The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Bible Study Reflection #22: Amazing Grace

I just realized that I hadn't posted the last couple of Bible Study Reflections on the blog. These were written for our parish's Bible Study participants, but others have apparently benefited from the as well.

Here's #22, on Amazing Grace. I'll try to add #23 later today, but first I'm off to conduct a vigil service for one of our parishioners.


Have you ever been hungry? I don’t mean the sort of everyday hunger that hits us between meals. That’s not hunger. That’s just your appetite making noises. No, I mean real hunger – the kind that comes when you haven’t eaten anything in days. Maybe a few of you have.

I experienced that kind of hunger only once, while participating in a trial version of a week-long survival training program for which my commanding officer volunteered me. It was certainly no fun, but because it had a defined end, it was endurable…barely. Later, when asked whether I thought the training would be valuable for Navy pilots, I replied, “Only if they are masochists.” 

I had a friend, however, another naval aviator, who has since died. He was a POW during the Korean War, held captive by both the North Koreans and the Chinese Communists. He was often deprived of food, sometimes for a week or more, all in an effort to break him physically, mentally, psychologically. They would give him water, but only enough to keep him alive.

As he told me, we all know that we need food to live, that without it we will eventually starve. But just knowing this means little until we’ve actually experienced starvation. Once you’ve been that hungry, when you began to believe that you might never eat again, once you’ve been there, food takes on a whole new meaning.

He told me that the prayer on his lips every day was that one line from the Our Father:

Give us this day our daily bread… [Mt 6:11]

Understandably, it had taken on an entirely new meaning for him.

But there’s more than one kind of hunger, isn’t there? Like our bodies, our souls, too, need food. Indeed, there’s a lot of soul starvation in the world today: people dying spiritually without the food that comes only from God.

This food for the soul is God’s grace, the only real soul food. And that’s what I want to address in today’s reflection: God’s Grace – God’s Amazing Grace!

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of preachers talk about it! And the Bible is filled with it! And yet, how often do we really think about it? When was the last time you thought about food? Probably right before lunch. But when was the last time you thought about grace?

You see, the problem is, we can’t see grace the way we can see scrambled eggs. We can’t smell it, or touch it, or taste it. We can’t weigh it or measure it. But as Christians we believe it’s there. We believe it’s real, and powerful, and life-giving, and life changing. We believe all these things because we can see the effects of grace in our own lives and the lives of others.

And knowing this, we can join the psalmist and sing:

"This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!" [Ps 118:24]

That’s right, every day is a great day because God’s grace is the perfect manifestation of God’s love for us. We are loved by our God who brought each one of us into being in a unique act of creation. He didn’t create us because He hated us. He created us, He gave us the unbelievable gift of life because He loves us.

…so, yes, let us rejoice and be glad!

What does all this mean? How do we live this life that God’s given us? How do we deal with God’s gift of grace?

Scripture tells us our justification comes from the grace of God:

They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus [Rom 3:24].

In other words, we are saved by God-granted grace, the grace that lets us believe, the grace that’s the very source of our faith. And this grace of God is a favor; it’s a gift, an absolutely free gift that no one deserves. As the theologian might say, “Grace is a gratuitous gift.” That’s right; no one deserves it, not you, not me, not your Mama, not anyone you know, or anyone you don’t know.

Now God doesn’t give this gift of grace the way you and I give gifts. He doesn’t make out a list and say, “Let’s see, who will I give some grace to today?” No, that’s not the way God works. God makes His grace available to everyone. It’s up to us to take advantage of it.

You see, dear friends, God’s grace provides us with the help we need to respond to His call to become children of God, to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. St. Paul reminds us that as children of God, we’re also His heirs.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him [Rom 8:14-17].

As His heirs we inherit all that He has. We get to take part in His divine nature and receive the greatest gift of all: eternal life! Do you see now, just one of the reasons so many have called it, “Amazing Grace”?

Let us rejoice and be glad!

