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Bitter Pills

Canadian free-riders. Neo-Democrat votes. Shutting down Dexter shoes. Embouldered Dean. Defending Senate Democrat behavior. Plus more.

11.2.03

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EXTRA STRENGTH
Re: David Hogberg's Hooked on Reimported Drugs:

All good and accurate points. However, the Canadian pharmacies are not selling at a loss. U.S. manufacturers have chosen to sell their products at the lower, government-mandated prices in Canada. The world is full of examples where information and communication technologies are reducing the ability of businesses to price discriminate (see Airline Business, U.S.). In this case a long-standing option available only to border residents (those able to physically go to Canada) is now accessible nationwide. Pharmaceutical manufacturers will increasingly need to "just say no" to the free-riding of Canadian (and other) health systems on their research investments, or become accustomed to pressure on their margins.
-- Jeff Larsen
San Francisco, California

VOTING STATEGERY
Re: John Tabin's So You Want to Be a Democrat?:

John Tabin's take on voting Democratic is interesting.

A far more powerful tool would be to simply pick between the 2nd and 3rd place Democrats coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire.

The real contribution that "the Right" could make in a situation like this is to deny the front-runner a majority for a longer period of time and make him spend more of his money in the primary and have less to spend against Bush during the period between the primary being sewn up and the matching Federal money that kicks in during the convention.
-- Kent Ostby

VEILED PESSIMISM
Re: Herbert I. London's Guarded Optimists:

Two days ago I worked my last day at my job as a clerk in a Dexter Shoe Outlet store. After 13+ years in business, our store was just one more to be closed by the company. The rumors are that more will follow before the end of this year, with quite possibly more to follow next year. When I began working there in '98, the company had about 93 stores nationwide. By New Year's, there may be 50 remaining.

Dexter Shoes, one of the last U.S. shoe manufacturers, is part of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway empire. It has been said that the Sage of Omaha considers Dexter to be his one doozy of a mistake. Supposedly, he regrets buying the company in the first place (in '93), paying for it with BH stock, and then not moving production overseas soon enough.

The town of Dexter, Maine, where the shoes were made for years, has been decimated. The factories have been shuttered and the company, which merged with HH Brown about two years ago (within Berkshire Hathaway), has moved its headquarters to Maryland. Because the employees in Maine lost their jobs due to foreign competition, they received two years of unemployment benefits. I've heard their two years is up in December. Dexter, ME, is probably not interested in Mr. London's veiled optimism.

Our store had a small, but hard-core, percentage of customers who would only "buy American." They were basically good people who truly believed that buying American would keep jobs in this country while at the same time failing to appreciate the reason for the high cost of American made goods. Most of our customers, however, only wanted low prices. So when the company, in an apparent cash flow crunch, slashed the prices of shoes this past summer, the merchandise began to move quickly. No one was checking for "Made In USA" labels; they were only looking for the "half price" tags.

The customers took our closing harder than we did; some actually got misty-eyed. Although none of us relish being unemployed in an area already hard hit, we don't want to work in a shoe store forever, either. We knew we were slated for closing months before the company told us, so we've had time to adjust. We don't hate the company -- we understand this is just business -- nor do we blame Warren Buffett or even President Bush, whom a few of the customers maligned. Over the years we've talked about moving on, all the while becoming a bit too comfortable right where we were. For us, the store's closing is a cross between a wake-up call and a blessing in disguise.
-- Kitty Myers
Painted Post, New York

CONSTITUTIONAL RULES
Re: Brandon Crocker's A Constitution on Life Support:

Mr. Crocker's "A Constitution on Life Support" brought strikingly little that is new to the judicial appointments debate. Then he drops this pathetic saw:

"Filibustering federal appeals court nominees is not just unprecedented, it is, strictly speaking, unconstitutional, as depriving the Senate the opportunity to vote on the president's judicial nominees violates the Senate's clear constitutional duties."

Funny how no conservatives thought to take this position a few years back when Sen. Helms refused to allow a vote on an ambassadorship. No, indeed, we gleefully pointed out a sentence in the Constitution which, so far as I can tell, remains.

Article I, Section 5, Sentence 2: "Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member."

The Senate has determined the rules of its proceedings to be that cloture requires a three-fifths vote.

The Senate is free to change the rule, as Mr. Crocker goes on to suggest in the next sentence. There are ways to ... convince the Democrats to permit the vote. But the rule is plainly constitutional, as is the Democrats' use of it.

