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Tethered Citizens Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Mon, Feb 6, 2012, 12:24 PM

The United States is one of the freest countries on the globe, but unless my sensibilities are entirely out of whack, I assert that this country—the country of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Randolph, Calhoun, et al—is not nearly free enough.  It isn’t even as free as we think.  Can a man or woman truly live here according to conscience?  At one time, we could have answered “almost certainly.”  Today one’s conscience must be conformed in so many ways to so many things.  We are not free, except in the most abstract, academic—and ultimately irrelevant—way.  Our spirits are dying: death by a thousand pinpricks.  Nay worse, a hundred thousand paper cuts from a faceless bureaucracy!  Since Eden , there have been so many constraints on man anyway, without the added coercion of the muscular enforcers of state, whether they enforce the will of the few on the many—or the will of the many on the few!  I just wish our government were less concerned for my welfare and more concerned for my freedom.  I wish it were less concerned for this collective nonentity called “the people” and more concerned for every single individual, made in the image and likeness of God.  I wish the government were less concentrated, had less power and authority, and were more respectful of the natural regions and the natural differences that exist amongst us.  I don’t want to cooperate with everybody else, marching off into a global abyss.  I JUST WISH THE GOVERNMENT WOULD LEAVE US ALONE. 

Of course, you know what they say about wishing in one hand and picking up horse hockey with the other: one hand is likely to get fuller than the other.  I reckon the wish must obtain a will and the necessary resources to in fact change things.  God help us.  Today the federal government literally employs extortion on the States with the money it taxes from us.  To make you wear your seatbelt and do a hundred other things, the feds withhold funds from sovereign States, unless and until those States pass particular laws.  They did the same thing after the War Between the States: permanent military occupation unless the States would approve certain constitutional amendments.  The contexts are indeed different, and there were hard historical and practical realities to settle during the Reconstruction.  But is another Robert E. Lee or Jeff Davis left anywhere in this unified, chained and tethered house of ours—locked down from the inside out?  Is there a governor with backbone anywhere in the country to point out and even put an end to . . . (shall I name it?  Are you willing to recognize it?).  Tyranny.

Some of you will say, gosh he’s gone over the top (again).  So you think, “I’m free, right?”  Not if you think you ought to be in charge of the money you set aside for retirement, or the age you choose to retire.  Not if you think you ought to be able to choose when your child goes to school, for how many weeks he or she should study, as well as what subjects.  Walter E. Williams reviewed Sheldon Richman’s excellent new book, Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State (available at www.laissezfairebooks.org and www.amazon.com).  In the review, he asks “What if you think your child is capable of having a job at age 12, as I was?  No dice.  The government determines the age at which one can work, and for how long and at what pay.”  Andrew Jackson joined the American Revolution at the age of 14, and he was a natural soldier.  I’m glad nobody told him No dice, Andy .  (He probably would have killed somebody on our side).  Of course, I’m not advocating enlistment of child soldiers—just pointing out the arbitrariness of well-meaning rules, forced and enforced down every throat in the country—where no one possesses the slightest degree of discretion and no State retains a sovereign prerogative.

Alexis de Tocqueville predicted Americans would face this kind of despotism, to which democracies are prone—more widespread and milder than other forms, degrading men rather than tormenting them.  In his masterpiece Democracy in America, he writes that our leaders are likely to become as schoolmasters.  Our government will try to keep us “in perpetual childhood” and will do this by providing security and necessities, assuming responsibility for our concerns, managing our work.  He foresaw government, which “gladly works for [‘the people’s’] happiness but wants to be the sole agent and judge of it.”  Williams sums up his review with a very insightful comment, that “Democracy gives an aura of legitimacy to acts that would otherwise be deemed tyranny.”  Moreover, my fellow tethered citizens, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe observed, there is no one quite as hopelessly enslaved, as the person who thinks he is free but is not!

