Five Best Saturday Columns

On Republican tough guys, mothering in excess, and the Bin Laden exception.

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Paul Krugman on Wimpy Liberals and Republican Tough Guys. Paul Krugman makes the controversial statement that "the Bush administration saw torturing people as a plus, not a cost." Acknowledging that this is a bold accusation, he clarifies that it's not because the Bush administration were sadists, but rather because torture was part of their self-image. "From day one of the War on Terror (TM), it was clear that the Bush people reveled in the notion that they were tough guys, willing to Do What Needs to be Done. They were all wannabe Kiefer Sutherlands." Now, according to Krugman, Republicans have to face the fact that a "wimpy liberal" like President Obama, "someone who isn’t a tough guy by their standards seems to be doing a better job of getting the terrorists than they did."

Jason L. Riley on Race, Politics, and the Minimum Wage. Riley is the latest to take up the argument that minimum wage proponents have it wrong, and that high labor costs actually reduce employment, particularly for young black men. Riley cites a recent study released by the Employment Policies Institute, which has new data to add to the mix. "The Even and Macpherson study finds that among whites males ages 16-24, each 10% increase in a federal or state minimum wage has decreased employment by 2.5%. For Hispanic males, the figure is 1.2%. 'But among black males in this group, each 10% increase in the minimum wage has decreased employment by 6.5%.'" So how does Riley account for the fact that minimum wage laws remain popular in the face of this clear evidence to the contrary? The fault is owed to "liberals enamored of wealth redistribution schemes."

Lenore Skenazy on Separation of Mother and Child. The real gift mother's need, according to Lenore Skenazy, is a break. "Over the course of the past generation or two, the definition of good mom has morphed from 'lady who loves and feeds her kids' to 'lady who watches over her children every single second of the day lest they get abducted, bored or disappointed.'" For official evidence, Skenazy cites the fact that "Sesame Street will no longer endorse the idea of kids playing on their own. And don't even get me started about PBS's 'Cat in the Hat.' Now the mom is at home." She attributes this shift in parenting models to the media and marketing, the usual culprits. This is how far products have gone: there's a new device being developed at a Japanese university that kids can strap across their shirts with a GPS locator, camera, and heartbeat monitor. So if a child's heart starts racing, "the device can immediately snap a picture of whatever is in front of them. After all, it could be a predator." It's time for a change.

Glenn Greenwald on the Bin Laden Exception. Glenn Greenwald isn't surprised by the fact that there is widespread happiness over the death of Osama bin Laden. But he is taken aback by how little interest there seems to be in finding out the actual circumstances of his death. Despite the convoluted reports from Pakistan, there is a surpsing lack of push back on the issue. "I think what's really going on here is that there are a large number of people who have adopted the view that bin Laden's death is an unadulterated Good, and it therefore simply does not matter how it happened (ends justify the means, roughly speaking)." The Osama bin Laden exception is that "yes, I believe in all these principles of due process and restraining unfettered Executive killing and the like, but in this one case, I don't care if those are violated." The problem with the exception, from Greenwald's point of view, is that once you apply the exception to Bin Laden, "how does it stay confined to him?"

Robert Zaretsky on David Hume in Love. David Hume, according to the The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is the most important philosopher ever to write in English. On his 300th birthday, Robert Zaretsky describes one of his most misunderstood claims, "that reason is and always will be the slave to our passions," and how it came about. Predictably, it came about because of love, and it began in Paris. Hume became preoccupied with the Comtesse de Boufflers, so much so that his friend Gilbert Elliot became alarmed that Hume's heart would be "destroyed by her domineering character." Tragically for Hume, after her husband died, she devoted her energy to being the mistress of the Prince de Conti, and Hume was officially sidelined to the friend zone. Yet Hume corresponded with her most of his life, even writing to her on his deathbed.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.