Charged Up

Who’s the most interesting man in the world?

It isn’t Ryan Reynolds. It isn’t Robert Pattinson (whoever he is). Heck, it isn’t even George Clooney. Nope, the most interesting man in the world is Jonathan Goldsmith, and that’s official. And yes, you do know who Jonathan Goldsmith is. He’s that guy from Vermont who appears so cool in the Dos Equis television advertisements. And guess what? He’s 75 years old.
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I mention that last fact only because I’m really getting tired of the people who oversee production and marketing campaigns pretending that people who are older don’t exist. Or don’t count.

My grievances have reached something of a peak this summer. I enjoy going to the movies, always have. As a youngster, I especially liked war movies. As an adult, I preferred films that had a story and characters and something to care about besides explosions. Maybe even the occasional fantasy. As an older adult, I want films that tell me interesting stories about people.

As an older adult, however, what Hollywood sends me are over-the-top, witless movies (i.e., Transformers, The Expendables III, any other sequel or prequel) written for children under the age of 18 with a mental age not exceeding 12. I’ve lost a lot of enthusiasm for going to the movies, not because I’m an immobile (I ride a bicycle twice daily and hike regularly) crank (I’m a grandfather addicted to the kids and grandkids) but because I still respect the virtue of good storytelling and find it conspicuously absent in the theaters. My money instead now goes to live theater and concerts.

And a lot of us older adults — I’m 74 — have some money. The AARP reports that there are 100 million Americans over the age of 50 who control about 70 per cent of the disposable income in this country. In fact, Americans over the age of 50 constitute the third largest economy in the world, surpassed only by the gross national product of the United states and China. And Hollywood can’t turn out more than a couple dozen or so movies for us each year?

Again, using an AARP factoid, almost everyone you see in a new car commercial these days apparently is between the ages of 18 and 24. And yet — people ages 75 to dead buy five times as many new cars as people 18 to 24. That’s worth repeating bluntly: if you’re close to shuffling off this mortal coil, you’re still more likely to buy a new car than your great grandchildren! Why haven’t the boneheads who market new car ads caught on to this by now?

Ironically, one group that does seem to have a scintilla of knowledge of these things is the justly beleaguered airline industry. Their ads — when they show you people and not clouds and baggage — focus on the first class or business cabins. And the people sitting in them are older. That’s because, of course, flying first class these days requires that you be a CEO (they tend to be older) or have a functioning annuity (again, most likely the property of someone older).

Everyone else on the flights is presumed by the airlines to be immobile, given that seating in coach — the “main cabin,” in airline-speak — is somewhere between really tight and really-really right, no kidding. if you’re flying coach, and you don’t or can’t pay increasing fees for upgraded seating, you will soon come to know what it feels like to be old and infirm. The worst I ever felt in my life came not after running a 6.2 mile road race but after I stepped off the plane following a coach class flight from Atlanta to Dallas. I would rather body surf from LA to Sydney than fly that trip in coach.

Another one of the industries which has a regrettable focus on older adults are the large drug manufacturers. In pursuit of ever-greater aggrandizement, they are constantly peddling their latest over-priced pills for a variety of problems that aren’t really problems (Low-T guys, I’m talking to you) and which generate more side effects than a bad bike crash. I wish they would go away. Or at least face some kind of control in the sale, advertisement and pricing of their pills.

So yes, sometimes I suppose I do sound more like a grump than a gramp. But you should also know that I occasionally sip one of those Dos Equis beers, and that at least makes me one of the most interesting men for a little while, doesn’t it?

Let’s drink to That

Reprinted from the Keene Sentinel

Granite Staters, it seems, take the notion of quenching their thirsts very seriously. So much so that New Hampshire now leads the nation in the annual per capita consumption of alcohol. To which I say, let’s drink to that.

Which reminds me of one of the funniest bar jokes I’ve encountered lately. A fellow goes into a bar — stop me if you’ve heard this before — and asks the bartender for a free beer if he can show the bartender an amazing trick he’s never seen before. The bartender agrees, and the guy pulls out a hamster, who runs to the end of the bar, jumps on a piano and plays “Maple Leaf Rag” beautifully. The bartender is stunned and pours the free beer.

