About Those “Friends” Of The Supreme Court …

In case you wondered about some of those dubious recent Supreme Court decisions, this article sheds some light:

“The court is inundated with 11th-hour, untested, advocacy-motivated claims of factual expertise,” she wrote in an article to be published in The Virginia Law Review.

Some of the factual assertions in recent amicus briefs would not pass muster in a high school research paper. But that has not stopped the Supreme Court from relying on them. Recent opinions have cited “facts” from amicus briefs that were backed up by blog posts, emails or nothing at all.

Some amicus briefs are careful and valuable, of course, citing peer-reviewed studies and noting contrary evidence. Others cite more questionable materials.

Some “studies” presented in amicus briefs were paid for or conducted by the group that submitted the brief and published only on the Internet. Some studies seem to have been created for the purpose of influencing the Supreme Court.

Yet the justices are quite receptive to this dodgy data. Over the five terms from 2008 to 2013, the court’s opinions cited factual assertions from amicus briefs 124 times, Professor Larsen found.

Huhn. “Some studies seem to have been created for the purpose of influencing the Supreme Court.” Nobody could have anticipated!

Seriously, is anyone surprised by this? Anyone at all? In a world where everything is manipulated, skewed, twisted, freeped and reshaped to favor one political agenda or another, is anyone shocked to learn that groups have targeted the United States Supreme Court along with every other corner of American civic life?

No, what’s truly shocking is that our esteemed Justices haven’t used, pardon the pun, better judgment when it comes to the sources they cite in their opinions.

For example:

In a 2012 decision allowing strip searches of people arrested for even minor offenses as they are admitted to jail, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy cited an amicus brief to show that there are an “increasing number of gang members” entering the nation’s prisons and jails. The brief itself did little more than assert that “there is no doubt” this was so.

And in a 2013 decision, Justice Stephen G. Breyer cited an amicus brief to establish that American libraries hold 200 million books that were published abroad, a point of some significance in the copyright dispute before the court. The figure in the brief came from a blog post. The blog has been discontinued.

Good grief.

What’s really horrendous is that, as the article states, folks like Justices Scalia and Alito have criticized their colleagues’ practice of citing facts from amicus briefs in their decisions, yet they themselves do it, too — when it’s convenient for their arguments, of course. In the Hobby Lobby case, Alito….

…[refused] to consider “an intensely empirical argument” in an amicus brief. “We do not generally entertain arguments that were not raised below and are not advanced in this court by any party,” he wrote.

… yet in a 2011 decision,

… Justice Alito cited an amicus brief to show that more than 88 percent of American companies perform background checks on their workers.

“Where this number comes from is a mystery,” Professor Larsen wrote. “It is asserted in the brief without citation.”

What this tells me is SCOTUS justices have already made up their minds about the cases before them and cherry-pick dubiously-sourced “facts” from amicus briefs — or not! — to justify their pre-arrived decision.

This is a horrible thought, because it diminishes America’s highest court in the land to mere Kabuki. That’s a level of cynicism even I never fathomed.

We’re so fucked.

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I Don’t Know What This Means

We’ve just returned from our travels and I promised you some graffiti blogging. Unfortunately, we chose to travel to the cleanest place in America, so there was a startling lack of graffiti.

See if you can figure out what this means:

Jesus

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2nd Amendment Heroes, Husband & Wife Edition

I’m still on vacation but as always you Dear Readers are never far from my mind. In light of the fact that 9-year-olds are firing Uzis and the media has dredged up every gun loon in America to talk about how it’s perfectly safe, normal, admirable, advisable, etc. for them to do so, I thought this dispatch from the world of the Safest Most Responsible Evah might be in order:

Gerald Hitchler, 76, and his wife, Susan, 67, who have a second home in Door County, visited the fun park and Gerald apparently left a .380-caliber Ruger in a brown holster on the floor of the restroom. A customer found the gun and turned it in to the owner, who in turn contacted the Door County Sheriff’s Department.

A sheriff’s incident report noted the gun was loaded with seven rounds of ammunition. The serial number was traced to the owner, and the report indicated Gerald was shocked when he was called and learned they had the weapon. The case was initially closed and Gerald was supposed to pick it up this week.

Sheriff’s Investigator Connie Schuster confirmed they received additional information and the case has been reopened showing Gerald’s wife, Susan Hitchler, also left a semiautomatic loaded handgun in a stall of the women’s restroom on March 19 at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield.

Isn’t that special. But wait, there’s more:

Gerald was contacted by phone and asked if he realized the gun was missing and he responded, “not really.”

He said the incident was “funny, accidental” and “not a big deal.”

Well I guess it is for him, seeing as how he and his wife routinely leave loaded guns lying around in public places because Freedom.

And the best part:

The Hitchlers have concealed carry permits, and it appears each has a similar weapon.

In the world of gun-crazy America, leaving your loaded guns behind while still calling yourself the “safest, most responsible evah” is perfectly normal. As is having children firing machine guns, etc. etc. Sickos.

