Recently in Society & Culture Category

Glenn Reynolds writes that our poor presidential candidates and the press that covers them are intentionally distracting America from our real problems. Kinda like a reality TV show writ large. He talks about the five wars we're fighting simultaneously, the implosion of Obamacare, and the national dept, but the most concerning topic to me is the despicable corruption that has infested our national institutions.

The FBI ultimately decided not to recommend prosecution of Hillary Clinton over her email scandal. That created a lot of criticism. But now it turns out that the FBI official in charge of the investigation was awfully close to the Clintons. The FBI official is deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, whose wife, Dr. Jill McCabe, was running for state senate in Virginia. Her campaign received a donation of nearly a half million dollars from the political organization of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has been close to the Clintons for decades (and has his own brushes with the law). Then, a bit later, Andrew McCabe was put in charge of the investigation into Clinton's emails, an investigation that -- to the dismay of many longtime Bureau insiders -- recommended no charges. Now McCabe is facing calls for his resignation.

As Stephen Green points out, McAuliffe encouraged Jill McCabe to run just days after the Clinton email scandal broke. I'm sure he knew who her husband was when he did so. The FBI claims there's no connection, but this is very bad for the already-tarnished image of the FBI.

How can we have a fair and just civil service when 95% of their support goes to one party? It's hard to see how we can ever root out this corruption no matter who we elect, and that's dispiriting.

Two links today about Hillary the bully. First, her treatment of her protective detail is abhorrent.

"I'm not voting for Clinton," Air Force Staff Sergeant Eric Bonner posted on Facebook in July.

"It's because she actually talked to me once. Almost a sentence," wrote the Air Force K-9 handler. "I got to do a few details involving Distinguished Visitors."

"One of my last details was for Hillary when she was Secretary of State," Bonner continued. "I helped with sweeps of her DV quarters and staff vehicles. Her words to me?" According to Bonner, Clinton told him, "Get that f***ing dog away from me."

"Then she turns to her security detail and berates them up and down about why that animal was in her quarters," Bonner added. "For the next 20 minutes, while I sit there waiting to be released, she lays into her detail, slamming the door in their faces when she's done. The Detail lead walks over, apologizes, and releases me. I apologize to him for getting him in trouble. His words, 'Happens every day, Brother.'"

Second, Scott Adams looks more broadly and indicts the whole Democrat Party as the bully party.

I've been trying to figure out what common trait binds Clinton supporters together. As far as I can tell, the most unifying characteristic is a willingness to bully in all its forms.

If you have a Trump sign in your lawn, they will steal it.

If you have a Trump bumper sticker, they will deface your car.

if you speak of Trump at work you could get fired.

On social media, almost every message I get from a Clinton supporter is a bullying type of message. They insult. They try to shame. They label. And obviously they threaten my livelihood.

We know from Project Veritas that Clinton supporters tried to incite violence at Trump rallies. The media downplays it.

Part of the reason that Leftists work so hard to cast conservatives as racist sexist Hitlers is to justify Leftist bullying. Who can object to bullying Hitler?

The American birth rate is plummeting. The future belongs to those who show up.

The new birth rate numbers are out, and they're a disaster. There are now only 59.6 births per 1,000 women, the lowest rate ever recorded in the United States. Some of the decrease is due to good news, which is the continuing decline of teen pregnancies, but most of it is due to people getting married later and choosing to have fewer children. And the worst part is, everyone is treating this news with a shrug.

It wasn't always this way. It used to be taken for granted that the best indicator of a nation's health was its citizens' desire and capacity to reproduce. And it should still seem self-evident that people's willingness to have children is not only a sign of confidence in the future, but a sign of cultural health. It's a signal that people are willing to commit to the most enduring responsibility on Earth, which is raising a child.

But reproduction is also a sign of national health in a more dollars-and-cents way. The more productive people you have in your society, the healthier your country's economy. It's an idea that was obvious back in the 17th century, when economist Jean Bodin wrote "the only wealth is people."

Writing from Manhattan, Peggy Noonan calls out the global elites for losing touch with the rest of us. To many, "patriotism" is a dirty word.

Affluence detaches, power adds distance to experience. I don't have it fully right in my mind but something big is happening here with this division between the leaders and the led. It is very much a feature of our age. But it is odd that our elites have abandoned or are abandoning the idea that they belong to a country, that they have ties that bring responsibilities, that they should feel loyalty to their people or, at the very least, a grounded respect.

