TIME Media

Is Reading Executives’ Hacked Emails Really Any Better Than Peeping at Hollywood in Its Birthday Suit?

Sony Pictures Classic 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards Party
Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal attend the Sony Pictures Classic 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards Party held at The Beverly Hilton hotel on January 16, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. Jean Baptiste Lacroix—WireImage

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

Reading hacked emails is hardly any better than being a Peeping Tom

It was just a few months ago that everybody and his grandmother was truly livid—or at least feigned anger before firing up our search engines—when hackers released naked pictures of celebrities ranging from Jennifer Lawrence to Kate Upton to Dave Franco. Curiously, such outrage is almost completely missing in the media’s response to the massive hack attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, which may be linked to the North Korean government and has dumped private emails, contracts, files of unreleased movies, and more all across the Internet.

This time around, there is unapologetic prurience at the chance to get a real behind-the-scenes look at an industry long notorious for its wicked, backbiting, and hypocritical ways. Big-shot producer Scott Rudin tells Sony co-chair Amy Pascal he thinks Angelina Jolie is “a minimally talented spoiled brat”? A-List director David Fincher is as difficult as Hitler was anti-Semitic? Tell us more!

Whatever the differences in public responses, the episodes underscore two basic points that are worth learning fast: First, nobody cares about other people’s privacy, especially if the divulged material is juicy enough. Second, privacy is itself a highly fluid concept that will have probably changed yet again by the time you finish reading this article. Once upon a time, for instance, the Supreme Court ruled that federal agents didn’t need warrants to tap phones. Privacy is invented more than it is discovered.

The deep pull of hacked naked pictures of celebrities isn’t simply that we common people get to see the stars in their birthday suits. After all, many celebrities have either bared all on their day jobs and hyper-realistic Photoshopped fakes of everyone from Sarah Palin to Joe Biden already haunt the Internet like Banquo’s ghost (there are probably full-junk shots of him online too). It’s that these are images that were not meant to be seen by the mere public (indeed, that was the lure of early celebrity sex tapes that, often as not, may have been made with the intention their being leaked). They promise some sort of secret knowledge of the “real” star that Hollywood has always tried to obscure in its manipulation of public images. In an age of Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, and–more importantly–TMZ, we don’t just want to see the finished product, we want to see what’s behind the curtain. And what execs really think of the stars they pay so well.

That’s true from the hacked emails and documents from Sony. When studio executive Clint Culpepper calls rising comedian and movie star Kevin Hart “a greedy whore” for demanding payment to do “social media” on a movie, it’s the sort of revelation that confirms all of our nastiest intuitions. The hypocrisy on display in the emails—a movie mogul pissed at a performer asking for money?—is nothing short of electrifying.

Similarly, when studio head Pascal and Oscar-winner Rudin—both public, liberal supporters of Barack Obama—start dishing race-based jokes about the president, we know we’re finally on the inside of a walled fortress built to protect phonies. “Should I ask him if he liked Django [Unchained]?” quipped Pascal in a note to Rudin written shortly before she was about to meet Obama at a fundraiser. “12 Years [a Slave],” replied Rudin.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t moments of something approaching valor and artistic courage. It’s widely believed the hack has some connection to The Interview, an upcoming comedy in which Seth Rogen and James Franco play bumbling journalists tasked by the U.S. government to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (that country’s officials have denied any involvement while denouncing the film as a “terrorist act”). After Sony proposed edits to the movie’s finale, apparently to make the movie less offensive to Korean communists, Rogen pushed back, telling Pascal, “This is now a story of Americans changing their movie to make North Koreans happy.” Good for Rogen, but when the star of Zack and Miri Make a Porno is the conscience of your industry, you might have bigger problems than learning how to turn on a firewall and encrypt your data.

There’s no question that Sony, like Apple in the nude photos hack, didn’t do enough to prevent the exposure. In 2011, Sony’s Playstation network was hacked, costing the company $171 million in damages and repair. Amazingly in the wake of that, Sony reportedly didn’t even encrypt sensitive data such as passwords and employees’ Social Security numbers.

The saving grace for Sony and victims of hacks may be that as it becomes increasingly difficult to keep secrets from determined hackers, the public will become less and less judgmental. Even a few decades ago, the release of nude photos was enough to cost Miss America her crown. However mortified they might be personally, none of the celebrities outed in the nude picture hack can claim much if any damage to their professional life. So it is with Hollywood hypocrisy and scandalous personal behavior, which has never been in short supply.

Short of revelations of serious crime—such as the rape allegations Bill Cosby is facing—the public will simply consume any behind-the-scenes drama as something akin to a bonus track on a DVD. If anything, expect seemingly unauthorized “hacks” to become strategically deployed to pique curiosity about projects. Certainly, The Interview is a more interesting movie when we know that studio executives wanted to tone it down.

