Russell and Duenes

Archive for February 2012

Tocqueville on the Government as Shepherd

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I came across this bit by Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in the 1840s, quoted in Mark Steyn’s After America. How prophetic!

I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. …Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood … it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs….

The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute, and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way … it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own … it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

February 28, 2012 at 9:08 am

Posted in Duenes, Government

Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Three Generations of Imbeciles are Enough”

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I’ve been following the fracas over the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate a bit and came across this piece by Francis Beckwith. The piece is striking for its legal analysis, on one level, but even more for the way it teases out the implications of the Obama Administration’s logic on this issue. Beckwith imagines the future and what an American president in, say, the year 2025 might advocate by way of a policy argument that follows from our current Administration’s argument:

Although America’s president in 2025 fully recognizes reproductive autonomy, he also knows that the right of privacy, as the Court said in Roe, does not mean that one has “an unlimited right to do with one’s body as one pleases.” Thus, the president orders the secretary of Health and Human Services to fine any and all women $4,000 for each pregnancy she carries to term after the third one. (For equal-protection reasons, the man who sires the child will have to pay half). And, of course, “free abortions” will be provided by the government for those who do not want to pay the fine. The future president notes in his public comments that these citizens are free to believe or practice anything they want religiously, and to have as many children as they choose to have. However, to possess such liberties under the law does not relieve one of having to pay one’s fair share in a pluralistic society in which we all must participate in the burden of justice. Or as Justice Holmes would have put it: “It would be strange if the government could not call upon those who already sap the preventative health care of others to make some small sacrifices. Three delivered infants is enough.”

Impossible, you say? Read Beckwith’s little piece and you may change your mind.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 28, 2012 at 7:42 am

More Musings

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We hear a lot today about “following your passion.” And usually we take this to mean that we must find our passion before we can begin following it. The result is too often a sense that we “just can’t see” what our passion is, with a concommitant paralysis due to being in such a fog. But my wife passed along to me a very helpful and practical piece called: What Top Performers Know About Passion, by Ramit Sethi. This dude is gold! The whole article is worth semi-memorizing, but two bits of advice really stand out and confirm my own experience: First, learn to do something really, really well, and it doesn’t much matter what it is. As Ramit says, “If you’re not good at your day job, what gives you the right to think you deserve to find your life’s passion when you haven’t even put the time in to become good at something?” Second, begin doing some things on a small scale before you try to figure out the whole big “passion” picture. In practical terms, Ramit urges people to enroll in community college classes on whatever strikes your curiosity, or find someone to tutor you in something, anything. He writes: “The point is that instead of sitting in your room and trying to “think” your way to your passions, the micro-steps of testing your assumptions can radically change your approach to finding your passion.” This is phenomenal stuff, even if you’re locked into a career right now.

It is often easy to forget, while studying judicial rulings, that all these court cases are dealing with human beings. The cop who has to enter a domestic violence situation is a human being, with certain biases and experiences shaping his attitudes as he enters, with certain sentiments about right and wrong, with certain values placed on his own life and the lives of those he encounters in the situation, with a certain idea about how life should work, with a certain emotional makeup, with certain family and friends. Same with the contractor who is suing the homeowner who fails to pay for the contractor’s services, or the employee who thinks she was wrongfully terminated, or the two neighbors who are suing each other over a disputed property line, or the black youth who distrusts the police, or the professional athlete that wants to get out of his contract…and on and on it goes. Each statement of facts in each case we read deals with these complex human beings and the web of relationships and connections their lives involve.

Writing about the out-of-control statism endemic to our nation in After America, Mark Steyn had me belly-laughing with this one, “Kodak, which actually invented some of the first digital camera technology in 1975, failed to foresee how fast things were changing, and eventually would up laying off 60 percent of its workforce. Had the statists been in charge of that sector as they now are of so many others, we’d still be snapping with Kodak Instamatics, and it would take you two weeks to get your holiday pics and cost you $800, because the government had intervened to protect the jobs of Instastatistmatic film developers in the unionized Kodacrony lab.” (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2011, p.48).

“If a plaintiff files an answer in a particular state, she impliedly consents to that state’s jurisdiction over her”…”In order to be liable for voluntary manslaughter, a defendant must have killed her victim in the sudden heat of passion with adequate provocation”…”Where she has intentionally created an apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive conduct, she will be liable for the tort of assault”…”In today’s world, a lawyer is likely to find herself thinking about ethical issues on a daily basis”…and on and on it goes in virtually all of the legal literature I read. I’m not sure what the social engineering goal is behind using feminine pronouns, and only feminine pronouns, in almost all casebooks and other legal documents, but I have a feeling that such political correctness is rather strictly enforced among the ranks.

