Sunday, January 29, 2017

Why Trump has the potential to be the greatest president in living memory

I've stated many times that I don't care for Trump.  This past week he's done some things that have me scratching my head, like proposing a 20% tariff on Mexican goods to pay for a border wall and claiming that will make Mexicans pay for the wall when the tax will be paid by Americans, not Mexicans. 

You may be wondering with that intro what impressed me this week.  It's a concept that Trump expressed in a position paper that many Americans don't know or have forgotten.  It's all but dead in American law schools.  It was expressed in September, but people seem to have discovered it more recently.

We'll get to his statements in just a bit, but let me introduce the concept, one we've discussed before in prior posts.  There are rights that were part of the colonist's heritage.  They were tradition, considered natural or inalienable rights.  They weren't granted by anyone, but governments were expected to respect them, as they weren't granted by governments, but rather by the very nature of being human.  These rights pre-existed the Constitution.  They weren't granted by it, but rather guaranteed by it.  That means they also can't be taken away by amending the Constitution.  I've heard historians say that the Bill of Rights was objected to by several of the founders not because the guarantees were bad, but because they felt all Americans understood these rights, and infringement upon them would result in another revolution.  I'm so happy they ratified the Bill of Rights anyway.  They had no idea how a hundred years of reeducation would affect the average American's understanding of her rights.

Benjamin Franklin commented on the freedom to express one's thoughts as a fundamental principle for any free country a half century before the 1st Amendment was introduced:

"This sacred privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own." The full letter is available here.

Once again, the right pre-existed the Constitution and was guaranteed by it.  You can repeal the words in the Constitution, but you can't change the natural law.  The right exists whether it's guaranteed on paper or not.

What Trump Said in his Position Paper
“The Second Amendment to our Constitution is clear. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period,” the position paper began.

Trump went on to explain that the right to keep and bear arms is a right that pre-existed both the government and the Constitution, noting that government didn’t create the right and therefore cannot take it away.

He also rightly denoted the Second Amendment as “America’s first freedom,” pointing out that it helps protect all of the other rights we hold dear.

From Conservative Tribune
I confirmed with a second source, though many don't trust this one anymore:
On September 18 Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump released a position paper on gun policy in which he stated, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed…period.”

Trump explained that our Founding Fathers protected Second Amendment rights in this way because the sanctity of all other fundamental rights rests on the existence of a people who are free and therefore armed. To put it plainly, Trump said, “The Right to Keep and Bear Arms protects all our other rights.”

He used the position paper to remind Americans that the United States is “the only country in the world that has a Second Amendment”–the only country in the whole world in which the right to keep and bear arms is recognized as a natural, individual right upon which the government cannot infringe. Trump echoes the sentiment of Founding Father James Madison here. It was Madison who used Federalist 46 to describe the “advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.”

It should also be noted that Trump understands that the Second Amendment does not create a right. Rather, that amendment recognizes pre-existing rights and protects them from government intrusion. In light of this view of the Second Amendment, it should come as no surprise that Trump’s entire gun policy rests on expanding the exercise of gun rights rather than expanding the presence of gun control.

From Breitbart
If Donald Trump truly understands and believes this, it is as he would put it, "Yuge."  This would mean he understands the Constitution's origin and intent, not just the words on the page.  I have a hard time believing this given how he's used the Kelo decision in private business, yet no president in my memory has expressed so clear an understanding of the sanctity of our rights.  I don't even recall President Reagan articulating this, though readers are welcome to correct me.

Looking at the bullet points of President Trump's expressed opinion is also encouraging:
* Nominate United States Supreme Court justices that will abide by the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States that includes upholding the Second Amendment.

* Defend the rights of law-abiding gun owners:
  • Military bases and recruiting centers - to have a strong military, we need to allow them to defend themselves
  • National right to carry – should be legal in all 50 states
  • Background checks - we need to fix the system we have and make it work as intended. What we don’t need to do is expand a broken system.
  • Gun and magazine bans - the government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own
Once again, if he truly means this and understands it, it's very encouraging, and President Trump has the potential to be the best President in living memory.  I'm jaded enough politically not to get too excited, but I sure would love factory capacity magazines for my firearms and to see some of California's ridiculous restrictions stricken down.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Why the fuss over Betsy DeVos?