And expect Hollywood players—phonies that they are—to be the most forgiving of all. Rudin and Pascal have already apologized for their “racially insensitive remarks” and Pascal has begun a ritualized apology tour by phoning the Rev. Al Sharpton and promising to go on the tax-avoiding MSNBC host’s show. Pascal has even managed to air kiss Angelina Jolie, the object of withering scorn in one of the most widely discussed email exchanges with Rudin. Most important, though, Rudin and Pascal have reportedly also forgiven each other for their harsh comments. Because in Hollywood, after all, it’s who you know that counts most of all.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Cameras Wouldn’t Just Prevent Police Brutality. They Would Prevent Violent Protests Too

Mayor De Blasio Discusses Use Of Police Body Cameras At Police Academy In Queens
New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Joshua Jones demonstrates how to use and operate a body camera during a press conference on December 3, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

Want fewer avoidable deaths and potentially angry protests? Then get more video from every possible angle

If you’re outraged—and you should be—that no indictment followed Eric Garner’s death at the hands of the New York Police Department, thank the people who captured the attempted arrest gone horribly wrong from different angles on their cellphone cameras. And start pushing for laws and procedures that not only provide legal protection for citizens who film police but outfit cops with wearable cameras and other recording devices.

Such technologically enabled transparency won’t end all disputes between citizens and law enforcement but it will go a long way to providing clarity in ambiguous cases and, as important, minimizing bad actions by police and suspects alike. It will also have an impact on protests that always have a potential for violence on the part of marchers and authorities.

If official and crowdsourced footage of the confrontation between Michael Brown and Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson existed, it may well have minimized the subsequent protests, militarized response to demonstrators, and the widely criticized grand jury proceedings in Missouri.

Amateur video abounds in the Garner case. Cellphone footage plainly shows cops putting the 350-pound man into the chokehold and other restraining moves that a coroner ruled killed him (chokeholds are explicitly banned by NYPD rules, which should give even police defenders pause). Other video shows NYPD officers standing haplessly over an unmoving, apparently dead Garner for minutes, attempting no resuscitation. The footage is not just disturbing as hell—Garner is heard shouting, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” repeatedly before he expires—it’s the reason why people across the political spectrum are disgusted by the grand jury ruling. As Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican who is also a lawyer, tweeted, “Clearly excessive force against #EricGarner.”

These are not pretty pictures but they are essential viewing if you want to understand how the police operate and why so many Americans, especially racial and ethnic minorities who tend to have more run-ins with police, feel about law enforcement.

Given how they come off in the Garner footage, it’s understandable why police routinely try to shut down citizens photographing or videotaping them in the line of duty. Indeed, last August, police in Ferguson arrested several reporters for doing just that. That sort of thing is hardly an isolated incident, either. While there is a court-recognized right of citizens to record the police, there’s also little question that cops and law enforcement at all levels are waging nothing less than a “war against cameras.”

Ironically, cameras are in many—maybe most—instances the police’s best friend. Dashboard-mounted cameras have become standard equipment for most highway patrols and routinely exonerate patrolmen accused of misconduct. Back in August, former NYPD police commissioner Bernie Kerik, who implemented dash cams for his force, said that such footage overwhelmingly vindicates police versions of events. Not only that, they have a calming effect. “If a trooper loses his cool,” a spokesman for Pennsylvania Highway Patrol told The York Daily Register, “The trooper will have to answer for his actions.”

And they will also have to answer when they turn off or mess with cameras at inopportune moments. The Albuquerque, New Mexico PD did just that earlier this year when it fired a member for failing to turn on her body camera before engaging in a fatal shooting.

You don’t have to believe that “everyone behaves better when they’re on video” to recognize the vast benefits of ubiquitous video from official and distributed sources. It might have prevented violence in Ferguson in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting (it may even have helped to avoid the incident in the first place). While it did not help to bring an indictment in the Eric Garner death, it has raised disturbing and totally legitimate issues about police behavior and techniques. Those are good things, even if they are born out of tragedy.

Police should actually be the most supportive of increasing the amount of footage, especially footage taken by cameras they’re wearing. A year-long study of the Rialto, Calif., police department found that using “officer-worn cameras” reduced use-of-force incidents by 59% and reduced complaints against the cops by 87.5%. Between the Brown and Garner deaths—and cases such as the one in Cleveland where police shot and killed 12 year old Tamir Rice—law enforcement needs to work hard to regain the trust and confidence of the American public. Assuming they are acting in good faith and in accordance with proper policies, literally being able to show things from their point of view may be one of the best ways they can reassure us all.

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

Uber’s Real Crime Is Giving In to Politics as Usual

Adam Berry—Getty Images

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

The company once fought unfair regulation—now it wants its own

So does Uber, the smartphone-enabled ridesharing service, have “an a–hole problem” that threatens the company’s very future? The New York Times warns that “Uber’s hard-charging [corporate] culture…can become a losing proposition faster than you might imagine.”

That seems to be the growing consensus among observers as the company’s list of real and imagined sins starts growing longer by the minute. Some of the complaints are serious and some are frivolous. But there’s one truly anti-competitive move Uber is pulling that it should definitely called out on—and hasn’t been yet.

In just a few years, Uber has gone from being universally praised to being universally dumped on. “Uber is software [that] eats taxis,” enthused Marc Andreessen, the man who invented the first popular web browser and is now a leading venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, back in 2011. “It’s a killer experience.”

