judicialsupport

Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the month “November, 2019”

Is Busyness Jeopardizing Our Souls?

Today it seems everyone’s favorite response to the common, probing introductory question, “How are you?” is this: I’m busy. Very busy. Extremely busy. I’m guilty of this response more than I care to admit. Of course, many of us are—actually—extremely busy. Many of us are stretching ourselves razor thin, fulfilling the necessary obligations of life: tending to our jobs, families, and children, addressing the infinite list of errands and to-dos, scheduling time for exercise, friends, entertainment, bills, volunteer work. The list goes on. Endlessly.

Technology, despite its aim to lessen our collective human burden (which it no doubt has in some ways), has helped fuel this increasing and widespread condition known as busyness. The ease with which we can connect to the world—be it to our work emails or social media relationships—allows us to be permanently “plugged in.” We can get away from the crowd and commotion of our lives physically to seek rest, but we can still pick up our phones to engage with them just as if we never left.

There is a great Corona commercial from a few years back that comes to mind. The scene begins with the crystal blue of the ocean. The camera pulls back to reveal a woman reclining comfortably in a beach chair. To her left, and mostly off camera, a man throws stones into the ocean, leisurely skipping rocks on an afternoon in some coastal paradise. We’re left with only the lull of the ocean and soft splashing of rocks dancing on the water’s surface. Suddenly we’re interrupted by the buzz of a phone. The man, after a moment’s hesitation, picks up the disruptive object and hurls it into the ocean. He watches it skip a few times before it disappears into the blue. I’m sure many of us at times wish we could do the same and cast away any and all reminders of our stack of obligations, our plethora of duties. If only…Yet, even though tossing an expensive phone into the sea might not be the most prudent of things to do—in fact, in most cases it would be pretty stupid—I think it can be easy to forget that we do still have a choice. We can still, in a sense, turn the phone off.

The New York Times article “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider explains that our “busyness” often serves as a euphemism for “exhaustion.” We’ve become so busy with keeping ourselves busy—incurring an endless list of tasks and unchecked boxes—that we’re drained, restless, and, well, exhausted. The article continues, claiming that “busyness,” despite the temptation to believe it’s been forcefully hoisted upon our shoulders—like some compulsory sentence doled out without our permission or desire—is a condition of life we’ve opted for:

“The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it.”

The article continues to expose the impetus of choosing such a depleting way of life:

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

And so we are left wondering how to combat this “emptiness,” this lurking sense that without our busyness—without being able to point to an impressive life of endless activity—we risk a life of little or no value.

Christianity speaks of the inestimable worth of human life not because of what it does—or even has the potential to do—but because it is made in the image and likeness of God. We are valuable and of infinite worth because God says we are with words that form reality and reveal truth. The rupture then that can occur within our souls is when that subtle lie starts to creep in: the one dictating that our actions make us worthy—that what we do makes us lovable in the eyes of God. To use the secular language of Kreider’s article, we rely on our actions to provide “existential reassurance” that we are worthy. To use Christian terminology, we rely on our actions to provide reassurance of God’s love and approval. And so, it seems, idleness isn’t the only playground on which the devil enjoys playing. He’s quite fond of its opposite as well.

It goes without saying that we’re still called to act. Our actions help reveal who we are, and as human beings gifted with reason, talents, desires, and a noble vocation to build up and spread God’s kingdom, we must do so through action. Yet, rather than our activity being the ultimate gauge of our souls, it serves instead to reflect them more perfectly. Thomas Merton, in his highly meditative and sagacious work No Man Is An Island, brilliantly explores the possible dangers of activity in the life of a soul:

“My soul can also reflect itself in the mirror of its own activity. But what is seen in the mirror is only a reflection of who I am, not my true being. The mirror of words and actions only partly manifests my being.”

Merton recognizes the value of actions—again, we are not called to do nothing, for “faith without works is dead”—but a soul’s state is not based only on the merit of its actions. We can be easily misled to look for proof of God’s love in tangible evidence, saying, “See, look here! I’ve done this, this and this, so therefore I’m a good, worthwhile and lovable person!”