I close with a story that I haven't seen in the mainstream press. This week the Daily Caller's Peter Hasson reported that recent Syrian refugees being resettled in Virginia, were sent to the state's poorest communities. Data from the State Department showed that almost all Virginia's refugees since October "have been placed in towns with lower incomes and higher poverty rates, hours away from the wealthy suburbs outside of Washington, D.C." Of 121 refugees, 112 were placed in communities at least 100 miles from the nation's capital. The suburban counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington--among the wealthiest in the nation, and home to high concentrations of those who create, and populate, government and the media--have received only nine refugees.

I've got a mother, a wife, and several daughters, so let me say up front that I'm all for empowered women. I just think it's interesting to note that the phenomenon of "power couples" didn't exist 100 years ago -- women didn't wield much public power, so marriages weren't a vehicle for amplifying power in democracies. (Of course, marriage was always a tool of power in aristocracies.)

It's not obvious to me how the incestuous corruption of these "power couples" can be reined in. Tracking all the interrelationships adds a level of complexity to the conflicts of interest -- the conflicts would be easy to analyze in a database, but how could the output be understood by a mildly interested human?

It's also worth noting that "power couples" are the cornerstone of cross-generational "meritocracy". The first few generations of meritocracy seemed great, as the decedents of cobblers became software engineers, but those first-order effects are becoming more rare thanks to assortive mating. It seems like we're reaching a stable state, wherein the descendants of the new upper class inherit the power "earned" by their parents.

In forming perceptions about Benghazi, the Iran deal, globalization, or illegal immigration, it is sometimes hard to know who is making policy and who is reporting and analyzing such formulations -- or whether they are one and the same. National Security Advisor Susan Rice is married to former ABC television producer Ian Cameron. Ben Rhodes, who drew up the talking-points deceptions about Benghazi and seemed to boast of deceiving the public about the Iran deal, is the brother of CBS News president David Rhodes. Will 60 Minutes do one of its signature hit pieces on Ben Rhodes?

Secretary of State John Kerry -- who famously docks his yacht in Rhode Island in order to avoid paying Massachusetts taxes on it -- is married to Teresa Heinz, the billionaire widow of the late senator and catsup heir John Heinz. Former Obama press secretary Jay Carney married Claire Shipman, senior national correspondent for ABC's Good Morning America; his successor, Josh Earnest, married Natalie Wyeth, a veteran of the Treasury Department. Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's "body woman," is married to creepy sexter Anthony Weiner; perhaps she was mesmerized by his stellar political career, his feminist credentials, and his tolerant approach to deviancy? And on and on it goes.

These Christiane Amanpour/Jamie Rosen or Samantha Power/Cass Sunstein types of connections could be explored to the nth degree, especially their moth-to-the-flame progressive fixations with maximizing privilege, power, and class. But my purpose is not to suggest some conspiratorial cabal of D.C. and New York insiders, only to note that an increasing number of government and media elites are so entangled with each other, leveraging lucrative careers in politics, finance, and the media, and doubling their influence through marriage, that they have scant knowledge of and less concern for the clingers who live well beyond their coastal-corridor moats. And so when reality proves their preconceptions wrong -- from Benghazi to Brexit -- they have only outrage and disdain to fall back on.

Two disheartening stories -- first, California's high speed rail debacle.

Sold to the public in 2008 as a visionary plan to whisk riders along at 220 miles an hour, making the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a little over two and a half hours, the project promised to attract most of the necessary billions from private investors, to operate without ongoing subsidies and to charge fares low enough to make it competitive with cheap flights. With those assurances, 53.7 percent of voters said yes to a $9.95 billion bond referendum to get the project started. But the assurances were at best wishful thinking, at worst an elaborate con.

The total construction cost estimate has now more than doubled to $68 billion from the original $33 billion, despite trims in the routes planned. The first, easiest-to-build, segment of the system -- the "train to nowhere" through a relatively empty stretch of the Central Valley -- is running at least four years behind schedule and still hasn't acquired all the needed land. Predicted ticket prices to travel from LA to the Bay have shot from $50 to more than $80. State funding is running short. Last month's cap-and-trade auction for greenhouse gases, expected to provide $150 million for the train, yielded a mere $2.5 million. And no investors are lining up to fill the $43 billion construction-budget gap.