Even as Uber has expanded to 45 countries and more than 200 cities and is valued at more than $18 billion, the only press the company seems to get these days is bad press. It’s not a pretty list, to be sure. Uber’s seemingly cavalier attitude toward its customers’ privacy has been a public relations problem pretty much since Day One, and the company has been criticized for trying to steal drivers from rival services and for allegedly tying up competing services with fake ride requests. The latter is churlish and underhanded (management says any such incidents were isolated) but the luring drivers away from other companies by paying them more? Come on, already: That’s called capitalism, and it’s a win for workers.

There have been more serious matters. Earlier this year, when an Uber driver in San Francisco struck and killed a six-year-old girl while between fares, the company first tried to dodge any responsibility but ultimately expanded its insurance coverage for drivers. Another driver not only assaulted a passenger but had somehow managed to pass the company’s background check despite being on probation for battery and having “multiple drug-related felony convictions” under his belt. These and other similar incidents are terrible and need to be dealt with better than they have been, even as the same sorts of complaints happen all the time with traditional taxi services. With Uber and other services at least, you really can pinpoint the malefactors immediately. Try doing that with a traditional cab company.

Much of the media-centric anger at Uber concerns its top management. Uber’s co-founder Travis Kalanick drew ire when he commented to GQ that his newfound wealth and fame had led to something like girlfriends on demand. “We call that Boob-er,” he joked. Both the quality of the joke and the mind-set it reveals are adolescent, but customers aren’t riding with Kalanick. The latest outrage is just a few days old and explains more of the media’s newfound vitriol toward Uber. After a particularly critical article about the company appeared, Senior Vice President of Business Emil Michael talked about spending “a million dollars” to look into critical journalists’ “personal lives” and “families.” He quickly apologized and Kalanick distanced himself from the comments in a 13-tweet-long act of contrition that reads about as sophisticated as his “Boob-er” gag (the main point was the Michael is not in the position to carry out such threats, not the best line of defense).

It’s this sort of not-ready-for-prime-time stupidity that may well end up eating into Uber’s customer base even as the company provides a great and appreciated service. None of us wants to do business with “a–holes,” but we also don’t expect businesses to be run by saints or be our best friends, either. If the company goes too far, people can always vote with their dollars for other ridesharing services, such as Lyft and Sidecar.

What actually troubles me the most about Uber is its newfound willingness to work with local governments to come up with regulations it can live with—but which put its existing and future competitors at a disadvantage. Not long ago, Uber was refreshing in its attitude that it didn’t need any government’s permission as long as it was serving customers’ needs who voluntarily downloaded its app and summoned its cars. That’s exactly how things should be in a free market.

Early Uber investor Ashton Kutcher explained it well on Jimmy Kimmel Live back in January. With “Uber cab or [room-sharing service] airbnb or any of these new peer-to-peer networks,” said Kutcher, “you have old-school monopolies and incumbents, and old-school governments that get kickbacks from various people that don’t want the new guy to come in so they try to kick them out of their city. But the people are going to have what the people want and the people say they want Uber and the people say they want airbnb.” Across the country, Uber faced down taxi commissions and other agencies that tried to shut it down even as residents clamored for alternatives to traditional cabs.

In September, though, the company hired former Barack Obama adviser David Plouffe specifically to work with local governments. “Uber should be regulated,” says Plouffe, who hails the legislation he hammered out in Washington, D.C. as “groundbreaking legislation [that] provides a model going forward.”

That model is one that gives clear advantages to Uber, which has more market share and political clout than its rivals such as Lyft and Sidecar. What the legislation does is establish “burdensome new ridesharing regulations” dictating minimum ages of drivers and other requirements that will make it more difficult for competitors to catch up to Uber or enter new markets in the first place.

In The Myth of the Robber Barons, historian Burton W. Folsom made a distinction between market entrepreneurs, who got rich by providing goods and services to people at cheaply and efficiently, and political entrepreneurs, who maintained and grew their market share by lobbying for regulations and special privileges that gave them an edge. Folsom underscored that it’s common for market entrepreneurs to become political entrepreneurs (think Thomas Edison, who used all sorts of political connections to kneecap market rivals).

Uber’s latest strategy may make sense from a business point of view—Plouffe even calls it “Uber-mentum”—but if you believe in free markets, it’s just as dispiriting as most of the other things that have ginned up anti-Uber fervor. And to the extent that new regulations make it that much harder for the next great disruptive business to come along, it’s worse still.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Did President Obama Just Break the Internet?

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

'Net Neutrality' is a clever phrase but a dumb policy.

So President Obama has announced that the Internet should effectively be regulated as a public utility along the lines of the old-time Ma Bell phone system. He’s asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify internet traffic from information services (or Title I services under current Communications Act rules) to telecommunication services (or Title II services).

Obama is old enough to know better. If you think cable companies and internet service providers (ISPs) absolutely suck at customer service (and they pretty much do), they’re simply faint echoes of the old Bell system, which set the standard for awfulness. “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company,” joked the comedian Lily Tomlin back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Public utilities and government-granted monopolies — the only sort that actually stick around for very long — are rarely famous for their customer service and innovative practices. “The Phone Company” was enough of a cultural shorthand for all that was bad, rotten, and bureaucratic in American life that it was the super-villain in the 1967 black comedy The President’s Analyst. As bad as Comcast or Verizon might be, things can always get worse — and likely will if federal regulators gain more control.