Now, the man asks for another free beer in exchange for a trick, and the bartender agrees if the trick is just as amazing. So the man pulls out a frog, who sits on the bar and offers up a beautifully sung rendition of “Yankee Doodle.” Before the song ends, another customer in the bar rushes over and offers $200 for the singing frog. The fellow agrees. The bartender is aghast. “You could have gotten millions of dollars for a singing frog. Why did you sell it so cheaply?” The man replies, “Nah, no big deal. The hamster’s a ventriloquist.”

So, you might be wondering now, exactly what does this have to do with New Hampshire’s consumption of alcohol? Well, first, I suppose it helps if you’ve had at least one beer before listening to that joke. And second, a lot of Granite Staters have already had at least one beer. The statistics from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Services Agency — that doesn’t sound like much of a party group to me — says we put away 32.7 gallons of beer per person every year.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Gee, Bill, that’s a lot of beer, right? Well, not necessarily. In fact, it breaks down to about 350 12-ounce cans. And that’s less than one can per person per day. Why that’s scarcely putting a dent in the dry whistle, to mangle several metaphors at once.

Of course, I’m a strong advocate for responsible drinking and support without hesitation all efforts to limit the use of alcohol by those who aren’t legally entitled to use it. That said, I will admit that I am legally entitled to use it, and that I use it responsibly, so teetotalers should please find someone else to get after.

But I really do wonder why it is that we drink more than everyone else per capita-wise. And there would appear to be some pretty obvious ideas about that.

One is that New Hampshire has the lowest prices on alcohol anywhere around, so it’s not just folks who live here but those in Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont who find it easy and less costly to drink here. And remember we have arranged our liquor stores to be readily accessible to anyone from Massachusetts (or anywhere else) driving into our state. Think about it: the first thing you see along the roads into our state after the “Welcome to New Hampshire” sign is one telling you there’s a state liquor store at the next exit. Who could resist such a friendly invitation?

And let’s remember that the beauty of our state attracts a lot of visitors each year, and those visitors seem to enjoy their alcohol, whether they’re sunning at Winnipesaukee in the summer or enjoying apres-ski time at Granite Gorge or Bretton Woods.

Want another reason? Well, how about we have a lot of really good breweries in New Hampshire, and the products they turn out are very drinkable, whether basking in summer warmth or chilling out in winter.

And of course some people would declare that the cold, snowy winters — even if in the main they aren’t quite as cold and snowy as they used to be — account for a lot of the reason for serious drinking. After all, a bit of grog or something like it helps to warm the tummy and cheer the spirits when the thermometer drops well below freezing, and besides what else can you do? (There are other answers to that question, and that’s surely a subject for another column.)

Personally, I prefer summer consumption. The warm weather encourages me to bring something cold onto the porch or the yard for a refreshing break from rebuilding the side of the garage that broke off during the snowy winter while I was enjoying some warm refreshment inside. And there always seems to be some company when I step outside this time of year. Regrettably, however, they’re mostly black flies and mosquitoes. Which gives me yet another reason to pour a drink.

Seriously Maine

Everywhere you look, people are vacationing. You probably even know some people who have already taken a vacation or who are planning one shortly. You can tell whose those people are because they are constantly talking about their vacation, either how wonderful it was or how wonderful it’s going to be. You, of course, are welcome to talk about your own vacation, but don’t count on anyone else listening very closely. We know all about that.

We drove up to Maine the other day — I can already sense your restlessness — for a little stay on the coast near Bah Haba, which we used to call Bar Harbor before we discovered almost everybody there is a tourist from Boston. Which is interesting because we discovered that everyone who operates the tourist stores in Bar Harbor is from another country. No kidding. The combination of Boston and Pakistani accents can be mind-blowing.

That said, we also discovered that apart from cars with Massachusetts tags there are a lot of cars with Florida tags. That’s certainly understandable. Florida is an unbearable place in summer, and, honestly, for most of the rest of the year, too, and we’re not talking about just the weather.