Of course, the question then becomes: How do we get God’s grace, this food for the soul?

Well, first, we have to avoid all the junk food – all the worthless promises our broken world and sick society place before us. The world’s junk food satisfies only our addictions, our greed, our lust, our self-absorption; and it’s always ephemeral, never lasting.

Twinkies and Pepsi may taste good and temporarily satisfy our craving for sweets. But just as a steady diet of junk food will eventually destroy our bodies, the world’s spiritual junk food will do the same to our souls. The world takes garbage, wraps it up prettily, and dangles it before us. But once we unwrap it, it remains garbage. The first step, then, is to rid ourselves of that garbage; then go on a steady diet of God’s soul food.

We need only turn to God and accept the grace He offers us. You see, even though grace is a gift, God doesn’t force it on us. We must still respond to that grace, for God always gives us the choice. We can accept it, or we can reject it. It’s always up to us!

Rejecting it is like turning off a light switch. The power’s still there but we’re not using it. Instead of living in the light, we stumble through the darkness. And that’s where sin thrives…in darkness. When we sin, our souls become less receptive to God’s grace. And when we’re unrepentant in our sinfulness, we, in effect, reject the gift.

Because God loves us, He doesn’t want us to live in darkness. He wants us to live in the light, in the light of Jesus Christ. How did John put it in the prologue of his Gospel?ow did John put it

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it [Jn 1:4-5].

But Jesus was even more explicit:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life [Jn 8:12].

We need to keep that light switch on. We need to respond continually to God’s gift of grace. It must become a way of life for us.

Our loving God wants us to take advantage of and use the gift of grace He offers us. It’s through that gift that God gives us faith. It’s through the gift of faith that we can come to experience hope, hope in the eternal life He has promised us. It’s through faith and hope that we come to accept God’s call to do His will in our lives. And what is His will? Well, it’s pretty simple. He asks us to love Him and to love each other.

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself [Mt 22:37-39].

You see, like faith, hope and love are theological virtues, for they come only from God, gifts of the Holy Spirit. Without them we simply stumble blindly through our lives. Just as our body needs exercise, so too does our soul. It’s these virtues, these gifts, that help us exercise God’s grace, for we can do nothing good outside of the grace of God!

God wants one thing for us: an eternal life of happiness with Him. It is for this alone that we were created. As hard as it may be for us to believe, God wants every single one of us to be saved, something St. Peter reminds us of:

...He is patient with you, not wishing that you should perish but that all should come to repentance [2 Pt 3:9].

We are called, then, to stay connected to our God through prayer. We must pray always for the continuous gift of God’s grace; we must respond to it and exercise it so that, through it, we can carry out God’s will for the world.

The question, of course, is How? How do you and I live the lives that God wants for us?

Scripture provides the answer. God created us in His image and likeness [Gen 1:26]. Just think about that. What does it really mean? St. John tells us that God is Love

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him [1 Jn 4:16].

Well, if God is Love and we’re created in His image and likeness, then we’re created to do good an avoid evil. We’re created to be imitators of God, to be as generous and as giving of ourselves as God is:

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect [Mt 5:48].

…and we are called to be holy:

Sanctify yourselves, then, and be holy; for I, the Lord, your God, am holy [Lv 20:7].

…and to love God and our neighbor by recognizing the Presence of God in others:

For I was hungry and  you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me [Mt 25:35-36].

He calls us to live the Beatitudes: to be poor in spirit, and humble, and merciful, and compassionate, and pure, and righteous, and meek, and peacemakers [Mt 5:3-12].

…and to obey His commandments:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments [Jn 14:15].

But that’s not all, for discipleship demands sacrifice. Just as Jesus sacrificed Himself for our salvation, we too are called to the Cross:

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it [Mt 16:24-25].

Now that’s a lot of stuff we’re asked to do. But it's not impossible. For as Jesus teaches us, with God, and fueled by His grace, all things are possible

For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible [Mt 19:26].