“In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity…The fact that our being necessarily demands to be expressed in action should not lead us to believe that as soon as we stop acting we cease to exist. We do not live merely in order to “do something”—no matter what…We do not live fully merely by doing more, seeing more, tasting more, and experiencing more than we ever have before. On the contrary, some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual.”

Not only does the busyness of our work—even very good work—lead to an emptying of our true selves, but we become confused, bereft of the ability to understand who we are. Activity can clue us in on how we’re doing; yet, we are not what we do. And if we fail to see that, then our good acts can become emptied of love, an attempt to win God’s favor rather than express our love for him and others. Does our busyness keep us from loving? In the words of Mother Teresa, we must “never be so busy as not to think of others.”

Merton’s words pluck a very deep chord within me. As someone who is generally motivated and intensely devoted to a routine in order to be productive, I know that I’ve fallen squarely into the trap of relying on my actions to validate my worth in God’s eyes. And just as I’ve falsely assumed I’m “more lovable” because of certain things I’ve done, I’ve also done the opposite: labeled myself unworthy of God’s love because of a failure to do certain other things.

It’s been through prayer and an honest assessment of my actions and motivations in the space of his love that I’ve come to realize the danger of idolizing a life rife with activity. I have to keep reminding myself that no matter what I do—no matter how good or noble the action—it should always be done as a response to God’s love, not a plea for it. Love respects our freedom, gently compelling us to love always in all we do, not coercing us to love in order to be loved. And loving doesn’t always have to take form in obviously good action. It can be leisurely done in a spirit of gratitude, “meaningless” conversations with friends, and even restorative play and sport.

So what can we do to ensure our lives of busyness don’t lead to exhaustion and a loss of self? It’s nothing new: we must build into our lives a space for prayer and fruitful reflection. Even if it’s not much, we must strive to sit in the presence of the Eucharist at Adoration, read scripture and meditate on its application to our lives, or sit in silence listening to the voice of love that speaks words of affection, encouragement, and counsel. We must learn to be more like Mary, and less like Martha, in a world that unremittingly asks, “What have you done for me lately?” If we do not pray, and silently reflect on who we are often and consistently, we will continue to live in a state of exhaustion and boredom. And how can we honestly say we’re Christ’s disciples if we don’t ever allow him to tell us what to do or not do? God may want us to forgo certain activities, no matter how good, so that he can invite us into something else. If we take time to reflect, we will hear the voice of God. As Søren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” So let us take time to review our lives and who we are in prayerful reflection, receiving the nourishment and strength to move forward with lives filled with fruitful, grace-led, and meaningful activity.

By Chris Hazell and published on Word on Fire on February 22, 2018 and can be found here.

 

YesSource: Live in Tampa, 2/8/17

Here are my latest uploads to YesSource, my Yes rarities youtube page (about which you can read here).  This post is another addition to my series of Yes music posts and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.  Yes, of course, is a, if not the, premier progressive rock band, and I am an enormous fan of it.

You can see all of my Yessource uploads here.

My latest YesSource uploads can be found here:

LAYOFFS AND MERGERS AND CONSOLIDATIONS AND ACQUISITIONS …OH MY!

Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!

ToughLawyerLady

In recent months, businesses and institutions in the Philadelphia area have experienced a number of closures, mergers, consolidations and acquisitions which will be devastating to the greater geographic area, and have or will result in major layoffs of skilled employees and elimination of future jobs.

Here are just a few examples:

  • The owner of Hahnemann University Hospital, in existence for 171 years, announced that it would be declaring bankruptcy and closing;
  • Drexel University, announced that about 40 percent of its physicians and clinical staff of its medical college will lose their jobs in the wake of the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital;
  • Philadelphia Energy Solutions announced that it was closing its South Philadelphia oil refinery due to a series of explosions and a catastrophic fire, and laying off more than 1,000 employees;
  • WSFS Financial Corporation acquired Beneficial Bank, founded in 1853, with 58 locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and…

View original post 855 more words

Proselytizing Does Not Rise To Level of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Trombetta v Kruse, (NY Civ. Ct., Nov. 19, 2019), a New York state trial court held that a proselytizing pamphlet and a subsequent e-mail did not amount to intentional infliction of emotional distress, nor was any injury proven. According to the court:

The pamphlet … shows a cartoon depiction of a catholic who is sent into the “lake of fire” to “burn in hell” for practicing as a catholic, instead of following the version of Christianity promoted by the pamphlet which is evangelical Baptist. The tract urges the reader to reject Catholicism, or be barred from heaven….

