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That Time Mike Huckabee Preached Against Booze, Sex, and Monty Python

| Fri May 8, 2015 1:34 PM EDT

Good luck tracking down sermons from Mike Huckabee's two decades as a Baptist preacher. The GOP presidential candidate, who once started a television station out of his church to broadcast his sermons, kept those tapes under wraps during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Among the handful of sermons open to the public is a partial recording of a 1979 sermon in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, at the congregation Huckabee had tended as a pastor a decade earlier when he was a student at Ouachita Baptist University. The sermon, included in the school's special collections, catches a young Huckabee confident in his beliefs and fluid in his rhetoric, riffing from one New Testament passage to the next in critiquing the most "pleasure-mad society that probably has ever been since Rome and Greece, in the days when there was just absolute chaos and debauchery on the streets":

It's a sad thing but it's true in this country: 10,000 people a year are directly killed by alcohol in this country. Ten thousand. But we license liquor. There's one person a year on average killed by a mad dog, just one. But you know what we do? We license liquor, and we shoot the mad dog. That's an insane logic! But it's what's happening, it's because we love pleasure more than anything else. A lot of times we look around our society we see this problem we see pornography and prostitution and child abuse and all the different things that we're all so upset about. You know why they're there? You know why they're in the communities? You say "because the Devil"—they're there because of us.

It was dark days indeed, he argued, when "an x-rated theater can open up down the street from a church." Above all, Huckabee was upset with Monty Python's 1979 movie, Life of Brian. Huckabee was hardly alone in condemning Life of Brian, which follows the story of a Jewish man, Brian, who is mistaken for the Messiah because he was born on the same day as Jesus. The film was banned in Ireland; picketed in New Jersey; denounced by a coalition of Christian and Jewish leaders; and canceled in Columbia, South Carolina after a last-minute intervention from Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond. (On the other hand, the movie does have a score of 96 at Rotten Tomatoes.) Per Huckabee:

There was a time in this country when a movie like The Life of Brian which, I just read—thank God the theaters in Little Rock decided not to show, but it's showing all over the Fort Worth–Dallas area, which is a mockery, which is a blasphemy against the very name of Jesus Christ, and I can remember a day even as young as I am when that would not have happened in this country or in the city in the South.

But friend, it's happening all over and no one's blinking an eye, and we can talk about how the devil's moved in and the devil's moved in but what's really happened is God's people have moved out and made room for it. We've put up the for sale sign and we've announced a very cheap price for what our lives really are. We've sold our character, we've sold our convictions, we've compromised we've sold out and as a result we've moved out the devil's moved in and he's set up shop. And friend [he's] praying on our own craving for pleasure.

No word on whether Huckabee will defund the Ministry of Silly Walks if elected.

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Bonus Friday Cat Blogging - 8 May 2015

| Fri May 8, 2015 12:00 PM EDT

Well, I'm home. I slept in my own bed last night for the first time in two weeks. No cats to greet me, though, since we first have to wait for all my shiny new cells to mature a bit—enough to handle a couple of cats, anyway. The furballs will be back home in three weeks, but in the meantime here are Hilbert and Hopper lounging on my sister's magazine pile. Sadly, the New York magazine on the far left met with a gory death a few days after this picture was taken. It is the price of cuteness.

Why Would an Economic Analysis Want to Ignore American Slavery?

| Fri May 8, 2015 7:00 AM EDT

While Kevin Drum is focused on getting better, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 to this day to contribute posts and keep the conversation going. Today we're honored to present a post from Ryan Cooper, national correspondent for the Week.

The next several years will see a rolling 150th anniversary of Reconstruction, my favorite period in American history. From about 1865 to 1877, American society as a whole tried reasonably hard to do right by the freed slaves, before getting tired of the effort and abandoning them to the depredations of racist terrorism. For the next nine decades, black Americans had few if any political rights under the boot heel of Jim Crow.

It's both a shining example of what can happen when a society really tries to right a past wrong, and tragic, infuriating failure of will. But most of all it's very interesting. Things were changing, social orders were being overthrown, historical ground was being broken. At a time when few nations had any suffrage at all, roughly 4 million freed slaves got the vote in a single stroke, perhaps the single starkest act of democratic radicalism in world history.