Obama is acting in the name of “Net Neutrality,” keeping the Internet free and open, ensuring that user access to legal content and sites isn’t blocked, and protecting against a long parade of potential horribles that have failed to materialize in the absence of the new regulations he is championing. He and other proponents of Title II reclassification such as video-streaming juggernaut Netflix are particularly exorcised at the possibility of Internet “fast lanes” through which ISPs would charge companies fees to deliver their content to users. All data should be treated equally is the rallying cry of Title II proponents. Anything less, they charge, is a form of censorship.

Let’s leave aside the inconvenient fact that reclassification under Title II wouldn’t actually prevent “paid prioritization” deals, that ISPs are constantly managing online traffic in all sorts of ways to keep users happy, and that the FCC’s legal standing to regulate the internet is far from a settled matter. The real question is whether experiments in delivering content and services would necessarily be bad for the rest of us (I write as a Netflix subscriber, the editor of web and video sites, and an Internet junkie).

The answer is no. Clemson University economic historian Thomas W. Hazlett defines Net Neutrality as “a set of rules…regulating the business model of your local ISP.” The definition gets to the heart of the matter. There are specific interests who are doing well by the current system and they want to maintain the status quo via government regulations. That’s understandable but the idea that the government will do a good job of regulating the Internet (whether by blanket decrees or on a case-by-case basis) is unconvincing, to say the least. The most likely outcome is that regulators will freeze in place today’s business models, thereby slowing innovation and change.

That’s never a good idea, especially in an area where new ways of bundling and delivering content are constantly being tried. It’s a historical accident that cable companies, who back in the day benefited from monopoly contracts with local governments, have morphed into ISPs. That will not always be the case, as the rise of Verizon (originally a phone company) and Google’s rollout of its own fiber system, attest. Just a few years ago, the FCC frowned on the cell-phone company MetroPCS’s discount plan that allowed access to the World Wide Web but denied users multimedia streaming. The FCC and Net Neutrality proponents thought that was a bad thing. Customers on a budget had a different opinion.

According to the FCC’s own findings, the speed and variety of American Internet connections are growing substantially every year. Despite claims that monopolistic ISPs don’t have to listen to customers, 80% of households have at least two providers that can deliver the internet at 10Mbps or faster, which is FCC’s top rating. It’s in the increasingly intense battle over customers that a thousand flowers will bloom; all sorts of interesting, stupid, and dumb innovations will be tried; users will be empowered; and tomorrow’s Internet will look radically different from today’s.

And maybe, just maybe, customer service will be light years better than what was offered by the phone company of Obama’s youth.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

The Midterms’ Real Winner? Independents and Fiscal Sanity (Maybe)

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

The next two years are the Republicans’ time—if they use it wisely.

You can forgive Republicans for thinking the midterm elections were all about them. Hell, they picked up seven Senate seats — and legislative control — from Democrats and added at least 10 seats to their House majority (some races are not yet finalized). Controversial GOP governors such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Florida’s Rick Scott withstood tough re-election challenges and more state legislatures are in Republican hands than ever before.

Yet Republicans mistake the meaning of the midterms at their own peril. These elections were a particularly frank repudiation of Barack Obama and the past six years of failed stimulus, disastrous foreign policy, and rotten economic news. Even the President’s historic health-care reform remains a negative with voters. But if the GOP thinks it has a mandate to return to the equally unpopular bailout economics and social conservatism of the George W. Bush years, it too will be sent packing as early as the next election.

A few days before the midterms, just 33% of respondents in an ABC News/Washington Post poll gave the GOP a “favorable” rating, which was 6 percentage points lower than what they gave the Democrats. A whopping 60% said that President Obama had no “clear plan for governing,” but even more (66%) said the Republicans lacked one.

Even as the Republican “wave” was cresting in real time on Election Night, reports my Reason colleague Matt Welch, GOP-friendly Fox News analysts such as Brit Hume, George Will, and Charles Krauthammer didn’t pretend this was a vindication of the party’s agenda for America. “It’s striking how unanimous they are that this election really doesn’t have much to do with Republicans suddenly waking up and smelling the vision,” wrote Welch. “They just didn’t get in the way of a restive electorate during a particularly painful six-year-itch.”

The long-term trends in voter self-identification underscore the electorate’s lack of trust or confidence in either party, but especially the Republicans. In 1988, according to Gallup, 36% of Americans called themselves Democrats. Now only 31% do. Nowadays, just 25% of us cop to being Republicans, down from about 32%. At the same time, a record-high 42% define themselves as politically independent.

As can be gleaned from some of the midterms’ other results, voters want a government that keeps its nose out of our private lives and morality. Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. all legalized recreational pot and staunchly anti-abortion “fetal personhood” initiatives were voted down in the two states that put the matter before voters (support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that guarantees a woman’s right to a first-trimester abortion, has remained above 50% for decades). Gallup finds fewer and fewer Americans think the state should “promote traditional values.” Currently, 48% agree with that notion, while an equal number says “the government should not favor any particular set of values.”