___________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford .  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC) and is currently running for U.S. Congress (TX-District 25) in the Republican Primary election scheduled April 3, 2012.  This article is from his newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium available on-line at www.WesRiddle.net and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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It’s Hard Out Here for a Judge, Or Is It? Print E-mail
by John Browning    Mon, Jan 30, 2012, 05:35 PM

          In a recent survey performed by AOL Jobs using statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job of judge was rated one of the best “lifestyle jobs” (those that pay above average but which require fewer hours than average).  According to the survey, judges work an average of 37.2 hours a week and have a median annual income of $119,270.  But the study left out some of the perks besides the hours and wages.  Let’s face it—how many other jobs let you show up for work in a robe, sit up higher than everybody else, and require everybody to stand up whenever you enter and exit?  See if you get that treatment at your cubicle tomorrow.  And let’s not forget about that neat little gavel thingy.  In fact, there are a lot of advantages to being a judge, as the following examples illustrate:

 

You Can Rhyme If You Want To

 

          How many jobs other than rapper let you bust some rhymes at work?  For Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin (about whom I’ve written before), it is a regular feature of life on the bench.  Justice Eakin recently issued the latest of his rhyming opinions, this time reversing the insurance fraud conviction of a guy who opened a bank account with a forged State Farm check:

 

“Convicted of the forgery, insurance fraud, and theft,

he admits the first and last, but denies the charge that’s left.

Just because the bogus check shows an insurance company’s name

doesn’t make the crime insurance fraud—it’s simply not the same.”

 

Well done, Justice Eakin—what other job would let you combine sound legal reason and iambic pentameter?

 

You Can Show You’re Human Like Everybody Else

 

          Who hasn’t made a Freudian slip from time to time?  Judges are no different.  Just ask Madam Justice Faye McWatt of the Ontario Superior Court in Canada.  Just before a Toronto jury exited her courtroom to begin deliberating the cocaine-trafficking charges against defendant Prinze Wilson, the judge cautioned the jury to acknowledge the presumption of innocence, saying “It is only defeated if and when Crown counsel has satisfied you beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Guilty—I’m sorry, that Mr. Wilson—is guilty of the crimes charged.”  Oops!  Did that little slip of the tongue influence the jury, which subsequently convicted Mr. Wilson?  Or was it simply an innocent faux pas?  Wilson’s lawyer, Crystal Tomusiak, has appealed her client’s conviction, saying the judge should have ordered a mistrial or given the jury an instruction to disregard the gaffe of referring to the defendant as “Mr. Guilty.”  The Ontario Court of Appeal is expected to rule later this year.

 

You Can Let People Know That You Don’t Take Any Crap

 

          Judge Jed Rakoff, a federal judge in New York, has presided over very high profile cases during his tenure on the bench.  So it is understandable if he exhibited a little frustration in a recent case that involved, well, kitty litter, to be precise.  Church & Dwight Co., the maker of Arm & Hammer products, took issue with what it contends is false advertising by the Clorox Company in a commercial for Clorox’s Fresh Step cat litter.  After an evidentiary hearing, Judge Rakoff granted an injunction in favor of Church & Dwight Co., preventing the continued airing of the commercial in question.  The judge particularly criticized the reliability of Clorox’s in-house “jar tests” supporting its claims that its carbon product eliminated the odor of cat crap better than Arm & Hammer’s baking soda.  Judge Rakoff called it “highly implausible that eleven panelists would stick their noses in jars of excrement and report forty-four independent times that they smelled nothing unpleasant.”  In other words, this case didn’t pass Judge Rakoff’s smell test (and I’m pretty sure the job of “cat crap smell tester” came in way down on the AOL Jobs survey).