So it's weirdly fascinating to read conservative historiography of the 19th century, such as this piece by Robert Tracinski at the Federalist, as an example of how Darryl Worley-style historiography irons all the best parts out of American history.

He's interested in trying to prove that a "non-coercive" economy is possible, by which he means that taxes and spending could be dramatically lower than they are today. Thus he charts government spending as a percentage of GDP, finds that it was pretty low for most of the 19th century, and claims victory:

What the left wants is not just to make America’s economic history disappear. It needs to make America’s political system disappear: to make truly small, truly limited government seem like a utopian fantasy that can safely be dismissed. Please bear in mind that this latest example came up in the context of a discussion about the justification for government force. So what they want to describe as an unrealistic fantasy is a society not dominated by coercion.

One might think that when writing a paean to a noncoercive century, it might be a good idea to address the fact that for 60 percent of that century, it was government policy that human beings could be owned and sold like beasts, or that half or more of the national economy was based on that institution. But no, the word "slavery" does not appear in the piece. Neither does "Civil War" or "Reconstruction," which as a literal war against and military occupation of the South would seem fairly coercive.

So speaking of the 19th century as one notably free of coercion is not just utterly risible, it's also a cockeyed way to look at what was good or bad about it. The economy of the antebellum South was founded on the labor of owned human beings, extracted through torture. Slave masters set steadily increasing quotas for cotton picking, for instance, and would flog slaves according to the number of "missing" pounds. As Edward Baptist writes, they thus increased the productivity of slave cotton-picking by nearly 400 percent from 1860 to 1865.

It was akin to the Gulag system of Soviet Russia, except that it had all the power of the red-hot Industrial Revolution, including cutting-edge financial technology, behind it. That combination of slavery plus explosive economic growth and innovation made the antebellum South one of the most profoundly evil places that has ever existed — one that was an absolutely critical part of early industrial growth in both Britain and the North.

But on the other hand, the war that ended slavery, despite involving coercion in the form of organized mass killing, was therefore good! And so was Reconstruction, even though that involved extremely harsh measures against the likes of the KKK. Whether coercion is good or bad depends on just who is being coerced and why.

And that, in turn, puts the lie to conservative complaints that liberals always "blame America first." On the contrary, grappling with the pitch-black periods of history makes the positive notes shine all the brighter. As Ta-Nehisi Coates has written, the "epoch of slavery is…the quintessential romance of American history." It's just a romance difficult to detect in the GDP statistics.

This Study Will Add Fuel to the Abortion Wars

| Thu May 7, 2015 4:16 PM EDT

On Thursday, the New York Times carried a front-page story reporting new research that could have a profound impact on the nation's abortion debate: a study concluding that a small number of premature infants born at 22 weeks can survive with intensive treatment.

The study, which appears in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed 5,000 infants born between 22 and 27 weeks of gestation. Seventy-eight of those infants were born at 22 weeks and given treatment to increase their chances of survival; 18 of them survived. Of the 18, which the researchers followed up on as toddlers, 6 experienced severe impairments, from blindness to debilitating cerebral palsy, and 7 were relatively healthy.

The news has huge implications for the the medical community, where there has been debate about how much treatment to provide to babies born at this stage of gestation. But it could also have sweeping consequences for the fight against abortion rights—giving abortion opponents new support for a popular abortion ban, while possibly undermining their quest to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a right to abortion.

In the immediate future, the news is most likely to impact the coming congressional debate over House Republicans' proposed 20-week abortion ban, which many see as a direct challenge to Roe. In that ruling, the justices forbid the states from banning abortion before a fetus was viable outside the womb. A 20-week ban, mainstream medical groups have argued, bars abortion before viability.

But abortion foes may use this new study to argue that 20 weeks is indeed within the range of viability, and a ban on procedures after 20 weeks is legal. (When abortion opponents talk about 20-week bans, technically, they mean 22-week bans. Click here to read a full explanation.)

