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Train While you Claim Print E-mail
by Tom Pauken    Mon, Jan 23, 2012, 11:05 AM

I was pleased to see that, in the Presidential debate in South Carolina Monday night, Newt Gingrich came out in support of a proposal I presented in testimony before Congress on February 2011. It deals with the issue of extended unemployment benefits and is called “train while you claim.” Here is an excerpt from that testimony:


I recommend that, as a condition for receiving extended unemployment benefits, recipients would have an option to “Train While They Claim”.  Those without a high school diploma could choose to study for their GED.  UI claimants in that category would be entitled to first priority for participation in existing federally funded Adult Basic Education programs.


Those with a high school degree, but lacking specific vocational training, would be able to receive job skills training.  Again, this would not require an increase in federal funding, but simply give claimants top priority to participate in existing federally funded training programs.


Alternatively, those who don’t choose to get a GED or receive additional skills training would be required to gain additional on-the-job experience or training by volunteering for community service work for public institutions or approved non-profits like Habitat for Humanity.  Those who refuse to participate in one of these three options would no longer be entitled to receive extended unemployment benefits.”


To me, this is a commonsense approach for providing the unemployed with additional skills while they look for work as well as dropping from the rolls those who want to “game the system.” The full testimony to the Subcommittee of Human Resources of the House Ways and Means Committee can be found here:


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Bored With the Movies? Go To the Courthouse Instead Print E-mail
by John Browning    Tue, Jan 17, 2012, 09:53 AM

Like many Americans, I had more than my fill of three things this holiday season: turkey, egg nog, and movies.  Not just the big, splashy blockbusters, mind you, like “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” but also those smaller art-house films that become critical darlings and Oscar favorites.  But now, just as I resign myself to the filmgoer’s malaise that accompanies the string of movies released early in the year that won’t light up the box office or garner golden statuettes, I’ve realized that there is an endless source of almost cinematic entertainment waiting for me down at the courthouse.  So forget your local multiplex and come with me to see what’s playing at a courthouse near you (and don’t forget the popcorn),


If you liked films like “The Parent Trap” or any movie with identical twins who get themselves into sticky situations where hilarity ensues, then you’ll love the case of State of Missouri v. Darrel W. White, Jr. in Jackson County, Missouri (not far from Kansas City).  Criminal defense attorney Dorothy Savory was representing the defendant at a preliminary hearing on charges of robbery.  When the victim was asked to identify the man who snatched her purse, she pointed to “Mr. White,” the gentleman sitting next to Savory at the counsel table, as her assailant.  However, in the hall outside the courtroom, the arresting officer noticed a familiar-looking person getting off the elevator—Darrel W. White, Jr.  In short order, it was revealed that the man next to defense lawyer Savory was the defendant’ identical twin brother, Darion White.  Both prosecutor Jean Baker and Judge Kenneth R. Garrett III were furious at the switcheroo.  Although Ms. Savory was reportedly mystified at the fuss and the allegation that her conduct was deceptive, Judge Garrett pulled no punches, calling her actions “disrespectful” and continuing the hearing until contempt charges (and possible disciplinary action) against the defense attorney could be considered.  That’s what I call “double trouble.”


If your tastes run more to horror flicks like “Paranormal Activity,” then check out the criminal charges pending against former police officer Joseph Hughes of Mount Gilead, Ohio.  Hughes was facing 20 charges, including theft and possession of stolen property, after a slew of stolen air conditioners and other goods (many belonging to the county) was found inside Hughes’ home.  The case took a supernatural turn when Hughes attempted to explain why he was unaware that all those stolen goods were in his basement.  “We believed that there was some kind of paranormal presence in the basement,” Hughes testified.  “It sounds kind of ridiculous but there was evidence to support it.”  The “paranormal defense” shocked prosecutors.  Tom Elkin  of the Morrow County Prosecutor’s Office said “I’ve been practicing since 1983 and I can say that’s the first time I’ve heard of paranormal activity in the course of a trial.”  As it turns out, Hughes’ defense didn’t stand a ghost of a chance; he was found guilty of 18 out of 20 charges.