The weather in Maine for our trip was really nice except for the one day the temperature hit 89 degrees, or the two days we had to turn on the heat in the house, or the other two days when it poured rain. We enjoyed changing clothes to match the heat, cold or dampness and were glad we brought a closet full of items — ski jackets, tee-shirts, sandals, heavy rain boots and dark glasses equipped with wipers (kidding about that last one).

Given the weather, we found ourselves inside our house a tad more than anticipated. And so we turned on the television for some evenings full of relaxing fun. Now, you may not know this, but there are some unusual cable networks available in Maine. Viewers like us have a choice of the major networks, a couple of channels including ESPN, and approximately 87 shopping networks. We might have miscounted, but it’s pretty close to that. They’re selling about anything you could imagine including but hardly limited to gold, baseball bats, shoes, horseshoes, pie pans, jewelry, incense, carburetors, a window knob, door stop, a Slim Whitman CD, mufflers, and what appeared to be a sexual device resembling a pipe bomb. We fell asleep before the bidding ended on that one.

Shopping in BH was fun in a spendthrift sort of way, although it is extremely difficult to find merchandise in this tourist home that doesn’t contain the image of a lobster. You can buy — and I’m not kidding — an aquarium shaped like a lobster. And a tee-shirt with a lobster on the front and a bowl of chowdah on the back, perfect for anyone who might be hungry but for the life of them can’t seem to remember what’s out there to eat.

We dined in several restaurants, all of which made no secret of their crustacean offerings, everything from lobster boiled to lobster burrito. We consumed enough to put a serious dent in the supply chain for the rest of the summer. Too bad for those of you headed up to Maine in July and August. Interestingly, the best meal we had was an omelette minus all traces of seafood. Go figure.

What wound up giving us more pleasure than anything else during the vacation turned out to be a museum. The old masters here, however, weren’t hanging on a wall; they were sitting on the floor with four wheels. This museum holds some 60 or so immaculately preserved automobiles from the so-called brass era, the years before World War I (1917 in case you forgot). We admired and were pretty much awed by the Stanley Steamers, the 1912 Maxwell, the 1904 Ford, the 1905 Pierce Arrow, the curved dash Olds and so many others. The museum at Seal Cove is a genuine treasure trove; if you like cars, this is worth your time. And get this: there isn’t a single lobster in the entire building.

We returned home to New Hampshire grateful for the vacation time and experience. After a few days back, we met up with some friends and of course launched into the stories of our vacation. They listened intently, obviously fascinated. Well, okay, in truth they barely listened. They could hardly wait to interrupt us to talk about their upcoming trip to . . . well, we forget where. We were waiting for them to take a breath so we could talk about the weather in Maine. Or the TV. Or the shopping Or . . . I forget.

It Was Just a Little Phone Problem

So, we needed to make a business call to clear up a question and make a payment. Easy, right? Automated systems make this kind of thing a piece of cake, and besides, big business is customer oriented these days, knowing that how they handle customers can prove to be a boost or a drag on their profits. And shareholders don’t like drags. (Note: ask General Motors stockholders how happy they are over GM’s recall of 28-million vehicles for safety-related issues. THIS YEAR.)

Anyway, we called on Saturday morning to this very big business — just for the sake of this discussion, let’s call it Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire — to ask our question and make our payment. We were greeted by an automated welcome directing us to several options. As we followed those automated instructions, we were directed by a non-human to several other options. And those in turn led us to the last option, finally, after a mere 10 minutes or so. That brought us the news — delivered by a slightly cheerful disembodied robotic voice — that Blue Cross — oops, just pretend it was Blue Cross, okay? — was closed for the weekend. We should try again during weekday hours, approximately 11 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. (just kidding).

Actually, we tried again on Monday morning around 11 a.m. just for the heck of it. After a series of options presented by that same modestly cheerful non-humanoid voice, we were placed on a hold for 15 minutes. Truth be told — and we’re being truthful here — Blue Cross — oops, again — didn’t cut us off. They just didn’t answer. We stayed on hold for those 15 minutes while being thanked time and again for our patience. That was heartwarming, but after 15 unanswered minutes, we had to go.

