Monday, January 24, 2022

A lesson in relativity involving relatives

According to my calendar, it has been only one month since Christmas Eve.

This seems impossible to me, and perhaps it may seem so to you, now that I've called it to your attention.

So much has happened since.

To set the scene, Middle Son and his wife Margaret were very responsible and grown-up and decided that, since their youngest (he's just more than nine months old now) had been exposed to COVID-19 at Daycare at the beginning of that week, they should stay at home on Christmas Eve, lest any of them or their three children turn out to be contagious.

I pouted. But the often-dormant grown-up part of me eventually surfaced, understood, and (reluctantly) accepted their decision.

So only four of our five children could be with us for Christmas Eve.

It all worked out, as these things do. But in the rush of events leading to our Christmas Eve gathering, Younger Daughter and Olaf asked Olaf's parents to watch their four kids on December 23. Olaf's parents are not vaccinated against COVID-19, and deliberately, and defiantly, so. But they were in apparently good health on that occasion.

They were less healthy on Christmas Day, when Younger Daughter and Olaf brought the kids by for more presents, but they didn't mention it.

If you are tempted to contrast the behavior of Olaf's parents unfavorably with that of Middle Son and Margaret on this divisive issue of guarding against infecting others, I will not try to stop you. Anyway, Olaf's parents got progressively sicker after Christmas, to the point where, after first floating the notion that they must have picked something up from the grandkids, they actually sought testing. (They have both recovered, as far as I know, and neither required hospitalization -- thank you milder omicron variant -- but they were pretty sick for a solid week or so.)

Middle Son and Margaret's exposure turned out not to result in any Covid at their house, and they were thinking of rejoining the world in time for New Year's Eve, but the positive diagnoses of Olaf's parents scotched that idea pretty quick. Depending on your attitude, I suppose, Middle Son was either being Eeyore or merely philosophical when he predicted that, once his kids went back to school and Daycare they'd catch the Covid for real. Meanwhile, Olaf and Younger Daughter and all their kids came down with the disease. (Oddly enough, the two grandkids under five, who can't be vaccinated, had it worst. The rest, who are as vaccinated and/or boostered as their ages will permit, exhibited mild symptoms only.)

Anyway, Middle Son's pessimistic prediction proved accurate. We eventually delivered all the Christmas presents for his family still at our house along with chicken soup and crackers and Cuban sandwiches (so they wouldn't have to cook) and other things that were meant to provide aid and comfort whilst they recuperated. (Middle Son had not yet been boostered; he seemed to have the most serious case, even more substantial than his kids, none of whom are old enough to be vaccinated.) Long Suffering Spouse and I wore masks when we dropped these off on their front porch and ran like flushed pheasants.

Oldest Son and Abby went to Notre Dame's bowl game debacle in Arizona. We babysat Rodent, their now elderly dog. On the flight back from Arizona to Chicago, they were seated in front of a man who kept hacking and wheezing. Though they're both fully vaxxed and boostered, when Oldest Son came down with a sore throat, a few days later, Abby insisted he take a Covid test. He turned up positive, too.

Why did you bother getting tested when you had such negligible symptoms? I asked him via text when he reported the diagnosis. Well, he replied, Abby is paranoid about these things. She insisted. (Fully vaxxed and boostered, they both recovered quickly.)

So much has gone on -- and that's just the family Covid report card. Surely, two months must have elapsed since Christmas, or even three....

But, no, the calendar insists it has been only a month as of today.

Physicists will tell you that time slooooows down, relative to a stationary observer, as a traveler approaches the speed of light. Our hypothetical space traveler would potentially age far less on a near lightspeed trip to Proxima Centauri than would her friends and family on Earth. Eons might pass outside in the seconds it might take someone trapped in the event horizon of a black hole to be pulled into his constituent atoms. Time, they teach us, is relative.

