Why Obamacare Exchanges Are Collapsing: Richard Epstein Talks with Nick Gillespie

Click above to listen to a wide-ranging discussion between me and Richard Epstein, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at NYU.

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The architects of Obamacare could have foreseen today’s crisis, says NYU Law Professor Richard Epstein, except they were intellectual “super jocks” with a “superior Ivy-League sneer,” who knew so much better than anyone else “how to run this Rube Goldberg contraption” designed to “defeat the law of gravity.”

Epstein speaks as an insider to elite circles. A graduate of Columbia, Oxford, and Yale Law School, he’s the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, and a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. A towering figure in his field, Epstein has had a profound impact on libertarian legal theory, especially with his 1985 book, Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain.

Throughout his career, Epstein says, he’s been surrounded by “people cleverer than myself putting up schemes that are dumber than you can imagine.”

Reason’s Nick Gillespie sat down with Epstein for an extended discussion about the collapse of the Obamacare exchanges (0:43); why cigarette companies don’t owe smokers a dime (15:49); the recent legal campaign against Exxon Mobile related to global warming (27:00); Obama’s dismal record (35:23); where the U.S. went wrong in Iraq (45:00); why he thinks Gary Johnson is a weak candidate (57:00); Hillary Clinton’s criminal offenses (58:26); whether he favors Hillary or Trump (1:04:51); and why he’s planning to sit out this election (1:05:34).

For a transcript and video version of the conversation, go here.

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Clinton Bemoans Those Who ‘Try to Destabilize the World’, But That’s What She’s Done

Hillary Clinton tried to present an image of herself as a steady hand ready to be leader of the free world, criticizing Donald Trump for questioning the wisdom of the United States’ various foreign entanglements and insisting the U.S. remain commited to them.

“Words matter when you run for president, and they really matter when you are president,” Clinton said. “And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them.” America’s word, Clinton argued, had to “be good.” Clinton asserted that the world was following the presidential campaign “so closely,” to “get hints about what we will do.”

“Are we going to lead the world with strength and in accordance with our values?” she asked. “That’s what I intend to do.” Clinton said she would “stand up to bullies” abroad and at home, and that the U.S. could not “let those would try to destabilize the world to interfere with American interests” get away with it.

Perhaps she should start closer to home than she thinks. A global survey of residents in 68 countries in 2014 found that 24 percent ranked the United States as the greatest threat to peace, putting it in first place. That included 37 percent of residents in Mexico. The poll was taken in 2014, almost a year before Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president and nearly two years before a President Trump was acknowledged as a distinct possibility by most people.

American leaders need not look far to find “those who would try to destabilize the world to interfere with American interests”—the United States does a good job of that on its own. The U.S. war in Iraq helped to create the space for the metastasis of ISIS in the region, and U.S. interventions in Libya and the continued occupation of Afghanistan created the space for ISIS in those countries. A counterterrorism campaign in Yemen once hailed by the Obama administration as a model for a new way to wage the war on terror eventually yielded a collapse of the government and a prolonged proxy war waged by Saudi Arabia against allegedly Iranian-backed rebels. Hillary Clinton’s “accomplishment” in Libya didn’t just help ISIS set up shop there, it spread weapons from Mali to Syria, helping to destabilize countries and aggravate conflicts across North Africa and the Middle East.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, insisted at the debate that the U.S. could not be the “policeman of the world.” Unfortunately, while he presents himself as a skeptic of past wars, he appears to be a booster for new ones. An honest debate about intervention is another conversation American voters won’t get to see on the debate stage if third party candidates like Gary Johnson, who describes himself as a “skeptic of interventionism,” are excluded, hosts continue to ask softball questions on U.S. foreign policy, and progressives continue to marginalize the damage that candidates and presidents they support have wrought internationally.