Monday afternoon we tried again. It was a little after 2. We went though some of the same series of options before settling in for a bout of terrible music and that voice thanking us once more for our unrelenting patience. About 45 minutes later, our patience, however much appreciated, was — to be honest about it — faltering. After one hour and five minutes, it disappeared altogether.

just before we hit the one hour and 20 minute mark, our plea and our call was answered by what seemed to be a female human with a female human-sounding voice. We greeted her with the almost as much fervor one welcomes a son back from the wars. In a relatively short period of time, this pleasant Blue Cross representative — darn it, sorry about that — answered our question and took our payment. Just like that. We were now free to move on with our little lives.

Adding up the toll, it came to about two hours on the phone to ask one question and make one payment. Now we know our little lives don’t count for much in the big scheme of things, and that was rudely amplified for us by this experience with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire (or whatever). We have learned our lessons: Don’t ask questions. Don’t ask anything, just pay. Big business is very busy.

We’ll really try to remember those lessons. Especially when October gets here.

Dear Graduates…

Reprinted from the Keene Sentinel

About this time every year we are treated to the scent of lilacs, the whirr of hummingbirds, the sight of greening fields and of course the forlorn, haunting cry of the college graduate: “Has anyone out there got a job for me?”

It didn’t always used to be that way. I can remember when I graduated into a job I had already been holding. A distinguished, honorable job, one that stoked my ambition as it paid the rent. Sort of. I was a copy boy at a modest-sized daily newspaper in North Carolina.

Does anyone recall copy boys? They used to be a staple of every newsroom. Kids — aspiring journalists, really — who undertook every conceivable humble task that important editors deemed important in order to learn the newspaper business from the inside. I got to be particularly good at guessing which editor would want his coffee — there were no “hers” in those days — and at which time and getting the cup dropped at the right place on his desk just before he could ask for it.

I also got to be pretty good at taking obituaries on the telephone, a desk model like you haven‘t seen in at least three decades. The funeral home would call in details about the recently deceased, and I would transcribe it to the newspaper’s preferred format. It wasn’t hard, but it called for attention to detail, and it was actually a kind of writing, which was what I wanted so desperately.

To make a old story much shorter, my talents were soon recognized by the sports editor — he liked his coffee black with a little sugar, and I never messed up his order — who needed someone to cover a Little League baseball tournament. At the time I thought that was a pretty good assignment. Only later did I come to realize the veterans on the sports staff each vehemently declined to drop his ego low enough to go to that tourney. But I did quite eagerly, and pretty soon that led to writing grown-up sports stories, which led to the police beat, city government, the state legislature, the governor’s office, investigative reporting, city editor, and onward and upward in a time-honored way of journalists.

Interesting you might generously say, in a nostalgic sort of way, but what does it have to do with spring graduations?

Only this: a lot of commencement speakers are really terrible. Or weird. How else to explain Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak telling graduates several years ago that their futures will be clouded because there are so many robots out there. Beware of robots, he cautioned. That would seem to make concerns about merely finding a job appear quite insignificant.

One speaker claimed that there are only two kinds of commence speeches: bad ones and short ones. Point taken.

I remember vaguely the address at my graduation, although I fail to recall exactly who the speaker was. I think, however, he had retired as a general in the army (ours) and was getting by on a somewhat dubious record of strategic achievement in the military.
I distinctly recall his telling us that “you are the future for America,” and that “your future is bright and unlimited.” He may possibly have added that the future is ours to shape, but then all those words of wisdom years later tend to run together in a muddle of cliches. What I recall even more clearly is the graduate next to me who read a comic book during the speech. And that I was envious.

I suppose it would be good to conclude with some inspiring words of my own for today’s graduates as they prepare to stumble into a not-very-friendly adult world. Unfortunately, I can’t think of any beyond a general suggestion that they always be kind to each other, avoid posting nude photos on Facebook, and remember to inhale after they exhale.

