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Scene above:  Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
 

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AUGUST 25-26,  2023

I LOVE IT WHEN THEY ARGUE AMONG THEMSELVES:  There is upset and anguish in the house of Joe and Kammy.  From Fox: 

Political advisers to both President Biden and Vice President Harris were reportedly annoyed with Democrat California Gov. Gavin Newsom over a planned debate with the Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a 2024 Republican presidential hopeful.

"It's disrespectful," an outside adviser to Harris said, according to a report from NBC News on Sunday. "Joe Biden is running with Kamala Harris. That's the Democratic ticket."

The adviser is one of several in the Biden and Harris orbit that have begun to view Newsom as a nuisance, according to the report, in part because of the California governor's planned debate with DeSantis. While many Biden advisers no longer see Newsom as a potential primary challenger to the president, they do believe the planned debate would carry more risks than rewards.

The debate, which is slated to be televised on Fox News and hosted by Sean Hannity, has the potential to make some voters believe that Newsom is running a shadow campaign against the president in 2024, the report said. The debate comes at a time when many Democrat voters have expressed a desire for change at the top of the ticket, the report noted.

The debate has been viewed in an even more negative light by those in Harris's orbit, with some reportedly seeing it as an attempt by the California governor to position himself ahead of the vice president for the 2028 Democratic presidential primary.

Newsom made the standing challenge to debate DeSantis this month, an invitation that was seemingly accepted by the Florida governor. But the two camps have yet to agree on the rules and format, calling into question whether the event will go ahead as planned.

DeSantis's office did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.

COMMENT:  I don't see the problem.  If Newsom gets out of line, Biden or Harris can simply put him in jail.  They've had practice with Trump.  Harris would probably want to take the credit.  She could show she's right up there with the big boys in establishing a banana republic.  And she's from California.  She'd get extra credit for overthrowing the elected governor of her native state. 

August 26, 2023       Permalink

 

THE SEARCH FOR EXCELLENCE:  It's the last week of the slowest month of the year, and I was looking around for something new to report to you, maybe something positive in our grim world.  And, yes, I found a piece that I think will interest you.

Have you heard of St. John's College, in Annapolis, Maryland?  Among people I consider true educators, it is revered, a rare spot of excellence amidst academic mediocrity and conformity.  St. John's teaches the Great Books, and teaches them well.  If you want your child to have a classical education, you can't do better.

And St. John's has now made changes in its admissions system to allow the college to know the applicant well, and to judge whether that student is right for the St. John's approach.  This is a serious college taking admissions seriously.  From College Fix: 

Applicants to a liberal arts college can now participate in discussions and a seminar in lieu of the traditional essay and letters of recommendation.

St. John’s College Vice President of Enrollment Benjamin Baum told The College Fix via email that the seminars have groups of 10-20 students discussing historical books with one or two full-time faculty members. An “opening question” gets a conversation going, Baum told The Fix.

The “discussion-based application” is currently offered to early decision or early action applicants for spring or fall 2024. If the discussion-based application proves successful, Baum said the school may consider it for other undergraduate and graduate programs.

The new option is part of a “groundbreaking approach to college admissions” for the Great Books and “classrooms discussions” focused school with campuses in Maryland and New Mexico, according to a university news release. The discussion-based expedites the admissions process, offering decisions within two weeks.

The college will continue to offer the written application as an option, but students can apply based on participation in a seminar, a short application form and two interviews. The two interviews are with an admissions counselor and a professor “in a dialogue that mirrors the college’s classroom discussions,” the spokesman said.

The Fix asked Baum how confident interviewers can feel evaluating applicants over a short period of time without recommendations.

“Interviews can be a way of gathering more information about a student than essays or recommendations, since we can ask follow-up questions and engage in a genuine back-and-forth with the student,” Baum said.

The approach will help “students, especially from rural areas, small towns, and large public school systems, [who] may lack the college preparatory infrastructure or teachers who know them well,” Baum added.

Baum said St. John’s aims to even the playing field with this new application method.

COMMENT:  Read the rest.  A fascinating idea.  I'd love to hear from our readers on how they feel about this structure.  Send your comments to allmatters@urgentagenda.net

This is the most personal admissions system I've seen.  And yes, a good teacher can make a reasonable evaluation of a prospect by hearing her or his reply to discussion questions.

Much better than affirmative action.

August 26, 2023       Permalink   

 


 

 

AUGUST 23-24,  2023

WHILE WE WERE DEBATING, PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD WERE ACTUALLY DOING OTHER STUFF, AND IT'S SERIOUSLY IMPORTANT.  INDIA, FOR EXAMPLE, LANDED A CAPSULE ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON.  FROM THE NEW YORK POST:

India this week became the fourth nation to land a craft on the moon, and the first to do it on Luna’s rugged South Pole.