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Alt-Right Turns on Trump a Little, College Protesters Disrupt Debate Watch Party: P.M. Links

  • JonesThe alt-right was not thrilled with Donald Trump’s performance in the debate last night.
  • The Huffington Post says “national Treasure Leslie Jones” is “the only [debate] commentator we need.” Because she did a really good job yelling at Trump to STFU. What a treasure!
  • Protesters disrupted a debate watch party hosted by conservative students at the University of Michigan.
  • Lawrence of Arabia Is a Prime Example of Old Hollywood Sexism,” says New York magazine. Why? Too many dudes in the desert.
  • The University of Tennessee has decided not to punish Professor Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, for his controversial Tweet last week.

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Elon Musk Wants You To Be Able To Afford To Move to Mars

Right now, Space X founder Elon Musk is giving a Steve Jobs–style presentation of his plan for Mars colonization. It’s part science lecture (“Here’s a slide with the different types of rocket fuel”), part time-share presentation (“It’ll be, like, really fun to go, you’ll have a great time.”), part TEDtalk (“Technology does not automatically improve, it only improves if a lot of really strong engineering talent is applied to the problem”), part in-joke extravaganza (the slide marked FUNDING starts with “Steal Underpants”).

Here’s a good writeup of what we already know about the technical specs of the mission: He’s talking about a 2018 start with a 2024 launch to Mars building on tech Space X is already using to provision the International Space Station.

From the presentation, here are three key Venn Diagrams. They are simultaneously duh and oooh:

This notion, that a vanity project for the rich could become a new frontier for the middle class, is too often overlooked. It’s central to Musk’s motivation and it should always have been central to our understanding of space colonization and exploration. It hasn’t been, until now.

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Elon Musk Wants You To Be Able To Afford To Move to Mars

Right now, Space X founder Elon Musk is giving a Steve Jobs–style presentation of his plan for Mars colonization. It’s part science lecture (“Here’s a slide with the different types of rocket fuel”), part time-share presentation (“It’ll be, like, really fun to go, you’ll have a great time.”), part TEDtalk (“Technology does not automatically improve, it only improves if a lot of really strong engineering talent is applied to the problem”), part in-joke extravaganza (the slide marked FUNDING starts with “Steal Underpants”).

Here’s a good writeup of what we already know about the technical specs of the mission: He’s talking about 2024 launch and a goal of a million people on planet in relatively short order.

From the presentation, here are three key Venn Diagrams. They are simultaneously duh and oooh:

This notion, that a vanity project for the rich could become a new frontier for the middle class, is too often overlooked. It’s central to Musk’s motivation and it should always have been central to our understanding of space colonization and exploration. It hasn’t been, until now.

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Nashville Cops Don’t Want to Enforce Airbnb Regulations Because They’d Rather Focus on Stopping Actual Crime

Police in Nashville, Tennessee, have been asked to train at least 10 officers to enforce new regulations targeting users of homesharing websites like Airbnb, but the cops say they would prefer to focus on preventing crimes that actually have victims.

In a letter to Mayor Megan Barry, more than two dozen members of the Nashville Metro Council have asked for police to be deployed to enforce the city’s year-old rules that limit how many guests can stay in residential homes, The Tennessean reports. Nashville’s homesharing regulations also require hosts to obtain a permit from the city government and cap short-term rentals at no more than 3 percent of all homes in a given neighborhood—so if 3 percent of your neighbors are listing their homes through a room-sharing service, you won’t be allowed to get a permit even if you meet all the other qualifications the city has set.

The members of the Metro Council are frustrated that there’s no easy way to enforce those rules. Their solution is to have a specially-trained police force that could go door-to-door in the city to make sure no one is illegally granting permission for strangers to sleep in their homes. Currently, the city’s codes enforcement officers are responsible for the short term rental regulations.

“No law is going to be effective if we don’t have better enforcement,” wrote Metro Councilman Colby Sledge on his website this week in support of having police enforce short-term rental regulations.

Sledge also sponsored legislation that passed the Metro Council last week reducing the number of guests allowed in a residential home from 12 to eight.

In a statement to Reason, Metro Police spokesman Dan Aaron said enforcement of short term rental issues is not something law enforcement should be doing.