I have to wonder if those making this bizarre claim, and there have been several, are closet liberals or just stupid.
-- Nathan Zook
Austin, Texas

Brandon Crocker replies:
I am at a lost to account for the particularly nasty tone of Mr. Zook's letter. I didn't know attacking Democratic mistreatment of conservative judicial nominees could create so much anger in a self-identified conservative.

I do remember the incident with Senator Helms holding up an ambassadorial appointment years ago. My recollection is a bit hazy, but as I recall, Senator Helms' actions had far from unanimous support from Republicans and conservatives. I did not support his actions on that issue, gleefully or otherwise, so Mr. Zook's attempt to call me a hypocrite is unfounded and intellectually dishonest. Additionally, though it may be a subtle distinction, I think the attempt of one Senator to abuse Senate rules to derail one ambassadorial appointment (or, in Hillary Clinton's case, one cabinet appointment) does not rise to the same level of constitutional concern as does the concerted effort of the Democratic Party to deny Senate votes on numerous judicial nominees.

Yes, the Constitution provides the Senate the right to set its own rules. That does not alter the fact that using Senate rules to prevent the Senate from carrying out its constitutional duties is a de facto attack on the Constitution. I don't see the logic of Mr. Zook's argument that it is not, in essence, unconstitutional to circumvent the Constitution as long as it's done through Senate rules.

OUTSOURCED
Re: The Washington Prowler's Breakfast in Boulder:

Apparently the Prowler has heard of fact-checking but isn't sure what the term means.

Your Prowler piece "Breakfast in Boulder" contains a brazen error of fact -- and an ample dose of fiction -- to prop up the column's point. Apparently Jayson Blair of the New York Times is not the only reporter who makes things up and pretends to be where he is not.

You could have covered your tracks, and your laziness, simply by reading the original story. I did. Heck, I wrote it.

The column states: "Meanwhile, Dean was speaking before hundreds of students, who cheered on Howie's announcement that he was a metrosexual, even though he later claimed he didn't know what that meant."

Uh, no. He made that comment at a meeting with donors at a local hotel before the appearance on campus. He also said he didn't know what the term meant before the CU rally, not "later." He made no mention of metrosexuality to the college kids.

The students cheering existed only in the Prowler's imagination.

Come on, guys, you're making those of us who work hard to get it right look bad.
-- Joey Bunch
Staff Writer
The Denver Post
Denver, Colorado

SIZE WISE
Re: "Help Is on the Way" letters in Reader Mail's Bugged by Kinsley:

Ha! I see I'm not the only reader who doesn't like the teensy fonts on the new website.

Here is how your readers can defeat the evil schemes of web designers who are trying to make the Spectator and so many other sites unreadable: Use the Opera browser instead of Internet Explorer, and turn off cascading style sheets.

You can download Opera for free from www.opera.com. The free version has banner ads. If you prefer, you can send money and get a version that doesn't have them.

After installing it, go to File - Preferences - Page Style - Configure
Modes. Uncheck the box under "Author Mode" for "Page Style
Sheet." Click OK and Apply. That's it! Once again, you'll be able
to read TAS without eyestrain.

I understand that Microsoft's Internet Explorer once had the ability to turn off style sheets, too, but that it went away with version 4.

With Opera, you have much more control over these things. There is menu toward the upper right of the screen that lets you fine tune the magnification on a page-by-page basis. You can also specify minimum font sizes.

Isn't free-market competition wonderful? I use Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Opera, all three, both at work and at home. Opera is the one I use for situations like the one that TAS has created with its new website.
-- John Gorentz
Battle Creek, MI

I have it! TAS has determined to chase younger demographics, and so has adopted that geezer-unfriendly new type size. But the material is so uniformly worthwhile that I shall continue to squint away at it.

And there is a bright side, sort of. Your adoption of the new micro-type coincided with the new print issue of TAS, which means that we don't have to see That Woman every time we visit the TAS website.
-- Richard N. Burns
Canoga Park, CA

ON THE PLATFORM'S EDGE
Re: Walter Wallis's letter ("People Catchers") letter in Reader Mail's Bugged by Kinsley:

Walter Wallis, like all good professional engineers, sees a technical solution for just about any problem, including the problem of suicidal people jumping in front of trains.