Full disclaimer:  I don't like Trump and didn't vote for him.  The only worse outcome for the 2016 presidential election would have been for Hillary Clinton to win.

President Trump's cabinet choices have really upset Democrats, and although I don't like President Trump, by and large I've found his choices for the posts of Secretary fairly good.  That's probably why they upset the Democrats so much.

This week, I was a bit stunned to see a friend complain about the nomination of Betsy DeVos for the post of Secretary of Education.  Part of my perplexity was the fact that people were claiming she was unqualified, but there are no real qualifications for the post.  Harambe could do a great job.  So could my 11 month old kitten (he's young, but very enthusiastic).  The Department of Education arose from smaller offices in 1980.  That's right, Darth Vader has been around longer than the Department of Education.  It has done very little besides throw around federal money for education loans and grants, with the unanticipated income being skyrocketing tuition costs for universities.  Where there is easy money, someone will sponge it up enthusiastically, even if it means years of repayment for American graduates.  The Department of Education hasn't done any real good for our education system, which seems to have functioned better when it was completely controlled by states and municipalities.  Funny how local control and accountability works better than distant bureaucracy.

So, the post of Secretary of Education really doesn't matter any more than instagram pictures of what your friend had for breakfast.  It's of passing interest, but has no impact on your life or mine.

To figure out what the excitement was about, I did a bit of searching.  It turns out the NEA really doesn't like her (now, for me that's a high recommendation that she's a great pick).  Here are their reasons, and I'll summarize:

Here's the very short version.  I will add letters to their objections contained in the initial paragraph but not explicitly expanded in the supporting paragraphs:
Last week, President-elect Donald Trump nominated as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a [A.] billionaire and [B.] conservative mega-donor who has [C.] no classroom experience, and [D.] whose work in public education consists mainly of efforts to privatize it.

1. Betsy DeVos has no training or experience in education.
2. Like Donald Trump, DeVos is an ardent supporter of “school choice” privatization schemes, despite a complete lack of evidence that privatizing public schools produces better education.
3. DeVos has invested millions lobbying for laws that drain resources from public schools.
4. DeVos has fought against the regulation of charter schools.
5. Betsy DeVos is not a good fit for a position overseeing the civil rights of all students.
I've added the orange letters.

Let's start with their enumerated objections.  Point 1. is that DeVos doesn't have any experience in education.  I'm not sure what they think a Secretary of a department does.  Secretaries of Departments take the President's overall policy and goals and translate it into high-level directives for their subordinates to carry out.  The subordinates are still working at a very high level.  They aren't going into classrooms and trying to teach anyone.  They aren't going to individual schools and trying to manage the site (a Principal's job).  They're working with very high-level policy.  So really, all you have to do to be the Secretary of Education is have ideas about education, or be able to follow the President's ideas and be able to run a bureaucracy or be able to hire capable people who can.  I was exaggerating above.  My cat couldn't do this despite his intense interest in classroom manipulatives.  Harambe is still a possibility.

Point 1. also encompasses objection C., which is that DeVos has no classroom experience.  To be Secretary of Defense, you need not have served as a private in the military.  To be Secretary of Agriculture, you need not have run a small farm.  The argument that a Secretary of Education must have classroom experience is designed to inflame idiots who don't think too deeply.  You know, useful idiots.

Point 2 is even more fun.  The NEA feels school choice is bad.  That's been the position of the Left because school choice takes money from school bureaucracy and directs it to private institutions or home school students.  Taking money from school districts means these fiefdoms, the outposts of the least intelligent and capable political administrators, a part of the new royal class (politicians) are deprived.  I digress.

The writer says there's "a complete lack of evidence that privatizing public schools produces better education."  That statement worded as it is, is true.  However, it doesn't address school choice.  There's plenty of evidence that works rather fabulously, and that's why the Left wants it shut down.  Let's have a look at one example that the Obama administration defunded in Washington DC over the objections of parents.  For the full article, please read here:

From that article:
The $20 million annual program which began under George W. Bush has proven extremely effective. Nearly 6,000 kids from lower-income families have benefited from these scholarships - which reach more than $8,300 a year for primary school and more than $12,500 a year for high school.