As if we didn't already know that instinctively! Duck into a tavern sometime on your way home from work for a quick one. Hours may pass for your anxious and then angry spouse waiting at home, while only a few happy minutes seem to pass by inside the gin mill. The minutes stretch out to infinity and beyond when you're waiting for someone to return a phone call. Meanwhile, time compresses to a whoosh when you have to leave by a certain time and you just have one more thing you want to finish. For a grownup, the weeks before Christmas rush by in a mad blur. For a little kid, the weeks before Christmas are an agonizingly slow torture. Every minute is an hour, every hour is a day.

And in the crush of events following another Pandemic holiday, as happened to me this morning, one can be jolted by the realization that the months that have zoomed by since Christmas have really only taken 30 days....

Thursday, January 20, 2022

There's Siri, Alexa, and, at our house, Grampy....

One of my favorite comic strips, Tim Rickard's Brewster Rockit, has noted that our increasingly ubiquitous digital assistants, like Siri and Alexa, are apparently all female, and has asked the question, what if the personal assistant were male instead? Hilarity, or at least some cleverly recycled jokes, followed:

Yesterday's installment poked fun at 'mansplaining':

Mansplaining, for any of you who might not know, is... wait... I'm walking right into that one, aren't I?

Anyway, at the Curmudgeon home, we don't have Siri or Alexa. The whole idea of one of these 'listening' constantly, waiting to be of service, just creeps me out. And Long Suffering Spouse completely agrees with me on this. Besides, she doesn't need Siri or Alexa. She has me.

My wife's relationship with technology (as they used to say on Facebook) is 'complicated.' She must use it every day at school and, usually, long into the night at home (on schoolwork). During the total lockdown phase of our never-ending Pandemic she had to master a host of new apps -- Google Classroom may have been the biggest, but there were several plug-ins that she needed to learn, too. And, for whatever reason, just as in every other trade or profession, apps and programs for teachers are constantly being 'updated' (which usually means 'made worse'). At best, new software means learning new commands and orders of operation because why leave well enough alone?

I think software programmers must have a sadistic streak. Some, anyway.

But my wife copes with these -- not without complaint, mind you, but she copes. And learns. And manages.

However, my wife also can not turn on the TV. If the TV is on, she can not change the channel. And she has no concept of whether a program is on the satellite dish (for the moment, until I get around to it, we remain DirecTV subscribers) or streamed on Roku. And during the height of the Pandemic, when the faithful were not allowed to attend the Mass in person, we watched the services from our home parish via Twitch. Which involves changing plug-ins. Long Suffering Spouse was never going to do that.

So it has become my job to operate the TV. And in the sense that, maybe sometimes, it takes quite a while for me to find a program I am willing to watch, today's Brewster Rockit hits sort of close to home:

Actually, I also had TV operational responsibilities in my youth.

When my folks moved to Boondockia, in the late 60s, the National Football League still blacked out home football games in a team's home market. That meant if the Bears were playing at home, the game would not be broadcast in Chicago. But Rockford had its own TV stations, of the low-powered UHF variety, but still. And Rockford was only a little further from Boondockia than was Chicago, albeit west instead of southeast, and the Rockford stations were permitted to carry all the Bears games, home and away.

As a South Sider, my father grew up a fan of the Chicago Cardinals. The Cardinals left Chicago in the late 1950s (first for St. Louis, later for Arizona). The Bears' owner, George Halas, was widely blamed, among Cardinals fans, for driving their team out of town. I am sure some Chicago football fans transferred their allegiance from the departing Cardinals to the remaining Bears as a matter of course, but my father was not one of these. It took me years to figure out why, but we watched an awful lot of American Football League games back when I was a little kid. (If you even skim the Archives here, you will find many examples of how I've been equally slow on the uptake in a variety of other matters.)

I don't know what ultimately softened my father's attitude toward the Bears. Maybe it was the heroics of ex-Bear George Blanda for the Oakland Raiders. Blanda was still an effective QB for the Raiders well into his 40s, albeit only in limited action, mostly late in games, if Daryle Lamonica was injured or ineffective. Blanda was Tom Brady before Tom Brady was born (although, in his 40s Blanda looked twice as old as Brady does now). On the other hand, Blanda also kicked field goals and extra points. This is something Brady never did. And is unlikely ever to do.