 

You Get to Decide Wacky Lawsuits

 

          Oh, where do I begin with this one?  There is the legal dispute between Bikram Choudhoury (founder of Bikram Yoga) and three yoga studios (including New York’s Yoga to the People, Inc.), claiming that the yoga studios have violated his copyrighted yoga poses.  The defendants argue that yoga poses can’t be copyrighted, and the U.S. Copyright Office recently agreed.  Copyright authorities ruled that yoga poses and moves are exercises rather than choreography (which can be protected).  If I were the judge ruling on this matter, I’d have to say that yogi Choudhoury’s argument is too much of a stretch (insert rimshot noise here).  But there are so many more crazy lawsuits to choose from, like the Michigan woman who is suing the makers of the movie “Drive” (with Ryan Gosling) because, well, she was expecting more driving in the film itself.  Then there is the California woman who’s sued Chuck E. Cheese for $5 million, claiming the popular establishment’s games are actually an illegal form of gambling that gets kids addicted.  We also have the success-obsessed New York mom who’s sued a private preschool, saying that its curriculum has seriously damaged her 4 year-old’s chances of getting into an Ivy League university.  My favorites are the adult children (ages 20 and 23) who have sued their mother for allegedly sub-standard mothering.  Their list of “grievances” includes “playing favorites,” sending cards without gifts, and not sending care packages to them at college.  Boy, would I love to be the judge who imparts a cold dose of reality to those two!

 

          Sure, most judges have sacrificed lucrative pay in the private sector for the sake of public service.  But just look at the benefits.

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What Would Most of Us Do Without Them? Print E-mail
by James Reza    Mon, Jan 30, 2012, 06:40 AM

Throughout my working career I’ve been blessed to work for businesses who’s owners were great businessmen.  Due to these men who had big dreams to be the best in their respective companies (mobile homes, printing, restaurants, aircraft contractors) I, along with my family, have done well financially and never to this day have we been in financial distress.

Last week my wife and I went to San Antonio to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary.  Driving to San Antonio I called several of my musician friends to find out where they were performing.  One, Johnny, who my wife and I love his music told me he was not playing at his old gig in downtown San Antonio and gave me the name and address of the club where he now performs.  Luckily, the club was close to where my wife and I stay.  During a musical break Johnny told me why he was let go at his former gig and how he loathe the club owners and well educated individuals. “James, these guys think they’re better than everybody else and don’t give a damn about others!”  He ranted.  I then told him, “Johnny, all the years we went to see you perform at Pat’s you seemed so happy.  Now they they’ve let you go, you suddenly seem so angry with the owners. Don’t you appreciate all the years you made money there?  And, if it wasn’t for club owners, who will hire you?  Will it be people who are on welfare and food stamps? And if it wasn’t for folks who are well educated, who in turn make good money, go out to eat, have a few drinks and give you tips, which in turn keep the club owners in business, who’s going to butter your bread?”  Johnny couldn’t give me an answered.

My friends, I’ve entertained at several restaurants for almost 30 years.  I’ve known the owners since we were teens.  Johnny Cisneros, a close friend and owner of Los Vaqueros in the Stockyards, started his restaurant with only a dream and a loan from his brother in law.  Prior to being a restaurant owner Johnny worked for his brother in law who owned a bakery and tortilla factory packing tortillas.  Johnny, a great cook, once told me that he always wanted to own a restaurant but didn’t have the money to open one.  He asked his brother in law for a substantial loan and luckily got it.  He then opened his restaurant, which soon grew very popular in the Riverside area of Fort Worth.  After a few years Johnny trained his sons to run the kitchen.  Some years later, John rented a former feed store in the Stock Yards and converted it to his now famous Los Vaqueros Restaurant across from Billy Bob’s Texas (the largest country club in the USA). Later, upon the insistence of one of his sons, Johnny bought a multilevel building in the same block he ran his business.  Within time he remodeled the building and converted it into a very popular Mexican eatery packed with patrons almost weekly.  My friends, due to this hard working businessman, I, along with cooks, waiters, bartenders, cashiers, and busboys for thirty years have reaped the fruits off the dreams of this successful businessman.