Perhaps I should let Dr. Seuss have the last word. What he said actually carries some meaning for graduates, or anyone else, really. Pithy, trenchant and true. Read it and believe, dear graduates:

As you partake of the world’s bill of fare,

There’s darned good advice to follow.

Do a lot of spitting out the hot air.

And be careful what you swallow.

A Guy from Mass and Healthcare

Wealthy out-of-state supporters of Scott Brown — a loser from Massachusetts (that’s a political fact, not an insinuation) — are paying for a series of noxious television ads that show up frequently these days. They target the Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen — who would be Brown’s opponent in a U.S. senate race if Brown wins the Republican primary — as well as New Hampshire’s two Democratic Congresswomen. The ads convey outdated and simply wrong information about the Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare, which Brown’s opposition to seems to constitute the largest part of his campaign.
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The ad urges everyone in New Hampshire to reject Obamacare, insisting it’s bad for us, taking away choices and costing us more money. Here’s the truth about all that — it’s just so much blather.

First, the initial response to the Affordable Health Care Act in New Hampshire has been overwhelmingly positive. Yes, of course there are Republicans in this state who don’t abhor President Obama and everything to do with him. But more than 40,000 Granite Staters have signed up for Obamacare, far more than ever anticipated. And it is obvious that number is going to grow. Abandon it, Scott Brown? And exactly what will you tell those more than 40,000 people — soon to double — about taking health care away from them?

Of course, Scott Brown has a plan to replace Obamacare. Oops, I forgot. He doesn’t. Nor do any other Republicans have any realistic plans for how to take care of the nearly 9 million people nationally who are now part of Obamacare. They can only object to it and call for its repeal (Republicans in Congress have tried nearly 50 different attempts to repeal Obamacare. That’s your tax money they’re wasting, by the way).

A lot of us in New Hampshire were upset at the lack of initial sign-up options in our state. We had only one option: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which decided to unilaterally cut off certain hospitals and doctors from its plans. Here’s what you need to know — they weren’t required by the Affordable Health Care Act to do that. They did it because it would keep their costs down and their shareholders and highly paid executives happy. Scott Brown’s ad doesn’t tell you that.

Things are getting better, thank goodness. We will have at least five options for health care beginning in October. The likelihood of costs going down with this competition is very high. Scott Brown’s ad doesn’t tell you that. The chance that hospital and doctor choices will go up is equally high. Scott Brown’s ad doesn’t tell you that either.

Few have ever claimed Obamacare was the last word in better health care for Americans. Most Republicans, however, have insisted it was terrible and needed to be repealed. Scott Brown is among them. And Mr. Brown and the other Republicans are only now becoming aware that it isn’t going to be repealed. It is, we hope, going to be improved, with the help of Democrats and Republicans working in a nonpartisan way for the betterment of health care choices for all Americans.

Right. And that will happen when pigs fly.

I’m nonetheless hopeful we’ll take what we have and try to make it better (a single payer plan would be a huge step in the right direction). I’m confident that those who insist it needs to be done away with will go down as losers. Whether they were rejected by voters in Massachusetts or not.

Digging Deeper into the VA

A lot of politicians are suddenly upset now that it seems some veterans have been waiting up to 115 days to get an appointment with a doctor at the VA. Of course, it took me only 86 days to secure an appointment with my dermatologist at a public clinic, so I can understand that no one is worried about my healthcare.

And that’s probably a good thing.

I’m not convinced that having politicians worry about you is akin to having them do anything for you. For instance, in the VA brouhaha — which is truly disgraceful, by the way, in a nonpartisan sort of way — we have Republicans and now some Democrats joining in the shouts of outrage to have VA chief Gen. Eric Shinseki resign. After all, somebody
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has to be blamed for that mess. And how did we get into that mess anyway? It’s not hard to figure out that if we hadn’t gone into two undeclared wars (Iraq and Afghanistan, in case you forgot), we wouldn’t have millions of veterans coming home from battlefields and crowding VA offices all over the country. And by the way, earn extra points for historical memory if you can recall that it was a Republican president who got us into those messes under somewhat false pretenses (at least in Iraq). And yes, Democrats did join Republicans in supporting the undeclared wars, but few lawmakers in either party had access to the reams of misinformation the Bush administration used to win support for the overseas misadventures.