Of course, if your preferences are for more Disney-style family fare, along the lines of “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” then follow the lawsuit recently filed in New York City by dog owner Elena Zakharova against an Upper East Side pet store known as Raising Rover.  Zakharova claims that the pet shop sold her Umka, a Brussells Griffon which was represented to her as healthy but which allegedly has bad knees and bad hips.  What makes Ms. Zakharova’s lawsuit unusual is that she does not want just compensation for Umka’s vet bills (which exceed $4,000); she also wants compensation for the dog’s pain and suffering and recognition by the court that companion animals are not inanimate property but “living souls.”  I’m not sure a court will be able to make such a declaration, but I’m cheering for Ms. Zakharova and little Umka anyway—all dogs do go to heaven, as Disney fans will attest.


Of course, if your movie of choice is a grisly horror flick full of dismemberment and “creative” deaths like the “Saw” or “Final Destination” movies, then a recent Illinois appellate court decision will make lively reading.  The bizarre case began with an unusual set of circumstances.  In 2008, 18 year-old Hiroyuki Joho was hurrying to catch an inbound Metra train in the Chicago suburb of Edgebrook when he was struck by a southbound Amtrak train traveling at over 70 mph.  In a lawsuit that even one of the lawyers involved described as “very peculiar and gory and creepy,” a passenger waiting on the southbound platform, 58 year-old Gayane Zokhrabov, was struck by “a large portion” of Joho’s body.  The flying body part knocked her to the ground, injuring her shoulder and breaking her leg and wrist.  Zokhrabov sued Joho’s estate, and a Cook County judge dismissed the case.  But the Illinois appeals court disagreed, and in an opinion worthy of a law school exam hypothetical reasoned that it was “reasonably foreseeable” to Joho that a high-speed train could kill him, sever his body, and fling body parts down the tracks at a platform full of waiting people.  Hollywood special effects people, get your moving trains and flying body parts ready.


Finally, if a romantic comedy where two people “meet cute” under unusual circumstances and eventually fall in love (like “When Harry Met Sally” or virtually any Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts movie) is your cup of tea, then check out another lawsuit pending in suburban Chicago.  Stickney, Illinois police officer Chris Collins is apparently a lonely guy.  On October 22, 2011, the 27 year-old officer pulled over Evangelina Paredes for speeding and issued her a $132 ticket.  But he couldn’t get the comely motorist off his mind, and he allegedly searched her motor vehicle records for her address before leaving a handwritten note on her car windshield outside her apartment two days later.  The alleged note said “It’s Chris . . . that ugly bald Stickney cop who gave you that ticket.  I know this may seem crazy and you’re probably right, but truth is I have not stopped thinking about you since.  I don’t expect a girl as attractive as you to . . . even go for a guy like me, but I’m taking a shot anyways.”  The alleged note continues saying he’d understand if Ms. Paredes didn’t respond, but that “hey, I did cost you $132—least I can do is buy you dinner.”


Awwh.  Unfortunately, one woman’s cute is another woman’s creepy, and Ms. Paredes has filed a federal court lawsuit against Officer Collins, his police chief, and the village of Stickney.  The lawsuit alleges invasion of privacy and stalking that has caused Paredes to “suffer great fear and anxiety.”  It also accuses Collins of using his “authority and position as a police officer not to protect the public, but to attempt to manipulate the plaintiff into going out on a date with him.”  Not exactly a Hollywood ending.  Can’t you just see a movie version (with say, Eva Mendes as Ms. Paredes and Ryan Reynolds as Officer Collins) where, after a hilarious chain of events, the two meet up again in a climatic courtroom scene and realize that it’s true love after all?  I guess not, but the courthouse can still be as entertaining sometimes as the movies, and admission is free.