At the same time, twice as many Americans think there’s too much regulation of business and the economy as believe there’s too little and 59% think the government has “too much power.” That’s up 17 percentage points from a decade ago.

If the Republicans are actually listening to the voters, they would do well to drop the social issues that they have harped on in the past and focus instead on reducing the size, scope and spending of government. Unfortunately, there’s every reason to believe that the new GOP Congress will be ready to increase spending on the military and old-age entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. Headlines like “Election Outcome Is Good News for Defense Industry” pretty much tell you all you need to know about Republican attitudes toward the former.

And when it comes to programs that disproportionately benefit seniors while beggaring the rest of us, remember that it was a Republican President and Congress that forced through Medicare Part D, the prescription-drug plan that was as unnecessary as it was expensive. A survey of the campaign websites of incoming Republican Senators found very little in the way of specific promises to cut specific programs but lots of verbiage declaring undying support to “protect” and “preserve” Medicare and Social Security, two of the biggest ticket items in the federal budget.

In his 2012 bestseller The People’s Money, pollster Scott Rasmussen reported that after a prolonged, bipartisan spending binge in which federal outlays grew by 55% in inflation-adjusted dollars, fully two-thirds of Americans supported “finding spending cuts in all government programs. Every budget item, Americans emphatically believe, needs to be on the table.” A week before the midterms, fully 57% of voters were on board for cuts, but only 19% “trust the federal government to do the right thing most of the time.”

The next two years are the Republicans’ time. If they use it wisely, they may well be at the start of a long-term ascendancy. But if they disrespect the rising numbers of independent voters, they will be back in the minority faster than they realize.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Pot Is the New Normal

Demand for marijuana edibles is pushing several Colorado manufacturers to expand their facilities or move to larger quarters.
Steve Herin, Master Grower at Incredibles, works on repotting marijuana plants in the grow facility on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Kent Nishimura—Denver Post via Getty Images

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

Face it: marijuana is legal, crime is down, traffic fatalities are declining and fewer teens are lighting up

If you want to know just how crazy marijuana makes some people, look no further than the race for governor of Colorado, where Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper is neck and neck with Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. They’re high-profile examples of a growing backlash against pot, even as none of the scare stories about legal weed are coming true. Drug-addled addicts embarking on crime sprees? Not in Denver. Stupefied teens flunking tests in record numbers? Uh-uh. Highway fatalities soaring? Nope.

About the worst you can say so far is that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wigged out while high. But she does that from time to time when she’s sober as a judge too.

Neither Hickenlooper nor Beauprez has cracked 50% with voters, which makes sense since neither candidate can stomach the fact that 55% of Coloradans voted to legalize recreational pot in 2012. “I’ll say it was reckless” to legalize pot, averred Hickenlooper at a recent debate. Beauprez goes further still. When asked if it’s time to recriminalize marijuana, he said, “Yes, I think we’re at that point … where the consequences that we’ve already discovered from this may be far greater than the liberty … citizens thought they were embracing.”

In fact, sales and tax revenues from legal pot continue to climb, and more people now buy recreational pot than medical marijuana, even though the former is taxed at much higher rates. Pot has kicked about $45 million into tax coffers since it became legal this year and is projected to come in between $60 million and $70 million by year’s end. Murders in the Denver area, where most pot sales take place, are down 42% (so is violent crime overall, though at a lower rate) and property crime is down 11.5%.

There’s more bad news for alarmists: Pot use by teenagers in Colorado declined from 2001, when the state legalized medical marijuana, to 2013, the last full year for which data are available. When medical marijuana was introduced, critics worried that any form of legalized pot would increase usage among kids, but the reverse happened. It remains to be seen if that trend continues in the face of legal recreational pot, but Colorado teens already use dope at lower rates than the national average. So much for the Rocky Mountain High state.

Yet Colorado pols are in good company in harshing on legal weed. The recovering addict and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy heads Safe Alternatives to Marijuana (SAM) and categorically argues, “we cannot promote a comprehensive system of mental-health treatment and marijuana legalization.”

Researchers who find that regular marijuana use among teenagers correlates with mental problems, academic failure and other bad outcomes get plenty of ink, even though such studies fail to show causation. Underperforming students and kids with problems abuse alcohol and smoke cigarettes at higher rates, after all. In any case, even advocates of legalization argue that teens shouldn’t be smoking pot any more than they should be drinking. Given the drug’s pariah status for decades, it’s not surprising that the science is both unsettled and highly politicized.

Will legalizing pot increase access to a drug that law-enforcement officials concede has long been readily available to high schoolers? “Criminalizing cannabis for adults has little if any impact on reducing teens’ access or consumption of the plant,” argues the pro-legalization group NORML, a claim supported by declining teen use during Colorado’s experience with medical marijuana. Certainly pot merchants who are registered with and regulated by the state are more likely to check IDs than your friendly neighborhood black-market dealer.

At least this much seems certain: In a world where adults can openly buy real pot, you’re also less likely to read stories headlined “More People Hospitalized by Bad Batch of Synthetic Marijuana.” And support for legalization isn’t fading. The market-research firm Civic Science finds that 58% of Americans support laws that “would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana like alcohol.”