Recently, my pastor at my church started to rant about the Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones.  Father Tom told the congregation that he detests the business dealings of Mr. Jones and how he cheated a lot of homeowners to obtain their homes and property to build his stadium in Arlington.  He went on to tell us that he found out that Mr. Jones has a lot of the Dallas Cowboys souvenirs (jerseys, caps, etc.) made in Third World countries where children are paid 29 cents an hour to make them.  As I sat listening to Father Tom’s supposedly deplorable business dealings of Mr. Jones, I suddenly remembered that just last year when Super Bowl XLV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers was held, it was the first time a Super Bowl was played in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the third time it was held in the state of Texas.  I honestly believe that bringing the Super Bowl to our area is nothing to sneeze at.  That to me is the expert dealings of a business sports genius!  In the week prior to the game, I would drive to downtown Fort Worth to my favorite bar restaurant and all of downtown Fort Worth was teaming with tourist from Green Bay and Pittsburg.  All I assume renting rooms in Fort Worth hotels and motels which were full to capacity and spending money in all of the restaurants, clubs, and department stores.  On the Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday, Los Vaqueros, where I entertain was full to capacity with tourists who were here to see the game and enjoying our Western Heritage in the world famous Stockyards.  Folks, I, along with my musicians made out like bandits in tips thanks to businessmen like Mr. Jerry Jones, and Mr. Johnny Cisneros.

Days after Father Tom’s Sunday’s rant at mass I received an email from my cousin which showed how much people from around the world spend a week on groceries.  One of the photos, which showed a family of six in a Third World country, caught my eye.  The photo showed the meager staple food these poor people eat in a week, which costs them a whopping $1.23, which they can barely afford.  It then dawned on me that if just one of these poor people kid’s worked making Dallas Cowboy souvenirs at 29 cents an hour for 8 hours a day for a week, it totals to $16.24 a week, which would adequately in my humble opinion feed the whole family for several weeks.

My friends as a young boy of 12, I set pins at a bowling alley for 10 cents a line for several years.  I remember earning around 14 bucks a week and I’d give mom half of my earnings.  Mom, back in the early 50s could buy a lot of groceries with 7 bucks.  I don’t recall her ever telling me not to work because I was a boy.  I also remember Hispanic families leaving for months with their kids to go pick cotton, fruits, or whatever to help sustain the family.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Father Tom’s family probably bought him clothes made out of cotton when he was a kid, which more than likely was picked by a young Hispanic 12-year-old kid working long in the hot sun in Texas!

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The Cost of Regulation Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Mon, Jan 30, 2012, 06:35 AM

Regulations exist to ensure that what people do is done a certain way.  We don’t want people to erect fences, unless they are so high and made of such and such.  We don’t want folks to be able to add on to their houses, unless the additions blend nicely and meet certain safety standards—for people and for wildlife.  We sure don’t want someone to invent a craze or gadget that might catch on, unless we determine in advance how the paperwork should be filed, how much it ought to be taxed, who will inspect the item or activity.  We don’t even want a few folks to work at all, unless we establish licensing requirements first or mandate membership in some organization. 

Regulation in general costs individuals and businesses a lot of money to comply.  Costs are passed on to consumers, or else taken in the shorts.  Of more concern, according to ABC News reporter John Stossel, is the sheer distraction of creative power.  The proverbial bar is raised by regulations, i.e., the threshold for achievement goes harder if not exactly higher.  Creative impulses can in fact be thwarted, because regulations distract focus, diffuse effort, discourage risk-taking, frustrate intent, and spend a lot of (life)-time.  Thus, things that could be simply aren’t, because the regulatory environment keeps them from being realized—a new engine or energy source perhaps, new medicine, maybe just a better mousetrap.  The reason is that an inducement one place is a disincentive someplace else.  Regulatory roadblocks and obstacles, including scrutiny, result in a comparative incentive to do something else or to go somewhere else.  The implied message is certainly not one for the budding hero.  Rather, regulations choke the best and instruct men and women of initiative to take the easier road, the one most traveled.  Regulations don’t only depress the economy, they also depress the spirit.

