Your Virtual Front Page for Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016

Haven’t given you one of these in awhile. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of news today:

  1. Two children shot at SC elementary school, suspect in custody (The State) — This is what I meant by “unfortunately.” Beyond horrible. A teacher was also taken to hospital.
  2. In a first for Obama, Congress overrides veto on 9/11 bill (WashPost) — Because, you know, what we really needed was for our relations with Saudi Arabia to get more tense. On the other hand, we’ve been tiptoeing around their stuff for a lot of years…
  3. Trump stumbles into Clinton’s trap by feuding with Latina beauty queen (WashPost) — The guy just can’t help himself. If there’s a mess of his making, he’ll step right into it, and jump up and down.
  4. Clinton gathers Republican endorsements (BBC) — One was from five-time senator from Virginia John Warner, who says “National Security for Dummies” is not an appropriate approach to the presidency. The other was from The Arizona Republic, marking the first time the paper has endorsed a Democrat for president since its founding in 1890. This joins a trend of longtime Republican-leaning papers endorsing her. As well they should. Maybe, with enough of these, people will start really understanding this is no normal election.
  5. SC lawmakers may rethink controversial property tax law (The State) — Remember when I wondered whether we might actually get comprehensive tax reform this time? I would be deeply impressed by lawmakers’ gumption if they took on this 10-year-old mistake, by which I mean Act 388.
  6. Natural born killers: humans predisposed to murder, study suggests (The Guardian) — Of course, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to back it up. But I’d be interested to see what Dave Grossman, author of On Killing, would say, since he writes of most humans having such a powerful inhibition against killing.

‘There is no such thing’ as ‘the media’

media

Long ago, when my friend and colleague Warren Bolton and I were both still in The State‘s newsroom, before moving to editorial — we’re talking maybe early ’90s — Warren helped lead some newsroom discussions on race.

The idea was help us all do a better, more informed job writing about subjects bearing on that issue, or set of issues, in South Carolina.

One thing I remember in particular was a meeting in which Warren and another African-American colleague urged us to avoid the habit of referring carelessly to “the black community,” as though it were some monolithic, coherent entity that thought and acted in unison, like a colonial animal.

I took that to heart because it made a lot of sense to me, and ever since I’ve hesitated to use that construction, as well as similar ones such as “LGBT community,” “Hispanic community,” and what have you. After all, we don’t write of, say, women as “the female community,” because most of us recognize women as a set of individuals containing too much diversity for such a generalization. We should follow suit with other broadly defined groups.

(Of course, it in part appealed to me because we in the white heterosexual male community are well known to prefer to deal with people as individuals rather than in terms of aggregations, something which sometimes causes members of other “communities” to counsel us to “check our privilege” and stop trying to destroy other groups’ sense of solidarity so that we may oppress them individually. Which we, both communally and individually, tend to find maddening. Smiley face.)

I am reminded of all this because of this piece in The Washington Post urging the great unwashed out there to stop referring to “the media” as though they were a single, coherent thing with one mind, acting in unison. An excerpt:

Please stop calling us “the media.”

Yes, in some sense, we are the media. But not in the blunt way you use the phrase. It’s so imprecise and generic that it has lost any meaning. It’s — how would you put this? — lazy and unfair.

As I understand your use of this term, “the media” is essentially shorthand for anything you read, saw or heard today that you disagreed with or didn’t like. At any given moment, “the media” is biased against your candidate, your issue, your very way of life.

But, you know, the media isn’t really doing that. Some article, some news report, some guy spouting off on a CNN panel or at CrankyCrackpot.com might be. But none of those things singularly are really the media.

Fact is, there really is no such thing as “the media.” It’s an invention, a tool, an all-purpose smear by people who can’t be bothered to make distinctions….

This piece, by the way, was not written by “the media,” or even by The Washington Post. It was written by this guy named Paul Farhi who is one of many individuals who works at the Post. If you want to be properly pedantic about it (and who wouldn’t want to be that?), you would only say that “The Washington Post said” something if it was said in an editorial — an editorial being an unsigned piece by the Post‘s editorial board, not something written by an op-ed columnist or someone else whose byline appears on the piece.

Yeah, I know — confusing. But to keep it simple, you’ll sound a lot smarter if you don’t refer sweepingly to “the media” as doing or saying or thinking this or that.

And we in the media community (which includes the vast army of us who no longer have actual media jobs, and a more cantankerous crowd you are unlikely to find) will appreciate it….

Open Thread for Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who you gonna believe: Trump, or this woman? Me, too...

Who you gonna believe: Trump, or this woman? Me, too…

Fortunately, there’s no debate tonight. Here’s what we have:

  1. Trump Lashes Out, Calling Debate Unfair — What all is he whining about today? He’s complaining about the moderator, his microphone, the beauty queen… As for Hillary Clinton, he says he may “hit her harder” next time. So, you know, he’s just a bundle of maturity and good sportsmanship. Sounds like he knows he lost. But again, will it matter?
  2. U.S. Government To Pay $492 Million To 17 American Indian Tribes — What?!? Didn’t we already give them 24 whole dollars for Manhattan?
  3. Plan surfaces for new nuclear disposal ground in SC — I don’t really know enough about this yet to have an informed opinion, but I feel about the way the Seinfeld characters felt about low-flow shower heads: I don’t like the sound of that!
  4. Elon Musk Outlines Mars Plans — Sounds good, depending on how the election comes out.

Perhaps you have some other topics to suggest…

Sure, Hillary ‘won’ the debate, but does it matter?

trump-clinton

To most people who know anything about debating, or about national and international issues, or about the presidency, Hillary Clinton pretty much cleaned Donald Trump’s clock last night.

She was serious, focused, informed, composed, presidential. He was thin-skinned, blustery, illogical, inarticulate, uninformed — the usual.

But does it matter? Does it make a difference? In 2016, that is the operative question.

I’ve had several conversations with folks this morning, and everyone has more or less agreed with this assessment. But I tend to speak to well-informed people.

I keep thinking about the first Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960. Debate experts said Nixon won. So did most people who heard it over the radio. But those who saw it on TV said Kennedy won. And that was the new factor that the professionals, the experts, didn’t take into consideration.