That figure obviously doesn’t include either candidate for governor of Colorado. But just like the rest of the country, whoever wins that race will have to learn to live with pot being legal, crime being down, traffic fatalities declining and fewer teens lighting up.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Media

Let’s Give America’s Royal Baby a Time Out

Clinton Baby Chelsea Clinton Hillary Clinton Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton, right, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, second from right, wave to the media as Marc Mezvinsky and Chelsea Clinton pose for photographers with their newborn baby, Charlotte, after the family leaves Manhattan's Lenox Hill hospital in New York City on Sept. 29, 2014. William Regan—AP

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

Is there anything more distasteful than the obviously strategic use of babies by the rich and powerful to gild their images?

As the father of two, I can personally attest to the power of babies and toddlers to melt the coldest heart (mine) and coax a smile from the stoniest of faces (also mine). Well, my kids’ power, anyway. They were (and are) supernaturally, objectively, transcendently beautiful creatures. About yours, I couldn’t honestly say (though I kind of doubt it).

But really, is there anything more distasteful than the obviously strategic use of babies by the rich and powerful to gild their images—and the media’s feckless complicity in the spectacle? Whether it’s the British royal family constantly pushing the toddler Prince George toward the camera or breathless reports of Hillary Clinton’s newfound “grandmother glow,” can we just change its diaper, give it a pacifier, and put it to sleep already?

It’s easy to understand why Brits might take an interest in George and his parents. Not only will the 14-month-old one day rule over them, they’ve really got nothing better to do. Dr. Who is only on so many hours a day, after all. Watching the boy-king pad around on his hands and knees is a welcome diversion from contemplating a century-long slide from world domination, his father Prince William’s advancing baldness, and his grandfather Prince Charles’ continuing existence. And now that the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton has taken care not to flash the commoners anymore, watching George hold court at “low-key tea parties” is about as diverting as it’s going to get in old Blighty.

But why do Americans care about this kid (or, same thing, why does the press assume we care)? There’s nothing more genuinely antithetical to American values than the wealth, titles, and leisure of the British royal family. If memory serves, we even fought a war over it. Inherited privilege brings with it a empire-sized sense of entitlement, which is on brilliant display in William and Kate’s new legal action against photographers who they claim are “stalking” the very baby they trot out daily like an exotic monkey.

William and Kate, a royal spokesman explained to CNN, want their son to have “as normal a childhood as possible” and demand that the press not publish unauthorized shots of George. Please. If you want the kid to have anything approaching a normal childhood, put him up for adoption or have him work his way up from the royal stables (sort of like how the Duchess of Cornwall did). Even America’s raggedy version of royalty—that would be the Kardashians or maybe the Duggars—understand that unearned wealth comes at the cost of your privacy and control over your image.

Controlling your image, of course, is something that Hillary Clinton knows a thing or two about. The former first lady, senator, defense secretary, and presumptive 2016 presidential candidate is a master of adaptation and continued success. Indeed, it’s tempting to say at this point that her husband is slowly being revealed as a bit player in her personal and professional epic, rather than vice versa.

During Bill Clinton’s presidential years, Hillary Clinton readily morphed from a feminist icon who would serve as co-president to a long-suffering, stand-by-your-man, cookie-baking spouse and back again. As a senator from New York, she earned high praise for pragmatism, coalition building, and bipartisan binge-drinking. Despite a patently disastrous term as secretary of state (exemplified by the violent death of the American ambassador to Libya and the failure to “reset” relations with Russia), she’s nimbly laid all the blame for U.S. foreign policy in President Obama’s lap and has emerged as an unreconstructed war hawk at a moment when Americans are calling for blood again.

If Clinton has had one blind spot in her image, it’s that she’s often perceived as less than fully human. If Bill felt our pain, Hillary either kind of enjoyed it or couldn’t be bothered to deal with it. Now that daughter Chelsea—whose undistinguished professional life is reminiscent of British royalty—has produced baby Charlotte, that’s all changing.

Hillary is missing no opportunity to publicly play at grandmother, a role that can only soften and round out her image as the presidential campaign season swings into high gear. “I highly recommend it,” she told CBS News about becoming a grandparent. At a recent speech to a group of women real estate agents, a member of the audience told Clinton that she looked “beautiful.” To which Clinton responded, “I think it’s a grandmother’s glow.”

Or maybe it’s the fire of political ambition lighting up her cheeks. As far back as June, she was systematically linking her grandchild to world events, telling People, “I’m about to become a grandmother… I want to live in the moment. At the same time I am concerned about what I see happening in the country and in the world.”

OK, we get it. The kid is a prop in a political play. The baby doesn’t just soften you up, Mrs. Clinton, it softens us up, too. Which may actually be excellent public relations but is also deeply disturbing.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Eric Holder’s Legacy: Duplicity, Incompetence, and Obliviousness

Attorney General Addresses Ferguson Police Shooting, Day After Visiting The City
Attorney General Eric Holder makes a separated during a major financial fraud announcement press conference on Aug. 21, 2014 at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. Alex Wong—Getty Images

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

Holder exists to protect the president and his policies. Worse, his successor will almost certainly take up exactly where he leaves off.