Now, courtesy of Los Angeles Times reporter Ralph Vartabedian, comes yet another damning revelation: When the Spanish construction company Ferrovial submitted its winning bid for a 22-mile segment, the proposal included a clear and inconvenient warning: "More than likely, the California high speed rail will require large government subsidies for years to come." Ferrovial reviewed 111 similar systems around the world and found only three that cover their operating costs.

Second, the end of scientific glass blowers.

Here in Caltech's one-man glass shop, where Gerhart transforms a researcher's doodles into intricate laboratory equipment, craftsmanship is king. No two pieces of scientific glassware are the same, and for more than two decades, students and Nobel laureates alike have begun each project with Gerhart's blessing that, yes, he can create the tools to make their experiments possible.

But Gerhart, 71, is retiring, and the search is on to find someone, anyone, who can fill his shoes. In a cost-cutting world of machines and assembly plants, few glass blowers remain with the level of mastery needed at research hubs like Caltech.

"He's a somewhat dying breed," said Sarah Reisman, who relied on Gerhart to create 20 maze-like contraptions for her synthetic organic chemistry lab. "There just aren't as many scientific glass blowers anymore, and certainly not ones that have Rick's level of experience. Even a fraction of that experience, I think, just isn't out there."

We can't build anything new, and we're even losing the ability to build many old things.

Kevin D. Williamson writes that the Democrats have forgotten the difference between citizens and subjects.

The bearing of arms is a sign of citizenship, which is to say, of being a full participant in government who acts through it, as opposed to subjectship, the state of being a passive being who does not act through government but who is acted upon. In that sense, it is like the ability to vote or to be eligible for service in government. Frederick Douglass understood this linkage perfectly, inasmuch as these ideas were much better understood in those more literate days. "A man's rights rest in three boxes," he said. "The ballot box, jury box, and the cartridge box. Let no man be kept from the ballot box because of his color. Let no woman be kept from the ballot box because of her sex." The militias contemplated by the Second Amendment were armed citizen volunteers who could act to use the force of arms to keep the peace in an emergency; they are entitled to act in the peacekeeping role generally reserved for the state because, being the citizens of a republic, they are the state, the very seat of its sovereignty.

Or as Charlton Heston put it: "From my cold, dead hands!"

This brings back a lot of memories from my high school days: "Argument Over Boy Prompts 30-Girl Fight At University Prep". Don't worry ladies, there's plenty of Michael to go around!

The fight allegedly began with two girls arguing over a boy. It escalated to about 30 girls being involved in total and involved screaming, kicking and punches being thrown.

A professor in Texas has quit his job because he's afraid of his students exercising their civil rights.

A professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin very publicly quit earlier this month in response to a new state law that allows students to bring their handguns into all classrooms and offices -- including his 500-person introductory economics lectures. The professor, Daniel Hamermesh, has become a symbol for frustrated faculty nervous over the spreading of campus concealed-carry laws.

Gun rights are civil rights. As Glenn Reynolds notes:

I'm sure that many professors in the past were uncomfortable about having women, or blacks, or openly gay students in their classrooms, too. But happily, progress marches on and people's visceral fears and dislikes weren't allowed to rule.

I feel like this should be obvious by now, but "gun-free zones" endanger lives. If the goal is really to protect innocent people from criminals, we should eliminate "gun-free zones".

Every public mass shooting since 1950, except for two, has occurred in a gun-free zone. This shooting is no different.

The Umpqua Community College is a gun-free zone, as are the locations of many recent shootings: the Lafayette, La., theater; the Charleston, S.C., church; the military recruiting center in Tennessee.

Guns were outlawed at all these locations, and yet the killers ignored the bans. Plus, the shooters passed background checks -- as did the Oregon shooter, who passed several background checks in purchasing his firearms.

It seems that topless feminists usually disrupt Christian events, but these two are a lot braver than most and storm the stage at a Muslim conference. The video shows the women being thrown to the ground on-stage and kicked brutally.

Two topless feminists have stormed the stage at a Muslim conference in France. The activists, from hard-line feminist outfit Femen jumped on stage, with "Nobody makes me submit" scrawled across their bare chests. The most prominent protester shouted, "Nobody makes me submit, me nobody owns me, I'm my own prophet!" before being dragged and kicked off the stage by angered Muslims.

James Taranto notes that the Left support speech by corporations, as long as the speech lines up with the Left's viewpoint. Everything makes sense once you realize that the modern Left is totalitarian.

The Times's position is that corporations (with the convenient exception of "media corporations" like the New York Times Co. itself) have no rights under the First Amendment. That view underlay its histrionic objections to both Citizens United and last year's Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, in which the high court extended the religious-liberty protection of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to corporations that objected to the ObamaCare abortifacient mandate on conscientious grounds.