Today, the new factor is that a significant portion of the electorate has gone stark, raving mad.

A debate like what we saw last night would have been inconceivable in 1960. Regardless of whether you think Nixon or Kennedy won, both of them did an excellent job by any informed standard. It would have been completely impossible for someone like Donald Trump to be on that stage. (Some would say it would be impossible for someone like Hillary to be there, but such people are looking at the superficiality of gender. The fact is with regard to factors that matter, she fits comfortably into the Nixon-Kennedy set of candidates.)

No one like Trump would be the Republican nominee. No one like Trump would have made any kind of showing in the primaries. Anyone as blustery and undisciplined as Trump would have been lucky to have been allowed to sit in the audience and watch.

So the difference between him and Hillary Clinton last night is far, far starker than the minimal contrast between Nixon and Kennedy. It’s not a contest between two qualified candidates. It’s between a qualified candidate and a nightmare.

But our politics are so messed up today, the electorate’s Kardashian-numbed sensibilities so accepting of the unacceptable, that the fact that she beat him like a drum last night — in the eyes of the knowledgeable, the thoughtful — may be as irrelevant as Nixon beating Kennedy on points. More so.

Trump’s support is such an illogical phenomenon that one cannot logically predict the effect of the debate.

And that’s yet another very, very disturbing thing about this election…

kennedy-nixon

Let me tell you about my Hillary Clinton dream last night…

This might be the suit she was wearing in the dream. Only more disheveled...

This might be the suit she was wearing in the dream. Only more disheveled…

I haven’t done one of my special “what’s wrong with Brad?” dream-journal posts in years now, so this seems like as good a time as any to dust off the category.

Let me share with you the Hillary Clinton dream I had last night.

It was… typically weird. And confusing…

I was walking down the street in some town that I think was someplace where I used to live and work, perhaps a variation on Jackson, Tennessee. I crossed a street, stepped up and started walking along a sidewalk. The sidewalk was covered, like in a western movie or a situation where there’s living quarters over a shop and the upstairs projects out over the sidewalk.

Anyway, immediately someone is walking my way on the sidewalk, and it’s Hillary Clinton. And she’s not looking good. Her hair is disheveled as though she had just been in a high wind. Her light blue pantsuit is rumpled as though she had slept in it. She looks horribly exhausted, even dazed. She’s staring straight ahead and sort of staggering, and isn’t looking at me.

We’re about to pass each other, and I feel like the civil thing is to say something, but I can’t decide how to address her. I’m not going to say “Hey, Hillary.” I consider, “Hello, Madame Secretary,” but I’m considering, “Sen. Clinton.”

I can’t decide, and she’s right alongside me, so I make myself say something, and it comes out as “Hey… uh…”

She continues staring ahead, but after a second she acknowledges me with a grunt that is if anything less articulate than what I had said. It sounds sort of like “Hmmph!”

So… brilliant interview, right? But I don’t want to chase after her and try to have a real conversation, because it looks like she’s having a bad enough day already. So I continue on, and enter a place that seems to be a sort of restaurant and bar. The proprietress walks up and greets me, and… it’s Hillary Clinton.

Except, for whatever reason, I don’t realize that’s who it is until later. She looks exactly like herself, except she looks younger, fitter, more energetic. Her hair is longer and she has it held back with a band, like in this picture.

This Hillary is, unlike the other, having a good day. She has a prosperous business; things are going well and she’s brimming with confidence. We seem to know each other. We start to chat, and I immediately tell her who I just ran into. And I describe how the Hillary I had run into didn’t look good; she seemed all worn out.

Hillary Two starts to walk away from me to deal with a customer or something, but says to me as she’s leaving, “I’m not at all surprised.”

I say, “What do you mean? Do you say that because of her recent bout with pneumonia?”

The woman looks back and with a sarcastic smirk says “Yeah, right — that’s what I meant,” in a way that communicates she meant something else entirely, and I should know what that was.

I turn and leave, thinking I’ve just picked up on a hell of a good news story — for some reason, the two exchanges seem fraught with meaning — and I’d better head back to the paper and write it. (Along the way, I fret about whether all that was on the record, and I decide it was.) I’m not sure what paper that was, but as I walk into the newsroom and pass the conference room where the editor’s meeting is being held, I see Bobby Hitt is presiding (which would place it at The State between 1988 and 1990). Only I’m not in the meeting, which tells me I’m a writer and not an editor, which is a bit odd. (In my 35-year newspaper career, I was only a reporter for a little over two years, very early on. The rest of the time I was an editor.)

I’m looking for a place to start writing — I need to produce a budget line ASAP (it should have been in before the editors’ meeting, but I know this will be a welcome late addition to the budget) — and all I see near me is manual typewriters of a vintage that places them decades before this picture of the first newsroom I worked in. Like something Ring Lardner would have typed on. I notice, though, that elsewhere there are terminals of the sort we used in the mainframe days of the ’80s and early ’90s, so I head toward one of those, wondering if I can remember my login from way back then. As I do, I pass by a TV that’s playing an old movie about newspapers, and in it a crochety old character actor is saying that computers will be the death of newspapers, just mark his words…

As I go looking for an unoccupied terminal, I run into an editor whom I decide should be briefed on the story. So I start telling it to him, and when I get to the part about the restaurant proprietress, I’m thinking this is someone everybody at the paper knows, but I’m blanking on her name. I’m saying, “You know, that woman who runs that place that I know you know, oh, what’s her name…?”

At that moment, I suddenly realize that she was Hillary Clinton, too. Hits me like a ton of bricks, and stops me cold as I wonder how I could not have realized that. And I’m wondering what this new wrinkle does to my story.

And the dream kind of ends there.

If you can find any meaning in it, congratulations…

Dreading tonight’s debate (but follow me on Twitter)

join-me

Come join me on Twitter tonight, if you’re so inclined. Just click on the image anytime after 9 p.m…

I have been dreading this presidential debate tonight, which I think may be the most hyped that I can recall.

Perhaps something good will come of it. Perhaps Trump will do or say something that causes him to lose all his support, and the nation will be saved. What that would be, though, I have no idea. The bigger jerk he makes of himself, the more they love him.

