Update from Battle Creek

So, I don’t travel much anymore but I happen to be in Battle Creek, Michigan this weekend. While I slept in, my wife did some accidental field research. This is the verdict from one local business owner. 

School choice: major fail. 

Battle Creek has school choice and it is not going well. Students who can afford to, flock to the better schools in the area leaving the other schools to kids with fewer … ahem … choices. So I gave a typical conservative argument to my wife. “Take a capitalist approach. If a school wants to keep its students, it needs to up its game. The market decides which schools succeed.” Only one problem. Gov funding is based on attendance. Schools with more students get more funding. Those with less get less and fall further behind. A vicious cycle. 

Cereal ain’t selling. 

Kellogg will probably be laying off folks in the near future. The cereal industry is not what it was decades ago when this town was thriving. A local businesswoman said the city’s major mall is full of closed stores. The city now survives on conventions and events – which is why I’m here, a gymnastics event with my wife and daughter. 

So, Donald Trump. Looks like Battle Creek is among the many cities who need your business savvy to revitalize. They’re waiting. What ya gonna do? 

What do you think? The bar is open. 

There Oughta Be a Law!

Imagine you’re job hunting and you come across the following job requirement in the job listing:

Applicant must be at least 35 years old and a natural born citizen of the United States having resided here at least 14 years

That’s it. Nothing else. 

Now look at the following job qualification:

Applicant must be at least 8 feet tall and be able to understand what the “top” of something is. He must also be familiar with Christmas trees and ornaments. Applicant must be able to take instruction

The second reasonably detailed qualification applies to the Abominable Snow Monster from the holiday special, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. 

The first job qualification is for the leader of the free world, able to launch enough nuclear missiles to destroy the planet. 

I have to think the founders had such profound faith in the American people that they wanted the presidency open to just about everyone. Of course, in the 1780’s “everyone” was white men but I digress. 

The notion of a President “of the people” is quite seductive. Andrew Jackson sold himself on this premise. However Old Hickory had been a Senator and Governor. 

It is simply amazing that despite this skimpy job qualification statement from Article II of the constitution, all we have gotten so far for Presidents have been folks with a military or government service record, without exception. Folks like Herman Cain or H. Ross Perot tried to break the pattern but failed. The pattern has remained undisturbed … until now. 

I think it’s time Article II was amended. I can’t say that military or government service, per se, should be a requirement but some evidence of past civic duty should be in there somewhere. Donald Trump, unique among the 44 men who have held this office (remember Grover served two non-consecutive terms) has no history of civic duty. This does not make him a bad man but it does raise the question of whether he really understands how to serve others in a selfless fashion. 

The daunting truth is that Donald Trump is no more qualified to be President than you or I. He is a successful businessman with no real interest in government except when it serves as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement. His ride to the White House was fueled on the catharsis he provided to millions of disaffected Americans. But catharsis must be backed up by minimal qualification. I absolutely love driving my car but I have no business running a car company. 

Donald Trump is a mixture of Cliff Clavin from the sitcom Cheers (the pub know-it-all) and Archie Bunker, a man possibly very decent but severely limited by a world view shaped by stereotypes and checkout counter tabloids. I didn’t consider Bunker a racist. I considered him profoundly ignorant with a fear of the unfamiliar born of ignorance. I feel the same way about Trump. 

Someone with civic experience would never have leaped into the travel ban that Trump implemented. Cliff and Archie would. 

Age and citizenship are no longer sufficient qualifications for the Presidency. Not when the very existence of a nation (and even the world) is at stake. Until now, the common sense of the American people has relatively protected us. That barrier to calamity has disappeared. 

We have a man in the Oval Office no better prepared for the presidency than the Abominable Snow Monster. Article II is partly to blame and needs fixing in no short order. 

What do you think? The bar is open. 

Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

*Related Update: Carrie Fisher, R.I.P.

Every once in a while a movie catches you completely by surprise.  You go in expecting perhaps nothing more than a mediocre couple hours, and possibly even a complete disappointment, and you walk out thinking “WOW! I really enjoyed that.”  That film, for me, was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.


Rogue One is the 2nd Star Wars offering from Disney since buying the franchise as part of a $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm.  What is essentially Star Wars Episode 3.5, Rogue One fills in the gap between 2005’s Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, where Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vadar, and Episode 4: A New Hope from 1977; what most of us old-timers would call “the original Star Wars.”  I’ll be honest, while I love the Star Wars franchise, I have not been completely interested in it since 1983’s Return of the Jedi.  That could be due to my youth interests at the time, or could be due to the fact that every Star Wars film since then has been relatively weak in comparison.  The simple fact is Episodes 1, 2, 3, and 7 have over-told the story.  They try too hard to give story and character background, and just pile far too much onto the viewer.  And that doesn’t even begin to address the terrible acting featured in all four films.

But Rogue One is different.  It isn’t burdened with a huge backstory to tell because its time frame is very small.  The film tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance steals the plans for the Death Star and smuggles them to Princess Leia.  Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) stars as Jyn Erso–daughter of Galen Erso, the primary architect of the Death Star.  Jyn meets up with Rebel Alliance Captain, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna – Open Range), and his droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk – A Knight’s Tale), and together with members of “an estranged radical movement within the rebellion” (H/T commenter Dead Rabbit) and a renegade Imperial pilot, the pair cause a fury of chaos and destruction as they locate, penetrate, and raid the Empire base that holds the coveted Death Star plans.  No less than the full power of the Empire, including the notorious Darth Vader, stand in their way.


Director Gareth Edwards, a relative newcomer, does a fantastic job bringing writer Chris Weitz’s story to life.  The sets were not overly expansive, but loaded with believable detail, even for a science fiction film. The special effects were of the quality one comes to expect from the masters at Disney and Lucasfilm, even bringing to believable CGI life the long-deceased Peter Cushing as the face of Grand Moff Tarkin and a young Carrie Fisher as the face of Princess Leia.

Rogue One has chases, shootouts, dogfights, and tense, palm-sweating drama and excitement that makes it one of the most enjoyable films I have seen in quite a while.  The film is rated PG-13, but that is probably because of its laser-blasted violence.  To be honest, I didn’t see anything that younger viewers would need to be sheltered from.  As a special treat, we watched it in 3D and had DBOX seats.  This did accent the experience but wasn’t worth the added cost.  The film stands on its own just fine without those extras. But, with that stated, seeing and hearing it in a theater environment is an absolute must, so don’t wait long, as it is already in its second week.