So Eric Holder is stepping down as attorney general of the United States, reportedly just as soon as a successor is named and confirmed.

It’s a shame that it can’t happen sooner.

Despite some positive actions — refusing to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that is plainly discriminatory, and calling for long-overdue sentencing reform, for instance – Holder’s tenure has been marked by a disturbing mix of duplicity, incompetence, and obliviousness.

Which is another way of saying that he was a thoroughly typical attorney general, a cabinet position that has long been held by individuals whose first loyalty is to the president that appointed them rather than to the Constitution they swear to defend.

From A. Mitchell Palmer (who rounded up and deported real and imagined Communists) to John Mitchell (convicted on perjury charges related to Watergate) to Janet Reno (who ordered the disastrous assault on the Branch Davidians and spent years threatening to censor cable TV), the position has long been a holding tank for low-performing miscreants.

Early on his tenure, Holder told Congress that federal agents wouldn’t raid and arrest proprietors of medical marijuana dispensaries that were complying with state laws (all pot is illegal under federal law). Yet through 2013, the Obama administration was averaging 36 medical marijuana prosecutions a year, compared to 20 a year for the George W. Bush administration. Either Holder directed the Department of Justice and was lying to Congress or he was an administrator whose subordinates routinely disobeyed him. Neither possibility is comforting.

In 2012, he was held in contempt by a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives for refusing to testify about the “Fast and Furious” scandal emanating from the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF). Fast and Furious involved government agents allowing illegal sales of guns that were later found at the scene of the murder of a Border Patrol agent. The BATF is part of the Department of Justice and Holder has given conflicting statements about the operation.

Holder managed to earn the ire of progressive politicians such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) when he admitted that some Wall Street banks were not only too big to fail but too big to jail. The sheer size of some institutions, he told Congress, “has an inhibiting influence — impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate.”

Arguably more disturbing was Holder’s central role in signing off on the secret monitoring of Fox News’ James Rosen and other journalists and his staunch defense of National Security Agency surveillance programs (even when federal oversight boards decreed them unconstitutional and ineffective). It took a 13-hour filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to get Holder to acknowledge in plain language that there were in fact limits to the president’s secret kill list (the existence of which is itself deeply disturbing).

That Holder has moderated on some of these issues — just a couple of weeks ago, Holder voiced support for NSA reforms that would “provide the public greater confidence in our programs and the checks and balances in the system” — only drives home just how situational his ethics and actions always have been as attorney general.

Back in 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama rightly attacked the risible performance of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whom he said conceived of his job as being “the president’s attorney” rather than “the people’s attorney.”

Yet that’s exactly how Eric Holder has behaved during his time in office. Holder exists to protect the president and his policies. Worse still, his successor will almost certainly take up exactly where he leaves off.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME technology

iOS 8: The Operating System That Would Be King

Apple Inc.'s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Go On Sale
An Apple Inc. iPhone 6 stands on display at the company's Causeway Bay store during the sales launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

No company, even one as worshiped by its fans as Apple, is ever more than a couple of flops away from being cast into furnace of hell.

Why are we so obsessed with the release of Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 8? The election of a new Pope barely generated as much as anticipation and coverage. Sure, Apple is touting it as the “biggest iOS release ever,” and if there’s anything Steve Jobs’ heirs know better than sleek design and high-profit margins, it’s how to hype something P.T. Barnum–style.

But we’re right to care. Our gadgets—phones, tablets, PCs, wrist monitors, you name it—are nothing less than the magic that we use to generate the illusion (and sometimes the reality) that we can actually control our lives. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” quipped the science-fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke, whose dark vision of a supercomputer that bends humankind to its will animated 2001: Space Odyssey. A similar question haunts us, especially whenever our OS fails and we find unexpected, unscheduled, un-busy time on our hands: Are we running our machines or are they running us?

Your smartphone not only lets you talk with anyone in the world wherever you are, it also acts as a portable GPS that lets you find the most off-the-beaten-track address (unless, that is, you’re stuck using the original version of Apple Maps). What was once science fiction in Dick Tracy comics—video calls—is now known as Facetime or Skype. “Wearables” like Fitbit allow us to know how well we slept, how many steps we’ve taken in a day and how many calories we need to burn before eating another doughnut.

In the new world of technology über alles, the operating system is the god of the machine. If it functions well, all is smooth sailing in our lives and we can be pretend to be wizards and witches from storybooks, able to traverse time and space and make miracles happen. We can arrive on time via uncongested routes and we can bank from the coffee shop and invest while riding the subway. We can set the home alarm long after we’ve left for work, track the kids’ homework and use a flight delay as a way to catch up with our friends, lovers and co-workers.

As we voluntarily become cyborgs and wire ourselves up and express ourselves instantaneously through an ever growing array of social media, we need a perfect operating system that allows us to multitask with ever greater flexibility and ever greater ease across computers, phones, tablets and more. Who has time to reboot any of our peripheral devices? Indeed, what machines even count as peripheral anymore? They are all central to us, and more so with each passing day.