Or maybe…

No, that’s the only thing good I can see coming out of it. I honestly can’t imagine anything in particular that Hillary Clinton can do to help herself in this debate, against such a damage-proof opponent. About all she can do is hurt herself, and there are plenty of ways she could do that. I wouldn’t be in her shoes for anything.

But I’m less concerned about her, and truly concerned about the nation.

I’ll be there on Twitter tonight, commenting away. Come join me if you’re so inclined. The torment begins at 9 p.m., pretty much anywhere you care to look…

OK, WHAT was the point of this reading yesterday?

Following up on Friday’s Faith and Family post…

I frequently have ideas for blog posts during Mass on Sunday, and then I promptly go home and take a nap or something and then get busy with other stuff on Monday and forget about it.

Which I shouldn’t do because, you know, He’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday.

Jeremiah makes a deal.

Jeremiah makes a deal.

Anyway, yesterday I wasn’t at my own church — it was an Episcopal Church — but the readings are the same as ours, so I assumed the same question would have occurred to me. Unfortunately, the homilist chose the Gospel reading as his text — which was fine, except that the Gospel was a pretty straightforward cautionary tale, the one about the beggar Lazarus and the rich man who die and go to separate places, and didn’t need much explication to my mind.

What I had hoped somebody would explain to me was the first reading, the Old Testament one, which went like this:

No, wait! It wasn’t the same reading! We Catholics had an entirely different one, I find — and one that makes perfect sense to me in the context of the day’s theme (the Gospel readings were the same, and apparently the 2nd Reading, too, although I confess Paul’s letters tend to go in one ear and out the other — too much throat-clearing). You can find it here; it’s from Amos Chapter 6.

Here’s the Episcopal one, the one that confused me:

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of theLord.

And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

That’s from Jeremiah; the Amos reading is offered as an alternative.

Anyway, can someone explain to me why we were reading that Jeremiah passage? Why is it in the lectionary at all? What’s the moral of the story? Where’s the editorial point, to put it in my vernacular? God tells Jeremiah to do a real estate deal, and he does, and then goes into more detail about it than I’d want even if I were a real estate attorney?

Huh?

Here’s my wild guess as to what the point is: I think it’s sort of, even when you’re in a time of great social upheaval (Nebuchadrezzar bearing down on Jerusalem), you should carry on with life and its dealings. If that’s true, then it’s related to one of my favorite OT passages, also from Jeremiah, on carrying on normal life even while in exile:

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their fruits. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters. Increase there; do not decrease. 7Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the LORD, for upon its welfare your own depends.b

(And yeah, I love that one in part because the last bit is way communitarian.) But if that is the point, it’s made really awkwardly and obscurely. Other thoughts?

Sho Baraka could head up the Faith and Family Left Party

sho-baraka

Remember a couple of years back when Pew Research Center offered a group of political typologies that sought to find better ways of thinking of our political proclivities than “right” and “left?”

I took the test, and it put me in what it called the “Faith and Family Left.” Briefly Pew defined the group thusly:

The Faith and Family Left combine strong support for activist government with conservative attitudes on many social issues. They are very racially diverse – this is the only typology group that is “majority-minority.” The Faith and Family Left generally favor increased government aid for the poor even if it adds to the deficit and believe that government should do more to solve national problems. Most oppose same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and most say religion and family are at the center of their lives. Compare groups on key issues.

At the time, my reaction was “faith and family OK, but left?” If was not a perfect fit, but better for me than the other options, such as “Solid Liberals,” “Hard-Pressed Skeptics” or “Bystanders.”

And then I didn’t think about it much until I was listening to NPR this morning and heard an interview with a guy who could very well be the chairman of the Faith and Family Party, were that group to form a party.

He’s a hip-hop performer named Amisho Baraka who was talking about how uncomfortable he is with both major political parties. He recently described his predicament this way in an essay (you know me; if I’m going to get interested in a hip-hop “artist,” it’s going to be one who also writes essays):

As a black Christian in an urban environment, I consciously struggle to give my allegiance to either political party. In this way, this election gives many white evangelicals a sense of what it’s like to be a black believer in America today.

As an African American, I’m marginalized by the lack of compassion on the Right. As a Christian, I’m ostracized by the secularism of the Left. As a man, I’m greatly concerned by subversive attempts to deconstruct all “classical” definitions of manhood.

I fraternize with a remnant of people who have the cultural and theological aptitude to engage both Carter G. Woodson and G. K. Chesterton. We walk the tightrope between conservatives and progressives. We share an anxiety and sense of displacement in the current sociopolitical landscape.

I have had zero interest in either candidate this election. Many people are fearful about the next president, as they should be. Our newly appointed chief will likely nominate Supreme Court justices. The thought of either candidate appointing justices scares me. Many Clinton supporters seek a secular utopia that progresses past logic. Many Trump supporters want to resurrect bigoted ideologies. Neither of these Americas is great to me….

I can sort of identify (especially with “sense of displacement in the current sociopolitical landscape”), right up to the point when he says he’ll vote, but not for Hillary or Donald. I can’t begin to agree with that. That is truly an assertion of false equivalence, to use the terminology of some of my critics here. Dislike Hillary all you want, but she’s the only semi-normal person in the country in a position to save us from Donald Trump, and a vote for anyone but her is inexcusable. I don’t care how tightly you have to hold your nose.

But anyway, I think this young man’s political journey is worth watching…

Jaime Harrison and Matt Moore are my heroes

Matt, me and Jaime, on the day the legislation was signed to get the Confederate flag off the State House grounds.

Matt, me and Jaime, on the day the legislation was signed to get the Confederate flag off the State House grounds.

You might say “heroes” is a tad strong, but I wanted to draw you in and get you to read this, and both of these young men really do deserve a rather hearty pat on the back.

This is especially remarkable since y’all know how much I despise both parties, and Matt and Jaime are, respectively, the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties in South Carolina.

But they are remarkably free of many of the most objectionable characteristics associated with being party chairmen in the 21st century.

To begin with, rather than being enemies who reflexively spit on the ground whenever each other’s names are mentioned, they are buds. CNN noted this in a piece back in February — the month of the presidential primaries here — headlined, “Odd Couple: How a Republican and a Democrat became friends in South Carolina.