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MLK: What’s in the Day? Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Mon, Jan 16, 2012, 08:02 AM

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929.  He was assassinated in 1968.  “MLK Day” as it were, is celebrated the third Monday in January close to the time of his birthday.  One may ask how such a short life should warrant a federal holiday.  Martin Luther King, Jr. never was elected to public office.  His life was controversial while he lived it.  Moreover, his memory is skewed given that FBI files were sealed under court order until 2027.  These records were not accessible to lawmakers, who voted for his holiday in 1983.  The measure nevertheless passed with bipartisan support and by large margin before Ronald Reagan signed it into law. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. still evokes an ecstatic memory from his admirers, and the man has become something of an icon too.  That is to say, the representation of high ideals and idealism is separate and distinct from his actual biography.  Of course the same can be said of many others, including Lincoln and Jefferson.  Great men are often given a public pass on their blemishes and shortcomings.  Historians are or ought to be a bit more circumspect. 

The reason for the Day, and celebrating the life of MLK involves the issue of race.  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work was important in achieving a Second Reconstruction so-called, i.e., the end of segregation and the application of rights past state laws based upon the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.   

Martin Luther King, Jr. attended segregated public schools in Georgia.  After that he went to Morehouse College in Atlanta and then to Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.  At Crozer he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class.  He then proceeded to Boston University where he earned his Ph. D. in 1955 and met his wife Coretta Scott.  They would have two sons and two daughters together. 

After educational and professional preparations, King launched himself into the pastorate first in Montgomery, Alabama and then in his native Atlanta, Georgia.  At the same time he dedicated himself to political activism throughout the South, in order to end “Jim Crow” discriminatory statutes.  As a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) he led the Montgomery bus boycott lasting 382 days.  This led to a Supreme Court decision ending bus segregation.  During the days of the boycott, King was arrested and subjected to personal abuse, and his home was bombed. 

In 1957 he was elected to head the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, from which he provided new leadership for the burgeoning civil rights movement.  King employed the teachings and techniques of Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi.  His enduring success is largely attributable, however, to skilful adaptation of widely accepted American values, including the rule of law—albeit, through aggressive non-violence; as well as strong appeal to common spiritual beliefs, especially in the South, about God and the moral worth and dignity of man, and to Christian values of forbearance and brotherly love.  His historicism was Lincolnesque and so helpful, in that he emphasized the text of the Declaration of Independence, characterizing that document as a promissory note as yet unfulfilled.  Thus he appealed to American patriotism, while strongly criticizing social norms regarding race. 

In the eleven year period from 1957 to 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled more than six million miles, gave over twenty-five hundred speeches, wrote five books and numerous articles, consistently preaching against racial hatred and injustice.  His activity is largely credited with changing the conscience of America on the subject of race.  In 1963 he directed a peaceful march on Washington, D.C. of 250,000 people and delivered perhaps his finest address, “I Have a Dream” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  In 1965 he led 30,000 people on a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, where he demanded that black people be allowed to vote without unfair restrictions.  The speech televised to a national audience, as well as the Selma march and various protests he orchestrated, stirred general unrest in the South and American cities, leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

In 1964 he became the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize, turning over that considerable cash prize to the furtherance of civil rights.  The iconic ideal he articulated at the Lincoln Memorial is still one of the highest domestic hopes in the land.  It has come to define what we mean by a just equality.  Speaking of his four little children, he said “I have a dream that … one day” they “will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” 


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).  This article is from his newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium available on-line at 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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President Obama’s Judicial Nominees: A Question of Qualifications Print E-mail
by John Browning    Tue, Jan 10, 2012, 12:00 PM

One of the many advantages that being president confers is the opportunity to shape the judiciary—potentially for decades to come—through lifetime appointments to the federal bench.  The American Bar Association, through its bipartisan Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary that evaluates the professional qualifications of prospective nominees, has played an important role in advising presidential administrations since the days of Eisenhower.  In recent years, the ABA came under fire when it was accused of having its ratings reflect a liberal bias against judicial candidates from conservative political backgrounds.  President George W. Bush, in fact, in 2001 ceased providing the ABA with the names of those he was considering nominating to the bench (the ABA’s Committee rated them anyway, after the nominations).  When President Barak Obama took office in January 2009, he publicly reinstated the ABA panel to its role in this prenomination selection process.  There’s been just one problem—a significant number of the names provided by President Obama have been rated as flat-out unqualified by this bipartisan, blue ribbon panel, and the president is not happy about it.