In its heart of hearts, Apple knows just how high the stakes are. No company, even one as worshiped by its fans as Apple, is ever more than a couple of flops away from being cast into furnace of hell. Its previous mobile operating system, iOS 7, was a disappointment, if not an epic fail like Windows 8 or Vista, to name two of Microsoft’s ill-conceived and executed operating systems. iOS 8 must be better, smoother, faster, or else even true believers may revolt and slay their god. (Alas, the early reviews for iOS 8 are not heartening.)

In Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King, a common Englishman is mistaken for a god by natives. When they realize he is not the divine entity they took him for, they cut off his head with the crown still on it. That is the irony that Apple seeks to avoid: Nobody causes more disappointment than a god that fails.

Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Education

Welcome to College—Now Please Stop Thinking

School University College Lecture
Getty Images

A scandal at Canada’s University of Western Ontario shows just how censored higher education has become

When freshmen first arrived at Canada’s University of Western Ontario a few weeks ago, they were introduced not to cutting-edge research or “the best which has been thought and said” (in Matthew Arnold’s magisterial phrasing), but to a brazen, petty, and all-too-common act of censorship that infantilizes young adults even as it chills free speech and open communication among students and faculty alike.

Welcome to college, kids! Now stop thinking. And for god’s sake, don’t make jokes, talk freely, or even compliment your fellow students.

A student publication at the university, The Gazette, published an irreverent special issue for incoming freshmen. Among the articles was a clearly satirical piece titled, “So you want to date a teaching assistant?” It included such tips as, “Do your research. Facebook stalk and get to know your TA. Drop in on his or her tutorials, and if you’re not in that class — make it happen…. Ask your own smart questions, answer others’ dumb questions, and make yourself known in the class. Better yet, stand out as a pupil of interest.”

If any hard-of-humor students didn’t understand the ironic nature of the advice, there was this: “Know when to give up. At the end of the day, TAs are there to guide you through the curriculum – so there’s a good chance you have to be okay with that and only that. They may not be giving you head, but at least they’re giving you brain.”

The piece immediately set off “a furor,” with the union representing T.A.s calling for the piece to be taken down for promoting sexual harassment and the university provost publicly castigating the paper for being “disrespectful.” The offending material was quickly pulled off from the paper’s website and the editors wrote a groveling, ritualistic apology, promising to report “on these issues in a more serious manner in the future.”

This episode represents what pedagogues like to call a “teachable moment,” but the lesson being learned has nothing to do with the higher-level thinking or analysis you’re supposed to learn at college. It has to do with straitjacketing students (and faculty, too) into a rigid, narrow, and altogether inhuman mode of expression in which the overriding principle is to never give offense, real or imagined.

The Western Ontario case might have happened anywhere. Indeed, to get a sense of how thin-skinned colleges have become, check out the long and always-growing case list of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which pushes for freedom of expression on campuses.

One of FIRE’s recent cases involved a female University of Oregon student who was initially disciplined for yelling the sexual innuendo “I hit it first!” at a couple she didn’t know (the school backed down after FIRE intervened). Not all cases involve sexually suggestive language: FIRE is also suing a number of schools for unconstitutionally restricting specifically political speech. Among the cases: California’s Citrus College threatened to remove a student who was gathering signatures on a petition critical of the National Security Agency’s surveillance of Americans.

Why are we treating the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and citizens as hot-house flowers that cannot for one second be discomfited by what they see, hear, or read? Isn’t one of the main reasons to go to college precisely to be pulled out of the world in which you grew up? It is not particularly difficult to espouse free expression for all without endorsing everything that gets said in the marketplace of ideas. It’s exactly in the conversations among those with whom we disagree that old ideas get made better and new ideas flourish. But suppression of speech, whether done by the medieval Church, anti-sex crusaders in the 19th century, or contemporary campus commisars, leads nowhere good.

Yet last year saw the mainstreaming of so-called microagressions, or “quiet, unintended slights” that perpetuate racism, sexism, and classism. According to popularizers of the concept, microaggressions often masquerade as compliments, such as when a man tells a woman she did well in math. Churlish, yes, but actionable speech?

The same sort of hyper-sensitivity is apparent with the rise of “trigger warnings,” in which professors are asked or mandated to give advance notice when engaging course materials that might offend students who have experienced traumas in the past. As a student at Rutgers put it, undergraduates shouldn’t be forced to encounter The Great Gatsby without first being told that the novel “possesses a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence.” Suggested language for professors in a trigger-warning guide at Oberlin runs like this: “We are reading this work in spite of the author’s racist frameworks because his work was foundational to establishing the field of anthropology.”

We’re told that college is an absolute necessity in today’s advanced society. Higher education alone can cultivate the critical thinking skills and independence of thought that drives not just economic innovation but social progress too. Yet over the past 30 or so years, college has become an irony-free zone, one in which every utterance is subjected to withering cross-examinations for any possibility of offense across a multitude of race, class, gender and other dimensions.

As the Western Ontario case demonstrates, when offense is taken, open discussion and debate is no longer the preferred method for dealing with disagreements. No, the bad words must be disappeared and the malefactors forced not simply to apologize but to admit their errors in thinking and promise not to do it again. That’s the way a cult operates, not a culture. And it’s certainly no way to help young adults learn how to engage the world that waits them after graduation.

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