The Morning Jolt

Time’s New Cover Piece: ‘How Trump Won’

Looks like Time magazine is ready to declare the GOP primary over:

David Von Drehle writes:

The man is moving people, and politics does not get more basic than that. Trump is a bonfire in a field of damp kindling–an overcrowded field of governors and former governors and junior Senators still trying to strike a spark. His nearest rival, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, has traction in Iowa among the evangelical bloc and–in contrast to Trump–is a tried-and-true conservative. But with little more than half the support Trump boasts in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Cruz has a long way to go to show that he can move masses.

We hear a lot of complaining from Republicans — often justified — that the media “tries to pick our nominee for us.” Trump fans probably won’t be complaining about this one.

A Flaw in Marco Rubio’s Call for a Convention of States

Marco Rubio’s calling for a convention of states to amend the Constitution:

As president, I will promote a convention of states to amend the Constitution and restore limited government.

The framers of our Constitution allowed for a constitutional convention because they knew our citizens were the ultimate defense against an overbearing federal government. They gave the American people, through their state representatives, the power to call a convention made up of at least 34 states, where delegates could then propose amendments that would require the support of 38 states to become law.

This method of amending our Constitution has become necessary today because of Washington’s refusal to place restrictions on itself. The amendment process must be approached with caution, which is why I believe the agenda should be limited to ideas that reduce the size and scope of the federal government, such as imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court and forcing fiscal responsibility through a balanced budget requirement. Limiting the agenda will prevent the convention from being overtaken by special interests.

This always struck me as putting the cart before the horse. Maybe part of our current troubles stem from a lack of sufficient Constitutional measures against runway government. But the bigger issue is an American populace that doesn’t know what’s in the Constitution, that can’t be bothered to learn, and doesn’t particularly care. The problem isn’t really the words on the parchment; the problem is the people who are making the laws and the courts that interpret them, and the even larger problem is the people who largely assent to that governance, concluding it doesn’t really affect them. IRS abuses? Eh, they didn’t come after me. Bureau of Land Management? It’s far away. Restrictive gun laws? Hey, I live in a safe neighborhood and work in a building with security. Somebody else will pay those high taxes; somebody else will worry about the national debt.

Back in June, Mark Levin contended it was impossible for a constitutional convention to end up adopting measures that would worsen our fight for limited government: “The idea that thirteen red-state legislatures (with just one house controlled by Republicans) would embrace the Left’s radical agenda, should crazy amendments be proposed at a convention of the states, is absurd.” Doesn’t that also mean 13 blue-state legislatures, with just one house controlled by Democrats, could block any proposed amendment detrimental to Democratic interests? In that same piece, Levin writes, “The situation today is that the federal government re-writes, modifies, usurps, defies, etc. the Constitution virtually at will. As such, the Constitution as written and intended is meaningless in many respects.” If that’s the case, how can we be certain the government wouldn’t just go back to ignoring the Constitution after the convention?

In other words, if the real problem is a largely constitutionally illiterate electorate . . . would a convention of the states solve it?

Taxpayers Spending Billions on Electric Cars that Few People Want to Buy

Charles Lane of the Washington Post isn’t quite conservative . . . but man, he expresses skepticism of big-government programs as well as we do:

In August 2010, I proposed this wager to a fellow journalist: President Obama’s declared goal was to get 1 million plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars on the road in the United States by 2015. I didn’t think that goal was reachable by 2018, even with the huge subsidies that Obama backed — but if I was wrong about that, I’d buy my colleague a new plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt.

Now the 2015 car-sale data are in; time to review the bidding. Americans bought a record 17.5 million passenger vehicles in the United States, of which116,548 — 0.67 percent — were either plug-in hybrids or all-electrics, according to insideevs.com. That was about 6,500 fewer than in 2014.

Automakers have sold 407,136 electrics (EVs) since they hit the market in 2010. That is 0.16 percent of the 250 million-plus U.S. passenger vehicle fleet. Assuming all are still on the road, carmakers must sell 300,000 this year and next to reach 1 million, or 0.3 percent of the fleet, by 2018.

I like my odds!