The AP’s Meg Kinnard followed up this month with a piece headlined “South Carolina party chairs beat vitriol with friendship.”

And you’ll recall when I celebrated their unanimity on the day the legislation to bring down the Confederate flag was signed. See the above photo.

But there are additional reasons to applaud these guys.

Back to how much I despise parties… I’m not going to go into all the reasons I do, but let’s look at two biggies — two things that have done more to make the parties into destructive forces in our republic than any other. Particularly the first one:

  1. Party-protecting reapportionment. This is the biggie. If we fixed this, we would repair most of the damage the parties have done to our country. As things stand, almost every congressional or legislative district in the country is drawn — by lawmakers of whichever party controls the body — to make it completely safe for candidates of one party or the other. This makes the November elections a joke, and puts the real contest in each district in the primary of the controlling party. That means the only competition an incumbent has to worry about is a primary challenge from someone who is more extreme, more ideologically pure, in terms of that party’s ideology. That means both parties get pulled to their respective extremes, and the space in the middle — where members of each party can talk to members of the other, the place where solutions are found and commonsense legislation enacted — becomes depopulated. And our government flies apart, and ceases to function. Nobody can even speak the same language, much less find commonalities to build on.
  2. Straight-ticket voting. I hate this for what it encourages voters to do, and even more for what it encourages them not to do. It enables them to avoid thinking. Voters who choose this option don’t have to think about any of the candidates on the ballot. They don’t have to be informed; they don’t have to discern; they don’t have to make comparisons. Which means they don’t have to pay attention before Election Day, or on Election Day. They just choose a party, and go home. This makes an utter travesty of the voters’ role in our representative democracy. And most shockingly, half of the voters in South Carolina choose this option.

Knowing how much I despise those things, imagine how pleased I was to find Jaime and Matt speaking out against both of them.

Particularly the way reapportionment is done.

From a recent story by The State’s Jamie Self:

One way to make S.C. races more competitive, Moore and Harrison say, is to end lawmakers’ control over the process of drawing district lines.

The GOP and Democratic party leaders suggest a nonpartisan or bipartisan panel draw district lines, instead of lawmakers.

Massey, R-Edgefield, said convincing lawmakers to cede their influence over the redistricting process – and their political futures – would be a heavy lift. Even he would be “reluctant to give up that authority to an outside group.”

But Massey said he would support ending straight-party voting.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask people to take 30 seconds to push all the buttons,” he said. But, he added, there will be “partisans on both sides that are going to go ballistic over that if you try to change it.”

Yes, they would. As they would totally freak out over reapportionment reform. There is probably nothing that incumbents will fight harder to hang onto than their enormously destructive power to draw district lines so as to choose their voters, rather than letting the voters choose their representatives.

But that makes me appreciate all the more Matt’s and Jaime’s willingness to take a stand on this.

Jamie’s story also delved into the evil of straight-party voting. The story wasn’t as clear in term of communicating what the party chairs think of that, so I contacted them both yesterday to find out.

I reached Mr. Harrison via email, asking whether he was willing to take a stand against straight-ticket voting. He responded, “Personally yes… It isn’t the stance of the party, because the issue hasn’t come up for a party position.  Nonetheless, I personally believe that is one of the many reforms we need.”

Amen. Later in the day I reached Matt Moore by phone and posed the same question. I didn’t ask for an official party position, but just asked whether he, Matt Moore, would take a stand.

And he did. There’s no proposal currently before lawmakers, but “in theory, I am for doing away with it.” He sees a need for “more informed voters,” and doing away with the straight-ticket copout would certainly be a way to demand more more knowledge, more attention, from voters.

We also chatted a bit about reapportionment, and it was along the lines of what he said about it in Jamie’s story:

Moore said he is glad his party controls the state Legislature, but the way district lines are drawn is taking its toll on the GOP nationally.

“It’s led to Republicans being in control of Congress, but being unsuccessful in presidential elections,” Moore said, adding the GOP’s difficulty in appealing to minority and younger voters stems from its candidates not having to campaign for their votes at home.

More competitive districts “would force candidates to go out and talk to people who don’t look like them.”…

And wouldn’t that be something wonderful? Lawmakers paying attention to everyone in their communities, rather than the narrow constituencies they’ve carved out for themselves through reapportionment.

I firmly believe it would cure a great deal of what ails our politics today.

And while it’s not a concrete step, I think it’s a great first step to have the chairs of both parties willing to talk about the need for change, rather than defending the intolerable status quo.

The Hamlet routine: to press or not to press (charges)

None of these is actually my mailbox; I just needed art to go with this...

None of these is actually my mailbox; I just needed art to go with this…

Monday morning, my wife asked me if I’d done anything with our mailbox at the house — put anything in, taken anything out, whatever. No, I hadn’t. She said she’d come home mid-morning and found it open. And two pieces of mail she had placed in it Sunday afternoon, both containing checks to pay bills, were missing.

So we speculated that maybe the postal worker had come freakishly early or something — J vaguely recalled having seen the mail truck in the neighborhood on Sunday and wondering what it was doing — and made plans to contact the folks to whom the checks were mailed to make sure they arrived.

Then, a couple of hours later, I got a call from our credit union, with whom we have that checking account. Someone we had never heard of had just been in their Irmo office trying to cash a check from us for $680.42.

One of the checks we were mailing was for $130.42. Think about it.

While I can see how someone made that change, I still don’t know how anyone managed to change what was in the TO space. The check was to Lexington County, to pay a vehicle tax, and the name it had been changed to wasn’t even close.

Anyway, the credit union refused to cash it, the person left with the check, and the teller — who remembered us from when she worked in the West Columbia branch — called me.

So since the thieves have my account number and routing number, I ran over to the main office and had the account closed.

That was just the start. We had to change a couple of direct deposits, and some automatic payments — Netflix and the like. There were the two probably-stolen checks, and an earlier payment that hadn’t gone through, so we’d have to get with all those folks and arrange to pay another way.

Yeah, I know. You’re wondering why we were putting checks into our mailbox. A lot of people have asked that the last couple of days, accompanied by “Didn’t you know…?” No, we didn’t. While everyone and his brother is mentioning it now, no one had ever mentioned it to us before — and we’d gone our entire lives without anything being stolen from our mailbox. To our knowledge.