Viability, however, is not a bright red line. And this new research is less of a breakthrough and more of a rigorous confirmation of what smaller, less systematic studies have already observed. One such study found that 85 percent of infants born at 22 weeks (or 20 weeks, in political parlance) die within 12 hours. Another study found that 98 percent of 22-week-old infants are born with major health issues such as brain hemorrhaging, and 93 percent die within a year. (The University of California-San Francisco Medical Center, by contrast, states that no infants born earlier than 23 weeks have survived.) Some major medical groups have been debating whether to move average viability to 23 weeks from 24 weeks. But there are no signs that the study will cause medical organizations to set 22 weeks as the new average viability.

Abortion foes have always had dual motives for pushing 20-week abortion bans. (About 2 percent of all abortions would be affected by a 20-week abortion ban. About 13,000 women sought these abortions in 2011, the most recent year for which there is reliable data.) In public, they insist that these bans are only preventing abortions of viable infants. The majority of the medical community wouldn't agree, but there is broad public support for the idea of banning abortion on viable pregnancies.

At the same time, as I reported earlier this year, 20-week bans are designed to bring a challenge to Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court. In Roe, the justices ruled that states could not set a specific date for viability. (That determination was left up to doctors.) The legal wing of the abortion rights movement is fighting some 20-week bans, which have been passed in 10 states, on the grounds that they violate Roe. If one of those cases were to make it to the Supreme Court, it could be an opportunity for the justices to overturn Roe's viability standard altogether.

Here's Samuel Lee, a former lobbyist for Missouri Citizens for Life, explaining how a measure he wrote, requiring doctors to perform viability tests before providing abortions to women who appeared to be at least 20 weeks pregnant, was designed to overturn Roe:

The 20 weeks gestational age was chosen to push the envelope on when the state's interest in protecting the life of the unborn child could take place. It was designed as an opportunity to attack the Roe trimester framework, while still giving the Court some wriggle room (the statute required a determination of viability, not a prohibition of abortion after viability). It was an opportunity for the Court to discuss an interest by the state in protecting unborn human life earlier than the viability line of demarcation permitted…It was chosen because it was earlier than the earliest limits of viability at the time, but not so early that the unborn child could never be viable.

The Supreme Court upheld Lee's provision in 1989. Later, Justice Thurgood Marshall's papers revealed that the conservative majority in Webster had come within one vote of using the 20-week provision to strike down Roe entirely.

If the average age of viability were to inch backward toward 22 weeks—with this study being the first step—then 20-week abortion bans would cease to pose a broad constitutional challenge to Roe. At the time of its ruling, after all, the Supreme Court majority noted that average viability began at 28 weeks (the start of the third trimester), but it was possible that fetuses would someday be viable as early at 24 weeks.

In other words, the medical advances behind this new research don't automatically undermine Roe—especially when it comes to something as nebulous as viability. But they may fuel the drive for a national 20-week abortion ban.

*Abortion opponents typically count the weeks of pregnancy from the date of fertilization, while the medical community uses the more rigorous method of counting the weeks of pregnancy from the start of a woman's last menstrual period. In medical terms, then, the House Republicans' 20-week abortion ban is actually a 22-week abortion ban. Unless we're talking about the bans, this article uses the medical method of dating a pregnancy.

This Is the Degrading Bullshit Nail Salon Workers Put Up With Every Single Day

| Thu May 7, 2015 3:29 PM EDT

Update, May 11, 2015: Following the Times investigation, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an emergency order to protect nail salon employees from health dangers and wage theft. 

Scoring a cheap manicure or pedicure, particularly in New York, is incredibly easy. After all, nail salons abound on seemingly every other city block and thus keep prices low in order to compete. It all comes at a steep price, however. The New York Times has published an in-depth investigation looking into the disturbing culture of exploitation, racism, and low-wages salon workers endure throughout the New York region. Here are the most shocking bits:

Some workers are paid as little as $1.50 an hour. In Manhattan, where the average price for a manicure is $10.50, salons compensate for such low prices by severely underpaying workers and oftentimes hitting employees with surprise charges just to work there. On slow days, some worker aren't even paid at all.