“With Nashville’s continued growth, our police officers have plenty on their plates answering calls for service and proactively working to deter criminal activity,” Aaron said.

He said the police department already responds to noise complaints and other “quality of life issues” like vehicles blocking driveways—two of the examples given by the Metro Council members in their call for additional policing aimed at Airbnb users.

The police should enforce Airbnb laws by focusing on noise and nuisance violations, just as they enforce those laws for other homeowners, says Mark Cunningham, a spokesman for the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free market think tank in Nashville that’s involved in a lawsuit challenging the city’s per-neighborhood cap on short-term rentals.

“This is yet another example of local government wasting the money of taxpayers and putting Nashvillians’ safety at risk,” Cunningham told Reason via email. “Instead of making our police work to enforce illegal and unconstitutional laws that take away property rights from citizens, they should be focused on stopping real crime.”

Mission creep is a very real problem for America’s police forces. That’s how you end up with Department of Homeland Security cops busting unlicensed massage therapists. In Nashville, the police department deserves credit for resisting the politically-driven effort to use force against people who aren’t committing any crimes by renting their homes or spare bedrooms.

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California Censors IMDB Because of Hollywood’s Alleged Ageism

90210California Gov. Jerry Brown has only a couple of days left to decide whether he’s going to sign or veto an important reform bill that would seriously reduce the ability of local law enforcement agencies to abuse the asset forfeiture process to seize and keep millions of dollars from citizens without having to prove they’ve committed a crime.

But in the meantime, we’ve got this: Brown has signed into law a bill that censors the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) in what appears to be a fairly straightforward violation of the company’s First Amendment rights. The IMDB is a familiar site for anybody looking to track down work by people in the film, television, and video games industry. It publishes the backgrounds of actors, their work histories, their biographies, and their birthdates.

That last part—birthdates (meaning ages)—is what several actors have a problem with. One sued unsuccessfully to try to force the IMDB to prevent the site from publishing her actual date of birth. The argument was that age discrimination in Hollywood and the acting industry is a serious, chronic issue, and publishing actors’ ages could harm their chances at finding work.

After that attempt failed, the Screen Actors Guild then pushed lawmakers in Sacramento to fix the problem for them. They responded by passing AB-1687, which forbids IMDB (or similar sites) from publishing or sharing birthdates or ages from paying subscribers (industry folks who use the site for employment services). Gov. Brown signed the bill into law on Sunday.

So, is this unconstitutional censorship? Yes it most certainly is, says nearly every lawyer The Hollywood Reporter consulted. In fact, the only attorney who was absolutely certain the law would survive a constitutional challenge and gave it a full-throated defense was the general counsel for the very union who pushed it through the legislature.

Some of the opponents:

“Creating liability for the truthful reporting of lawfully obtained information is deeply problematic under the First Amendment,” said UC Irvine dean and Constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky. “It is different to say ‘men only’ or ‘women only’ or ‘whites only’ in an ad. That is discrimination that is impermissible. A birthday or an age is a fact, and I don’t think there can be liability under the First Amendment for publishing true facts.”

Said Bruce Johnson, of Seattle’s Davis Wright Tremaine, “Obviously, to the extent that it requires the removal of truthful information from websites reporting on matters of public interest, the statute would appear to be an unconstitutional abridgement of First Amendment rights.”

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, defended the law as a legitimate business regulation:

“Requiring websites to remove all age information from profiles would seem to run afoul of the First Amendment restrictions on the regulation of commercial speech,” Calderon had said in a statement to THR. “Limiting the bill to only subscribers makes it clear that the bill advances an important government interest — that of reducing age discrimination in a manner that is substantially related to that interest and no more extensive than necessary to achieve that interest.”

Yes, but it’s attempting to achieve the interest in reducing age discrimination by censoring a third-party site that is not responsible at all for the age discrimination these actors are claiming. This is the sort of mentality that has led to the European Union’s terrible “right to be forgotten” policies, which permit people to demand that search sites censor links to information about them that may be completely factually correct but that they nevertheless don’t want people to see. That’s a good reason why the rest of us should care. It may not directly affect us whether actors’ ages are allowed to be censored, but the justification for this government intervention can be directed elsewhere.