… [D]efendant wrote plaintiff an email that included the following statements: … My family does not believe and, if any of them were to die tomorrow, they would not go to heaven but to hell. I sent them tracts because I do not want them to go to hell. I want them to go to heaven. It is what I want for you too.

The court held in part:

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the courts of this State from evaluating the religious beliefs of a church or individual….

While the court understands why the plaintiff found the tract and email disturbing, the court does not find that the conduct rose to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Templeton Project: A Fire, a World of Unrighteousness

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “A Fire, a World of Unrighteousness.”

See also:

_____________________________

In his epistle, James warns his readers that not many of them should become teachers, because God judges teachers with greater strictness.  He goes on to say that one who does not stumble with his tongue is perfect, for ability to control the tongue means one is able to control his whole body.  A small fire sets an entire forest ablaze as the tongue negatively affects the body that results in setting our whole life ablaze.  James describes the tongue as “a world of unrighteousness” and “a restless evil, full of poison.”  He further writes that the tongue blesses God and  curses those made in God’s image.  A tongue on fire cannot come from a good source.

It is very tempting to misuse the tongue.  All of us have done this at one time or another or regularly.  But, we must be aware of the unrighteousness it manifests.  The tongue does damage to others.  This misuse is not helpful in debate.  It is certainly harmful.  We must be careful what we say to other people including those we meet for an informal or formal discussion of our theological and philosdophical differences.  We will gain no ground by being disrespectful in what we say.  And, we are not to respond with disrespect those who disrespect us.  We are to set an example as disciples of Christ.  The world does not follow these rules.  Watch a half hour or less of 24/7 news to see.  Pinhead and other such nomenclature has become common in the conservative and liberal media and in government.  We are to discredit a perspective by discrediting the perspective, not the person.

James employs the word curse. To curse someone is more serious than calling a person a name.  A curse is a malediction calling down upon someone’s head God’s disfavor and ill-fortune.  In the Lucan version of the Beatitudes, Jesus recites blessings and curses.  “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.”  “But woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.”  (Luke 6: 21, 24 ESV)  Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” (Mark 11: 21 ESV)

What should one do when one is confronted with wickedness and evil?  Should not the person be pointed out for what he/she is? Shouldn’t he be reminded of the judgment of God? Such judgments are most often not necessary, and we can misjudge; but, when evil needs to be identified, we must do so after careful consideration. People need to be reminded of God’s will and His  judgment, even Christians.  Judgment is the Law speaking.  We must hear the Law before we can receive the Gospel.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus associates the misuse of the tongue with anger.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”  (Matthew 5: 21-2 ESV)   More on anger in the future.

I leave you with something James says near the beginning of his letter:  “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”  (James 1: 26 ESV)

Michael G. Tavella

July 15, 2019

Joe Arcieri Songs: Hot and Cold 5

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “Hot and Cold 5” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Donald Trump and the American Left

The election of Donald Trump fractured the American Left. The abandonment of class analysis in response to Mr. Trump’s racialized nationalism left identity politics to fill the void. This has facilitated the rise of neoliberal nationalism, an embrace of the national security state combined with neoliberal economic analysis put forward as a liberal / Left response to Mr. Trump’s program. The result has been profoundly reactionary.

What had been unfocused consensus around issues of economic justice and ending militarism has been sharpened into a political program. A nascent, self-styled socialist movement is pushing domestic issues like single payer health care, strengthening the social safety net and reversing wildly unbalanced income and wealth distribution, forward. Left unaddressed is how this program will move forward without a revolutionary movement to act against countervailing forces.

As widely loathed as the Democratic establishment is, it has been remarkably adept at engineering a reactionary response in favor of establishment forces. Its demonization of Russia! has been approximately as effective at fomenting reactionary nationalism as Mr. Trump’s racialized version. Lest this be overlooked, the strategy common to both is the use of oppositional logic through demonization of carefully selected ‘others.’