Among the hidden customs are how new manicurists get started. Most must hand over cash — usually $100 to $200, but sometimes much more — as a training fee. Weeks or months of work in a kind of unpaid apprenticeship follows.

Ms. Ren spent almost three months painting on pedicures and slathering feet with paraffin wax before one afternoon in the late summer when her boss drew her into a waxing room and told her she would finally be paid.

Race often determines how well a worker is paid.

Korean workers routinely earn twice as much as their peers, valued above others by the Korean owners who dominate the industry and who are often shockingly plain-spoken in their disparagement of workers of other backgrounds. Chinese workers occupy the next rung in the hierarchy; Hispanics and other non-Asians are at the bottom.

[...]

Many Korean owners are frank about their prejudices. "Spanish employees" are not as smart as Koreans, or as sanitary, said Mal Sung Noh, 68, who is known as Mary, at the front desk of Rose Nails, a salon she owns on the Upper East Side.

Workers are frequently subjected to physical abuse.

...the minichain of Long Island salons whose workers said they were not only underpaid but also kicked as they sat on pedicure stools, and verbally abused.

Salons rarely go punished because language barriers prove too difficult.

When investigators try to interview them, manicurists are frequently reluctant to cooperate, more so than in any other industry, according a Labor Department official involved who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not permitted to talk with reporters. "It’s really the only industry we see that in,” the person said, explaining that it most likely indicated just how widespread exploitation is in nail salons. "They are totally running scared in this industry."

In all, the story paints a deeply disturbing portrait of income inequality literally an arm's length away. To read the investigation in its entirety, head to the Times.

These Scientists Just Lost Their Lives in the Arctic. They Were Heroes.

| Thu May 7, 2015 3:14 PM EDT
Philip de Roo (left) and Marc Cornelissen.

Early last month, veteran polar explorers and scientists Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo set out on skis from Resolute Bay, a remote outpost in the patchwork of islands between Canada and Greenland. Their destination was Bathurst Island, a treacherous 70-mile trek to the northwest across the frozen sea, where they planned to document thinning Arctic sea ice just a few months after NASA reported that the winter ice cover was the lowest on record.

It wasn't hard to find what they were looking for, according to a dispatch Cornelissen uploaded to Soundcloud on April 28.

"We're nearing into the coast of Bathurst," he said. "We think we see thin ice in front of us…Within 15 minutes of skiing it became really warm. In the end it was me skiing in my underwear…I don't think it looked very nice, and it didn't feel sexy either, but it was the only way to deal with the heat."

His next message, a day later, was an emergency distress signal picked up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. According to the Guardian, a pilot flying over the spot reported seeing open water, scattered equipment, and a lone sled dog sitting on the broken ice. By last Friday, rescuers had called off the search. The pair are presumed to have drowned, victims of the same thin ice they had come to study. Cornelissen was 46; de Roo had just turned 30.

Yesterday, Cold Facts, the nonprofit with whom the pair was working at the time, dispatched a snowmobile expedition to attempt to recover their belongings. You can follow their progress on Twitter here. The dog, Kimnik, was found a few days ago and is doing fine, the group said.

In a blog post on the website of the European Space Agency, Cornelissen was remembered by former colleagues as "an inspirational character, an explorer and a romantic. He had fallen in love with the spellbinding beauty of the poles and had made it a personal mission to highlight the magnitude of the human fingerprint on this last wilderness."

It's not clear whether the ice conditions the pair encountered were directly attributable to climate change, according to E&E News:

That the region had thin ice is evident. Perhaps the ice had been thinned by ocean currents that deliver warm water from below, or by the wind, which could generate open water areas. It is difficult to know. Climate change may have played a role, or it may not have…the impacts of the warming on ice thickness regionally can be unpredictable, [ESA scientist Mark] Drinkwater said.

Still, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as anywhere else on Earth. We rely on the work of scientists like these to know exactly what is happening there and how it will affect those of us who choose to stay safe in warmer, drier places. Their deaths are a testament to the dedication and fearlessness required to stand on the front lines of climate change.