But now the Times is urging corporations, and executives acting in their corporate capacity, to speak out aggressively in favor of a political cause the Times supports. How could they even do so without free speech?

That seems like a rhetorical question but isn't. Opponents of free speech, such as the Times editorial board, do not oppose speech. They oppose freedom. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes may not brook dissent, but they encourage speech in favor of the regime. Totalitarian regimes frequently compel pro-regime speech.

Not for the faint of heart, but here's a look into human sacrifice and cannibalism in the Aztec Empire. Unsurprisingly, much of it comes down to geography.

In the Old World, domestication of herbivorous mammals, such as cattle, sheep, and pigs, proceeded apace with that of food plants. By about 7,200 B.C. in the New World, however, ancient hunters had completely eliminated herbivores suitable for domestication from the area anthropologists call Mesoamerica, the region of the future high civilizations of Mexico and Guatemala. Only in the Andean region and southern South America did some camel-related species, especially the llama and the alpaca, manage to survive hunters' onslaughts, and thus could be domesticated later, along with another important local herbivore, the guinea pig. In Mesoamerica, the guinea pig was not available, and the Camelidae species became extinct several thousand years before domesticated food production had to be seriously undertaken. Dogs, such as the Mexican hairless, and wildfowl, such as the turkey, had to be bred for protein. The dog, however, was a far from satisfactory solution because, as a carnivore, it competed with its breeders for animal protein.

It seems that the whole Aztec Empire was organized around cannibalism:

At first glance, this prohibition against commoners eating human flesh casts doubt on cannibalism's potential to mobilize the masses of Aztec society to engage in wars for prisoners. Actually, the prohibition was, if anything, a goad to the lower class to participate in these wars since those who single-handedly took captives several times gained the right to eat human flesh. Successful warriors became members of the Aztec elite and their descendants shared their privileges. Through the reward of flesh-eating rights to the group most in need of them, the Aztec rulers assured themselves an aggressive war machine and were able to motivate the bulk of the population, the poor, to contribute to state and upper-class maintenance through active participation in offensive military operations. Underlying the war machine's victories, and the resultant sacrifices, were the ecological extremities of the Valley of Mexico.

With an understanding of the importance of cannibalism in Aztec culture, and of the ecological reasons for its existence, some of the Aztecs' more distinctive institutions begin to make anthropological sense. For example, the old question of whether the Aztecs' political structure was or was not an "empire" can be reexamined. One part of this problem is that the Aztecs frequently withdrew from conquered territory without establishing administrative centers or garrisons. This "failure" to consolidate conquest in the Old World fashion puzzled Cortés, who asked Moctezuma to explain why he allowed the surrounded Tlaxcalans to maintain their independence. Moctezuma reportedly replied that his people could thus obtain captives for sacrifice. Since the Aztecs did not normally eat people of their own policy, which would have been socially and politically disruptive, they needed nearby "enemy" populations on whom they could prey for captives. This behavior makes sense in terms of Aztec cannibalism: from the Aztec point of view, the Tlaxcalan state was preserved as a stockyard. The Aztecs were unique among the world's states in having a cannibal empire. Understandably, they did not conform to Old World concepts of empire, based on economies with domesticated herbivores providing meat or milk.

Kyle Smith says Brian Williams' lie wasn't an innocent mistake. I think he's right to look at the direction of the deception:

What Williams' lie was about was what lies are always about: No one who actually scored the winning touchdown on the high-school football team misremembers it as sitting on the bench. The term "fish tale" does not mean you mistakenly tell people you caught a sickly ­8-ounce catfish when actually you snagged a 95-pound monster marlin.

It's hard to tell the truth all the time, especially when you can personally benefit from lying just a little bit. If telling the truth were easy we wouldn't value it so highly.

As a society, we're wise to penalize a person who is caught in a single lie. We have to assume that 90% of lies won't be caught, and that a person who is caught is likely to lie more than most people.

William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone echo an observation about robots replacing ever-more-capable workers and how the shift to automation will affect society. They even follow my example and use IQ as a proxy for generic capability -- though they ignore the gender implications.

Suppose, today, that the robots and smart machines of the Second Economy are only capable of doing the work of a person of average intelligence - that is, an IQ of 100. Imagine that the technology in those machines continues to improve at the current rate. Suppose further that this rate of technological progress raises the IQ of these machines by 1.5 points per year. By 2025 these machines will have an IQ greater than 90% of the U.S. population. That 15 point increase in IQ over ten years would put another 50 million jobs within reach of smart machines.