Several weeks ago my pastor spoke about King Asa, who “did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord.” Asa’s righteousness consisted mainly in the fact that Asa sought the Lord. And because Asa sought the Lord, the Lord prospered the kingdom of Judah under Asa and gave Asa peace with his enemies on all sides. Most people know the command, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” but I thought I’d remind you of a few other biblical references to that vital labor of “seeking the Lord.”

“Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (1 Chron. 16:11); “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever” (1 Chron. 28:9); “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14); ” [King] Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city that the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put his name there…And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chron. 12:13-14); “As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause” (Job 5:8); “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”(Ps.10:4); “You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” (Ps. 27:8); “Those who seek the LORD lack no good thing (Ps.34:10); “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while He is near” (Isa.55:6); “Seek and you will find” (Mt.7:7); “God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27); “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col.3:1)…And this is but a small sampling. Let us consider what it is that we “seek” each day. May we take God’s Word to heart, and consider the reward for those who seek Him. To find the presence of God in Christ is to find the highest and most satisfying treasure.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

Some Musings

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A particular phrase struck me today as I was reading the story of Jesus casting out the “legion” of demons from a man in the Gerasene region of Galilee. St. Luke tells us that, upon being released from the demons’ power, the man “begged that he might be with [Jesus.]” (Lk. 8:38) And I prayed, “Lord, give me the character of this man, a spirit that begs to be with you.” I have found such a yearning lacking lately, what with all the burdens of first-year law school. But I would earnestly have such a longing, such a heart, that “begs” to “be with Jesus.”

Based on my reading of the Supreme Court’s “Commerce Clause” jurisprudence, Congress could “rationally find” that the eating of sugar “significantly undermines the quality of education in our Nation’s classrooms,” and given such undermining of education, find that eating sugar “is a commercial problem.” And if it’s a commercial problem: BINGO! Congress may outlaw the eating of sugar under the commerce clause. This is lunacy, and the American people have bought into it on a massive scale.

The Supreme Court, in United States v. Kahriger, ruled that “unless there are provisions [in a tax bill], extraneous to any tax need, courts are without authority to limit the exercise of the taxing power.” Translation: The Congress can tax anything and everything until the cows come home because there will always be the need to raise revenue (i.e., “a tax need”). More lunacy, of course. The government’s taxing powers, along with the commerce clause, have become vehicles for leftist social engineering, with the Court’s full complicity of course. So, in Nancy Pelosi’s world, the Congress can tax us in order to pay for condom distribution, which will in turn “stimulate” the economy because there will then be less babies around to take women’s attention away from the work force. Nice!

St. James writes, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” This was often a sobering thought to me during my ten years teaching Bible. Yet for all that, I would LOVE to teach the Bible again, even if only in a church setting. I’m missing it. It’s hard to go off something cold-turkey that you’ve spent the previous decade doing, particularly when you loved doing it. I don’t take this to mean that I’ve made a mistake in deciding to be a lawyer, but I do take it to mean that, Lord willing, I want to teach the Scriptures again, in some manner or fashion…and sooner rather than later.

I’m starting to like Clarence Thomas’ judicial opinions more and more. I think I’ll start reading more of his opinions, and more writings on him, this summer.

God says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Yet what do you do when God’s wisdom says, “Surrender to the enemy King of Babylon who is now at your city walls,” or “Reduce your army to 300 men,” or “Stay in the city where they are persecuting you for your preaching of the gospel?” We generally like our “wisdom” to be of the comfortable, humanly logical, sort, a wisdom that seems to confirm our already held predilections. Yet, “the wisdom of this world is folly with God.” To borrow from C.S. Lewis, God’s wisdom is rarely “safe,” but it’s “good.” May we rejoice in receiving and following it.

Thomas L. Friedman wrote a column a few weeks back called Average is Over. Now we can expect all manner of self-help gurus and pop-psychology “life coaches” and business “leaders” to start parroting this little catch-phrase. Yet Friedman is at his self-contradictory best here (If you set out to be an “above average” waiter, but restaurants are replacing waiters with computers, well, what have you got?), and it’s not too hard to figure out what his ultimate conclusion is: Have the government double, triple and quadruple down on “more education.” If “average is over,” then Friedman needs to stop writing.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 21, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

Dr. C. Ben Mitchell Makes a Stirring Opposition to The Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate

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I found this brief testimony powerful and persuasive.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 20, 2012 at 4:42 am

Posted in Bioethics, Duenes