And like most of you, we don’t send out many checks anymore, usually doing electronic transfers. But that doesn’t always work out. Rest assured, if we send out checks henceforth, we’ll follow Moscow Rules — maybe changing vehicles two or three times on the way to an official U.S. gummint mailbox.

Next step, police reports. We live in the county, so I called the sheriff’s office and gave the details over the phone. Separately — since a separate crime was attempted in that jurisdiction — the credit union contacted the Irmo PD.

Which led to a bit of a dilemma for me.

Tuesday morning, the Irmo policeman who’d taken the report called me to ask whether we wanted to press charges. Not that there was a suspect in custody or anything — the police wanted to know whether they would have a case (whether we would testify that we never wrote a check to the person in question, for instance) before devoting resources to it.

I sympathized. The police need to prioritize, I understand. But being asked this question caused me concern on two fronts, having to do with opinions I’ve long held and expressed:

  • I’m all for looking out for crime victims, but I am adamantly opposed to them making decisions about prosecution. You’ll hear people say that “The victim’s family should decide” whether to pursue the death penalty in murder cases, for instance. That’s an outrageous suggestion in my book. We don’t have police and courts to act as agents of personal vengeance for individuals. Our laws against murder and passing bad checks exist because we, as a society, don’t think people should be allowed to kill other people or steal from them — such things are disruptive to civilization. (This is related to my oft-stated opposition to abortion on demand — to me, it’s a violation of the ideal of a nation of laws and not of men to have the one most interested person on the planet have absolute power over life and death.)
  • As y’all know, I don’t think we need to be locking up people who commit nonviolent crimes. Many if not most of the women in prison, from what I’ve heard in the past, are there for trying to pass bad checks. Don’t know if that’s still true, but that’s what I used to hear.

Add to that the fact that aside from being greatly inconvenienced, I had lost nothing, thanks to the smart actions of the teller who refused to cash the check (I told her supervisor she should get a gold star for that). The credit union wasn’t out anything, either — aside from time spent on this.

So I dithered. I asked the officer if I could call him back, and promised to do so by the end of the day.

I polled people about it, and everyone I talked to said of course you want them to prosecute. Still, I did the Hamlet routine — to press or not to press?

I finally decided that I had no choice, for the simple fact that it wasn’t about us, even though it felt like it. Whoever had stolen the checks, and whoever tried to pass the forged one (which could be more than one person), might do it again. For all I know, the person or people in question might do this all the time.

And that needed to be stopped, if possible. It wasn’t about what had or hadn’t been done to us; it was about protecting the rest of society. If we didn’t follow through, additional crimes might occur. If we didn’t proceed, the social contract would fray a bit more.

You know me — once I had it framed in my mind in communitarian terms, I called the officer and asked him to proceed.

If anything else interesting happens, I’ll keep y’all posted…

By the way, what would y’all have done (I mean, besides not putting the checks in the mailbox to start with)?

The rape suspect cross-examined the victim? REALLY?

Being blind, Lady Justice missed a travesty in one of her courts Tuesday.

Being blind, Lady Justice missed a travesty in one of her courts Tuesday.

I don’t read a whole lot of crime news, because it seldom involves editorial points I want to make.

But this story sort of blew me away today:

Woman sobs on stand under questioning by alleged rapist

A woman wept on the witness stand, at times uncontrollably, as her accused serial home invader and rapist, acting as his own attorney, grilled her about what happened that morning.

Nathan Martinez, 37, confronted his accuser in a Richland County courtroom in steady but accusatory tones, asking the woman if she had in fact really been raped during a March 2014 home invasion in Forest Acres. In her testimony for the prosecution, he said, she had not said anyone kicked or hit her.

“You said that the individual used force,” Martinez charged.

The woman, who now lives out of state with her family, replied, “He used force by putting a gun in my face, by tying me up and threatening to kill me!”

It was an unusual day in court. It’s rare for defendants to represent themselves, especially in complex, violent crimes such as this week’s case….

Yeah, John. To say the least…

You hear about rape victims feeling like they’re the ones on trial, but I have never even heard of something this outrageous.

I read on to determine how such a miscarriage of justice could occur, and found this explanation:

It was only after questioning Martinez and making sure he knew he was giving up his right to an attorney that trial Judge Knox McMahon allowed him to be his own lawyer. If McMahon had refused Martinez’s request to be his own attorney with cross-examination rights, the case could be overturned on appeal….

Well, I’m sure that you, like me, are all broken up from worrying about Martinez and his rights.

Look, I’m not one of these people who goes on and on about how our system only extends rights to the accused and none to the victims, yadda-yadda. I believe in the rule of law. I believe in being innocent until proven guilty. And while I’m sympathetic, I feel like sometimes the victim’s rights movement can go a tad overboard.

But a terrible thing happened in one of our courtrooms yesterday. Even if you extend the “innocent-until-proven-guilty” thing to the point of saying “hey, maybe the guy didn’t do it” — you’re left with the fact that to this innocent woman and her innocent children, he did do it. And they were subjected to this outrage.

And I’m wondering whether there are any statutory remedies out there to make sure this never happens again…

Open Thread for Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Jack Van Loan in 2006/file photo

Jack Van Loan in 2006/file photo

Sorry I’ve been too busy to post today, but it’s gratifying to see y’all having a high old time with this post from yesterday. Some other likely topics:

  1. FBI looked into suspected bomber Ahmad Rahami in 2014 — Important safety tip going forward: When a father tells you his son is a terrorist, take it seriously.
  2. Russians May Have Bombed Aid Convoy, Officials Say — First we hit Syrian troops, now the Russians do this. Too many wars going on in too small a space. Maybe the best way for us to have a successful cease-fire would be for all of us to follow Jimmy Carter’s suggestion and maybe, just for a bit, cease firing.
  3. Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems — But will Trump supporters care? Nope. They don’t care what this guy does…
  4. The GOP has become a pity party for white males — This from the Post‘s duty conservative, Jennifer Rubin. Boy, that one ought to hurt. I mean, aren’t we white males sort of the demographic that takes pride in the idea that we don’t do pity parties? You know, the rugged individualist, yadda-yadda? Well, maybe not…
  5. A Jack Van Loan statue is an awesome idea — The Five Points Association today broke ground on Centennial Plaza, which will feature a 6-foot rotating water feature and a bronze statue of my good friend Jack Van Loan, American hero and longtime godfather of Five Points. Excellent idea! I definitely want to be there for the unveiling.
  6. ‘Transformational’ Benedict president stepping down after 23 years — Major news. I actually don’t even remember the time before Dr. Swinton was at the helm at Benedict…

‘Weekend of Terror’

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Did you know that was a thing? There was a cheesy made-for-TV movie by that name in 1970, one so low-profile that there are no surviving promotional materials for me to grab an image of. Just that stultifyingly uninteresting title screen above. (Back in 1970, the third-string cinematographers who made these things didn’t even try to make anything look interesting.)