This points to the most potent fracture on the Left, the question of which is the more effective reactionary force, the Democrats’ neoliberal nationalism or Mr. Trump’s racialized version? As self-evident as the answer apparently is to the liberal / Left, it is only so through abandonment of class analysis. Race, gender and immigration status are either subsets of class or the concept loses meaning.

By way of the reform Democrat’s analysis, it was the shift of working class voters from Barack Obama in 2012 to Donald Trump in 2016 that swung the election in Mr. Trump’s favor. To the extent that race was a factor, the finger points up the class structure, not down. This difference is crucial when it comes to the much-abused ‘white working-class’ explanation of Mr. Trump’s victory.

What preceded Donald Trump was the Great Recession, the most severe capitalist crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Great Recession followed approximately three decades of neoliberal de-industrialization, of policies intended to reduce the power of organized labor, reduce working class wages and raise economic insecurity under the antique capitalist theory that destitution motivates workers to produce more for less in return.

The illusion / delusion that these problems— lost livelihoods, homes, social roles, relationships, sense of purpose and basic human dignity— were solved, or even addressed, by national Democrats, illustrates the class divide at work. The economy that was revived made the rich fabulously rich, the professional / managerial class comfortable and left the other 90% in various stages of economic decline.

Left apparently unrecognized in bourgeois attacks on working class voters is that the analytical frames at work— classist identity politics and liberal economics, are ruling class ideology in the crudest Marxian / Gramscian senses. The illusion / delusion that they are factually descriptive is a function of ideology, not lived outcomes.

Here’s the rub: Mr. Trump’s critique of neoliberalism can accommodate class analysis whereas the Democrats’ neoliberal nationalism explicitly excludes any notion of economic power, and with it the possibility of class analysis. To date, Mr. Trump hasn’t left this critique behind— neoliberal trade agreements are currently being renegotiated.

Asserting this isn’t to embrace economic nationalism, support policies until they are clearly stated or trust Mr. Trump’s motives. But the move ties analytically to his critique of neoliberal economic policies. As such, it is a potential monkey wrench thrown into the neoliberal world order. Watching the bourgeois Left put forward neoliberal trade theory to counter it would seem inexplicable without the benefit of class analysis.

Within the frame of identity politics rich and bourgeois blacks, women and immigrants have the same travails as their poor and working-class compatriots. Ben Carson (black), Melania Trump (female) and Melania Trump (immigrant) fit this taxonomy. For them racism, misogyny and xenophobia are forms of social violence. But they aren’t fundamental determinants of how they live. The same can’t be said for those brutalized by four decades of neoliberalism

The common bond here is a class war launched from above that has uprooted, displaced and immiserated a large and growing proportion of the peoples of the West. This experience cuts across race, gender and nationality making them a subset of class. If these problems are rectified at the level of class, they will be rectified within the categories of race, gender and nationality. Otherwise, they won’t be rectified.

Democrats could have confronted the failures of neoliberalism without resorting to economic nationalism (as Mr. Trump did). And they could have confronted unhinged militarism without Mr. Trump’s racialized nationalism. But this would have meant confronting their own history. And it would have meant publicly declaring themselves against the interests of their donor base.

Mr. Trump’s use of racialized nationalism is the primary basis of analyses arguing that he is fascist. Left unaddressed is the corporate-state form that is the basis of neoliberalism and was the basis of European fascism. Recent Left analysis proceeds from the premise that state control of the corporate-state form is fascism while capitalist control—neoliberalism, is something else.

Lest this not have occurred, FDR’s New Deal was state control of the corporate-state form. The only widely known effort to affect a fascist coup in the U.S. was carried out by Wall Street titans in the 1930s to wrest control from FDR before the New Deal was fully implemented. Put differently, the people who caused the Great Depression wanted to control its aftermath. And they were fascists.

More recently, the effort to secure capitalist control has been led by liberal Democrats using Investor-State Dispute Resolution (ISDS) clauses in trade agreements. So that identity warriors might understand the implications, this control limits the ability of governments to rectify race and gender bias because supranational adjudication can overrule them.

