pj-orourkeAn amicus brief is a learned treatise submitted by an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”), someone who is not a party to a case who offers information that bears on the case but that has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist a court. The amicus brief is a way to introduce concerns ensuring that the possibly broad legal effects of a court decision will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case.

Typically, amici are serious—and dull—documents. You won’t find many that include references to “Full House (ABC 1987-1995),” Vladimir Putin, Torquemada, “Gilmore Girls (Warner Bros. 2000-2007),” Chris Rock, Salman Rushdie, and “The Avengers (Marvel Studios 2012).” And you’re likely to find even fewer that recommend the state of Texas be declared “unconstitutional.” But all of that was included in a brief submitted by humorist P.J. O’Rourke (and friends) in a case heard yesterday by the US Supreme Court.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), argued before the court its free-speech rights were violated when the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles rejected its proposal for a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate flag. In their amicus brief supporting SCV, O’Rourke, et al argued that the state of Texas had “empowered the State Department of Motor Vehicles to prevent people from being offended by license plates.”

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cake topperThere is a lot of talk about “privilege” in our nation: white privilege, the privilege of the “1%,” privilege of living in one school district versus another. Yet, the greatest “privilege” in America is hardly ever mentioned. It’s a privilege that creates happy, healthy, smart kids, a privilege that helps ensure economic stability for everyone involved, a privilege that keeps our neighborhoods and cities safer and more productive.

It’s marriage. (I was going to say “mah-widge” and give a Princess Bride reference, but I’ll skip that.)

In yesterday’s National Review, writers Lee Habeeb and Mike Leven call the results of the “marriage privilege” startling:

In a report last year entitled “Saving Horatio Alger,” which focused on social mobility and class in America, Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution discovered that the likelihood of a child raised by parents born into the lowest income quintile moving to the top quintile by the age 40 was a disastrous 3 percent. Worse, 50 percent of those children stay stuck in the bottom quintile. And the outlook for the children of those marriage-less children is equally stark.

That’s bad news for the country, and the American dream, such numbers. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
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Greektown meters to bring change for homeless
Kim North Shine, The Detroit News

Whatever change is deposited into the meters will go to a charity that helps the homeless, including the regular Greektown panhandlers. The cause has special connection for Agee, the artist who was once homeless in Detroit.

How Asia, U.S. Can Help End Human Trafficking
Olivia Enos, The Daily Signal

Of the nearly 21 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, an estimated two-thirds are from Asia. Many factors contribute to the severity of the problem in Asia, but one stands out among the rest: the lack of rule of law.

An ancient technology is helping India’s “water man” save thousands of parched villages
Devjyot Ghoshal, Quartz

On March 20, Singh was awarded the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize, sometimes described as the Nobel prize for water.

The dam of self-restraint bursts for Pakistan’s Christians
Pamela Constable, Washington Post

This working-class neighborhood for generations. But the comity vanished in a matter of hours after a rumor spread that someone at a Christian wedding had torn up a copy of the Koran.

Common-Core-math-messI taught high school for a number of years, but as a religion teacher, I escaped most of the trials and tribulations my fellow teachers went through annually as new teaching methods were rolled out. Even private school teachers seem to get a new set of rules each year: teach this way, not that; use these techniques, not those. However, few teaching restrictions seem to be as questionable as Common Core.

What about teachers? What are their thoughts on Common Core? Here are a few reasons some of America’s best teachers do not like Common Core.

Nancy Atwell, Maine:

Public-school teachers are so constrained right now by the Common Core standards, and the tests that are developed to monitor what teachers are doing with them. It’s a movement that’s turned teachers into technicians, not reflective practitioners.

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pollution-permitsA key way to reduce pollution is to provide a mechanism that allows some firms to pollute as much—or even more—than they normally would. That idea may sound ridiculous—reduce pollution by allowing pollution?—but it’s been proven to be a surprisingly effective means of cleaning up the environment.

In 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act were added which included market-based incentives to reduce pollution, such as “emissions permits” for certain pollutants. As Robert W. Crandall explains,

These are, in effect, rights to pollute that can be traded among polluters. Imagine a giant bubble that encloses all existing sources of air pollution. Within that bubble, some emitters may pollute more than the control level as long as other polluters compensate by polluting less. The government or some other state or regional authority decides on the desired level of pollution and the initial distribution of pollution rights within an industry or for a geographic region—the “bubble” that encloses these sources. Purchases and sales of permits within the “bubble” should reduce the total level of pollution to the allowable limit at the lowest total cost.