  The difference between something regulated and unregulated is in the measure of freedom.  Stossel shrewdly observes that,

    Visitors to Moscow before the fall of communism noticed a dead-eyed

     look in the people.  What was that about?  I don’t think it was about

     fear of the KGB.  Most Muscovites didn’t have intervention by the secret

     police in their daily lives.  I think it was the look that people get when

     they live in an all-bureaucratic state.  If you go to Washington, . . . you’ll

     see the same thing [in government agencies].

In order to get a new drug approved today, it costs $500 million and takes ten years.  Thousands die waiting on the approved release of drugs that could be available now.  Millions die for want of medicines that won’t be invented soon enough.  The simple alternative in the area of medicine, as elsewhere, would be for the government to serve as an information agency and not as a nanny placement service.  Did any of you hire the fed to be your babysitter?  Sometimes I wonder who/what the government thinks it is!  (It ain’t us for sure).  Even if we allowed for some (albeit inefficient) government research, information alone would do more to help free people protect themselves than twenty-one warning labels on a stepladder.  Indeed, that’s where we as a people may have gone wrong: we value other things now more than freedom it seems.  “Give me absolute safety or give me death!”

            The Clinton years accelerated a trend from the sixties, when he added 500,000 new pages to the Federal Register—a spider web of new little rules for everyone to obey.  Notwithstanding the information age growth during the nineties, the US grew into an economic powerhouse in years when the government didn’t account for as much of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  For most of American history, government’s share of GDP was five percent or less, but today it’s forty percent.  Some regulations are necessary, and I don’t mean to categorically denounce them all—indeed, some environmental regulations even lack alternative market incentives.  But let’s get off this regulation kick that stifles innovation.  Today Los Angeles has the same economic output as all of RussiaDallas, Texas outranks the whole country of Thailand, in terms of economic output.  That should illustrate plain-as-day this important inverse relationship: between the healthier, wealthier societies of the world and those that are corrupt, bureaucratic, and politically controlled.  Freedom should never take a back seat to “the good of the people” divined by government.  Tell our babysitter she can go home now; we’ve suddenly grown up.    

             

___________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford.  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC) and is currently running for U.S. Congress (TX-District 25) in the Republican Primary election scheduled April 3, 2012.  This article is from his newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium available on-line at www.WesRiddle.net and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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Testimony to the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee Print E-mail
by Tom Pauken    Fri, Jan 27, 2012, 10:56 AM

Chairman Tom Pauken's Testimony to the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee  on January 26, 2012

 

Thank you Chairman Davis, Vice Chairman Vo, and all the members of this committee for giving me the opportunity to testify before you today.

Texas has weathered the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression better than any other large labor market state both in terms of job creation and economic growth. Our status as an economic development leader is no accident but rather the result of a firm commitment on the part of our state’s leaders to keep government spending restrained, taxes low, and regulations both reasonable and predictable. It’s a recipe that makes Texas the number one state in America to do business. 

In order to remain an economic leader, we must remain committed to these core principles. But that will not be enough. Growing the private sector with good paying jobs requires that we restore the manufacturing sector – a sector that has undergone a severe decline over the past decade, both in the U.S and even here in Texas.

In the past, the manufacturing sector provided working-class Americans with good-paying jobs that made it possible to for them to provide for a family and enjoy long-term stability. Moreover, a vibrant manufacturing sector was a sign of a growing economy in which innovation and productivity were rewarded.   In order for Texas to lead the way in economic development, we must make the rebuilding of a strong manufacturing sector a top priority.

