A Counter-Proposal: RESTRICT the RESTRICTors

Censored rubber stamp

The RESTRICT Act — currently winding its way through Congress — would empower the US Commerce Department to “identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate and mitigate transactions” that “pose an undue or unacceptable risk to U.S. national security or the safety of U.S. persons.”

The RESTRICT Act’s more common name in the popular consciousness is “the TikTok ban,” even though the bill doesn’t mention TikTok and pretty much allows the US government to ban (well, try to ban, anyway) any Internet app which the government finds inconvenient to its purposes in any given way at any given time.

What’s a “transaction?”  The bill defines it as “any acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in, or use of any information and communications technology product or service, including ongoing activities such as managed services, data transmission, software updates, repairs, or the provision of data hosting services.” In other words, any action taken on the Internet.

Oh, and despite some contrary claims by “fact checkers,” the use of Virtual Private Networks. The bill explicitly covers any “transaction”  “designed or intended to evade or circumvent the application of this Act,” and VPNs are certainly designed to do exactly that.

What determines whether a transaction endangers “national security?” A politician or bureaucrat has to assert that it involves an “adversary” (not an “enemy” — the US hasn’t declared war on another nation in more than 80 years) of the United States, namely  China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, or any other country the Secretary of Commerce might happen to take a sudden dislike to.

What are the penalties for conducting prohibited “transactions?” Civil fines of up to $250,000, criminal fines of up to $1 million, and prison sentences of up to 20 years.

Politicians love to quack about “buy American,” but in this case they seem to be intent on going with an import. The RESTRICT Act is just a clone of the Great Firewall of China (and the Internet restrictions imposed by those other “adversaries”).

My mother taught me to never complain about something without proposing an alternative, so here goes:

Instead of letting the politicians RESTRICT us, why don’t we RESTRICT them in their attempts to “reduce” us, as the Declaration of Independence puts it, “under an absolute despotism?”

How? Well, that’s the sticky part. The Constitution, even with a clearly written First Amendment has clearly failed to protect us from the depredations of the political class such as the unambiguously unconstitutional RESTRICT Act. So has choosing “representatives” in “elections.” They’re the very people pulling this kind of shenanigans on us!

What they’re trying to do, in so many words, is use legislation to make peaceful revolution impossible. And as JFK warned us in 1962, doing that makes violent revolution inevitable.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


More Equal Than Others, Clarence Thomas Edition

Ronald Reagan and Clarence Thomas in 1986.
Ronald Reagan and Clarence Thomas in 1986.

I’m reading a thing.   The thing reads:


That little snippet of text appears immediately below the signature of Associate US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on his 2021 financial disclosure form.

That year’s form (and others), as you may have recently heard, did not disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in “hospitality” extended to Thomas and his wife, Ginny, over the years by billionaire Harlan Crow. Luxury vacations. Private jet flights. Buying Thomas’s mother’s home and letting her continue to live there rent-free. And so on, and so forth.

In other words, a whole bunch of things that most Republicans would call “bribes” if, they came from, say, George Soros and went to, say, Elena Kagan who, um, “forgot” to disclose them.

But hey,  Thomas is going to “amend” those reports so that he’s no longer lying like a rug under penalty of law. So it’s all okay! It’s just those evil Democrats trying to make bribes … er, “secret hospitality” … look like something dishonest and nefarious.

Back in 2016, many Republicans rightly decried FBI director James Comey’s conclusion that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be prosecuted for grossly negligent mishandling of classified information, even though she had been fully briefed on her obligations, and acknowledged those briefings, and even though her conduct clearly and unambiguously violated the law … because she was HILLARY CLINTON.

Now, in 2023, many of those same Republicans are making precisely the same excuse for Clarence Thomas.

Sure, he’s been caught red-handed, after years on the take in an embarrassingly over the top way that should have been noticed long ago. But that’s not HIS fault, it’s the fault of those who noticed.

Impeach him? Prosecute him? At least harry him into resigning in disgrace? Why, we mustn’t do any of that. After all, he’s CLARENCE THOMAS. He got his Political Class membership card punched decades ago.

Holding him accountable to the same standards as mere mortals would send the wrong message. It would damage rule of law and equality before the law by implying that Thomas should be subject to the former or only enjoy the limited benefits that come with the latter.

Move along, peasants. Nothing to see here. Let the political class see to your interests. They’d never, ever dream of putting their own interests first.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Mainstream Media Turn Coats on “National Security” Leaks

Top secret
On April 14, the US Department of Justice charged Airman First Class Jack Teixeira with copying and sharing information “connected with” or “relating to” the “national defense.” The government alleges that Teixeira is the man behind “leaks” of classified information which worked their way from the Massachusetts Air National Guard to a Discord chat server for gamers and thence to social media and, finally and unfortunately only very partially, to the US “mainstream” media.

At this point, due to mainstream media’s refusal to do its job, the public doesn’t know very much about the content of the leaked information, but from what we do know, that information had little or nothing to do with any plausible conception of “national defense,” at least where the United States is concerned.

Last time I checked, Ukraine was neither a US state, nor a US territory, nor for that matter located anywhere near the US. US involvement there has nothing  to do with “national defense” and everything to do with declining empires raging against the dying of their respective lights at the expense of their subjects. The information not only shouldn’t have been “classified,” it shouldn’t have been compiled or generated. If there’s a crime involved, it was committed at that end, not Teixeira’s.

But that, really, is business as usual. While Julian Assange and Edward Snowden may have been more mindful and purposeful in their disclosures of US government crimes and pecadilloes, Teixeira (if he’s even “guilty”) did America similar service incidental to what sounds like a youthful ego trip.

If the whole incident exposes any new or novel issue, that issue involves the question Nikita Mazurov asks at The Intercept: “Why Did Journalists Help the Justice Department Identify a Leaker?”

In theory,  journalism’s job is to inform the public. In practice, “mainstream” journalism has, for at least the last few decades, largely become the government’s stenography pool, reliably reporting every official assertion as fact and seldom asking pointed questions about any subject more important than which politician has been having sex with which porn star.

When there’s an exception,  journalists at least bother to “protect their sources.” Someone who “leaks” to the New York Times or Washington Post can reasonably expect those publications to resist outing them even under court order.

But since Teixeira (allegedly) failed to consult the Very Special Important People at the Times or Post (and give them the “scoops” they so love), instead (allegedly) sharing his information with some gamer friends to make himself look cool, mainstream media switched sides.

Instead of investigating the content of the leak, they investigated the leaker, saving the FBI the trouble. Instead of informing the public, they enthusiastically went after someone who did their job for them.

This is not the first time, of course. They threw Assange and Snowden under the bus, too … but only once they’d squeezed all the juice from their “scoops.”

We no longer have to ask whose side “mainstream media” are really on. It’s certainly not the public’s.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.