I wish I could give you the names of these prospective judges.  Unfortunately, because the Obama administration has decided against going through with their nominations, both their identities and the critical reviews that sunk them have not been made public.  However, what is known is that virtually all of them are women and/or minorities, and the White House is not pleased about the low ratings, expressing what The New York Times described as “growing frustrations with the ratings over the past year and a half.”  In particular, the Obama administration has questioned whether the ABA Committee has placed too much emphasis on courtroom experience, saying this could have “a disparate impact on female and minority lawyers because they may have been less likely to become litigators.”  This is clearly a sore point with President Obama, since he has made it a policy to appoint more diverse candidates (and, indeed, his nominees are more likely to be women or minorities than those of any of his predecessors).


The result of Mr. Obama’s dash to diversity at the risk of actual qualifications is a rate of negative ratings from the ABA Committee that is nearly 4 times as high as either of his predecessors.  President Bill Clinton submitted about 440 prospective judicial nominees, and only 4 of them received a “not qualified” rating.  Approximately 365 of President George W. Bush’s nominees were vetted (after the fact), and only 7 were given a “not qualified” rating.  In contrast, President Obama has submitted roughly 185 potential judicial nominees to the ABA’s vetting panel, and 14 of them have been opposed as “not qualified.”  This makes the rejection rate for Obama prospects more than 31/2 times higher than it was under the two earlier presidencies.  Of the 14 who were deemed unqualified, nine are women (5 white, 2 African-American, and 2 Hispanic) and five are men (2 African-American, 2 Hispanic, and 1 white).


I am troubled by not only the fact that the Obama White House considered these people of apparently lightweight qualifications in the first place, but by the hubris the administration displays in urging a purportedly impartial vetting panel to consider the “disparate impact” of their pesky little insistence on ability.  If my car won’t run, or my toilet won’t flush, I choose a mechanic or plumber based on whether they know their trade.  If one of my loved ones was undergoing open heart surgery, I’d want a surgeon who knows what he or she is doing (and preferably someone who has performed such surgery many times before).  I do not want a hospital deciding to “reduce the disparate impact on minorities” by giving an unqualified—but diverse—doctor a shot at the operating room.  With the judicial nominees of President Obama, or any president for that matter, let’s not forget that these are lifetime appointments to the bench.  “We the people” are going to be stuck with that judge for his or her lifetime, so yes, qualifications do matter.


The ABA Committee’s own guidelines make it clear that “substantial courtroom and trial experience as a lawyer or trial judge is important.”  While things like public service are “valuable experiences,” “they are not a substitute for significant experience in the practice of law in either the private or public sector,” according to the Committee.  Sometimes, “[d]istinguished accomplishments in the field of law or experience that is similar to in-court trial work—such as appearing before or serving on administrative agencies or arbitration boards, or teaching trial advocacy or other clinical law school courses—may compensate for a prospective nominee’s lack of substantial courtroom experience,” according to the ABA Committee’s guidelines.  When evaluating such candidates, the 15 member Committee (each of whom serves a 3-year term) evaluates three main areas of professional qualifications: integrity (that prospective nominee’s character and general reputation in the legal community); professional competence (that nominee’s intellect, writing and analytical abilities, knowledge of the law, and breadth of professional experience); and judicial temperament (that nominee’s compassion, decisiveness, patience, freedom from bias, and commitment to equal justice under the law).  Among other steps, Committee members spend countless hours reviewing a prospective nominee’s writings and conducting confidential interviews with judges and lawyers familiar with the candidate.  The chairman of the ABA Committee, Allan J. Joseph, defends his panel’s work as both fair-minded and independent.  He says, “We are not a rubber stamp.  Our role is to provide the only peer review in the whole process, and we think that is valuable—particularly with a lifetime appointment under consideration.”


Mr. Joseph is right.  With lifetime appointments at stake, and the potential to shape the federal bench for decades to come, the stakes are too high to get it wrong.  We the people deserve better than to be on the receiving end of President Obama’s personal affirmative action plan for the judiciary.  Qualifications aren’t optional.