But while Blanda may have had something to do with my father's change of heart, my best guess it was the move to Boondockia that sealed the deal. I think my father may have felt he was finally getting his own back on Halas a little bit by bringing in the Rockford signal of the Bears' home games into our den. And we got that signal with me, holding the antenna on the TV set in some awkward pose, or holding the antenna detached from the set in an even more contorted pose. The picture, what I could see of it, was at best a bit snowy, even on sunny days. It was a good thing the Bears wore navy blue uniform shirts during home games.

So maybe my youthful TV operation is not entirely comprable -- I don't have to get out of my recliner now, for one thing -- but the point is, I am used to operating the TV on command.

But these are not the limits of my duties as an older, male Alexa.

We will be watching a movie and Long Suffering Spouse will remark, "That actress was in something else we like. Look her up." Mind you, my wife's phone is next to her at all times and, if she is not on her computer, she is probably on her iPad. But I must be the one to look it up. And report.

Or she will be doing schoolwork. She'll look up and say, "Hey, have we heard from Middle Son this week? Text him and find out how he is doing." I always include her on the group chat lest she think I have failed to carry out her command and, also, so she will have the response she is looking for immediately, without the middleman.

When she is through correcting, Long Suffering Spouse has to assign grades. "So, there's 26 points on this quiz," she'll tell me. "What's 18 out of 26?" I promise you that she has calculators on her phone, her iPad, and her computer, but I have to perform the calculation. "69%," I will report (in case you were wondering).

I have many advantages over Alexa or Siri. Nothing I hear is getting beyond the room we're sitting in, at least not by accident. Who knows who might be listening at Apple or Google? And Long Suffering Spouse does not have to worry about getting weird ads on her phone just because she asks a question. That's now my problem.

"Curmudgeon," Long Suffering Spouse said to me recently, tossing me the label from a skein of yarn (she'd been making scarves for the grandchildren). "Order me three more of these. Same color."

I obliged, of course. And had the softest, fluffiest popup ads ever, for about a month....

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Perhaps the biggest problem with the 24/7 news cycle

I wanted to boast that I've identified the 'real flaw' or 'real problem' with the 24/7 news cycle. But, when I take a deep breath and think for a moment (a dangerous thing for any wannabe pundit to do, obviously), I remember that there's seldom only one problem with anything, or only one solution to any problem. The world is a more subtle and interesting place than that. When we pundits (real pundits as well as wannabe pundits included) start proclaiming about sole causes or simple solutions we risk sounding like crazy Howard Beale in the eerily (and presumably unintentionally) prophetic movie Network. Although he would have dominated on cable.

The 24/7 news cycle is a fact of life these days, even for those not addicted to cable news. Our local O&O (network owned and operated) and major independent TV stations start news broadcasts at 4:00 a.m. Local news or national info-gossip-tainment (GMA, Today, et al.) is on until at least 10:00 a.m. Some stations take an hour off, but pretty much all of them start a noontime news window from 11:00 to 1:00. Judge Judy or Ellen or Jeopardy have only a small fraction of their former daypart before the news starts up again at 4:00 p.m. and runs, on several stations, to 7:00 p.m. The late news starts as early at 9:00 a.m. on a couple of our local stations.

News programs are so popular with network and station owners because they are so economical. Cheap, really, compared to the cost of a scripted comedy or drama. I mean, on programs like that, you actually have to pay, not just writers and directors, but actors. A popular anchor will be well compensated -- but he or she will always be cheaper than the star of a popular series. And you have the costs of building multiple sets, or renting locations, with a scripted series; you just need one set for the news programs. You can send your news camera crew out to any number of locations for the price of the truck and the camera and the microwave transmitter and sample the seemingly endless parade of grieving mothers, mangled cars and trucks, and the occasional big fire. Fires always provide compelling visuals. Special effects without blowing the budget.

Yes, news is cheap.

Especially as it is done now. Too cheap. Too cheaply done.