Remember, too, we do all these things because of His promise that we are children of God, adopted sons and daughters. As heirs to His kingdom we get to take part in His divine nature and inherit eternal life

Isn’t that reason enough? Living a grace-filled life, then, is not impossible. Through prayer – the best exercise for the soul – and especially through the Sacraments, God’s engines of grace, we are helped on our journey to conversion and to the salvation God desires for us. Then, when our earthly journey ends, and we stand before the Just Judge, we will hear the words of our Lord

Come, you who are bless by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world [Mt 25:34].


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Predictions and Observations

I’m no prophet, at least not in the traditional sense. Over the years I’ve offered a few predictions and one or two have actually materialized. The others...well, we can ignore them. 

I think I made my first successful prediction back in 1973 when I taught computer science at the U.S Naval Academy. Fresh out of graduate school, and teaching an advanced programming course, I took my small class of midshipmen on a tour of the Academy’s computer center. Typically in those days the mainframe computer and most of its peripheral equipment filled a large room. At the tour’s conclusion it was apparent my students were suitably impressed. It was then I made my prediction, telling them that in my lifetime — at the time I was just shy of 30 — we would be “using computers the size of a cigar box that will be more powerful than everything in this computer center.” Most of my young students were not farsighted enough to agree with me. Today they’re all retired from the Navy and Marine Corps and using laptops and iPads to exchange videos with their grandchildren. Heck, even my latest iPhone, with Internet access, WiFi, Bluetooth, and apps from Alexa to Zoom, has more computing power and capability than that GE-Honeywell mainframe computer that filled our computer center back in the 70s.

Of course, my little prediction was really pretty much a sure thing given the increased pace of technological growth we have experienced in recent decades. But I’ve come across other predictions that are far more amazing. For example, almost 70 years ago Mark R. Sullivan made a remarkable prediction describing what he believed the telephone of the future would be like. At the time Sullivan was president and director of Pacific Telephone and Telegraph. Here’s his prediction, published in the Tacoma News Tribune on April 11, 1953:

“Just what form the future telephone will take is, of course, pure speculation. Here is my prophecy: In its final development, the telephone will be carried about by the individual, perhaps as we carry a watch today. It probably will require no dial or equivalent, and I think the users will be able to see each other, if they want, as they talk. Who knows but what it may actually translate from one language to another?”

Pretty accurate “speculation” by Mr. Sullivan...and in 1953! It’s reminiscent of Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio introduced into the comic strip by Chester Gould in 1946 and later upgraded to a TV-capable device in 1964. But technological predictions are probably among the easiest to make so long as your assumptions don’t violate the laws of physics.


It’s much more challenging to foresee societal and political change, which is why those who do so really impress me. Just read what Russell Kirk (1918-1994) wrote almost 30 years ago in a University Bookman article, “Testimony to a Humane Social Order”:

“Like the Celts of the Twilight, it seems, the Agrarians have gone forth often to battle, but never to victory. America’s farm population now totals perhaps two percent of the national population. Centralization of power in Washington continues apace. Nationwide television broadcasters rapidly efface any remnants of regional cultures. In many other ways, society becomes dully uniform and thoroughly urbanized. While we talk windily still of free enterprise, the industrial and commercial conglomerates move toward oligopoly and on a tremendous scale. Leviathan, the monstrous society, swallows its myriads.”

What Kirk wrote was really less a prediction than a statement describing how the quest for power leads to an inevitable growth and corruption of government and big business that ultimately destroy freedom. What he saw in the early 1990s has become only more evident today.

I've encountered similar, although more distant, descriptions of our changing world. The great theologian, Romano Guardini (1885-1968), saw the rising of atheistic communism as the greatest threat to the religious life. In a wonderful little book, first published in 1923, just a few years after the Russian Revolution, Guardini wrote:

"It is no accident that the worldview which sees in the machine [technology] the symbol of fulfilled culture -- namely materialistic communism -- is trying systematically to destroy the religious life. It proceeds on the premise that science and technology are the only foundations of existence and that they demand such a level of empirical concentration that everything religious has to be harmful" [Letters from Lake Como, p.111].

