Some quotes, articles and essays I like

Nine years ago, I showed up to the Denton County Courthouse for jury duty and got myself picked for the job. A young girl had accused her mom's boyfriend of sexual assault, and the case was being brought to trial.

If you've ever served on a jury trial before, you understand the almost immediate yet very temporary bond that ties 12 strangers together who are randomly chosen from each of their private lives to fulfill a solemn public purpose.

One of our first tasks was to choose our jury foreman. Perhaps it was his business suit, his impressive stature, or his charisma, but almost everyone in that jury room suggested that this middle-aged man with graying hair was likely the most fit for the task.

Thanks, but I decline. I'm not interested in the spotlight, he told us. I didn't think anything of it.

I had just bought my first BlackBerry and used my breaks to catch up on all the emails I was missing from my week at the courthouse. I recall leaving the jury room on a break with this man and remarking how busy I was and how much work I had to do. He smiled as he sat and read the paper.

From the first day of jury selection, we all noticed another suited man always present in the courtroom. His presence was intriguing due to the ear piece in his ear. While grabbing lunch at Denton County Independent Hamburger on the square the second day of the trial, we noticed this mysterious man dining with our fellow juror who'd declined the foreman spot. The intrigue grew, and it was the talk of the jury: Who were these men?

Finally, during a break in the jury room, one juror had the nerve to ask: "Who are you? And what do you do?"

Our fellow jury member was reading the paper again and pointed out an article with Exxon in the headlines.

I work for them, he said humbly. There are a lot of people in this world who hate me for what I do, so they give me and my family guys like that to protect me.

I immediately felt embarrassed for complaining about how much work I had to do. It didn't take long before a few internet searches revealed that I was serving on this jury with the CEO of Exxon Mobil, Rex Tillerson.

The trial concluded, and it was time for the jury to deliberate. The story was heartbreaking, and the facts of the case were clear enough to make the majority of the jury convinced of the guilt of this sexual offender of a little girl. But the defense did a good enough job to create a couple of hold-outs. As our deliberations came to a close, it appeared we might have a hung jury.

That's when Tillerson began to speak. Humbly, delicately and without an ounce of condescension toward those who disagreed, he began walking us all through the details of the case. I even recall being moved by his thorough explanation about the nature of doubt and the standards set forth by our justice system.

With great patience, this man who strikes multibillion-dollar deals with foreign heads of state brought our scrappy jury together — to bring a sexual predator to justice and to deliver justice for a scared and deeply wounded little girl.

A local nonprofit was instrumental in fostering that young girl through this process, providing her counseling and legal help. I was so struck by their mission that I toured their facility the week after the case to learn how I could donate and volunteer to their cause.

On a whim, I decided to reach out to Tillerson to encourage him to do the same. I found an email for him online and sent him a note, touting the role this agency played in our trial and urging him to consider supporting the great work they do. To my surprise, I received an email back thanking me for my note and my jury service, and ensuring me that he would contact the agency. I later received a call from the director of that nonprofit to let me know that Tillerson followed through and gave a generous donation.

I didn't vote for Trump. This is not an endorsement of Tillerson for secretary of state. I'm sure that the coming days and weeks will be filled with speculation and political discussion over this clearly controversial pick. I certainly appreciate those concerns and the process that ensures significant scrutiny for this important position.

But during a recent news show, I heard the term "corrupt" applied to this man who I spent five days with back in 2007.

All I know is that this man who holds one of the most powerful positions in the world and clearly has the means and ability to side-step his jury responsibilities, served as a normal citizen without complaint or pretense.

I know that a scared little girl who was finally persuaded to come public with her account of abuse was inches away from a decision that would have sided with her abuser, yet this man put his negotiation skills to a noble use, and justice was served.

I know that this man and his myriad aides could have ignored an unsolicited email from a girl in her 20s suggesting that he donate to a local cause, but he took the time to respond and opened up his pocket book.

My five days with Rex Tillerson is all I know about this man and his character. And in light of the recent news, I thought this a relevant story to tell.

Emily Roden is a small-business owner in Denton. This essay was adapted from a post that first appeared at

Anger Mismanagement


an intriguing issue: how best to express anger


… It makes you-- or, I should say, me-- want to rush to open a volume of Aristotle’s ethics.  When he addressed the question of how to express anger, Aristotle did not think in terms of what a person who had been therapied to within an inch of his life would do. He described how a virtuous person should do it.


In my view, you have gotten it wrong if you have made yourself and your emotion the center of attention. You have gotten it right when you have directed attention toward the person who has offended you.