In a way, the scattering of terror incidents in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota over the weekend are sort of the real-life terror equivalent. Nobody killed, thank God. Low-impact, low-budget. Forgettable imagery.

Earlier today, I told Bryan I didn’t see any points I wanted to raise editorially — there seemed to be little to say about such attacks in a political sense, since presumably everyone on the blog is opposed to them.

But The Wall Street Journal managed to find an angle. Under the headline, “Another Bomb After a Weekend of Terror,” there was the subhed, “Plus, more Clinton email revelations.”

Really. Neither I nor Dave Barry is making this up, even though it sounds like satire.

In the Journal‘s defense, that headline was on an editorial roundup. Still, the juxtaposition was a bit jarring. Meanwhile, not to be outdone, a site called Townhall sported this headline: “12 Hours of Terror: Just Another Weekend in Leftist-run America.”

Sheesh.

But back to the news…

The BBC summed it all up this way:

On Saturday morning, a pipe bomb exploded on the route of a charity race in New Jersey. Nobody was hurt, because the road was empty at the time. The race had been delayed due to an unattended bag. The event, which was planned to raise money for Marines and sailors, was cancelled.

That evening, a man dressed in a security uniform stabbed eight people in a shopping centre in a town in Minnesota. They all survived and none of their injuries are life-threatening. The attacker was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer. It happened in St Cloud, 70 miles (110km) from the major city of Minneapolis. The town’s police chief said the man had asked at least one person if they were Muslim. It is thought he was Somali-American.

At roughly the same time, more than 1,200 miles (1,900km) away in Manhattan, New York, a pressure cooker filled with shrapnel exploded. It happened in the Chelsea area where there is a bustling nightlife, and 29 people were injured. All were released from hospital by Sunday. The same kind of bomb had been used in the Boston marathon attack in 2013.

A second, similar, bomb found four blocks away was removed safely.

Overnight on Sunday and in the early hours of Monday morning, up to five explosive devices were found in a backpack inside a rubbish bin in Elizabeth, New Jersey. One of them exploded while being handled by a robot. The city’s mayor has said this was “not a controlled explosion.”…

I’m not even sure how many incidents that counts as, or what’s related to what.

My main personal concern with all this is that my youngest daughter is in New York. Bryan has a similar concern with two sisters there.

On the other hand, the Minnesota attack is worrisome because it’s part of a pattern of recent attacks that are NOT in New York or Washington or Boston, which shows terrorists are figuring out that if they really want to terrorize Americans, they should make them feel insecure everywhere. Either that, or he couldn’t afford a plane ticket to the big media centers. After all, he apparently couldn’t afford firearms.

A quick update: The guy authorities were looking for in New York, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was captured after being wounded in an exchange of gunfire with police.

And POTUS was delivering remarks on the incidents. This just ended a moment ago. Watch for criticism that he didn’t mention “Islamic extremism,” or didn’t mention it enough, or whatever.

Comments?

majorsOh, by the way… The bad guys in “Weekend of Terror” were Robert “The Wild, Wild West” Conrad and Lee “Six-Million-Dollar Man” Majors. Sort of against type for both. Neither, you’ll note, looks like a Muslim, so just another case of the liberal media conspiracy trying to pull the wool over our eyes, right?…

The bad guys in "Weekend of Terror" were Robert "The Wild, Wild West" Conrad and Lee "Six-Million-Dollar Man" Majors. Sort of against type for both. Neither, you'll note, looks like a Muslim, so just another case of the liberal media conspiracy...

‘A bidness doin’ pleasure:’ Cindi on how Ron Cobb changed us

I hope y’all saw Cindi Scoppe’s column today on how the late Rob Cobb, the most infamous lobbyist in South Carolina history, changed our state:

I DIDN’T KNOW Ron Cobb back when he was buying up a tenth of our Legislature for the FBI.

Didn’t even recognize his picture when FBI agents subpoenaed campaign disclosure reports for all 170 legislators, and legislators and fellow lobbyists started whispering that Mr. Cobb was somehow involved in what would come to be known as Operation Lost Trust.

In fact, while I would learn and write a lot about the cigar-chomping lobbyist who hummed his signature “It’s a bidness doing pleasure with you” while the hidden video camera recorded him counting out crisp $100 bills for legislators who promised to support his horse-gambling bill, I didn’t actually meet him until five years later…

He certainly had a big impact on Cindi and me. We did some of our best work ever chasing the Lost Trust story. Before it was over, Cindi herself had gone to jail, and I had spent a year explaining everything that was wrong with government in South Carolina. Our coverage of the scandal, and my “Power Failure” series, played a big role in my becoming editorial page editor later.

All because of Ron Cobb buying votes and wheeling and dealing from his room in the former Townhouse, just yards from where I now sit. That hotel is undergoing a huge renovation, much as our political life did as a result of Cobb’s actions:

Our news department launched a yearlong examination of how the Legislative State produced not only corruption but a hapless government that answered to no one, and pushed along by that “Power Failure” series, Lost Trust and Gov. Carroll Campbell, the Legislature voted two years later to hand a third of the government over to the governor.scoppeonline3-2x2tighter-2-2x2tighter-2

Lawmakers unleashed the powerful State Grand Jury to investigate political corruption cases. They passed a reporter shield law after a judge ordered me and three other reporters held in federal custody for two days for refusing to testify in one of the trials. And voters elected a target of an earlier vote-buying scandal to fill an open Senate seat in the middle of all this, lawmakers amended the constitution to bar felons from holding office until 15 years after they completed their sentences.