That's still about one-third lower overall than what it costs per pupil to educate' students in Washington, D.C.'s public schools. Almost all -- 97.4 percent -- of the students who get the money are blacks and Latinos.

The scholarships are popular with parents. Several years ago when President Obama tried to shut down the program, black and Hispanic parents locked arm to arm with Republicans in Congress who support the program and marched in front of the Capitol.

That was an amazing optic. In the 1960s and 1970s civil rights leaders and "community activists" fought against laws that prevent blacks from getting in to the public schools.

Now liberals refuse to let them out.

Research by Patrick Wolf at the University of Arkansas tracked how well these kids did over time. Graduation rates of voucher students were 21 percentage points higher compared with those who applied for the vouchers but didn't win (91% to 70%); and the graduation rate was 35 percentage points higher than the graduation rate for all D.C. public schools.
Oops.  This program did a far better job educating minority students than DC public schools at a 1/3 lower cost to taxpayers than public education.  That's really embarrassing.  No wonder it had to go.  All those Black and Latino students benefiting from it were getting in the way of the Left's agenda, so back to public school they went to get an inferior education and graduate at a much lower rate.  Nice work, Obama and Democrats.

In short, point 2 is a complete lie.  We can also throw out point 5. here because it's a restatement of point 2 but written in a vaguely inflammatory manner to insinuate DeVos is a racist.  It had to be written that way, because there's no evidence she is.  "Donald Trump’s nomination of DeVos is deeply concerning to many civil rights groups, because school choice schemes promote racial segregation and undercut civil rights enforcement that is routine in public schools."  Tell that the the 97.4% Black and Latino DC students who were doing better using vouchers but were forced back into public school by the Left's ideology.  Most voucher systems focus on performance, not race.  A result of disparate impact means not that there's a problem with the systems, but rather a problem with the outreach to and focus on education in disadvantaged neighborhoods.  This has to do with socioeconomic status, not race, but the Left likes to focus on skin color more because you can count heads a bit easier.  That approach suggests to me that the Left and this author are racists, not DeVos, who would like to see any student willing to work hard succeed regardless of skin color.

Point 3. isn't a problem for me.  In a year-end project for my Advanced Placement U.S. History class we studied funding in our district.  In leaner years, the district spent more wisely and more money was spent on classroom education.  In more heavily funded years, it spent money on refurbishing the district offices, including installing a $10,000 air curtain system over the front doors that didn't work properly and so was shut down.  A $10,000 paperweight was far more important to them than new books, or technology improvements in classrooms.  It was clear to me then and later during my 2 years as a classroom teacher that throwing money at education isn't effective.

What happens when money is taken from public education and given to higher performing private schools?  There's suddenly competition.  Public schools have to spend money on actual education instead of air curtains so they can compare favorably with private institutions.  Massive, ineffective, wasteful bureaucracies hate having their shortcomings so starkly exposed, and that's all Point 3. is about.

Point 4. made me laugh out loud.  Regulation doesn't equate to accountability or performance.  As California schools have had increased regulation and requirements for teachers, our performance has dropped.  We keep doing more of it, though, not because it works, but because the Left and the NEA believe it should.  Good for charter schools and DeVos for fighting ineffective rules and focusing on improving scores and graduation rates instead.

Let's cover the objections presented in the introductory paragraph of the article.  Here it is so you don't have to scroll up:  "President-elect Donald Trump nominated as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a [A.] billionaire and [B.] conservative mega-donor who has [C.] no classroom experience, and [D.] whose work in public education consists mainly of efforts to privatize it."

A.  Anybody appointed to the post of Secretary of a department is likely to be wealthy.  That's true under every president.  This is an objection for idiots.

B.  Oh, no.  DeVos is a conservative who puts her wealth into what she believes.  Kind of like liberal movie stars do.  It's evidently only bad when conservatives do it.  Once again, an objection for idiots.

We've covered C.

D. is only a good thing.  Competition makes complacent school administrators have to fight for their funding, as they should have to.  Choice is good (why does the Left only believe that regarding reproductive rights?).  Freedom is good.

Based on the Left's objections to DeVos, I've come to support her.  I appreciate their strident objections giving me the opportunity to review something I'd normally pay very little attention to.  If we could vote for the Secretary of Education, I'd vote for DeVos over anybody the NEA would find acceptable. Except Harambe.