When anger is expressed effectively it will shame the other person, causes him to apologize, quickly, directly, and sincerely.


If he fails to apologize, that can only then mean that the offense was intentional, and that he will continue to treat you as subservient.


In that case, expressing anger is fruitless. It’s best to cease contact with the person.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.


-- C. S. Lewis

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The first thing a man 

will do for his ideals is lie.

--Joseph A. Schumpeter

White Male Privilege Squandered on Job at Best Buy

HAMILTON, OH—Despite being the beneficiary of numerous societal advantages and having faced little to no major adversity throughout his life, local man Travis Benton has spent the last four years squandering his white male privilege on a sales floor job at Best Buy, sources confirmed Tuesday. “You can get by with a regular HDMI cable, but if you’re looking at a length longer than 10 feet, I’d go with a gold-tipped one,” said the man dressed in a bright blue polo shirt and pin-on name tag as he continued to fritter away such innate life advantages as greater access to higher education, leniency from the justice system, and favorable treatment from other white males who lead and make hiring decisions at a disproportionately high number of American companies. “The AudioQuest gold-tip is actually the cable I use in my own home entertainment center and it provides excellent audio and video clarity, plus it comes with a full five-year warranty, unlike the 90-day warranty of a bargain brand. For your money, you’re not going to find a better cable.” At press time, the man born into the world’s most affluent and privileged socioeconomic group was spending his 15-minute break silently consuming a sleeve of Donettes purchased out of a vending machine.

Is America an Idea?

Do you believe that America is an idea? It’s an article of secular faith, held by people on both sides of the political spectrum, that America is an idea. The chances are that you believe it.


Two recent statements come to us from the progressive left, but, with more time, and with the help of some of you, I am confident that we can find conservatives who would happily embrace the idea that America is an idea.


For now, Roger Cohen bemoans the end of the American idea in a recent column. I need not tell you why he thinks that the idea is dying:


America is an idea. Strip freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law from what the United States represents to the world and America itself is gutted. Of course, realpolitik driven by interests is integral to American foreign policy, but a valueless approach of the kind Trump proposes leaves the world rudderless.


As jumbles go, this one surpasses all of our expectations. Did you notice the inside/outside confusion. Strip away things from something and you gut it???


You would think that the American idea is attracting adherents all over the world. In fact, as foreign countries see what the American mania about ideals has birthed they lose interest in emulating our example.


As has often been mentioned on this blog—as recently as yesterday— we can throw serious doubt on the notion that America is a democracy. We pledge allegiance to the flag and “to the Republic for which it stands.”


If we cannot make America work, then no one is going to want to be like America. If America is hopelessly divided on ideological grounds, why would anyone want to emulate our example? If America cares more about whether you accept the dogmas of the leftist cause du jour than about whether you pledge allegiance to the flag, then other countries will reject our supposed freedoms.


If those who believe most fervently in the American idea are reduced to whining and moaning over a lost election, then apparently they do not respect the rule of law or the basic contract that founded the nation. If those who believe in the idea can think of nothing better than to harass and threaten and intimidate electors-- in order to persuade them to go back on their commitments-- then they are not respecting American custom and tradition. They are animated by the idea that they need to get their way.


Besides, America is not an idea. It is a nation. It was not founded on an idea or even an ideal. It was founded when a political contract between the states was ratified. You do not become American by believing in an idea. You do not become American by thinking some idealistic thoughts.


Being an American means belonging to a nation, a nation with borders, a nation with customs and ceremonies and rituals. If you shut those down and believe that your rights are so sacrosanct that you should disrespect the rights of other people, you no longer have a functioning country. If he mania about rights means that boys who believe they are girls are granted a right to disrobe and shower in the girls’ locker room, you should not be surprised to see that the rest of the world does not want to have anything to do with rights. And, this all predated the advent of Trump. You might say that it paved the way for Trump.


It’s nice to worship at the altar of freedom, but precisely which freedom do we mean. Do we mean free will or free speech or free lunch or free love or free trade or a free-for-all? Do we think that you should be free to do as you please and that no one is allowed to object? Would that not be an infringement on someone’s freedom? Do we have the freedom to express offensive and obnoxious thoughts? The courts say that we do, but in practice we don’t.


As Catherine Rampell wrote in the Washington Post, college students on all sides of the political spectrum are willing to infringe on the freedom of speech.


She wrote:


This year, Gallup surveyed 3,072 U.S. college students who collectively attend 240 U.S. four-year colleges. The results show that on multiple measures, self-identified Democrats and Republicans are about equally amenable to restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press. And even in cases where Democrats are more open to limiting freedom of expression, there’s still a large share of Republicans who feel the same way.