Adding to the symbolism: The rising power pulled off its feat less than a week after former superpower Russia failed, as Moscow’s craft crashed while heading to the pole.

The location is a potential gold mine, thought to harbor vast reserves of ice that could yield oxygen and drinking water that now must be hauled out of Earth’s gravity well and enable space-side fuel production.

All of which would boost other space activity.

This success is another sign of a new space age — one with players from across the globe and growing numbers of private-sector ones like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Orbit.

Cost-competitive engineering is changing the game: India’s Chandrayaan-3 is one of the cheapest lunar missions to date, costing “only” about $75 million.

The mission is to last two more weeks, as a rover leaves the lander to conduct experiments in the uncharted territory.

India’s future plans include a September mission to study the sun and a possible manned lunar mission in 2024. NASA’s also headed back to the moon as part of plans for a manned Mars mission.

Step by step, humanity is expanding its reach and its horizons. Look up: The future is bright.

COMMENT:  It will be bright if we rebuild our educational system and start getting scientifically serious as a nation again.  Remember that Space Cadet Barack Obama told his head of NASA that the main mission of the space agency was Muslim outreach.  No, I don't think so.

Other nations are now going into space, and challenging us technically.  India, a rapidly advancing country, is a prime example.   These rising countries put an emphasis on excellence and pushing their best people forward.  Haven't heard a word about critical race theory.

August 24, 2023       Permalink 

 

DEBATE REACTION:  So, the first debate is over.  The flag still flies over the White House.  I doubt if any foreign nation will change its policy toward us.

Here are my own reactions:  No one particularly stood out.  There was no sense that "this person must be president." On the other hand, there were no obvious disgraces, although 38-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy sometimes sounded more like a used Buick dealer than a presidential candidate.  Youth and inexperience kept him down. 

Donald Trump was not there.  I've never seen a presidential debate with the frontrunner absent, but now we've had one.  The public got a chance to observe what a post-Trump GOP might sound like, but Trump's absence did make the debate less realistic.  It was the New York Yankees without Babe Ruth.

Eyes were on Ron DeSantis, the secondrunner, but still way behind Trump in the polls.  I thought DeSantis acquitted himself well, but I doubt if he closed the gap with the former president.  He is informed, articulate and smart.  He has been a great governor of Florida.  However, I could see last night why some pundits say that he seems too programmed, stiff and distant.  In some ways he is Ronald Reagan without the charm.  It was the charm, though, the warmth, that made us feel that Ronnie was a personal friend.  The public must feel you, not just know you.  I think, though, that DeSantis has the capacity to improve.

If there was one candidate who had a surprisingly good night it was Nikki Haley, who has campaigned for months without much needle moving in the polls.  I've always liked her, from her fine, sensitive governorship of South Carolina to her triumphant ambassadorship to the UN under President Trump.  She has clearly distanced herself from Trump, which is hurting her with the party base, and, indeed, she was the one candidate last night who had the courage to criticize her own party for going along too often with Biden's policies.   She was also the only female onstage, and she was the adult in the room.  The voice of experience and reason.  I don't know if she'll rise in the polls, but she deserves to.

The structure of the debate, and the partisan cheering and booing in the hall, were not helpful features.  We wanted to get to know the candidates, and audience reactions sometimes drowned out what was being said.  The affair would have been better without an audience.  And the moderators, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum of Fox News, should have controlled events more strongly.  Why have rules if they aren't enforced? 

I mentioned Vivek Ramaswamy earlier.  In every election campaign there's someone who develops what President George H.W. Bush called "the big mo," – momentum – and often that same candidate sees it ultimately melt away.  Going into the debate, Ramaswamy had a bit of the "big mo" because of his personality and energy.  But he was among political pros last night, and the big mo probably went.  The personality was there, but the depth was not.  He is not the man to get that 3 a.m. phone call warning of a nuclear attack.  Give him some years to develop.

One surprise was how good a debater former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was.  He is a talent, but he's also has been carrying on a grudge fight against Donald Trump.  I don't see him making much progress.

There will be another debate in late September.  I look forward to it.  I want to see more because the candidates barely introduced themselves last night.  There were eight contestants, and I hope there are half that number next month.  Eight is too many for a true discussion.

Trump will not participate in September either.  It's his choice.  But he runs the risk of assuming his popularity will last.  Republicans, though, might get used to the idea that they can run a campaign, and debates, and win, without him.   If that idea takes hold, Donald Trump can become history.   

August 24, 2023       Permalink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 "What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
    - Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
      of The New York Times.


"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
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