We hear much the same today from the socialists and technocrats in our midst. In the preface to the fifth edition of Guardini's book (1994), Catholic philosopher, Louis Dupre, described our response to the rapid cultural changes inflicted on modern man, and summed up Gaurdini's view that too often we grasp the new blindly without any real understanding

"A cultural ride at top speed has left us breathless with no time for reflection. In a period of frantic change, no thinkers vanish more rapidly than those of the recent past. New ideas arise and we simply put aside that which came before assuming the new ideas will better deal with the present. Although few will admit it, we fear the ideas of the past, not so much of the distant past, but the past we experienced and remembered" [Letters from Lake Como, xiii].

And then there's Friedrich Nietzsche (1884-1900). I first read Nietzsche when I was a college student and marveled at his writing ability. He was certainly the best writer among the philosophers of his time. I suspect this is why he became so popular among the youth who read him. But I was also certain that some degree of insanity plagued him throughout his life and not just in his final years. Before his mental illness took firm hold, the German philosopher, in his philosophical novel, Also Sprach Zarathustra, wrote:

"Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer able to despise himself. Behold, I show you the last man."

Our world today certainly has its share of these last men, those who seem completely unaware of their sinfulness.

I recently read that more than 30% of young adults claim no religious affiliation. This seems to bother a lot of folks who think the Church is going to crumble into dust when all us believers have died off. Perhaps the will help change a few minds.

In a recent post I mentioned the autobiography of the British writer, Maurice Baring (1874-1945). When describing his days at Cambridge University, he referred to an influential group of young intellectuals, the Society of the Apostles. There was, of course, nothing apostolic about them, and Baring related how they challenged him in 1894:

"One day, one of these intellectuals explained to me that I ought not go to Chapel, as it was setting a bad example. Christianity was exploded, a thing of the past; nobody believed in it really among the young and the advanced, but for the sake of the old-fashioned and the unregenerate I was bidden to set an example of sincerity and courage, and soon the world would follow suit. I remember thinking that although I was much younger in years than these intellectuals, and far inferior in knowledge, brains, and wits, no match for them in argument or in achievement, I was nonetheless far older than they were in a particular kind of experience -- the experience that has nothing to do either with the mind, or with knowledge, and that is independent of age, but takes place in the heart, and in which a child may be sometimes more rich than a grown-up person" [The Puppet Show of Memory, p. 145].

This is why I don't worry about, and certainly don't fear what the future has in store for us.  But I will make one prediction: that Joe Biden will not be president after two years in office.

As we have heard throughout Advent and will continue to hear throughout the Christmas Season: Emmanuel -- God is With Us.

Homily: Day 5 - Octave of Christmas

Readings: 1 Jn 2:3-11; Ps 96; Lk 2:22-35


When describing the divine and human natures of Jesus, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote:

"He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human will, and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin...[and His human will] does not resist or oppose but rather submits to His divine and almighty will" [Gaudium et spes, 22].

Christmas, of course, reminds us of Jesus' humanity, that He chose to enter into the world just as helpless as you and I once were. He didn’t place Himself above us. He entered directly into the human story, sharing our humanity, our flesh and blood, our physical mortality. Although a divine person, He accepted everything that came with His humanity, all the messiness, all the ordinariness, all its limitations. It was by accepting these limitations that He could “advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man[Lk 2:52].

Today’s passage from Luke is offered to remind us of both the humanity and divinity of our Lord.

According to Jewish law, a firstborn son belonged to God. Forty days after his birth, the parents would present their son in the Temple, in effect, buying him back with a sacrifice of turtledoves or pigeons. On that day, the new mother would also be ritually purified. Indeed, the feast of the Presentation was originally known as the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. Here we see the Holy Family, a Jewish family, living under God’s Law, doing as the Law prescribed.