So much of what you hear on the news these days is taken, often verbatim, from press releases. There are no questions asked -- just rip and read. Press releases are a great starting point -- don't get me wrong -- and I use them myself in my real-world blogs. But a press release is what the agency, politician, or corporation wants you to know about something. A crime, a scandal, a benefits program, a new product or service. There may be more to the story than that. There probably almost always is.

But reporting takes time and costs money (reporters, field producers, even interns all have to eat, too, you know). Instead of taking the time to dig into a story proffered by a press release (or find a story that no one is actually pushing) it is far more cost-effective to rip and read and repeat. And, in between, to fill the time, we can speculate (spout balloon juice) about what this means or about what might happen. If we have a pre-conceived narrative -- a point-of-view -- we can 'explain' how everything fits that pat worldview. That can fill a lot of time.

The Chicago Bears just fired their coach and general manager. Lots of people have been scheduled for interviews. Reporters are not invited to sit in for these (obviously). So there's not a lot of news to report there -- listing the names and dates of the interviews won't take more than a couple of minutes -- but there are hours of airtime to fill. So the sports journalists and ex-jocks bloviate ad nauseum about who would be the best fit, or why this OC or that DC would be better than that one.

At least speculation is understandable in that circumstance, perhaps unavoidable. But the news covers everything like sports: All personalities, all speculation, all the time. No one expects the sports reporter to break down game film, or analyze tendencies, much less find a way to explain these intricacies to fans who are mostly interested in the point spread. And, similarly, we don't require the political reporter to read statutes, or bills, and puncture the balloon juice and hypocrisy that is the bread and salt of the political class -- no, we want personalities, and conflicts, and rooting interests. The media thinks that, when it comes to covering the affairs of the nation, or state, or county, or city, we are interested only in who wins and by how much, just as in sports.

And that's how we can all lose.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Masked confusion

In his most recent Sunday strip, Stephan Pastis engaged in sorta-kinda wishful thinking. Yes, Lucy pulled the ball away, as always, but, right now, in the U.S. at least, nobody is seriously saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

New reported infections have reached record levels, hospitalizations are soaring, ICU beds are scarce -- it's gotten very old. It's like Groundhog's Day every day... except the calendar advances and we're all Bill Murray. I remember when we used to chuckle acidly when we asked whether the "two weeks to flatten the curve" were up yet. It may have still been amusing two months in. We're coming up on two years now of these miserable two weeks.

Until recently, anyway, the Curmudgeon family has fared remarkably well during this time. During the initial phase of the lockdown, Long Suffering Spouse (who, as you will recall, is a teacher) learned the intricacies of Google Classroom and a bunch of other related stuff. However, as the Spanish teacher, she was not required to conduct regular classes during the Spring of 2020 (the focus then was on keeping the kids going on math, English, and history). While Long Suffering Spouse did all sorts of school-related work during that time, she did have more time on her hands than she was used to.

Then, one gloomy Saturday in April -- on or about April 4 is my best guess but, of course, all the days were really the same when most everyone took the lockdown seriously -- we saw a story on the news about masks.

I know it must be hard to recollect, now, nearly two years later, but there was a time when the public health authorities were not all persuaded about the utility of masks. In fact, some authorities -- recognized authorities I'm talking here, not YouTube or TikTok crazies -- were concerned that constantly wearing masks might endanger the health of the persons wearing the masks! And, besides, they argued then, there was no certainty that wearing a mask would ward off a COVID-19 infection.

Of course, at that time -- and remember, please, I'm talking about nearly two years ago now -- there was some serious dispute as to whether Covid could be contracted from the air. It turns out -- I remember looking this up, and I had a lot of time, at that time, to look things up -- that medicine generally has (had? by now hopefully had?) a knee-jerk prejudice against believing in airborne viruses. So... droplets? Sure. Contaminated bananas at the grocery? Wipe everything down before putting anything away. It doesn't matter if I don't have all the details right here; I'm confident I have the gist of it.