There are still a lot of problems with the way our government operates — the Legislature still holds far too much power over state and local agencies, too many agencies still effectively answer to no one, the ethics law even after this year’s improvements remains far short of what it should be.

But those reforms did a lot of good. And Ron Cobb paved the way for every one of them.

Oh, and speaking of Warthenesque writing… I also appreciated this column because its style was more like my own than Cindi’s. Finally, it seems, I’ve rubbed off on her.

Cindi has always been very task-oriented. When she goes into an interview, she’s all business. When she writes a column or editorial, she intends to accomplish this and this and this, and she lays out her arguments in a perfectly disciplined form.

My own way of approaching interviews or writing has always been like the method Dirk Gently, Douglas Adams’ Holistic Detective, employed whenever he got lost: “My own strategy is to find a car, or the nearest equivalent, which looks as if it knows where it’s going and follow it. I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere I needed to be.”

I loved this digression into purely superfluous detail:

It was June 26, 1995, and I was working on a “where are they now” package of news articles for the upcoming five-year anniversary of Lost Trust becoming public. We met near the interstate, and I followed him to his townhouse overlooking the 10th hole of one of Greenville’s premier golf courses.

Longtime girlfriend-turned-wife Shelley was there to greet us, and they showed off their rooftop garden, where Ron was growing tomatoes and cucumbers, and the Stairmaster he said he used for 10 to 15 minutes every day after work, and he talked about how his values had changed since his career as a lobbyist ended. Of course we also talked about Lost Trust and the Legislature and what he thought had and hadn’t changed, and Shelley talked as much as Ron did.

I don’t remember all those details; I got them from reviewing my notes from our lengthy visit. The only clear memories I have of that rarefied encounter are the rooftop and Bella — the cat who kept running toward the wall and hurling herself into it. Ron and Shelley laughed each time, and assured me the cat was fine, that she just did that for attention….

The way I used to write was positively Warthenesque

write-2008

I’ve commented on this before, and I find myself wondering whether others experience it.

For my entire writing life, whenever I’ve looked back at something I wrote two or three years earlier, it’s always so much better than what I was writing at the time I looked.

For instance, today I was looking for a good link to go with another post, and somehow ran across this, in which I found a slightly different way to express my oft-expressed frustration with the artificially binary aspect of our politics. The immediate subject was Barack Obama:

Most political commentators, trapped in the extremely limiting notion that the politicians they write and speak about must either be of the left or right, can’t make him out. But he keeps making perfect sense to me. Perhaps I should send a memo out to the MSM letting them know that there’s a third way they can think of a politician (actual, there’s an infinite number of ways, but let’s not blow their little minds; one step at a time). There’s left (as “left” is popularly and imperfectly described) and right (as “right” is popularly and imperfectly described), and then there’s Brad Warthen. As in, “The candidate’s recent statements have been Warthenesque,” or “That was a distinctly Braddish move he made last week.”

It would open up whole new vistas for our national political conversation. Certainly a broader landscape than what we’re used to, with its limited expectations…

Yes! I liked that. And not just because it involved placing yours truly at the center of the political universe. No, it’s not Hemingway and still less Shakespeare (and frankly, now that I’m sharing it with you I’m not enjoying it nearly as much as when I ran across it an hour ago). But it was a nice, breezy, fun little bite that had a flair to it, and it made me smile a bit. Nothing special, just another way of expressing the UnParty idea. Another way of saying that for many of us in this country — I am but one of millions in this regard — the way the media write and talk about politics makes us feel left out. If only our ways of thinking were taken into account…

My staff photo from 1987: Back then I could WRITE...

My staff photo from 1987: Back then I could WRITE…

And I thought, for the millionth time, why don’t I write like that now?

But that’s always the way. I wrote that in 2011, and sometime in 2011 I no doubt looked back at something from 2005, when I first started blogging, and thought That’s the real stuff! Why don’t I have stuff like that now?

And in 2005, I was mooning over the first columns I wrote for The State’s editorial page in 1994 and thinking that was what punditry was all about; what had happened to me?

And in the early ’90s I probably ran across a box of old columns from when I was still at The Jackson Sun ten years earlier and thinking, that’s when I had the real fire…

I can’t wait until the year 2020, when this pooge I’m writing now will look like pure gold…

What’s different about Hillary Clinton this time

Where's Waldo -- I mean, Hillary? When I shot this way back in May 2015, she was surrounded by the usual suspects, from the SC Democratic Women's Council.

Where’s Waldo — I mean, Hillary? When I shot this way back in May 2015, she was surrounded by the usual suspects, from the SC Democratic Women’s Council.

Today, our good friend Doug (who for some reason is calling himself “Douglas” this week) Ross got me going when he said this about Hillary Clinton:

She is running to win the votes of her faithful followers…

Which made me say no, not this time…

I think that was true in 2008 — very much so. It’s one of the things that made Sen. Barack Obama look so good by contrast. At that time, her support base seemed made up of:

  • Diehard loyal Clintonistas who, for instance, still saw Bill’s impeachment as something that the “vast right-wing conspiracy” had done to THEM, rather than arising from Bill’s actions.
  • 1970s-style feminists who were just excited as all get-out because she was a woman, pure and simple.
  • The Democratic Party’s angriest partisan warriors who were hyper-anxious to “take the country back” after the Republicans holding the White House for 8 years.

By contrast, Barack Obama ran as not only the post-racial, but post-partisan candidate who wanted to lead us beyond the bitter sniping of the Clinton and Bush years.

This time, though, it’s different. Not necessarily because she, Hillary Clinton, is different, but because of the overall political environment in which this campaign is occurring. It’s pushed her into an entirely different role.

Now, she’s not the representative of an old ’60s-’70s “New Left” — she in fact spent most of the past year fighting to  survive a huge challenge from someone who represented that far more than she ever had.

But nothing recast her role as much as the way Trumpism took over the GOP.