Here’s the bet from way back when:

During the 2008 campaign, President Obama set a national goal of 1 million plug-in hybrids and electrics on the road by 2015. I don’t even think he can hit that goal by2018. If he does, I’ll buy Dan Gross a Chevy Volt. Otherwise, Dan has to buy me the BMW of my choice. I am totally serious about this. Is it a bet?

Lane notes: “In September 2012, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the U.S. government was on course to subsidize EV production and sales to the tune of $7.5 billion through 2019.”

ADDENDA: This started out as the addenda, and turned into a whole section . . .

Is The Force Awakens Derivative? Or Is It Just Being a Star Wars Movie?

(SPOILERS BELOW, if you’re interested in seeing the movie, don’t want the surprises spoiled, and somehow still haven’t seen the highest-grossing domestic film of all time.)

A little while back, I offered my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and a couple readers wrote in, saying they were disappointed, finding the film derivative, particularly of the original Star Wars from 1977.

There’s room for criticism of J.J. Abrams’ effort . . . but some of the elements people are complaining about are probably baked in the cake of a Star Wars movie.

A Star Wars movie just wouldn’t feel like Star Wars if the climax didn’t feature at least one lightsaber battle, one dogfight between groups of spaceships, or both. It wouldn’t feel like Star Wars if it didn’t have at least one scene where our characters encounter a crowd of many different kinds of strange-looking aliens. This 2013 video fan-letter to J.J. Abrams points out four key elements of the original trilogy largely missing from the prequels: A setting on the frontier; a sense of a gritty, dirty “used universe”; a lot of mystery surrounding the Force; and a dangerous environment that isn’t cute or kid-proof. The Force Awakens was four for four.

Some of this also stems from the creative team continuing to use the elements of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey template — a pattern of narrative Campbell found recurring through history’s drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. Whether or not you’ve ever read anything about or by Campbell, almost everybody uses his elements: The ordinary world, the call to adventure, the refusal of the call, the meeting with the mentor, crossing the threshold, and so on.

I can see some people asking, “Ugh! This is so clichéd! Why don’t screenwriters break out of this pattern?” Because these pieces are such basic elements of storytelling, it’s hard to not use them; not using them tends to weaken a story. You can begin a story without showing any “ordinary world” for your character — Finn and Poe don’t get much of this — but whatever happens in your story, you have to give the audience a sense of who all your characters are before the main plot gets rolling. (Thus, Rey explores and wanders a desert landscape and stares at the horizon with hope and a yearning for adventure . . .) Maybe Speed is a good example of a story that tries to skip all that; the first introduction to Keanu Reeves character is him racing to a scene of a bomb threat. But even that opening sequence has to introduce us to the character and give us a sense of his daring, borderline-reckless attitude.

Anyway, The Force Awakens moves into some directions new to the series. We haven’t seen a villainous character have a change of heart before Finn. The idea that Kylo Ren is a person who wants to be evil and struggles with the temptation to be “good” — or reconnect with his family — is a new element. Han Solo as the old mentor character? Han dying? (This alone bumps up the emotional stakes. Kylo Ren, for all of his Millennial whining and tantrums, did what Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, and the Emperor never could.) The idea of Luke as the MacGuffin, instead of stolen Death Star plans? Large, unresolved mysteries about Luke’s disappearance and Rey’s parents? We’re in uncharted territory here.

The Star Wars movies are space opera — vast alien vistas, large-scale wars, swashbuckling adventures, strange monsters and aliens, lovable sidekicks, cackling villains, endless chases. For years, people wondered what it would be like to tell a different kind of story in the world of Star Wars — a gangster movie, a war drama, an Ocean’s Eleven–style heist story. Now the concept is moving beyond fan fiction, as Disney wants to turn out a new Star Wars movie roughly every year.

You heard me. Every year.

At the end of 2016, Disney unveils Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

“Rogue One takes place before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and will be a departure from the saga films but have elements that are familiar to the Star Wars universe,” says Kathleen Kennedy. “It goes into new territory, exploring the galactic struggle from a ground-war perspective while maintaining that essential Star Wars feel that fans have come to know.

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