Rest in peace, guys.

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Attention Parents: Your Neighborhood Matters More Than You Do

| Thu May 7, 2015 12:34 PM EDT

A few days ago Justin Wolfers passed along some new research showing that growing up in a good neighborhood has immensely positive effects on future success:

I will start with the smaller of their two studies....The findings are remarkable....The children who moved when they were young enjoyed much greater economic success than similarly aged children who had not won the lottery....The sharpest test comes from those who won an experimental housing voucher that could be used only if they moved to low-poverty areas. Here the findings are striking, as those who moved as a result of winning this voucher before their teens went on to earn 31 percent more than those who did not win the lottery. They are also more likely to attend college.

....It is rare to see social science overturn old beliefs so drastically. It happened because these scholars returned to an old experiment with a fresh perspective, based on the idea that what matters is how long children are exposed to good or bad neighborhoods. But is this the right perspective?

Here’s where the second study is critical. While the conclusions of the Moving to Opportunity project are based on following only a few thousand families, Mr. Chetty and Mr. Hendren use earnings records to effectively track the careers and neighborhoods of five million people over 17 years.

Instead of contrasting the outcomes of families in different areas — which may simply reflect different families choosing to live in different areas — they can track what happens to families when they move....Their findings are clear: The earlier a family moved to a good neighborhood, the better the children’s long-run outcomes. The effects are symmetric, too, with each extra year in a worse neighborhood leading to worse long-run outcomes. Most important, they find that each extra year of childhood exposure yields roughly the same change in longer-run outcomes, but that beyond age 23, further exposure has no effect. That is, what matters is not just the quality of your neighborhood, but also the number of childhood years that you are exposed to it.

A crucial advantage of this analysis is that it follows the children through to early adulthood. This matters because a number of recent studies have shown that interventions have effects that might be hard to discern in test scores or behavioral problems, but that become evident in adulthood. The same pattern of years of exposure to good neighborhoods shaping outcomes is also apparent for college attendance, teenage births, teenage employment and marriage.

This may all seem obvious to you—of course good schools and good playmates matter a lot—but professionals in this field have long believed that quality of parenting is by far the most important factor in a child's success. This is a popular and comforting notion that Judith Rich Harris effectively demolished more than a decade ago in The Nurture Assumption, but it hangs on tenaciously anyway. Nor do you have to buy Harris's theories hook, line, and sinker to believe she has the basic shape of the river correct. For example, I happen to think she underplays the evidence that good parenting matters. But not by much. The simple fact is that kids pick up cues about how to act far more from the collective influence of friends, siblings, teachers, TV, babysitters, and others than they do from their parents. It's hardly even a fair contest. As I put it a few weeks ago: 

This means that the single biggest difference you can make is to be rich enough to afford to live in a nice neighborhood that provides nice playmates and good schools.

This, unfortunately, doesn't make things any easier for policymakers. Teaching good parenting skills may be a monumental challenge, but it's no less monumental than somehow conquering poverty and making sure every child grows up in a good neighborhood. There are no easy answers. But at a minimum, it's always better to at least make sure we're pointed in the right direction.

You're Really Going to Hate James Franco's Offensive Nostalgia Trip to McDonald's

| Thu May 7, 2015 11:20 AM EDT

In the midst of plummeting sales, pressure to bump wages, and an apparent gastronomic identity crisis, McDonald's needs all the help it can get right now to reclaim its status as a global fast-food powerhouse. Today, the company found a friend in actor James Franco.

The aspiring Renaissance man and actor, who once worked as a McDonald's employee for a total of three months, has penned a bizarre op-ed in the Washington Post to defend the company from its growing chorus of detractors. The piece, titled "McDonald's Was There for Me When No One Else Was," describes his decision to quit UCLA as an undergrad in 1996 in order to pursue an acting career.  While studying at a "hole-in-the-wall" acting school, Franco worked a part-time job at a Los Angeles McDonald's:

When I was hungry for work, they fed the need. I still love the simplicity of the McDonald’s hamburger and its salty fries. After reading "Fast Food Nation," it's hard for me to trust the grade of the meat. But maybe once a year, while on a road trip or out in the middle of nowhere for a movie, I'll stop by a McDonald’s and get a simple cheeseburger: light, and airy, and satisfying.