So, is race and / or gender repression any less repressive because capitalists control the levers? Colonial slave-masters certainly thought so. The people who own sweatshops probably think so. Most slumlords probably think so. Employers who steal wages probably think so. The people who own for-profit prisons probably think so. But these aren’t ‘real’ repression, are they? Where’s the animosity?

As political scientist Thomas Ferguson has been arguing for decades and Gilens and Page have recently chimed in, neither elections nor the public interest hold sway in the corridors of American power. The levers of control are structural— congressional committee appointments go to the people with lots of money. Capitalist distribution controls the politics.

The liberal explanation for this is ‘political culture.’ The liberal solution is to change the political culture without changing the economic relations that drive the culture. This is also the frame of identity politics. The presence of a desperate and destitute underclass lowers working class wages (raising profits), but ending racism is a matter of changing minds?

This history holds an important lesson for today’s nascent socialists. The domestic programs recently put forward, as reasonable and potentially useful as they are, resemble FDR’s effort to save capitalism, not end it. The time to implement these programs was when Wall Street was flat on its back, when it could have been more. This is the tragedy of Barack Obama.

Despite the capitalist rhetoric at the time, the New Deal wasn’t ‘socialism’ because it never changed control over the means of production, over American political economy. Internal class differences were reduced through redistribution, but brutal and ruthless imperialism proceeded apace overseas.

The best-case scenario looking forward is that Donald Trump is successful with rapprochement toward North Korea and Russia and that he throws a monkey wrench into the architecture of neoliberalism so that a new path forward can be built when he’s gone. If he pulls it off, this isn’t reactionary nationalism and it isn’t nothing.

Otherwise, the rich have assigned the opining classes the task of defending their realm. Step 1: divide the bourgeois into competing factions. Step 2: posit great differences between them that are tightly circumscribed to prevent history from inconveniently intruding. Step 3: turn these great differences into moral absolutes so that they can’t be reconciled within the terms given. Step 4: pose a rigged electoral process as the only pathway to political resolution. Step 5: collect profits and repeat.

By Rob Urie and published on August 3, 2018 in Counterpunch and can be found here.

 

YesSource: Rehearsals in Tokyo, 11/29/16

Here are my latest uploads to YesSource, my Yes rarities youtube page (about which you can read here).  This post is another addition to my series of Yes music posts and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.  Yes, of course, is a, if not the, premier progressive rock band, and I am an enormous fan of it.

You can see all of my Yessource uploads here.

My latest YesSource uploads can be found here:

 

5th Circuit Upholds Stay of Execution For Buddhist Inmate

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Murphy v. Collier, (5th Cir., Nov. 12, 2019), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld a stay of execution granted last week by a Texas federal district court in the case of a Buddhist inmate who challenges the access he will have to his religious adviser prior to his execution. The district court granted a stay to allow it time to explore factual concerns about the balance between the inmate’s religious rights and the prison’s valid concerns for security. (See prior posting.) Christian and Muslim inmates have access to chaplains until the moment they enter the execution chamber.  Members of other religions have access to their outside clergy only until 5:00 p.m.on the day of execution. In his majority opinion for the 5th Circuit, Judge Dennis wrote in part:

We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting Murphy’s stay. We agree with the district court’s implicit finding that Murphy has a strong likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that the TDCJ policy violates his rights by allowing inmates who share the same faith as TDCJ-employed clergy greater access to a spiritual advisor in the death house.

Judge Elrod dissented, saying in part:

Because I believe Murphy did not demonstrate that he is likely to succeed on his brand-new, untimely, and unexhausted claim regarding the TDCJ’s pre-execution holding-area protocol, I would hold that the district court abused its discretion in granting Murphy’s motion for stay of execution.

CNN reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

YesSource: Live in Tokyo, 11/29/16

Here are my latest uploads to YesSource, my Yes rarities youtube page (about which you can read here).  This post is another addition to my series of Yes music posts and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.  Yes, of course, is a, if not the, premier progressive rock band, and I am an enormous fan of it.

You can see all of my Yessource uploads here.

My latest YesSource uploads can be found here:

Post Navigation