June 16

* At the beginning of this year, San Jose’s minimum wage went up to $10.10 per hour. USA Today investigated the results, and found:

Interviews with San Jose workers, businesses and industry officials show it has improved the lives of affected employees while imposing minimal costs on employers.

The minimum wage offers an example of a policy where we’ve had numerous “natural experiments” illustrating its effects, which might be of interest to the empirically inclined.

* Alect MacGillis takes a long look at the area that birthed Wisconsin governor and future presidential candidate Scott Walker:

He has succeeded in the sort of environment least conducive to producing a candidate capable of winning a national majority. Over the past few decades, Walker’s home turf of metropolitan Milwaukee has developed into the most bitterly divided political ground in the country — “the most polarized part of a polarized state in a polarized nation,” as a recent series by Craig Gilbert in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it. Thanks to a quirk of twentieth-century history, the region encompasses a heavily Democratic and African American urban center, and suburbs that are far more uniformly white and Republican than those in any other Northern city, with a moat of resentment running between the two zones. As a result, the area has given rise to some of the most worrisome trends in American political life in supercharged form: profound racial inequality, extreme political segregation, a parallel-universe news media. These trends predate Walker, but they have enabled his ascent, and his tenure in government has only served to intensify them. Anyone who believes that he is the Republican to save his party—let alone win a presidential election—needs to understand the toxic and ruptured landscape he will leave behind.

I’ve long thought that Walker combines a preternatural calm with a serious mean streak that may make him less than appealing on the national stage. I guess we’ll find out before long.

* Jonathan Bernstein says that despite what some people arguing, Eric Cantor’s defeat will have important effects in Congress:

The positions and tactics the radicals are pushing are not natural ones for politicians to take — for example, the belief that large chunks of mainstream science are a conspiracy against the oil companies or that seemingly suicidal tactics such as shutting down the government without any leverage are a bright idea. Maintaining those beliefs must take a lot of energy. And without constant replenishing, there is almost certainly going to be some backsliding – just as there was after Republicans got rid of House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

It’s one thing to know about a colleague who lost a primary a few years ago, but the more recently it happened — and the more seemingly invulnerable the person was — the more compelling the lesson.

* The Supreme Court ruled today that a federal law against “straw purchases” of guns doesn’t violate the Constitution. What’s truly amazing is that it was a five-four decision, with Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas dissenting.

* The phrase we hear over and over with regard to Iraq is “no boots on the ground.” But the White House is reportedly considering sending some special forces personnel to assist the Iraqi Army. Their boots will, presumably, hover just millimeters above the ground.

* Evan McMorris-Santoro reports that Democracy for America, the group founded by Howard Dean, is lobbying to stop military action in Iraq, a sign the left is gearing up, possibly to stop a Democratic president from going to war.

* Sen. David Vitter, who is favored to become the next governor of Louisiana, says he may accept the expansion of Medicaid, which shows the politics of this could be problematic for Republicans, even in Louisiana.

* The other Louisiana senator, Mary Landrieu, is favored for reelection by Louisiana political analysts, which shows it’s just way too early to count out even the most embattled of Dem incumbents.

* At the American Prospect, I wrote that for Democrats, Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the head, while for Republicans, she’s the candidate of the heart.

* Alex Seitz-Wald explains how Iraq could once again become a political problem for Clinton, just as it was in 2008.

* The Naitonal Memo reports on a new effort to satirize expected GOP opposition to U.S. negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Meet: The NO-Gotiator.

* GOP governors from multiple states are preparing to stand in the doors of their power plants and shout: “Coal pollution today, coal pollution tomorrow, coal pollution forever!” Lawsuits will surely be just the beginning of their efforts to sabotage the administration’s effort to deal with global warming.

* And finally: Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars. Sound advice.

What else?