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The Importance of Manufacturing to Texas and the United States Print E-mail
by Tom Pauken    Tue, Jan 10, 2012, 09:35 AM

In early December, Rubbermaid Home Products announced the closing of its manufacturing plant in Greenville, Texas which will take effect this June. An estimated 490 employees will lose their jobs. Several years ago, Rubbermaid closed its big molding plant in Wooster, Ohio, and moved some of its production to the Greenville plant. Now, those jobs will be lost as well.

This has become a recurrent story over the past decade. From 2001 through 2010, we lost one-third of our U.S. manufacturing base – that’s five and a half million U.S. jobs that were shipped overseas, outsourced, or simply went away. Moreover, The Wall Street Journal reported that, from 2000 to 2009, U.S.-based multinational companies (which account for 20 percent of private sector employment in the United States) eliminated 2.9 million jobs in the U.S. while creating 2.4 million jobs in other countries. As Austin businessman David Hartman has noted, the U.S. manufacturing trade deficit in goods totaled $5.4 trillion from 2000 to 2008. This past year the U.S. ran trade deficits with nearly 100 nations.

The late German economist, Dr. Kurt Richebacher, pointed out the devastating consequences of what we are doing to ourselves economically: “Essentially all (U.S.) job losses are high-wage manufacturing, and most gains are in low-wage services. In essence the U.S. economy is restructuring downward, while the Chinese economy is restructuring upward.”

Relatively speaking, Texas is doing better on the manufacturing front than the nation as a whole. More than 836,000 Texans are employed in manufacturing, the second highest number in the U.S. According to our

latest monthly employment statistics, Texas has added 25,200 manufacturing jobs over the past twelve months. Texas also exports nearly $160 billion worth of manufactured goods a year. We lead all states in that regard with our nearest competitor, California, next at less than $85 billion annually.

But, we have to do more to rebuild what once was the strongest manufacturing sector in the world. Texas may be treading water on the manufacturing front, but our nation as a whole is hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs. Our Washington policymakers had better address this manufacturing decline before it is too late.

What can we do to reverse this trend and restore our manufacturing base? One way is for Washington D.C. policymakers to reform the way we tax businesses. The U.S. has the most onerous business tax system in the world with its 35 percent income tax rate and its 7.65 percent employer portion of the payroll tax. Our business tax system rewards private equity moguls for loading up American-based companies with lots of debt (debt is deductible under our current system of business taxation) while punitively taxing employment, capital investment, and savings – the engines of job creation and economic growth. Our existing tax system effectively exports prosperity, and American jobs overseas. 

We should implement a proposal known as the Hartman Plan in which the U.S. corporate tax system would be replaced by a revenue-neutral, 8 percent business-consumption tax that would be border-adjusted. All goods and services coming into the United States would pay the 8 percent tax while all exports would receive a comparable tax credit or tax abatement as an offset to its company's business-consumption tax. This new approach to taxing business would raise just as much in revenue as, if not more than, the current system of taxation.

Another way to address the decline in manufacturing can be implemented here in Texas. We must rethink our one-size-fits-all approach to education which emphasizes preparing all high school students for a college education.

The greatest demand for jobs is in the skilled trades. Many industries, where skilled workers are essential, currently have an aging workforce that soon will have to be replaced by younger workers with a skill set that matches the needs of the industry. There should be a greater emphasis on vocational and technical education at both the secondary and post-secondary levels to prepare young people for that demand. 

I believe that it may be time for a whole new model of education. We can begin by looking at the accomplishments of the Craft Training Center in Corpus Christi where they bring in high school students from a number of local school districts and provide them with top notch training in a variety of technical trades such as welding, pipefitting, and electrical work. Those who complete the program have been very successful in landing employment in their respective fields. The skills required for these positions are impressive, and they allow young workers to make a good living and raise a family.


Manufacturing can have a bright future in Texas and our nation. But, it will require us to change a U.S. tax policy which exports American jobs abroad, and to implement educational reforms which will provide our young people with greater opportunities in the skilled trades.


Tom Pauken is Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission and author of Bringing America Home.


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