But like many of those good professional engineers, he considers the problem in isolation instead of broader context. There already is a technology that prevents these kinds of incidents -- platform-edge doors that only open up when a train is stopped at the station. But this adds significantly to the cost of building a subway or other transit system, and ultimately means fewer miles of lines being built, more people staying in their cars, and more people dying in their cars.

Transit most definitely saves lives -- the best thing we could do for the overall safety of our transportation system would be to get more people out of their cars and onto trains, streetcars, and buses.
-- Matthew Mitchell

AWESOME
Re: Shawn Macomber's Wrong Answer:

I laughed out loud several times reading Shawn Macomber's article. Making fun of the left doesn't get any better than this, "... I was convinced that if someone called in the Guinness Book of World Records people, they could have verified the biggest hackeysack circle in the history of mankind."

He is one of the most persuasive writers I've read, and with an awesome sense of humor.
-- Ken Bush

Having had to listen to part of and read a number of articles on the ANSWER-led hatefest of last Saturday, was I the only person listening to recognize Ramsey Clark's call for "a Bolivia" should President Bush be re-elected for what it was? Surely someone who was once this nation's premier law enforcement officer should know the meaning of sedition -- "incitement to insurrection against lawful authority."
-- Gretchen L. Chellson
Alexandria, Virginia

STANDING ON THE CORNER
Re: Kelly Jane Torrance's Extreme Wedlock:

Kelly Jane Torrance laments that women "will do anything to get married." As a public schoolteacher and certified geezer (who enjoys holding hands with his bride of more than 40 years), I am flabbergasted at the number of attractive single moms I encounter. At first I would wonder to myself reflexively "Now who is the stupid jerk who let THIS one get away?", as though this were some kind of anomaly.

Increasingly -- and as emphasized in Ms. Torrance's article -- I have come to realize this is not unusual, but, sadly (especially for children), all too common. And why? When one considers the events of recent decades, the obvious answer is: Why not?

Consider the abandonment of modesty, self-respect, dignity, and common decency by women over the last forty years, beginning with the Cry Baby Boom elitists' pretentious blather about women's so-called "liberation". Look at the cheap trashy public conduct of the female victims of this scam -- the bizarre self-mutilation, the foul language, the street walker clothing now glamorized by the popular media, and the evident willingness to put out and shack up -- and it can hardly come as a surprise that so many men consider women little more than furniture undeserving of either respect or long-term commitment. Once the transient pleasure du jour of this piece or that piece has come and gone, it is time to go furniture shopping again. Women, having let down their guard, have learned to their sorrow that the ever popular furniture store is open 24/7, bulging with merchandise at discount prices.

As Ms. Torrance notes, women have far more at stake than men. For that reason, they hold the key to solving this problem. Women are naturally heroic and for good reason: They are the guardians of the gates of a society's morality. Men have always and will always be guided by little more than "whatever the traffic will bear." Women, like it or not, are the traffic cops precisely because they have both more to gain and more to lose. At some point, the light will dawn and enough women will finally figure it out, viz: "Well, DUH!"

At that point, we will begin to see a return to the value society once put upon self-respect, dignity, self-control, modesty, common decency and, yes, even virginity. Once a critical mass of women come to realize that virginity and purity are the most precious gifts that can be brought to marriage, perhaps they will begin to teach their daughters how to achieve the happiness that has eluded them by role modeling the behavior of their grandmothers or maybe even their great grandmothers. Once those daughters learn the full extent of their true powers -- the power, for instance, to demolish the frail male ego with a wordless glance of contempt should that male be so stupid as to utter a four-letter word within her hearing -- boys and men will again learn that respect is the pre-requisite to both pleasure and love. At that point, boys will come to learn the value of courtship and self control during which they are to prove themselves worthy to their intended and to the family of their intended. And in the process, boys will learn how to become men of honor and responsible fathers -- not adolescently fixated sperm donors who grow old but never grow up, who know pleasure but not love.

Until women take up the difficult task of resuming their role as teachers of an essential moral code and as morality traffic cops with formidable powers of enforcement, they will continue to harvest the contempt, shame and abandonment they have reaped in such abundance over the last forty years.

Desperation is not the answer. Dignity is.

Lasting love and hand-holding by married couples in public should not be the exclusive province of geezers. Our children and grandchildren deserve better.
-- Thomas E. Stuart
Kapa'au, Hawaii

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