Monday, February 6, 2017


For the most part I have not been disappointed in the appointments to cabinet positions for the next administration—plus the first appointment to the Supreme Court. I don’t know any of the appointments—or was even aware of them beforehand, with the exception of Rick Perry, as Energy Secretary, who was Governor of Texas, and Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development, who ran for president.

General James Mattis, now confirmed as Secretary of Defense, made his first communication to the troops, and it is better than we have seen in some time:
Secretary of Defense James Mattis
photo found here

It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.
Together with the Intelligence Community we are the sentinels and guardians of our nation. We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country. You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.
Every action we take will be designed to ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future. Recognizing that no nation is secure without friends, we will work with the State Department to strengthen our alliances. Further, we are devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, thereby earning the trust of Congress and the American people.
I am confident you will do your part. I pledge to you I’ll do my best as your Secretary.
He serves. Her serves alongside. He respects those he leads. And he leads them with the larger mission in mind—defending American freedom. He intends to earn trust, rather than demand it. He has the leadership qualities that Jim Collins identifies in his business book Good to Great.
While I wasn’t aware of Neil Gorsuch before his nomination to the Supreme Court, those who do know him are very pleased. He sees his role mainly as his oath states, to

administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as justice under the Constitution and laws of the United States.
There’s nothing in there allowing a justice to make up laws, or to pretend laws say what he/she thinks they ought to say. So refreshing!

Justice Scalia (left) and Neil Gorsuch
photo found here
People say he is much like Scalia. Maybe even in writing talent, which is good, because we will so miss Scalia’s wit and colorful language. According to a recent study of “Scalia-ness,” out of 15 judges, Gorsuch comes in second, out Scalia-ed only by Justice Thomas Lee of the Utah Supreme Court.

He is known to quote Scalia as saying,

If you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.
The item of interest about Gorsuch is where he differs from Scalia, specifically on what is called the Chevron Deference, sometimes called the Chevron Doctrine. In the 1984 case the court ruled that, when a statute (regulation, typically) is not clear, the courts must defer to the regulating agency to determine meaning as long as they have a reasonable basis. There are arguments in favor of that view, in theory. But in practice the Chevron Doctrine has shifted a great deal of power away from lawmakers, to the executive branch, through regulatory agencies.

In 2016, in the case Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, he concurred with the 10th Circuit ruling, but wrote a separate opinion, referring to the Chevron Deference:

[T]he fact is Chevron… permit[s] executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.
Ironically, the new president has appointed a justice likelyto limit his power. I don’t know for certain whether President Trump agrees with that limitation, but I think it’s long overdue. As Gorsuch added in his opinion, “[m]aybe the time has come to face the behemoth.”

He was on the right side for the religious freedom in the Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor cases. He’s a strong defender of 4th Amendment rights.

He was easily approved for the 10th Circuit, so it would be for political reasons only if democrats oppose him now. There is hope that at least a few democrat senators will do their duty and vote to appoint. While senate higher-ups are refusing to say the words “We will use the nuclear option implemented by Harry Reid,” they do say, “He will be appointed.”
The appointment with the most opposition has been Betsy DeVos. I haven’t known her, but early reactions from conservatives was positive. Still, some good friends are very worried about her, so I’ve wondered why. If nothing else, she is in favor of choice in education. She has championed vouchers, and has been anti-Common Core. My feeling about vouchers is that they are such a small incremental move that they solve very little, but are at least better than total public school monopoly.

Since my view on education freedom, as a homeschooler, is an outside view, I have searched for other people’s views.

Oddly, articles seem to be titled “5 things” about Betsy DeVos, either in her favor, or supposedly against her.

Here are five mostly favorable, from “5 Things to Know About Betsy DeVos” from The Atlantic:

1.       DeVos will push for school choice.
2.       Critics of the Common Core standards may have reason to worry.
3.       Expect deregulation to be a priority.
4.       She’s politically active, but she doesn’t have a lot of political experience.
5.       The reaction to her nomination is mixed.
That last one includes a tweet against her, quoting someone calling “DeVos the ‘most ideological, anti-public education nominee’ since the start of the Ed Dpt.” Among teachers’ unions that might sound ominous. To me, I think that’s a huge plus.

Here are another five from “5 Reasons to Oppose Betsy DeVos” from US News and World Report:

1.       Lack of experience.
2.       Lack of knowledge and preparation.
3.       Well outside the mainstream.
4.       A dangerous precedent for pay-for-play in politics.
5.       No plans or vision, except for outdated and ineffective policies that are harmful to public education.
These require some response. As for lack of experience, she has not worked in public schooling, nor sent her children to public schools. The fears of pro-public-school-as-religion adherents are in evidence.

Education is not a proper role of government, and is not among the enumerated powers granted to the federal government. The creation of the Department of Education has cost money without virtually any positive outcomes for American education as a whole. I am perfectly happy to have someone not taken in by the public-school believers.

There is further lack of experience in government, and in running a particular bureaucracy. But we have a president who wants to shake things up, so we shouldn’t be surprised he didn’t appoint a go-along-to-get-along bureaucrat. She has, however, managed multi-million-dollar philanthropies and has worked toward influencing society in the way she is now being given the opportunity to act on.

The opponents call that pay-for-play. It’s an ugly term. I’ve come across it locally and have mixed feelings about those who work that way. But I try to use my influence in my small circle—pretty much without money, since I don’t have that as an option. But if I had plenty of money, would I donate to candidates I liked? Yes. And then would I make sure they knew me and heard what I have to say? Yes. I do that even without the donation. So I really don’t look at her wealth and donations as a disqualifier. Nor do I believe she “bought” the position; she holds the position this administration wants to implement. Does she have the skill to carry it out? We’ll see.

If the mainstream is being over-protective of the public school monopoly, even at the expense of educating our children, then being outside the mainstream is a good thing. I wrote about school choice ideas just last month. We're hoping something useful will make it's way through the Texas legislature now in session.

I don’t know whether Betsy DeVos has the capacity to do what she intends—to put more choice into the hands of parents for their own children, and hopefully to get rid of the federal education bureaucracy entirely—but I’m here to cheer her on in her attempts.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks so far. But, if you can get past the hyperventilating press, there have been some things to bring us hope.

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