The method not only works, it has shown to reduce pollution to even levels lower than could have been achieved by an across-the-board cap on all polluting firms—and at costs that are significantly cheaper.

MRUniversity recently released a video that explains the economics of these tradable pollution permits.

child trafficking tearsA bill designed to aid victims of human trafficking in the U.S. should not be divisive. It should not be stalled in the House of Representatives. It should be enacted swiftly, so as to get help to as many victims as possible, as quickly as possible.

This bill would improve programs already in place that are specifically designed to aid underage victims of trafficking, increase the ease of which local law enforcement and prosecutors can investigate possible trafficking and child pornography, and establish more services for child victims of trafficking.

So, why is this bill stalled? (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, March 23, 2015
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The Odd Couple Fighting Against Predatory Payday Lending
Sean McElwee, The Atlantic

In South Dakota, a conservative pastor and an openly gay former Obama campaign staffer have teamed up to battle an exploitative industry.

Great Political Ideas are Sustained by Great Religious Ideas
Dale Ahlquist, Crisis Magazine

One persistent fanaticism that prevents unity is the idea that you cannot mix politics and religion. But as a matter of fact, you cannot help mixing them.

What sustainability and religious freedom have in common
Sen. James Lankford, Washington Examiner

Protecting corporate conscience acknowledges that behind a company name, individuals with their own identities, perspectives, freedoms and convictions are making decisions that affect real people — owners, employees, customers and the community.

Fast-Food Ban in L.A. Fails to Curb Obesity
Natalie Shoemaker, Big Think

The RAND Corporation, a non-profit research group, has seen first-hand that eliminating one aspect of the problem does not stop an issue from growing.

Envy-1A new report from the liberal Brookings Institute finds that “despite the large increases in economic inequality since 1970″, American survey respondents exhibit no increase in support for redistribution. This holds true even for the two groups who have historically been most reliant on redistribution: the elderly and black Americans.

The report expresses surprise by the results, as does the Washington Post. As the Post‘s Max Ehrenfreund says,

The polling data challenges the common-sense idea that voters support policies that are in their material interest, the authors write. Yet there don’t seem to be any good explanations for the trends, which are shown in the chart above.

It’s not that blacks or the elderly on the whole are becoming wealthier and thus less dependent on government assistance. Black and elderly people were just as likely to change their views on the question whether they were rich or poor. Nor are members of these groups becoming more conservative on other questions.

Notice the pattern of thought embedded in those two paragraphs:
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There will be some twists and turns here, so hold on. Earlier this month, the BBC highlighted what it called “YouTube sensation ‘I, Russian Occupier'” the hit propaganda film that “feels more like the opening sequence of a big budget Hollywood movie than a homemade political message.” So far, it’s racked up 5.6 million views and more than 31,000 comments. (“likes” are outpacing down votes by a 5-1 margin. The video also “attacks Western values, dropping in visual references to same-sex parenting, and rounds off by ‘sending’ the entire message to US President Barack Obama.”

The BBC identified the creator of the video as Evgeny Zhurov, a 29-year-old motion graphics designer from Russia, who claimed he was not paid for the work. “A full-scale information war is being waged against Russia. I’m just taking part in the war on Russia’s side,” Zhurov told the BBC. “My goal is high-quality pro-Russian propaganda.”

Or were the creators working for Russians at the highest level? The Age, an Australian newspaper, reports that the video was actually funded by the Russian Orthodox Church. Nick Miller, citing Russian website Medialeaks.ru and a broadcast report, identifies producers from a studio called My Duck’s Vision (MDV) who “confessed” it was their work. When pressed, the producer said: “It was an order from [the] Russian Orthodox Church. It was not our idea.” He added that, “it was an order we’ve been paid, but still for us it’s just a stupid script, we’ve made [it] for fun.” (more…)

jane marcetJane Marcet is remembered most often for her scientific work in chemistry. Born in London in 1769, she was well-educated, and shared a passion for learning with her father. When she married Alexander Marcet, a physician, she would proof-read his work and eventually decided to publish her own thoughts.

In a series of pamphlets entitled, “Conversations,” Marcet wrote on chemistry, botany, religion, and economics. She was a member of the London Political Economy Club, founded by James Mill.

In the early 19th century there were no academic societies or professional associations for economists. The Political Economy Club was a way to establish a scientific community, test ideas, and provide peer review for their work.

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