Health care professionals should wear masks -- that was the original position -- but the rest of us either did not need them or, even if we did, should not wear them because PPP, like toilet paper, was a scarce commodity. It was our patriotic duty not to wear masks. Save them for the doctors and nurses and EMTs!

And that's why, that gloomy April Saturday nearly two years ago, it came as a bit of a surprise when the TV news advised the CDC had decided that mask-wearing might not be such a bad idea for everyone after all. However, since PPP was still scarce as hen's teeth, we the people should go online and find patterns for cloth masks. Thus advised, Long Suffering Spouse immediately got up and got out the sewing machine. And started making masks. Lots of masks. For us. For the kids. For the grandkids.

Her early models had long ties, kind of like the surgical masks on old TV doctor shows. Mask down, I was Ben Casey (I'd leave the bottom string tied up around my neck). Mask up, I was fixin' to rob the 3:10 stage from Dodge City. (Throw down that chest with the railroad payroll money!)

But Long Suffering Spouse soon graduated to models with elastic ear loops. And we ran out of old sheets pretty quick, too. That meant trips -- careful, cautious trips -- to Michael's or JoAnn Fabrics for cloth for masks. In the many, many months since, Long Suffering Spouse has created all sorts of seasonal masks. She needed 'em -- her school was open throughout the 2020-2021 school year and she wore a new mask each day -- and she would fill special orders from the kids and grandkids too (you want unicorns? mermaids? no problem).

I had my one brief shining moment concerning masks during one of these fabric scrounging trips some months back. I saw a bolt of gray fabric with a black and white Dunder Mifflin Paper Company logo. "Grab some of this," I suggested, "the kids will love masks made from this pattern." My wife had no idea what I was talking about -- but she got the fabric and made the masks and the kids did like them. I think one of the kids, or at least an in-law, actually wore The Office mask on a brief trip to his or her actual office. Remember just a couple of months ago... when people were talking about reopening offices?

Anyway, I think it safe enough to say that Long Suffering Spouse has a serious investment in cloth masks. A personal investment.

But the news changed again, just within the past few days. The omicron variant is so contagious that cloth masks alone will no longer suffice. Even if decorated with mermaids, unicorns, or the logo of a fictional paper company. Cloth masks would have to be worn, if at all, with the blue surgical masks. Better yet, according to the latest thinking, we should all start wearing the KN95 masks or their equivalents (the equivalents have similar names but are manufactured in different places) that were in such short supply at the outset of these interminable two weeks.

And then the news advised that all of Chicago's 50 aldermen had been provided with KN95 masks to give away to constituents.

Apparently the supplies of KN95 masks have been replenished. (But... have you noticed? Toilet paper seems to be getting scarce again. On our last two trips to the grocery, before and after Christmas, the shelves that weren't empty in the toilet paper aisle were filled with no-name, off-brand substitutes....)

Anyway, my course was clear. And, if I hadn't figured it out all by myself, Long Suffering Spouse made sure I understood: I was to get myself to the alderman's office posthaste and grab me as many of those masks as I could get. And maybe I could ask, while I was at it, if some of these special masks might be made available to the teachers at my wife's school.

It's good to have a purpose. I've spent most of this global Pandemic as an empty vessel into which stimulus checks might be poured. The checks didn't make up for the costs of groceries I consumed... but it was some contribution anyway.

Anyway, I sent an email to the alderman's office inquiring about the availability of the masks, and while I was at it I asked about masks for the teachers as well. I got a prompt response, too: The alderman had made arrangements to take care of the school.

You could read the email in such a way as to think that maybe I had something to do with that. Long Suffering Spouse thought so, when I forwarded it to her. Her principal may have thought so, too, when Long Suffering Spouse forwarded it to her.

But the truth of the matter is entirely different. The alderman and one of the other teacher's husbands are buddies and the masks came through him.

Ah well.

But I did pick up our household allotment of 10 KN95 masks and Long Suffering Spouse is wearing one of them now. Or maybe one of the ones dropped off at the school. These masks all look alike. No mermaids or unicorns or anything.