You may be tempted to ask whether or not anything can really be done at the state level to address the decline of manufacturing? After all, isn’t the enormous hit that manufacturing has taken over the last decade the result of large-scale, macro trends at the national and worldwide level? It’s true that our national business tax system is the most onerous in the world and that it results in jobs being shipped overseas. And it is also the case that globalization has made it easier to access cheap labor in the developing world. And yet, despite the fact that the U.S. shed five-and-half-million manufacturing jobs from 2001 to 2010 (250,000 of which were in Texas), manufacturing firms across the nation are complaining of a shortage of skilled workers. And this is precisely the area where Texas’ policymakers can make a real difference.

The skills shortage has received increased attention with the Associated Press, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal all publishing major stories in the last four months on the challenge faced by many companies looking to hire skilled workers. Our Texas employers express the same concern to me. The annual survey of Manpower Group for 2011 found that the hardest jobs to fill in the United States were for the skilled trades.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that a survey by the consulting firm, Deloitte, “found that 83 percent of manufacturers reported a moderate or severe shortage of skilled production workers for hire.”

These jobs pay a good wage. In Texas, employees in the manufacturing sector earned, on average, $1,200 a week. Here in Austin, it’s nearly $1,800. And those working to produce computer and electronic products make almost $2,000 a week on average. 

In light of the demand for skilled workers and the earning potential such jobs provide, you would think we would be doing more to train students at the secondary level for a career in the skilled trades. Instead, we have steadily deemphasized vocational and technical training, preferring to pursue a one-size-fits-all approach which says that everyone should attend a four-year university.

For lawmakers committed to addressing that demand for skilled workers, one of the most important things we could do here in Texas is to reform our educational system so that we place greater emphasis on technical and vocational training at the secondary school level.

A number of school administrators tell me that they are supportive of that concern, but they are constrained from addressing it because performance and financial incentives imposed by the state are so linked to their students’ performance on the TAKS test and the recently introduced STAAR test. So much of our educational system is driven these days by this “teaching to the test” mentality from the third grade through high school. Resources, both dollars and time, are devoted to those classes which correspond to the subject matter tested by the TAKS and STAAR tests. However, vocational and technical classes remain largely neglected.

Why not recognize the reality that for many students, a four-year university is not the best path? About half the students who attend Texas’ public colleges fail to graduate in six years. Consider this disturbing statistic from career counselor Marty Nemko: “Among high school students who graduated at the bottom 40 percent of their classes and whose first institutions (they attended after high school) were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later.”  Plus, I suspect they – or their parents – have amassed a lot of college debt.

Perhaps, they don’t enjoy or do well in a classroom environment; or maybe they just prefer working with their hands and are eager to enter the workforce and begin earning income instead of taking on the crushing debt that often goes along with 4+ years of attending college. But, instead of providing such students with skills training at the secondary school level that will allow them to enter the workforce upon graduation, we place them in classrooms where instructors are forced to teach to the test. 

Are we setting young people up for failure by promoting the idea that a college education is their only ticket to the good life – young people who might have thrived had they been given opportunities for vocational and technical education in high school?

Let’s replace the one-size-fits-all TAKS and STAAR tests that we use to evaluate all our students, with two different tests – one that measures college readiness for those that plan to pursue that route such as the ACT or SAT, and one that measures career readiness.

Community colleges play an important role in providing career education in the skilled trades. When employers come to our agency – or to the local workforce development boards – looking for employees with specific technical skills, we turn to the community colleges. That’s why I’ve been such a strong supporter of these institutions during my time as chairman. But to have a truly trained and skilled workforce we need to do more than fill in the gaps on an ad hoc basis. We must have a long-term plan that begins educating young Texans in the skilled trades long before we get a call from an employer telling us that the local labor market isn’t meeting its needs.

While it is true that the current condition of the national economy poses significant challenges for Texas, we need not despair. But we must not be naïve either. Growing the private sector and rebuilding manufacturing will require a deliberate strategy and the courage to implement real reform. I believe it is time for a whole new model of education – a model that will help to provide greater opportunities for many young Texans. Thank you for your time.

 

Tom Pauken is Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission

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