Jesus’ mission, then, is rooted in God’s revelation, expressed in the Law and the Prophets. It’s there, in the Old Testament, that God’s plan of salvation is first revealed; a plan fulfilled and brought to completion by the Incarnation.


As Mary and Joseph entered the Temple to fulfill the law, they were greeted by old Simeon who, filled with the Holy Spirit, welcomed Jesus and revealed Him as the redemption of the entire world:

“…my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” [Lk 2:30-32].

He then gave Mary a taste of the sorrows she would experience, for a sword would pierce her heart, a sword forged by our sinfulness.

The birth of Christ, then, is revealed by three kinds of witnesses each in a different way: the shepherds, led by an angel; the Magi, guided by a star; and Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, all inspired by the Holy Spirit.

God chooses whomever He wishes to do great things, and guided by the Holy Spirit they will reveal Jesus Christ to the world. The Spirit works, providing opportunities to take God’s love to others, an evangelization that begins right in our own families where holiness is first nurtured. In the midst of the chaos in our families there are glimpses of God’s presence, moments of grace when God reaches deep into the clutter of our lives and hands us a present we never expected.

When my mother died, over 40 years ago, our elder daughter, 6-years-old at the time, told Diane, “Don’t cry, Mommy. Grandma is with Jesus now, happy in heaven.”

In moments like this God ignores the barriers and debris we place between ourselves and our redemption, reminding us we are called to holiness.

In those moments, sticky hands are transformed into instruments of grace. Stories of the playground and classroom, or the words of a child to her mother, become words of wisdom.

In those moments, ordinary events take on new meaning and the dinner table becomes like an altar.

These elusive, often sudden, and unexpected moments are rarely captured on film or video. Sometimes, as with Mary and Joseph, they came in the form of words that amaze. Yes, Mary knew her Son was special. What had the angel revealed to her?

"He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High...the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." [Lk 1:32,35]

But to hear this and more in the Temple from Simeon…this too was something Mary would long ponder and cherish.

This visit to the Temple strikes a chord in all new parents who wonder and worry about the future of their child. It’s a story for every mother who has looked into the face of her newborn, the face of innocence, and prayed that God would help her raise that child to holiness. It's a story to remind us that as parents we will experience disappointment, sorrow, sometimes great tragedy…but in the midst of it all we encounter Emmanuel, God with us.

It reminds us of the depth of God’s love, of His arms open wide with forgiveness and mercy – a reminder that God calls us into families, not just to protect us physically, but to nurture us in faith, to prepare us for a journey that leads only to Him.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph – pray for us.

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Real Reason

This will not be a particularly long post because what I have to say can be said fairly briefly...unless, of course, I manage to ramble on.

I have known many people who call themselves socialists, but I've never been able to get any of them to admit that communism is not a good thing. In other words, they believe what all true socialists believe: socialism is just a step along the path to full-fledged communism. 
We must understand that socialists and communists are all Marxists. This single fact is a key that explains much of what we are experiencing as the China virus wreaks havoc in this country and around the world. It explains why New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, an avowed Marxist, wants to use the virus as a means to destroy small businesses. Marxists, you see, despise those small business owners, the budding capitalists who represent the middle class, what they like to call the bourgeoisie, because the middle class are avid free-marketers. Indeed, the middle class could not exist for long without a free market.
Marxist power brokers want everyone to be counted among the proletariat, everyone, that is, except themselves, the Marxist elite. Without a thriving middle class, the proletariat, the workers, must then turn to the state for everything. They must also be conditioned to do whatever the state tells them, even though these orders violate their God-given freedoms. "It's for your own good. We know best!"
The non-ideological governors, mayors, city councilors, and others -- those who seek only to feather their own nests and gain power -- unwittingly fill the role of Lenin's useful idiots. Because they are motivated solely by power and money, they gladly follow the policies of their advisors -- the "experts" who will lead them to the power they crave. Of course, once the public cedes power to the politicians, the Marxist experts usually act quickly and remove the puppets from office. After all, once in power the ideologues can disarm the citizenry, leaving themselves with far more than mere political power.
It's just a series of variations on the same story, repeated whenever socialism was tried and inevitably found wanting. Socialism does indeed lead to societal equality, except for the Marxist elite, for it brings everyone else down to a common material and spiritual poverty. It's truly remarkable that a system with an unbroken record of failure can still attract so many.