And there’s another small historical tidbit worth remembering, too. In the last 12 months, Democrats in Congress have proposed a bill funding significant upgrades for VA facilities. And what happened to those bills? Well, a lot of those Republicans who have been criticizing the VA loudest are the same ones who voted down the VA proposal earlier. In other words, it’s hard not to to see them as sharing some measure of responsibility for that VA mess now, a mess they see most easily disposed of by demanding that Mr. Shinseki resign.

I don’t know if he ought to resign or not. But I do strongly believe that fixing the problems in the VA go a whole lot deeper than firing its chief administrator. Getting rid of Mr. Shinseki might make some people feel better, but I wonder if it would make any of our wounded warriors better? I would hope Congress might dig a little deeper into all of this.

Those Skies Don’t Seem Very Friendly

I love the airlines. In the same way that I love Mafia dons. And Medicare-abusing doctors. And thuggish professional athletes. Yes, I love the airlines partly because they’re so up-front about the things they like to hide.

This week brings us another round of government-proposed measures to require the nation’s airlines to disclose the exorbitant fees they charge above and beyond the fares they advertise. Would you be astonished to know the airlines aren’t eager to do this? The proposal “overreaches” and would have “serious negative consequences,” according to a trade group representing the airlines. In other words, it would mean the airlines would like to raise their fares to offset any newly incurred costs should this proposal become law. They might also raise their extra fees because, well … because they can.

If you are the airlines, however, you do have an ally in Congress: the Republican party. A House committee recently approved a bill which would nullify any requirement that the airlines reveal their fees and allow them to display only the lowest base fare and nothing else in their advertisements. It’s nice to have friends in Congress, isn’t it? Why don;t we check back in a little while and see which of the congressmen who voted that bill out of committee receive sizable donations from he airlines for their re-election campaigns?

The fees can be very nasty surprises. And while most consumers now are aware they will pay extra for checked bags, they may not know that the fees can run into the hundreds of dollars (currently not disclosed up front). If you want to claim a seat with your advance booking, you may not know that additional fees can be required. (If you purchase an advance fare these days and go to claim a seat, you’ll likely see only a couple of seats in the back and some middle seats listed as available. Pay a fee and suddenly a bunch of more desirable seats become open for you.)

The biggest airline scam, of course, remains the ridiculously high fees charged for changing a flight after you book your no-change reservation. You will now pay $200 and up for whatever reason you want to change your flight. Want to get to a dead family member’s funeral? Tough. Caught a cold and can’t fly? Too bad. You’ll pay for changing your slight. Or, you’ll have one year to use your ticket before it expires (and why should it expire? You’ve already paid for it??).

Although this notion of accountability doesn’t include this information, but the Wall Street Journal has a story about the most expensive airports to fly into and out of. Guess what? In the airports where one airline is dominant, the so-called hubs, fares are up. The airlines don’t really deny this; they say that the extra amenities they offer on board help offset the increased fares. Tell that to someone (me) sitting in a crowded coach section with seats deliberately shrunk by the airlines to jam more passengers in, and also getting less service from harried flight attendants.

And — you should love this unintended hilariously befuddled statement from United Airlines explaining high fares out of Washington — a spokesman says, and I quote from the WSJ, “It’s not that fares are higher but the mix of people buying them is different.” Feel free to translate that any way you wish.

This new proposal seem common sense, although I don’t think it goes far enough. Given the Draconian measures airlines impose on their passengers these days — everything from smaller seats to fewer seats and higher fares — it is easy to argue that far tougher measures are needed before sanity is restored to this consumer-unfriendly industry. And maybe help someone at United write intelligible sentences.