In addition, one lawyer noted, limiting the censorship to paying subscribers has the absurd side effect of requiring actors to “bribe” the IMDB for their silence by paying them to join up. Those who are not paying members would still face having their ages released.

Gabrielle Carteris, known to Gen-Xers as Andrea Zuckerman from Beverly Hills 90120, wrote a column for The Hollywood Reporter defending the law. She claims that the never would have gotten her role playing a teenager had people known she was actually 29 years old, which just goes to show she clearly never watched an episode of Glee.

The law does not go into effect until Jan. 1, assuming it is not legally challenged. IMDB did not respond to The Hollywood Reporter‘s questions.

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Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s ‘Binder of Drug Dealers’ Shows He Was Lying About the Race of Arrestees

Maine Gov. Paul LePage claimed last month that he had a three-ring binder showing that 90 percent of the suspected drug dealers arrested in the state were black or Hispanic. The binder, unbelievably, turns out to be real, but LePage’s statistics—much more believably, considering the state is almost 95 percent white—do not.

LePage made headlines in August when he declared that “people of color or people of Hispanic origin” were “the enemy” in the drug war. Facing accusations of racism, LePage tried to tamp down the controversy by calling a state lawmaker a “little son of a bitch socialist cocksucker” and claiming he had the statistics to back his comments up.

“Let me tell you this, explain to you, I made the comment that black people are trafficking in our state, now ever since I said that comment I’ve been collecting every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state,” LePage said at a town hall event in August. “I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come, and I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ringed binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Conn., the Bronx and Brooklyn.”

In an impressive piece of public records trolling, the Maine ACLU immediately put in a freedom-of-information request for LePage’s binder. Lo and behold, it really exists. The governor’s office released the contents of the binder—about 150 pages of mostly news clippings and press releases—to the ACLU and media outlets Monday morning.

But the binder doesn’t back up LePage’s claim. It demolishes it.

According to the the Portland Press Herald:

Of the 93 people pictured in the binder, 37 appear to be either black or Hispanic, or about 40 percent of all the photos, while 56, or about 60 percent, appear to be white […]

His office has repeatedly sought to explain that LePage was specifically referring to out-of-state heroin dealers when he described the race of those arrested, not to dealers in other drugs like methamphetamine, whose photos also are in the binder.

But the photos of the 51 people facing heroin or other opioid drug charges show that only 47 percent, or 24 individuals, appear to be black or Hispanic. The remaining 53 percent, or 27 people, are white. Other press releases in the binder report the names of people charged with heroin trafficking but do not include booking mug shots.

In a statement, Alison Beyea, the executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said that “whether or not [LePage’s] assertions were deliberately misleading, they were dangerous and racist.”

“The governor has multiple agencies at his disposal that collect arrest data in Maine,” Beyea continued. “It is outrageous that he would rely on an incomplete collection of newspaper clippings and emails to make false, inaccurate accusations about people of color. It’s time for the governor to stop using people of color as a scapegoat for Maine’s drug problem, and to start proposing real solutions based on actual facts.”

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Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s ‘Binder of Drug Dealers’ Shows He Was Lying About the Race of Arrestees

Maine Gov. Paul LePage claimed last month that he had a three-ring binder showing that 90 percent of the suspected drug dealers arrested in the state were black or Hispanic. The binder, unbelievably, turns out to be real, but LePage’s statistics—much more believably, considering the state is almost 95 percent white—do not.

LePage made headlines in August when he declared that “people of color or people of Hispanic origin” were “the enemy” in the drug war. Facing accusations of racism, LePage tried to tamp down the controversy by calling a state lawmaker a “little son of a bitch socialist cocksucker” and claiming he had the statistics to back his comments up.

“Let me tell you this, explain to you, I made the comment that black people are trafficking in our state, now ever since I said that comment I’ve been collecting every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state,” LePage said at a town hall event in August. “I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come, and I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ringed binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Conn., the Bronx and Brooklyn.”