Impossible? In fact, the vanguard of those 115-point IQ machines is already here. In certain applications, the minds of highly educated MD's are no longer needed. In 2013, the FDA approved Johnson & Johnson's Sedasys machine, which delivers propofol to sedate patients without the need for an anesthesiologist. An emerging field in radiology is computer-aided diagnosis (CADx). And a recent study published by the Royal Society showed that computers performed more consistently in identifying radiolucency (the appearance of dark images) than radiologists almost by a factor of ten.

Politicians, economists, and scientists might debate these particular estimates, but to do so is to miss the larger point. Machine intelligence is already having a major effect on the value of work - and for major segments of the population, human value is now being set by the cost of equivalent machine intelligence.

The shift to automation will be a growing challenge for capitalism as the dependent class grows.

Conservative Party London Mayor Boris Johnson comes to the defense of Philae mission astrophysicist Matt Taylor and his sartorial whimsy. Here's a picture of the supposedly offensive shirt:


Says Mayor Johnson:

This mission is a colossal achievement. Millions of us have been watching Philae's heart-stopping journey. Everyone in this country should be proud of Dr Taylor and his colleagues, and he has every right to let his feelings show.

Except, of course, that he wasn't crying with relief. He wasn't weeping with sheer excitement at this interstellar rendezvous. I am afraid he was crying because he felt he had sinned. He was overcome with guilt and shame for wearing what some people decided was an "inappropriate" shirt on television. "I have made a big mistake," he said brokenly. "I have offended people and I am sorry about this."

I watched that clip of Dr Taylor's apology - at the moment of his supreme professional triumph - and I felt the red mist come down. It was like something from the show trials of Stalin, or from the sobbing testimony of the enemies of Kim Il-sung, before they were taken away and shot. It was like a scene from Mao's cultural revolution when weeping intellectuals were forced to confess their crimes against the people.

Why was he forced into this humiliation? Because he was subjected to an unrelenting tweetstorm of abuse. He was bombarded across the internet with a hurtling dustcloud of hate, orchestrated by lobby groups and politically correct media organisations.

And so I want, naturally, to defend this blameless man. And as for all those who have monstered him and convicted him in the kangaroo court of the web - they should all be ashamed of themselves.

Let's celebrate the brilliance of Dr. Taylor and the rest of the Philae team and reserve our faux outrage for really offensive shirts.

California has passed a new "affirmative consent" law that apparently only affects colleges and college students. I don't believe that there's a rape epidemic on college campuses, but I do believe that our cultural morals have completely collapsed. I think most people understand that college students shouldn't be getting drunk and screwing each other randomly, but our culture is so degraded that we can't say so anymore.

At California colleges, students must now ensure they have the affirmative consent of their partners at the beginning of a sexual encounter and maintain that consent throughout the activity. The law states that consent "can be revoked at any time." The absence of "no," the law says, is insufficient to indicate consent.

The law is written to be gender neutral (as Constitutionally required) but I'm sure the assumption is that the complainants will women and the accused will be men. However, the new law isn't just about what most people think of as "rape", it covers any situation in which the participants aren't vocalizing their "yes"es. And in that ambiguous grey area, according to the CDC, men are frequently victims of women, too.

Unsurprisingly, when the definition of rape -- or, as it's often now called in order to provide less clarity, "sexual assault" -- expands to include a lot more than behavior distinguished by superior physical strength, the incidence of rape goes up, and behavior engaged in by women is more likely to be included in the definition. (At juvenile detention centers nine out of 10 reporters of sexual assault are males victimized by female staffers.)

Thus, as Young points out, the CDC finds that men make up over a third of the victims of "sexual coercion," which can include such things as "lies or false promises, threats to end a relationship or spread negative gossip, or 'making repeated requests' for sex and expressing unhappiness at being turned down."

So it will be interesting to see what happens when men start filing complaints.

Camille Paglia identifies one part of the absurdity by exhorting young women to overcome the naivety of modern feminism.

Misled by the naive optimism and "You go, girl!" boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.

I'll go farther. The civilization we enjoy-- the civilization that enables this naivety -- was founded on a simple sexual morality: don't have sex outside of marriage. Throughout history lots of people paid lip-service to this morality while ignoring it privately. We're now getting into the second generation that actively denigrates traditional sexual morality in both deed and word, and we're starting to reap the consequences.

