Russell and Duenes

Archive for April 2013

12 Minutes at the Planned Parenthood Gala

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Here is President Obama’s speech at the Planned Parenthood Gala on Friday. I leave it for you to watch without my comments. You draw your own conclusions.


Written by Michael Duenes

April 27, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Why Do We Grasp So Tenaciously at Life?

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graspingIn my old classroom, I had a picture of the Kashmir region of Pakistan.  The picture is stark: 15 heavily bundled students sitting and 1 teacher attempting to conduct class in a dirt patch in the freezing cold.  There is no ‘classroom’ for them, for the region was hit by an earthquake in October of 2005, killing roughly 73,000 people.  What ‘classroom’ these students had was blown away by the wind, yet they press on to educate themselves with the few chairs they still have.  Why?

I once read a book called Hiroshima, by John Hershey, which is essentially the memoirs of several people who survived the atomic bomb of 1945.  In the early chapters one gets a sense of the chaos, horror, confusion, and destruction.  Yet one of the men, a Mr. Tanimoto, works like crazy to help and care for other survivors.  People burned, maimed, vomiting, retching, crying, wailing, trying desperately to hold onto life, to escape the clutches of death.  And here is this man desperately doing what little he can.  Why?

Why do we humans instinctively seem to scratch and claw, in good circumstances and in bad, in order not merely to survive, but to make something out of our lives, not simply to live, but to invest our lives with meaning?  It would seem to indicate that there’s something worth living FOR!  It suggests that out lives truly matter, and that we were made for purposes beyond just surviving for four-score and ten and then turning to fertilizer.  There must be something ‘good’ that beckons us.  There must be a certain kind of life that’s worth having.  Perhaps, the God who made us is offering such a life.  Perhaps, if we have eyes to see, the gospel is entirely about just such an offer.


Written by Michael Duenes

April 23, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

“The Arbitrary Nature of What We Allow and What We Don’t”

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gosnellcensoredTwo years ago, when the grand jury testimony came out, I and others were talking about the horrors of the Kermit Gosnell “abortion clinic.” Now that his trial is becoming a story with legs, media outlets that should be running coverage of the trial on their front pages day after day are getting around to writing something about it and actually sending reporters to cover the thing. But one paragraph from Douglas Wilson’s piece today – Our Gosnell Gulag – pretty much sums up where we are:

First, let us talk about the arbitary nature of what we allow and what we don’t. Partial birth abortions (which Obama does not want restricted) do exactly what Gosnell was doing, only with the baby half in and half out. This makes a major ethical difference, apparently. Regular abortions do these things with the baby all the way in. Gosnell does these things to the baby with the baby all the way out. And he’s the freak show? If he put the baby back inside the mother, in a reverse Caesarian, and cut the spinal cord then, is he a responsible medical professional again? If it happens here, in the middle of the room, it is a protected constitutional right. If he carries the baby over to the corner where the light is better, then he can be charged with murder. And he’s the freak show? What about the lawyers and lobbyists that insist on this? What can be said on behalf of a nation that is even a little bit okay with this?

I tried to make this point in greater detail in a series of posts I wrote on the Supreme Court’s partial birth abortion ruling in Gonzales v. Carhart (see here, here and here).

I commend to you Wilson’s entire piece here.


Churchill’s Face Went Gray

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ChurchillThere were now over seven million of them fleeing from the Germans, swarming down the highways, shuffling, exhausted, aching from the strain of heavy loads on their backs. No one had told them to evacuate the battlefields; they were evacuating themselves. Barns, sheds, and garages had disgorged into throughways an extraordinary collection of vehicles: farm carts, trucks, horse-drawn carts, hay wagons, and ancient automobiles saddled with sagging loads of mattresses, kitchen utensils, family treasures, and bric-a-brac. Cars bombed by the Luftwaffe stood in flames, and here and there among straggling vagabonds lay corpses of children and the very old, who, unable to keep up, had been machine-gunned by Nazi pilots who saw panic as an ally of their comrades in the Wehrmacht. William Manchester and Paul Reid, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965, 64 (2012).