Throw the Bums Out!

In one of my recent posts — Congress Sets a Record — I addressed how the public views the ethical behavior of our federal legislators: Congress earned an abysmal 8% rating. Given what’s happened in the past few days, our legislators just might find themselves a lot closer to zero.  

I begin by stating that the majority of the long-term members of Congress deserves as much respect as they have for the nation's citizens, and I include members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans. These men and women are apparently addicted to spending our money on frivolous things that reward those who fund their reelection campaigns. The recent pandemic relief bill was packed with legislative pork that had absolutely nothing to do with helping those whose health and finances have been jeopardized by the pandemic. Indeed, a huge amount of the funds included in this legislation was pure pork, with much of it heading overseas while far too many Americans are suffering. The president signed the bill, almost under duress, largely because he had little if any support from legislators of his own party. He then asked Congress to revisit the legislation, remove the pork, and increase the individual relief payment from $600 to $2,000. Congress might agree to raise the relief payment, because they love to spend our money, but there’s no way they would ever remove the pork. That’s just not something they do.

Following the lead of their Congressional mentors, too many governors and mayors, mostly Democrats but even a few Republicans, have shut down their economies, forcing millions of Americans out of their jobs and destroying tens of thousands of small businesses. (Note that these so-called public servants didn't close down the big businesses -- the Walmarts, Targets, Home Depots, supermarkets, and all the rest -- the corporations more than willing to provide the funds to finance election campaigns. Nor did they cut the pay or eliminate any jobs of government employees.) And they did all this despite the science that increasingly tells us that business shut-downs are largely ineffective when it comes to protecting folks from the virus but very effective at destroying the small businesses that keep our economy going. Testing has shown that less than 2% of infections come from restaurants while more than 70% begin at home. With everything else shut down, people tend to gather with others in their homes. Given the numbers, forcing folks to remain in their homes probably isn’t the wisest move. 

It’s a challenge to name the worst of the worst, but if forced to do so, I’d choose Speaker Nancy Pelosi. For months she delayed providing additional stimulus funds because she believed doing so before the election would increase President Trump’s approval ratings and ensure his re-election. a fact she admitted publicly. In other words, she willfully placed political expediency above the dire needs of the people she represents, those whose lives her policies have devastated.

Speaker Pelosi is, of course, not alone in her corruption. She is joined by all those legislators who supported the current pork-laden bill. Admittedly the legislation does some good things like providing additional weekly assistance to the unemployed. But the stimulus amount of $600 will do very little to help those who have been hammered by this pandemic and the government’s authoritarian response. The idea of universal relief might gain the support of voters who think only of themselves, but any relief should really focus on those who have been hurt most by the pandemic, those who have lost their jobs, their homes, their businesses. That, however, would require legislators and their staffs to do some work. It would also force them to explain why some deserve assistance while others don’t. And few legislators want to do that, to actually do the courageous thing.

A few years ago, on a visit to Savannah, Georgia, I came across a street corner with a unique juxtaposition of signs — Congress as a one-way street, pointing of course to the left. I couldn’t resist taking the photo.
Yes, indeed, Congress is broken. I suppose about the only thing to say — something which far too many voters will ignore — are the words I used to hear when I was a kid and the adult discussion got around to things political: Throw the bums out! And then hope you don’t just elect a new crop of bums.