Franco, who seems to forget that being a drop-out from an elite university set him apart from most hourly workers at McDonald's, goes onto reminisce about his rosy experience: Mixing it up with co-workers and even practicing funny accents. "I refrained from reading on the job, but soon started putting on fake accents with the customers to practice for my scenes in acting class," he recalls. Franco even encountered a homeless family. "They lived out of their car and did crossword puzzles all day," Franco writes. "Sometimes they would order McDonald’s food, but other times they would bring in Chinese or groceries."

Franco also had the thrill of getting hit on by a man who actually cooked those "light, airy, and satisfying" burgers.

He wanted to hook up in the bathroom, but he didn’t speak English, so he had someone translate for him.

To everyone out there fighting for a living wage, this experience could offer some hope. After all, with the right attitude, McDonald's can be a stepping stone on your path to Hollywood stardom, just as it was for James Franco.

Do Small Businesses Deserve Exemptions From the Minimum Wage?

| Thu May 7, 2015 9:00 AM EDT
Brian Hibbs (far right) and his employees, some of whom may lose shifts or even their jobs, if San Francisco's minimum wage goes to $15.

Brian Hibbs, a Mother Jones reader and owner of Comix Experience, wrote in to object to San Francisco's plan to raise its minimum wage. Conservatives who argue against the minimum wage often point to jobs lost and heavy burdens on small businesses, and progressives largely brush off those arguments as so much Chamber of Commerce propaganda. And then you have guys like Hibbs. Read what he has to say, and then we'll discuss.

I own two comic book stores in SF, and while we're a profitable business and have been for 26 years, we're only modestly profitable, y'know? When you calculate my own salary on a per-hour basis, given that 70-hour weeks are not at all uncommon for me, I don't make much more than the high-end of SF's new minimum wage law.

Raising the minimum wage by 43 percent (from $11.05 today to $15 in 2018) means that we need to generate at least another 80 grand in revenue. Eighty grand. I don't personally make eighty grand in a year. I'm not some kind of fat cat getting rich off the exploitation of my workers or something. And look, if I did manage to increase sales by that amount, I'd sure be hoping that I got to keep a tiny little percentage of it myself.

Just so we're clear: The hole I find myself soon facing isn't one created by escalating San Francisco rents (my landlord is awesome!), or because of competition from the internet (in fact, our sales consistently grow year-over-year, and sales growth has accelerated since the introduction of digital comics), but one solely and entirely created by the increase of the minimum wage.

I'm a progressive; I support fair labor practices, and I try, above all else, to give the folks who work for me absolute agency in their jobs. I have multiple employees who quit higher paying jobs for corporate owners to come work for me, because I actively valued their passions. I don't own a comic book store to make money as my primary goal, right? The primary goal is to wake up the morning and be excited by what you do, to feel like you're spreading your passion, that you're promoting art, and creators and joy—and my staff feels much the same way.

I have staff who are supported by a spouse and are working for me to essentially make pocket money; I have staff who want to be full-time artists, and this helps them get closer to their goal by exposing them to the form and helping them make contacts. I have staff who are actively working toward having their own stores, and I'm basically paying them to get a master's class (though I am fine with that!). I have staff who are full-time students living at home.

I'm not exploiting any of them, I don't think. They all have options, and they all work for me because they want to.

If I can't increase sales by $80,000—which is not something that seems likely, given historical year-over-year gains—then I have to start firing people, or trimming hours of operation. We don't run extravagant overlaps—nearly 60 percent of the hours the stores are open we only have one person on deck; nor do we have a lot of waste or absurd inventory or anything like that. I've survived in a kind of marginal business for 26 years by being a savvy businessperson, and a relatively nimble and predictive one. But firing people, cutting hours…how does that help the employees? How does that help the business expand so I can eventually hire more people?