Circumstances have conspired to make her the sole representative remaining from either party of the broad, moderate governing consensus of the post-1945 America. There’s a category into which you can fit every president (and most if not all major-party nominees, but especially the presidents) we’ve had since FDR, regardless of party. And she is the only person left — now that the likes of Jeb Bush and John Kasich are long departed from the scene — who fits into that category, or even lives in the same universe as that category.

So yeah, you’ve got the standard Clintonista hangers-on, sure. But you’ve also got independents like me, and you’ve got pretty much the entire Republican national security Establishment, all rooting for her to win this.

Because she’s all that’s left for any of us…

hillary-dwc

Why the Chamber took a stand on recreation commission

carl-logo

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce joined calls for the problem members of the Richland County Recreation Commission to resign because this latest scandal is another in a string that have been bad for business.

“Everything’s about perception,” Chamber President Carl Blackstone told me last night, adding that the following have projected a terrible impression of Richland County:

The various criminal investigations are one thing, but regardless what happens on that front, the problem commissioners need to go, the business leader said.

And on this one, there’s little county government can do. “I don’t feel sorry for Richland County Council much, but I do on this,” Blackstone said.

Richland County has been “missing out,” he said, nothing that there have been only two industrial announcements in six years. And lack of confidence in local government plays a role in that.

“The business community is jut tired of the constant black eyes in the paper,” he said. “In Richland County, we pay a heck of a lot of taxes” — too much to put up with one mess after another.

“We deserve better.”

Anyway, that’s what he said on the phone last night. Today, he sent out this email to Chamber members:

Dear Partners, 

In August, ten members of the the Richland County Legislative Delegation called for the immediate resignation of Richland County Recreation Commission Director James Brown, III and five additional board members due to the allegations of impropriety and public corruption. In a letter sent to the members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation, the Columbia Chamber supported their call for action.

The mission of the Commission is crucial to our community and should not be overshadowed by the ongoing controversy. Now more than ever, I encourage you to become involved in your local government. Please see the current vacancies on boards and commissions: State Boards and Commissions, Richland County, and City of Columbia.

Chamber joins demands for rec com members to go

You probably already saw that Richland County Councilman Greg Pearce has joined the majority of the county’s legislative delegation in calling on the problem members of the Recreation Commission to resign — and threatening to freeze their funding if they don’t.

That was good. Now there’s this…

Joel Lourie has sent me a copy of a letter from Carl Blackstone, president and CEO of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, making the same demand. Here’s a PDF of the letter. It’s one of those PDFs that won’t let me grab text for an excerpt, but here’s a screenshot:

blackstone

 

Lest you wonder whether Mr. Blackstone is speaking for the whole Chamber, he tells lawmakers at the end, “The Columbia Chamber and I join you in your call for change.”

blackstone-mug

Carl Blackstone

Joel welcomed the business community’s involvement, to say the least. He told me he met with some folks at the Chamber last week and the Recreation Commission mess was “all they wanted to talk about.”

“Our delegation needs to hear from you,” he said he told Chamber leaders. “I want our delegation to feel the heat.”

Of course, most of the delegation was already there.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say this sort of stance by the Chamber is unprecedented, but I’ll say I don’t remember having seen the group stepping out into local political controversy to this extent since the late Ike McLeese was president.

So, the question rises — how much longer can self-exiled director Brown’s friends on the board continue to hold out in the face of this gathering consensus?

Here’s a good example of ‘doing smart stuff’ in the world

As we know, the Obama administration’s guiding principle in dealing with the world is “Don’t Do Stupid (Stuff).

Which, unfortunately, is the sort of mindset that can lead to not doing “stuff,” period, even when you really, really ought to.

So I’m pleased when I see us going out and taking action when it’s called for. Such as in this instance:

Late last year, as Islamic State fighters battled to expand their stronghold on Libya’s coast, ­militants came within 45 miles ­of the country’s sole remaining ­chemical-weapons site, unnerving Libyan and American officials who feared that potentially deadly chemicals could fall into extremist hands.libya_-_location_map_2013_-_lby_-_unocha-svg

In May, when the fighters struck a mile from the lightly guarded desert facility, killing two security officers at a checkpoint, they decided it was time to act.

The Islamic State’s encroachment on an installation outside the remote oasis town of Waddan, where 500 metric tons of ­chemical-weapon precursor materials were stored, set off a hurried chain of events culminating in a disarmament operation involving the United States, European countries and the United Nations.

The international effort, which concluded last week when a Danish ship unloaded the materials at a German port for destruction, is one of the rare successes that Western nations can claim in Libya since dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s ouster in 2011 pitched the North African country into lawlessness and civil war….

Well, I’m glad to hear that.

I hope even my more isolationist friends can agree that it’s a very good idea to do such stuff as this, and that we ought to in the future whenever something as obvious as this presents itself.

Right?

A little Ragnar to balance out Adaline: That’s fair, right?

I didn’t watch “The Age of Adaline,” but since the Amazon Prime account is in my name (it was a Christmas gift), Jeff Bezos et al. asked me to rate it.51jk64xwsjl-_ss300_

So I asked my wife, and she suggested 4 stars. I considered protesting — you’re sure that’s not overly generous? In my book, 4 stars is semi-awesome, like “Vertigo” or “Conan the Barbarian” or “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (the movie version — the Alec Guinness TV version is 5 stars).

After all, I only gave the first season of “Vikingsthree stars.

I don’t really know anything about “The Age of Adaline,” but the image with it scares me a bit. Starry-eyed young woman in extreme closeup with handsome young man with neatly trimmed beard? It’s got Hallmark-channel romance written all over it. Even with the sci-fi premise, do I want Amazon throwing a whole lot of these at me?51yatcl-w3l-_ss300_

But I want my wife to find movies she wants to see, too — I’m not a selfish monster, or at least not that much of a selfish monster — so I went ahead and gave it 4 stars.

Then, I went back and upgraded “Vikings” to 4 stars, too. Just to balance things out, make sure Amazon suggests stuff I like as well. “Vikings” has young men with beards, too, but the beards are wild and weird and blood-encrusted and tied into bunches for scaring those wimpy Saxons. Proper beards.

So more Ages of Adalines will come our way, but there will be leavening — with battleaxes!