Shame on Them

Those of us who live in and near New Hampshire have already heard and seen far too many wrong-headed political commercials this year. Many of them are funded by the Koch Brothers, the right-winger billionaires who are pushing hard for continuing cuts in taxes and regulations in order to further their profits. They are, of course, the biggest backers of the Republican Party, the party which promotes lower taxes, fewer regulations and anything else that helps the wealthy and well-off. There is nothing about the GOP — repeat, NOTHING — that wants to help the rest of us. And if you are supporting any Republican candidate for any office, here’s what you are tacitly or openly embracing:

1. Republicans in the Senate have voted to keep that body from considering an increase in the federal minimum wage, a proposal that could help the millions of Americans who currently labor in or near poverty. That might take some money away from the wealthy, they argue. Note: Congressmen will receive an automatic cost of living increase of nearly $3,000 next January.

2. Republicans in Congress voted against a proposal seeking to confirm the country’s need to have women pay equally with men.

3. Republicans in Congress have consistently voted against measures to provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and have sought to punish or eject those already in this country.

4. Republicans in Congress voted to cut back the food stamp program, an vicious accompaniment to their efforts to minimize the minimum wage.

5. Republicans in the states have tried, successfully in many places, to restrict voters — mostly minorities, but affecting many people — with a series of demeaning proposals limiting qualification, voting hours, etc. Shades of Jim Crow laws.

So let’s see how that adds up — Republicans in Congress are opposed to helping the poor and disadvantaged. They are opposed to fairness for women. They are against finding ways to help immigrants. They don’t like minorities voting.

That’s what you are endorsing when you support a Republican candidate.

And yes, that’s an overstatement. There are sane, caring, responsible Republican politicians, as there are stupid, selfish Democrats. But the Republican Party — as a party — has staked out these positions of opposition to measures aimed at helping people who need help. The positions are the product of mean-spirited politicians, and they make it clear that today’s Republican Party is dominated by its right-wing, a group whose self-interest is paramount, whose thought processes are dense, and whose hostility to those most in need of help is wrenching. Shame on them.

The Kissing Congressman

If you take Louisiana — and I wish you would — and combine it with the Republican Party, you get a truly amazing collection of shameless scumbags.

Consider the latest example: Rep. Vance McAllister, one of the newest and least distinguished members of the U.S. House. It took him less than four months in office to disgrace himself, his state and his party. So, what did Vance do? It seems he was caught on video deep kissing one of his congressional aides (a woman, I hasten to add). And for heaven’s sake, what’s wrong with that? Possibly the fact that his wife didn’t know about it.
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Anyhow, the tongue-hungry Vance — seen above with his loving family (before he decided to smooch his aide) — having been confronted with the evidence, decided he would not seek re-election. The brave Mrs. Vance, for whatever reasons, stood by her man and declared she was behind him “100 percent.” If I were him, though, I don’t think I’d want her standing too close behind me. Rep. McAllister declared, however, that he would serve out the rest of his elected term in order to see that the residents of his state are not deprived of something they are accustomed to: ridiculous, appalling scandals. They can also be assured, I’m certain, Vance will be standing up 100% for all those “Christian values” he campaigned on. And by the way, why is it so many self-proclaimed Christian politicians and their most earnest supporters seem to be lacking anything resembling Christian values?

Remember David Vitter, the Republican junior senator from Louisiana, the guy who in 2007 consorted with prostitutes and whose wife bravely (or cluelessly) stood by him? He won re-election in 2010. Now he’s interested in running for governor. And before him there was a succession of governors named Edwin Edwards, Huey Long, Earl Long and on and on, some of them Democrats and all of them among the worst, most corrupt people ever elected to public office in the United States. This is the grand tradition in which we find Vance McAllister wallowing (oops, I mean following).

Frankly, the folks down in Louisiana exactly deserve what they get. They would be a laughing stock if there was anything to laugh at here. They continue to elect an embarrassing assortment of incompetent, morally bankrupt politicians. It’s a situation that doesn’t warrant any sympathy for anyone, politicians or voters. Shame on all of them.

It is, however, a disgrace to find such people serving in the United States Congress where their positions are invariably opposed to extending help to anyone who isn’t white and able to support their campaigns financially. They are repellent, and so are the people who maintain them in office.