I have the largest staff of any SF comics business (because I have two locations), and, in point of fact, my two closest competitors have zero employees. Not being impacted by this mandate, they'd have no reason to raise prices in tandem…and really, every reason to not do so. If I raised prices by, let's say, 10 percent to meet this mandate, I'm absolutely positive we'd lose at least 20 percent of our business to stores that didn't raise their prices—thereby putting us at a net negative.

We’re trying to solve this problem by growing our way out of it with a new national, curated Graphic-Novel-of-the-Month Club, but I think that if we’re able to succeed from that (and I am not at all sure we will) it will be because of years of building our exceptional reputation. As a result, I do not at all think that this type of solution is scalable for the average small business. The City of San Francisco’s own Office of Economic Analysis believes the minimum wage hike will cost 15,270 jobs, or 2 percent of the private workforce!

Honestly, if San Francisco had voted for "Minimum Wage must be at least equal to X percent of your net profit" or "Every person in America gets a guaranteed income of $20,000/year paid for by progressive taxes" or some other scheme where you know that people being asked to contribute more can afford it, then maybe we'd be on sounder ideological ground...But I think that the higher minimum wage, the higher you're making the barriers for low-income people and marginal-but-promising businesses to even have a chance to enter the marketplace and to survive in the first place, let alone legacy businesses like ours.

Here's my personal take: It's hard not to feel sympathy for Hibbs, yet it would be a mistake to take his situation as a case for abolishing or making exceptions to the city's minimum wage law. As I've noted elsewhere, raising the minimum wage doesn't tend to decrease overall employment; in general, businesses find new efficiencies and their workers find themselves with more disposable income to spend on things like comics.

Of course, that's probably little comfort to Hibbs, who faces competition from smaller comics stores whose sole proprietors are the ones manning the cash registers. Hibbs may well be able to keep his doors open by downsizing, bringing in volunteers, or drumming up donations from devoted customers (as one local bookstore has done), but when it comes down to it, there simply may not be much of a future for bricks-and-mortar comics stores in a city with astronomical real estate prices.

"I super commiserate with him because we are in almost the identical situation," says Lew Prince, a member of the group Business for a Fair Minimum Wage and the owner of Vintage Vinyl, a record store in St. Louis. Dwindling sales and rising labor costs forced Prince to consolidate his two Vintage Vinyl locations into one. He nonetheless supports increasing Missouri's minimum wage from $7.65 to $12 an hour because he thinks it's the right thing to do. "The job of the business owner is to prepare for the future," he told me. "I have great empathy and sympathy for [Hibbs], but you have to do the job every day, and sometimes the marketplace defeats you."

But maybe that point of view is too harsh. I'd love to hear, in the comments, what Kevin's readers think about all of this.

This Supercut of Candidates Singing "Let's Get It On" Is Why We Love Britain During Elections

| Wed May 6, 2015 5:36 PM EDT
 

Who could get it on after #GE2015? Watch our #GeneralAffection song to find out.Full election coverage on Sky News, May 7th from 9pm.

Posted by Sky News on Thursday, April 30, 2015

British voters are heading to the polls today for what promises to be a very tight election. Latest polling suggests the two major parties, Labour and the Conservatives, are tied near the finish line. The result is likely to be what's known as a "hung parliament". Both Labour and the Conservatives will need support from smaller parties across the spectrum to form government—among them the Scottish National Party (SNP) on the left, the Liberal Democrats somewhere around the center, and UKIP, on the right. Whomever can stitch together enough seats in parliament to win a majority will ultimately form government. If no group of parties can get to the magic number of 326 seats, Britain might well be heading back to the polls again soon to sort this whole mess out.

Even if you're unfamiliar with British politics, the video above from Sky News gives a nice introduction to the main players—David Cameron (the current Conservative PM), Ed Miliband (the current opposition leader, from the Labour party), and Nicola Sturgeon, from the resurgent SNP among them. All set to Marvin Gaye's classic, "Let's Get It On". Enjoy. (And happy voting, friends across the pond.)