its narrower use, and the legislature has since tailored that use. “If Gov. Brown wants to change the laws of Oregon,” Williamson opines, “she should run for the state legislature.”

That’s where his argument begins to go off the rails.

Brown DID run for the state legislature — and served three terms each in the state’s House and Senate. All while, candidate surveys indicate, opposing the death penalty.

Brown became governor in 2015 upon  her predecessor’s resignation. Her first major executive action? Extending that predecessor’s moratorium on executions … after which she was elected to serve out the second half of his term, then re-elected to a full term in 2018.

Brown has consistently opposed the death penalty for at least three decades, during which time she has been elected to public office no fewer than seven times, including twice by the state’s entire electorate.

At no time during her tenure in public office has there been any doubt as to her position. The voters chose her either because of her positions or in spite of those positions recognizing that she might do something about those positions. They intentionally gave her access to various types and degrees of power. And her commutations of those death sentences fell within the constitutional limits of that power.

This, as protesters like to shout during their street demonstrations on various issues, is what democracy looks like.

The only “ad hoc” aspect I see here is that Brown didn’t handle the cases individually, in which case there might have been some complete pardons mixed in with the commutations.

But the outcome, as Williamson notes, is welcome, and there’s no “invitation to chaos” involved. The paperwork was correctly filled out. The relevant boxes were checked. Brown’s signatures on the commutations were preceded by multiple  voter ratifications of her privilege to wield the pen for that purpose.

The only real negative I see here is the long delay. Brown didn’t find the courage of her stated convictions until, term-limited, she headed for the exit. But better late than never.

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.


The Yemen Yes-Men Ride Again

Photo by Charles Edward Miller. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Photo by Charles Edward Miller. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

“Today,” US Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Masquerading-as-I — VT) said in a December 13 statement, “I withdrew from consideration by the U.S. Senate my War Powers Resolution after the Biden administration agreed to continue working with my office on ending the war in Yemen. Let me be clear. If we do not reach agreement, I will, along with my colleagues, bring this resolution back for a vote in the near future and do everything possible to end this horrific conflict.”

Promises, promises.

Every time Congress rattles its war powers saber against continuing US support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, presidents simultaneously threaten to veto such resolutions, and pretend they’re just about ready to end that support, if only Congress will back off. And it does.

Meanwhile, the war rolls merrily along, with the United Nations estimating more than 377,000 dead as of the end of last year, including the starvation deaths of 85,000 children between 2015 and 2018 alone.

Why? Because despite Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to treat Saudi Arabia’s regime as a “pariah” over everything from its involvement with the 9/11 hijackers to the murder of  exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he remains as convinced as his predecessors that the US desperately needs the support and approval of Saudi terror kingpin … er, “Crown Prince” … Mohammed bin Salman.

Instead of the “pariah” treatment, MbS gets visits, fist bumps, and pleas to increase oil production so American consumers don’t have to pick up the tab for — and Biden doesn’t get the blame for — the price effects of US sanctions on Russian oil.

And US sanctions on Iranian oil.

And US sanctions on Venezuelan oil.

Do you detect a theme?  American politicians’ moonshine about “energy independence” is a perpetual riff on St. Augustine’s prayer: “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

It’s not just about oil, though.

The Saudi regime is also one of the planet’s top military spenders, with much of its $50-75 billion “defense” budget buying US-made arms.

And since the US toppled Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-heavy regime in 2003 and installed a more Shia-friendly (read: Iran-friendly) government, Saudi Arabia has been the US’s proxy/counterweight  of choice in its 40-year war on Iran specifically and Shia power (in, for example, Syria and Lebanon) generally.

Decades of misguided US mideast policy have given MbS  a continuing grip on Washington’s dangly parts, with several ways to squeeze tightly should Joe Biden displease him in any way.

The problem with this particular intimate massage is that there’s really no prospect of a happy ending. Unwinding decades of would-be hegemony is GOING to hurt. But it has to happen sooner or later. Ending the slaughter in Yemen and telling MbS to go pound sand (he’s got a lot of that) would be a great start.

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.