I guess we need them. The Covid is all around us. Again. And, unlike past surges, or peaks, the disease has this time hit close to home: Since November, four of my five kids, three of their spouses, and seven of my grandkids have come down with the bug. Only four of my grandkids are old enough to receive vaccinations, but everyone who could has had at least two shots. Most of us (including me) are fully vaxxed and boostered. Thankfully, the virus has made no one in our immediate family seriously ill. My wife attributes this to the vaccinations and the masks. She's probably right. But I don't care as much as I suppose I should: I just want this to be over.

Monday, January 10, 2022

One of the great advantages of being a failure is...

...that it takes a lot of pressure of one's children.

Some cope with prominent parents (that is, parents who are not failures) better than others, of course.

Sir Winston Churchill was long overshadowed by his father, Lord Randolph. Some historians view Winston's career as a series of maneuvers to establish himself as a statesman in his own right, separate and apart from his by-then-long-dead father. As a father himself, Winston was as indulgent as his own father had been aloof. But Winston's son, Randolph, never quite escaped his father's shadow.

It helps to explain why they both drank. A lot.

In a very small way, I had a famous father. My dad was in law, not politics. But, in his field, he was recognized as a leading expert. And, going into the law, as I did, I was to those who knew my father readily pigeonholed. I was my father's son. But my father practiced in a very narrow specialty.

I did not engage in the same specialty as my father. And there are a lot of lawyers in Chicago. There were a lot of lawyers even then. So, with one entertaining exception I won't go into now, I didn't get a lot of "are you related to..." questions -- and when I did, it was more of a general inquiry than anything.

Time passed, and I built my own reputation. I published a number of articles under my own name in a legal publication. Then, one night, at a holiday party, a judge, before whom I regularly appeared, sidled up to my father, and asked, in seeming innocence, "Say... are you Curmudgeon's father?" He knew damn good and well that he was talking to my father. But my dad was thrilled to tell me about it. And proud, I think. As if I were now the one casting the shadow.

As if.

Successful people cast shadows. Failures do not.

Consider the aforementioned articles, for instance. They earned me not one penny of income. Lawyers in Chicago are expected to share their experise with their brothers and sisters for the good of the profession (and the benefit of the entity publishing). (And this was before the days of MCLE -- so I didn't even get the minimal credit for continuing education hours that might be available now for those efforts.)

The hope was that being a published legal author would bring clients (waving healthy retainer checks) to my doorstep. Now I can't say for certain that none of these articles ever helped generate a client. I did more than 100 of them, but I shared the byline for almost all of those published during the first six years that I was writing them with one of my firm's named partners. I do not say he did not participate in these articles. Sometimes he told me what case to highlight and what our 'take' on it was to be. Some months he merely read what I wrote before I submitted the articles; I think there were many months where he did not read the articles until they appeared in print.

Maybe, in those early years, perhaps, my co-author got some business from one of these articles. If he had, he would not have told me about it. Lest I get a big head about it or something.

But I doubt the articles did generate any real clients and I base this assertion on the fact that, when I went out on my own, I was given the opportunity to continue writing the articles. Some months I did two articles. I think there was a month I did three. Truth be told, I didn't have a lot else to do in those days.

As each new article appeared, I would carefully cut it out and photocopy it (I can lay out a page very nicely, thank you) and send it off to a whole bunch of propsective clients (clients of my old firm, persons with whom I had worked on a regular basis for years). I spent all sorts of money I didn't have on postage. And from this I got... bubkus. No fat retainer checks. Not even checks that bounced. No clients. No business. Once, during my first year on my own, at a women's bar association reception, I had the opportunity to introduce my Older Daughter to the first female justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. Older Daughter, then still in junior high, was with me because it was Take Your Daughter to Work Day and I thought this reception, at least, might make up for the eight hours she had spent watching me twiddle my thumbs. The Supreme Court justice was there as one of the evening's honorees. There was a receiving line; that's where the introduction was made. The justice was very kind. As I introduced myself and my daughter, she pretended to recognize me. "Ah, yes," she said, "you write those articles." We were quickly moved down the line, of course, but Older Daughter finally had something to write about in the school assignment she was expected to complete about her adventures with me that day.