(HT: Althouse.)

This glossary of gestures will come in very handy at your next TED talk. Example:

shelf sweep.gif

The Shelf Sweep.

Begin with both hands at right hand shoulder. Sweep across the top shelf of imaginary bookcase. When level with left shoulder, make sharp rotation of wrists and sweep across lower shelf.

Use when explaining hierarchies.

This post is only partially tongue-in-cheek. Body language is an important element of communication, and using the right gestures is certainly as significant as idiom choice when signaling your membership in a particular social group.

Is it ever better to make a quick decision than to take your time and be more deliberative? This anonymously-sourced account of President Obama's deliberations about ISIS portrays the President as very thoughtful and concerned with making "the right decision", and he seems keenly aware that his opponents (myself included) view him as indecisive. In my opinion, the President is wrong to ignore the emotional dimension of leadership -- sometimes you can make the best decision at the wrong time and come out worse than if you had made a worse decision at the right time.

"Oh, it's a shame when you have a wan, diffident, professorial president with no foreign policy other than 'don't do stupid things,' " guests recalled [Obama] saying, sarcastically imitating his adversaries. "I do not make apologies for being careful in these areas, even if it doesn't make for good theater." ...

It was clear to the guests how aware Mr. Obama was of the critics who have charged him with demonstrating a lack of leadership. He brought up the criticism more than once with an edge of resentment in his voice.

"He's definitely feeling it," said one guest. At one point, Mr. Obama noted acidly that President Ronald Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon only to have hundreds of them killed in a terrorist attack because of terrible planning, and then withdrew the remaining ones, leaving behind a civil war that lasted years. But Reagan, he noted, is hailed as a titan striding the earth.

"He's not a softy," Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter and attended the dinner Monday, said of Mr. Obama. "I think part of the problem with some of his critics is they think he's a softy. He's not a softy. But he's a person who tries to think through these events so you can draw some long-term conclusions."

President Reagan was a master of the emotional side of leadership, a talent that President Obama appears to completely lack -- or intentionally avoid. I can relate to the President: acting on emotion is not something that comes naturally to me -- my tendency is to sideline my emotions and attempt to make decisions based on reason alone. However, I've come to realize that when it comes to leading others it's critical to engage emotionally with your team, and decisiveness is an important component of that engagement.

Apparently I'm not the only one:

The new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal/Annenberg Poll finds 62% of Americans support Obama taking action against ISIS.

But fully 68% of his countrymen say they have "very little" or "just some" confidence that Obama will achieve his newly-discovered strategic goals of degrading and defeating ISIS through bombing and an international coalition.

Perhaps worse, only slightly more than one-in-four (28%) have "a great deal" or "quite a bit" of confidence their president will achieve the murderous group's demise.

Part of the faith deficit stems from Obama's chronic tardiness, in person and in policy. You may recall for years now, even after the deadly Benghazi attack proved him delusional, Obama's been touting how badly al Qaeda's leadership had been "decimated" and how dead Osama bin Laden was.

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

This New York Times editorial from 1987 advocates eliminating the minimum wage, which was $3.35/hour at the time. No doubt the current editors would disagree with their predecessors. However, the suggestion to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit was a good idea then and is a good idea now. The EITC is basically a way to distribute the cost of the minimum wage, and expanding the EITC in exchange for repealing the minimum wage would be a huge win.

Perhaps the mistake here is to accept the limited terms of the debate. The working poor obviously deserve a better shake. But it should not surpass our ingenuity or generosity to help some of them without hurting others. Here are two means toward that end: Wage supplements. Government might subsidize low wages with cash or payments for medical insurance, pensions or Social Security taxes. Alternatively, Washington could enlarge the existing earned income tax credit, a ''negative'' income tax paying up to $800 a year to working poor families. This would permit better targeting, since minimum-wage workers in affluent families would not be eligible. Training and education. The alternative to supplementing income for the least skilled workers is to raise their earning power in a free labor market. In the last two decades, dozens of programs to do that have produced mixed results at a very high cost. But the concept isn't necessarily at fault; nurturing the potential of individuals raised in poverty is very difficult. A humane society would learn from its mistakes and keep trying.

The idea of using a minimum wage to overcome poverty is old, honorable - and fundamentally flawed. It's time to put this hoary debate behind us, and find a better way to improve the lives of people who work very hard for very little.

(HT: James Taranto.)

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