This is what Winston Churchill saw while flying over the French front in May of 1940, if one could even call it a “front.” But it came to my mind today as I was reading the Scriptures: “For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed…For all our days pass away under your wrath, we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength, eighty, yet their span is toil and trouble. They are soon gone and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?” (Ps. 90:7-11).

I’m not saying that the French in particular were being judged by God. What I’m saying is what the Psalmist says: The whole world is under God’s wrath because of our sin. We tend to think that life should generally go smoothly, that something is wrong when it doesn’t. But that’s not this world. The seven-million strong mass of humanity flowing out of northern France as the Nazi panzers approached is more the norm. Millions will go to bed tonight as refugees, fatherless, homeless, hungry, politically or socially oppressed, depressed, melancholic, in pain, and without hope. I’m feeling almost guilty for saying so, given that my life goes quite well by comparison, and the general numbness of my feeling. But it causes me to feel a good deal less confident that things should go well. “In this world you will have trouble,” said Jesus. Yet He also said, “Take courage, I have overcome the world.” Therefore, we ought to pray with the Psalmist: “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12).


Written by Michael Duenes

April 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Law School: Just One Good Book

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sleep“A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them.” – Charles Spurgeon

I was discussing law school the other day with some other students, and there was a general agreement that the busy-ness of the legal profession dictates much about how law school is structured. That is, far too much reading is assigned each semester in law school, and I assume both professors and students know it. All too often one either hears complaints about the amount of reading, or one hears students talking about all the assigned reading they’re not doing, instead turning to study aids and supplements intended to pare things down into a form that can be crammed for and memorized as finals approach.

No doubt some of this is due to laziness, but I know for myself, it is mostly a question of time. Further, even when I’m able to get to the reading, it is at most a superficial reading. I remember my Contracts professor informing students that they needed to read each assigned case twice in order to properly understand it. I agree with him. But there is absolutely no chance that I could possibly read each assigned case twice, even cursorily, and complete my assigned reading for each class. I particularly cannot do this when, in addition to my assigned reading, I’m given additional writing assignments that require me to carefully read significantly more cases and provide analysis in writing.

The current law school curriculum model seems likely to produce one or more of several results: Much less sleep that humans properly require (see my previous post), superficial analysis, or failure to read some cases at all. What it teaches is that we need to cut corners to “keep up.” It makes us superficial in our analysis. The other thing it breeds is a cynicism about the value of law school, with a concommitant attitude that it’s just a hurdle to “get through” so that one can be a lawyer. Of course this is a generalization, but widespread enough to be an indictment of the current model.

But doesn’t the work-a-day law job require this, because once we start working, we’re going to have to handle massive case loads which require quick reading of large quantities of material? Perhaps, and I cannot speak with any authority at this point, as I’m not a lawyer yet and have not spoken with enough attorneys about it. But I assume law professors give us the amount of work they do partly because they believe the law profession requires it and “hey, get used to it.” But surely this signals that something is wrong with our profession. Either we have too great a sense of self-importance attached to our work (likely), or we have not thought creatively about how things might change. Either way, I think Spurgeon’s dictum is correct. Less is more. Learning to work through fewer cases in law school, and to give them far more discussion on various levels, and ultimately, to master their lessons, would not only make us better lawyers, but wiser and better human beings as well. The amount of reading given to us certainly cannot be justified on the basis that we will need it to be good lawyers. Even my law clerking proves this to be untrue. So no, we do not need to cover all the material we cover in law school. If the ABA says we do, then it’s the ABA that needs to change.

Reading less, and mastering the material we do read, would give us better perspective by which to counsel our clients, and we’d live with a lot less stress.


Written by Michael Duenes

April 14, 2013 at 5:18 pm