So maybe not a complete failure. Some rain falls on the driest deserts, too, with the apparent exception of portions of the Atacama, but the odd sprinkle here or there never relieves the permanent drought.

My consistent pattern of failure has made it easy for my children to establish themselves as persons in their own right. I think they're all an interesting bunch.

None of them followed me into the law, of course. Why would they?

Still, I sometimes wish I'd been a little more successful -- if only because then my sage advice as the family patriarch might carry some actual weight with those independent, unshadowed kids. There are situations upcoming in which that might be helpful....

Thursday, January 06, 2022

On the anniversary of the Capitol Hill riot

As a pundit-wannabe I know my assigned role: Decry the feckin' idjits who overwhelmed the Capitol a year ago today -- vandals and morons all, and stupid ones at that, since a great many of the arrests that have been made since have come from the authorities simply looking at the narcissistic social media posts the aforesaid feckin' idjits put on line (look at me! I'm Stopping the Steal!).

And I do, whole-heartedly and without reservation, denounce these lunatics.

But---though you might not know it in modern day, divided America---two things can be true at the same time. These were morons (not overexuberant tourists) but they were not insurrectionists.

Some Members of Congress might have been in mortal peril had they not taken shelter or had these these feckin' idjits not (finally) been turned back. But these people could not have taken over the government. That's the goal of an "insurrection." They had no real chance to take over the Capitol Building. Not completely. Not even for an hour. Good Lord, the genius portrayed in the photograph above---I could have looked up his name but it does not deserve to be remembered---couldn't even take over a shirt.

The danger to the Republic came not from these creatures. Rather, it came from those, inside and outside the Trump White House, who urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to fail in his constitutional duty, namely, to certify the election results.

The actual election results. Trump lost. Biden won. Boo hoo. Game over.

Oh, sure, there were irregularities.

There always are. Always.

But when the grown-ups counted up the votes as best they could, though only a few thousand votes in a few key states might have turned the election the other way, the result was clear. And, yet, some of the people in the Capitol on January 6, not the ones waving Confederate battle flags or carrying spears, but actual members of the Congress of the United States, were apparently tempted to tamper with that result.

That was the danger to the Republic. If Pence had done Trump's bidding last year would some of these Senators and Representatives actually gone along? How many would have betrayed their oaths?

Trump was an idiot. And he hasn't gotten any smarter in the past year, either. But I don't want to see him prosecuted for sending the feckin' idjits over to the Capitol to break furniture and/or heads. Because that would only set a dangerous precedent. Study Roman history sometime.

I don't expect it to happen -- sadly -- but I wish the January 6 Committee could rise above partisan politics, abjure the slogans, and simply lay the facts out before the American public. Not about the demented insurance salesmen or real estate brokers or computer analysts or (as in the picture above) kids who escaped their over-indulgent mothers' basements -- prosecute them, sure, for criminal trespass and anything else applicable -- but they presented no real danger to the survival of the Republic.

The real danger lies with politicians who would put party, faction, and personal ambition ahead of the good of the country. Last year it was the Republicans who were obviously dangerous. But there are politicians in both parties who meet this description. I know this has always been so (I'm looking at you, Aaron Burr), but I truly believe the number of these creatures has skyrocketed in recent years. And, next time, there may be no convenient blob of feckin' idjits to divert our attention -- or disrupt the plans of faithless politicians who would undermine our most sacred institutions. We have to call out anyone of any party who would hold an office of trust or honor who does not respect the Constitution or who places him or herself above the good of the country.

But jailing particular politicians will not salve the wound to the body politic. Even if we can legally argue they violated this criminal statute or that one.

Rather, such people must be exposed and shamed. Shamed thoroughly and publicly and completely, so that no one thinks about doing anything like this ever again. Even if the election results go the "wrong" way some other time.

I don't know if many politicians can still experience shame, or whether their partisans understand the concept. If not, we're truly lost, whoever we try to jail.