In an impressive piece of public records trolling, the Maine ACLU immediately put in a freedom-of-information request for LePage’s binder. Lo and behold, it really exists. The governor’s office released the contents of the binder—about 150 pages of mostly news clippings and press releases—to the ACLU and media outlets Monday morning.

But the binder doesn’t back up LePage’s claim. It demolishes it.

According to the the Portland Press Herald:

Of the 93 people pictured in the binder, 37 appear to be either black or Hispanic, or about 40 percent of all the photos, while 56, or about 60 percent, appear to be white […]

His office has repeatedly sought to explain that LePage was specifically referring to out-of-state heroin dealers when he described the race of those arrested, not to dealers in other drugs like methamphetamine, whose photos also are in the binder.

But the photos of the 51 people facing heroin or other opioid drug charges show that only 47 percent, or 24 individuals, appear to be black or Hispanic. The remaining 53 percent, or 27 people, are white. Other press releases in the binder report the names of people charged with heroin trafficking but do not include booking mug shots.

In a statement, Alison Beyea, the executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said that “whether or not [LePage’s] assertions were deliberately misleading, they were dangerous and racist.”

“The governor has multiple agencies at his disposal that collect arrest data in Maine,” Beyea continued. “It is outrageous that he would rely on an incomplete collection of newspaper clippings and emails to make false, inaccurate accusations about people of color. It’s time for the governor to stop using people of color as a scapegoat for Maine’s drug problem, and to start proposing real solutions based on actual facts.”

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Did a Student Actually Complain That This Harry Potter Mural Was Racist, Sexist, and Ableist?

Matthew Lewis… I can’t tell.

A student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse filed a formal complaint with the campus’s “Hate Response Team” alleging that a popular mural in one of the dormitories inappropriately depicts “white power, man power, cis power, able power, and class power.”

The triggering work of art depicts “before” and “after” versions of Harry Potter character Neville Longbottom, who was portrayed by actor Matthew Lewis in the films. The implication is that students enter the dormitory as the younger, awkward-looking Neville/Lewis, and exit the dormitory as the older, quite handsome Neville/Lewis. It’s a joke, of sorts.

But I suppose someone, somewhere, was bound to find it offensive. According to Heat Street, which obtained a copy of the unnamed student’s complaint:

The depiction of this metamorphosis “represents our ideal society and everything I am trying to fight against,” wrote the offended student, whose name is redacted. “It represents white power. Man power. Cis power. Able power. Class power. ECT [sic] ect. I am angry that I know the people who put this mural up, and I am anger [sic] because I know the people who let this mural be put up. Like I said earlier, maybe I am being a little sensitive, but it is how I feel. This represents, to me, our society, and I do not want it up on this wall. Why do we need a BEFORE and AFTER?”

The complaint, unearthed by a Heat Street records request for reports of bias on UW-La Crosse’s campus, was filed in April. We confirmed the mural remains up, despite the student’s complaint. By deadline, neither of the students who painted Neville Longbottom’s poster had responded to Heat Street‘s inquiry.

It doesn’t get much more ridiculous than that. Of course, the complaint might be fake—the student did not request a follow-up discussion with the university. Indeed, one member of the Hate Response Team seemed skeptical, according to Heat Street:

“Maybe 1,000 people could look at it and say it’s fake, they’re trying to be funny, but I always try to reach out,” [Amanda] Goodenough says. “Maybe it would be an opportunity to have a conversation. That’s what we need more of.”

National Review‘s Katherine Timpf took the complaint at face value and mercilessly mocked it.

I’m less sure it’s real, though it certainly could be. I’ve seen complaints that were at least this crazy before.

Perhaps that’s the most worrisome takeaway: in our current age of campus hyper-offendedness, it’s impossible to tell the genuinely traumatized apart from the trolls. Maybe that should make the university wonder whether it has defined “hate incidents” a little too subjectively.

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