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Ask Your Doctor If Hiatus Is Right For You

I’m taking a bit of a break but you know me, I may find some interesting graffiti to share … back in a week or so. Be good!

Fuck The System

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Good News Friday

I totally forgot about last week’s Good News Friday post. Sorry!

Before jumping into the good stuff I have a sad follow-up to a recent Good News Friday post. This adorable baby giraffe was born at Bright’s Zoo in East Tennessee Aug. 7 and made the Tennessee Good News but I am sad to report that the animal died very suddenly Wednesday evening. Cause of death is still unknown. Let’s all pay some respect to the short life of this sweet creature:

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RIP. Your life was too short. Condolences to the zoo staff, as well. I understand they had grown quite attached to the little fella.

On to the good news:

• A progressive candidate in Arizona has an awesome message for pro-lifers wanting him to come between women and their medical decisions:

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• A federal judge has struck down Florida’s ban on gay marriage.

• A North Carolina judge has ruled that the state’s school vouchers program is unconstitutional, and has ordered the state to retrieve the taxpayer funds it distributed. Said the judge:

“The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” Hobgood said.

• Sarah Palin’s influence seems to have dissipated like a fart in the breeze.

• UK regulators have ruled the phrase “clean coal” is misleading, and have ordered U.S. coal giant Peabody Energy to remove it from their advertising.

• New York teenager Kenneth Shinozuka invented a wearable sensor device that alerts caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients when their patients are walking around. Shinozuka’s grandfather suffers from the disease.

• Tech billionaires Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are supporting a Washington State initiative requiring criminal background checks for all gun show and online firearms purchases. Stupidly, there’s a competing measure supported by gun loons that only requires background checks for licensed firearms dealers. However, they have not matched the fundraising power of the stronger measure.

• Bank of America will pay $16.65 billion to settle claims related to the mortgage meltdown.

• The largest conservation land purchase in Texas history is finally complete, thanks to the oil spill money: some 17,000 acres of coastal prairie, known as Powderhorn Ranch, has been preserved from development. It’s located near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, a place I visited some 30 years ago, and found to be absolutely spectacular.

• Images of a militarized police force coming out of Ferguson, MO have shocked the nation. Enter Georgia Democratic Congressman Rep. Hank Johnson, who is working on legislation that would change how the Pentagon sends its military surplus to local police forces. This should be a bipartisan no-brainer, seeing as how Republicans are as repulsed by the concept of a militarized police as Democrats. But …. this being our do-nothing Congress ….

• Kentucky candidate for U.S. Senate Alison Lundergan Grimes has picked up the endorsement of the United Mine Workers.

• A judge has ruled that Maryland’s gun control law banning military-style assault weapons is constitutional.

• Another gay football player has come out.

Good News, Tennessee Edition:

• Murfreesboro’s city council voted not to allow guns on city greenways.

• Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announced his support of same-sex marriage.

This week’s video: jazz guitar virtuoso Chris Standring. This not like any pool party I’ve ever attended:

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More Follow-Up Questions, Please

This is why I watch Aljazeera America:

Ah, those pesky “follow-up questions.” Don’t see them too often from the likes of Chuck Todd or David Gregory.

The fact of the matter is, when you ask the follow-up questions it becomes apparent that Republicans are not only legislating shit they don’t understand, they’re legislating shit they never bothered to think about. “Why would a woman want to get an abortion?” “Well gee now, I’ve never thought about that …”

Maybe you should, asshole. This should be asked of every anti-choice politician. If they can’t answer it they need to get to the end of the line.

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Memory Hole: Militarized Police Edition

I’m glad the Ferguson protests have sparked a debate about our militarized police. When I first heard the reports I immediately thought of this post I did back in March 2008. Though the post was ostensibly about CBS’ “60 Minutes” journalistic failure, the point relevant here is that the Pentagon had developed a crowd-control device called the “Active Denial System” which, thanks to blasted government bureaucracy, had yet to be deployed. Even though “60 Minutes” — and the Pentagon — were just certain we needed to use this new weapon in Iraq, of all places. Can you imagine!

But the Pentagon tipped its hand in its promotional video, which did not show this fancy new weapon used in a foreign land. Nope, it showed the Active Denial System deployed on anti-war protesters here at home.

From the post:

The “Active Denial System” is a non-lethal “ray gun” which zaps its target with super high-frequency radio waves. In other words, it’s a crowd control device. Gee, now I wonder how the government would use something like that?

Perhaps we have a little clue in the Pentagon’s demonstration video, which they aired as part of last night’s segment. The clip shows a group of people carrying signs that read “Love For All,” “End The War” and “World Peace.”

Coming soon to a police department near you? I can only imagine.

From gun loonz carting military assault rifles at Walmart and Kroger to armored vehicles manned by local police departments, the lesson is clear: Be careful what weapons of war you choose, taxpayers. They will soon appear in your own backyards.

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