Keep in mind, these poll results predate the Trump presidency.


As for Cohen’s whining about the end of Pax Americana, the truth is that we did not produce a Pax Americana by proselytizing the American secular faith. We did it by having the world’s greatest military, a military that was so powerful that no one would challenge it.


Our Navy keeps the sea lanes open in order to facilitate global trade and commerce. If you want to complain about the end of Pax Americana note the activities of the Chinese in the South China Sea, in particular the building and arming of military bases. Dare I mention that this has been taking place without any input from future president Trump?


While the Chinese and Russian militaries are strengthening, the readiness of the American military has diminished. Now it has become embroiled over issues about gender and sexuality. When other military organizations around the world look at America and see it putting women and the transgendered in the combat infantry, they can see a manifestation of America as an idea. And they want nothing of it. Why would they?


Instead of mourning an inchoate and ill-defined idea, one would do better to ask what these ideas look like when they are translated into policy. And, what happens when the policies become actions. In this case, the policies that have discredited the American political contract have mostly but not entirely been promoted by the Obama administration.


When Cohen complains about the future Trump-Putin alliance he would do better to recall his own scathing judgment of the failure of the Obama policy in Syria. While Aleppo burns and people are being slaughtered, one has a moral obligation to do as Cohen has done: to place responsibility where it belongs.


It makes very little sense to scapegoat Trump for what Putin has been doing in Syria, and elsewhere. It makes little sense unless your idea of America is that the Democratic Party represents America and that the Republican Party does not. But, that sounds positively Krugmanian…


An Australian named Lisa Pryor also bemoans the end of the American idea. Like Cohen she does not recognize that the conditions she is complaining about already exist. They were not produced by Trump. But they were the reason why people voted for Trump.


Pryor describes these conditions:


Things were changing long before this election. Trips to Asia are now more likely to startle us with modernity. Bangkok, Singapore, even Mumbai have shocked me on visits over the last few decades, not just the wealth and development but also the music and fashion and public transportation.


For all the intractable problems in our region, there is a sense of forward movement. When we visit America now, it feels like the opposite, like decay. Roads, airports, an economy, perhaps even a society, falling to pieces. We are left in awe by the extreme poverty as well as the extreme wealth. And maybe it is because of your poetry about yourself that the turning current has been harder for Americans themselves to see.


Americans saw it very clearly. That’s why they voted for Trump. Some held their noses. Many knew that they were taking a risk.  They did not want four more years of Obama's policies.


After Pryor notes that the United States has not been setting a very good example, she adds that with Trump it is bound to get a lot worse a lot faster. She might be right or she may be wrong. Cleaning up the swamp is not going to happen overnight, if at all.


She adds the words of a former Labour Party Prime Minister Paul Keating, to the effect that America, over the past twenty years has been anything but a beacon:


Paul Keating, questioned Australia’s deference to the United States.

“This society of ours is a better society than the United States,” he said. “It’s more even, it’s more fair. We’ve had a 50 percent increase in real incomes in the last 20 years. Median America has had zero, zero.” He added, “We have universal health protection, from the cradle to the grave.”


Demographically, Australia is not America. I will spare you the details. Obviously, Australia is roughly as large as America. It has a wealth of natural resources and a comparatively miniscule population. It was become rich and can afford universal health care because it has been supplying raw materials to a resurgent China. Speaking of freedom, in China they practice more free enterprise and capitalism than we do, while stifling all democratic freedoms. Is China a free country, or not?


Today, more and more Australians see their future in an alliance with China. After all, they are getting rich working with China, why should they try to emulate a declining America.


Rather than consider the past twenty years or more of American decline, Pryor makes it all a function of Trump. She invites us to envision her crying in the shower:


Since the election I have cried many times, in the shower, in the car, as the conventions that define liberal Western democracy are stripped away by Donald J. Trump, with every distressful appointment, each impulsive outburst. I have embarrassment of grief for a government that is not mine and for a country that does not belong to me. It feels as if we’re mourning the death of an idea called America.


One imagines that it feels good to have a convenient scapegoat for the failures of past administrations, both the current and the prior administrations.


We should point out that George W. Bush's his political agenda for the Middle East revolved around that old Wilsonian idea of bringing freedom and democracy to parts of the world where people did not want it and did not know how to practice it. W. was promoting the idea of America. How did that work out?


Confusing values with ideals is a mistake. America is a nation, a nation formed by a political contract, even a compact. It cannot function if the practice of Republican government yields to a worship of ideas.


by Stuart Schneiderman