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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Senator Webb And his Windmills

This, from the closest thing Virginia has to a Don Quixote, is so laudable. Jim Webb is going to get us cheap drugs. The legal kind.

A Senate press release:

Webb Vows More Affordable Prescription Drugs for American Consumers

All Americans deserve access to quality, affordable health care and medications - period. This is a question of basic fairness. With 47 million uninsured Americans, it is high time that healthcare legislation focuses on consumers and not corporate profits.

My Senate colleagues and I attempted to re-focus our nation’s priorities this week by passing a measure that would permit the safe importation of lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada, the E.U., Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. But, Senator Cochran’s amendment effectively gutted this important cost-saving provision. Unfortunately, hard-working Americans will continue to pay the price.

Americans currently pay, on average, twice as much as most other countries in the world -- at a time when the U.S. pharmaceutical companies are turning profits in the tens of billions. The United States can and must do better. I will continue the fight in Congress for more affordable prescription drugs for the hard-working people of this country.
"I will continue the fight ..." What a guy.

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Senator Webb and his pals are going to be bringing us cheap drugs out of Canada.

There is an overwhelming need for drug importation, yes? Americans, by the millions, are clamoring for those lower-cost prescription medications out of Canada, right?

(yawn ...) Well, not really.

From Friday's Wall Steet Journal:
Canadian Drugs, Eh? Washington fights over an unwanted program.
By Kimberley A. Strassel

Listen to Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe discuss importing drugs from Canada, and you'll hear endless happy talk about "more competitive prices," "substantial savings" and how "crucial" reimportation is to "the American consumer." What you won't hear Ms. Snowe mention much is the drug-import program of Portland, Maine.

Interesting that, since Portland was one of those cities that gained notoriety a few years back for defying federal law and setting up a Canada import program that it promised would save its thousands of city employees and their dependents a bundle on drugs. Three years in, it has attracted all of 350 participants.

That was also the flame-out fate of a statewide plan by Gov. John Baldacci to empower the Penobscot Indian Nation to build a distribution center to import price-controlled Canadian drugs for some 325,000 uninsured and underinsured Mainers. The tribe in February unceremoniously closed the program (which never got its hands on Canadian drugs, but morphed into a domestic mail-order business), having attracted just 3,000 Medicaid recipients.

Ditto, all across America.

All of which helps explain this week's bizarre, and highly cynical, Senate votes on drug imports. Many of the very senators who supported or co-sponsored Ms. Snowe's amendment to change federal law and allow Canadian imports hail from states that have seen their own high-profile programs wither or die.

These folks know firsthand that Canadian imports aren't really that popular and won't save much, if any, money. But they do like what this debate offers, namely the chance to bash U.S. pharma companies and to stand with "overcharged" U.S. consumers. The votes are more a sideshow ... (
So Jim Webb has donned his armor and has saddled his steed. A fist closes around, and firmly grips, his gleaming sword. A look of determination; a furrowed brow; a setting of the jaw; a steeled nerve. The epic battle is at hand.

The windmill beckons!

Cheap Canadian drugs will be ours! Facts be damned! Reality, get thee hence! Cynics, stand aside! The Creator of all life calls! I embark upon this quest to save The World!

... and America looks on in total bemusement ....

One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world was better for this. - Don Quixote.

Tommy Denton Is a Goof

"Hi Mom. Here's some flowers. Happy Mother's Day. Now let's talk about what these flowers represent - the dead, the orphaned, and the homeless children, the carnage, the heartbreak, the blood, the loss of innocent life, that we as a nation have brought to the world through incessant warfare."

That'll be the conversation I'll be having with my mother today. You?

You think I'm being ridiculous.

You're right. But you might want to direct your disbelief and disapprobation to some dude named Tommy Denton, Roanoke Times editorial staff. These are going to be his thoughts on this wonderful Mother's Day, when the sane world will be thinking of mothers and our devotion thereto.

Or so he says ...

A Dunkirk Coming To Blacksburg?

I'd get the biggest chuckle, friends, if Wal-Mart responded to Blacksburg, Virginia's short-sighted attempt at keeping it from locating a supercenter within its town limits by doing what it proposed to do in Dunkirk, Maryland a few years ago.

The Roanoke Times outlines ("Blacksburg's Big-Box Whodunit") a move afoot in Virginia Tech-ville to prevent the world's largest retailer from building there by passing an ordinance requiring special approval before any company intending to build a retail store 80,000 square feet or larger can proceed. The town of Dunkirk in 2005 tried to do the same thing (the only difference is that the Maryland town prohibited stores 75,000 sq. ft. or larger outright), producing an interesting response from Wal-Mart.

It proposed to build two smaller stores side-by-side.

Wal-Mart eventually decided against the measure, but the effort was indicative of both that which America's most beloved retailer must go through these days - for absolutely no good reason - to extend its reach, and of the creative approach the retail giant takes to expand to areas where Americans are in need of great prices on quality name-brand products.

The twin 40,000 square foot adjoining stores approach or the build-the-store-just-outside-the-city-limits answer to do-gooder local politicians who work to thwart the will of the people would be a wonderful response to Blacksburg's heavy-handed approach to punishing - or trying to punish - the one retail store that 98% of America shops.

Here's to Wal-Mart. May she ever be successful in overcoming those who don't have the peoples' best interests at heart.

Quote Of The Day

From George Will:
Hate-crime laws are indignation gestures. Legislators federalize the criminal law in order to use it as a moral pork barrel to express theatrical empathy. They score points in the sentiment competition by conferring special government concern for more and more particular groups.

Laws hold us responsible for controlling our minds, which should control our conduct. But government increasingly wants to inventory and furnish our minds, removing socially undesirable desires. Law has always had the expressive function of stigmatizing particular kinds of conduct, but hate-crime laws treat certain actions as especially wicked because the actors had odious (although not illegal) frames of mind.

This draws government steadily deeper into stigmatizing certain thoughts and attitudes, which incites more and more groups to clamor for inclusion in the ranks of the especially protected. (link)
"A Bustling Hate-Crime Industry," The Washington Post, May 13, 2007

You Learn Something Every Day

How many of you knew that most of our forests here in Southwest Virginia a century ago were comprised of a genus of trees that no longer exists? It's a fact:

A Move To Save An Appalachian Stalwart
By Michael Abraham, writing in the Roanoke Times

Before the chestnut blight swept through our area in the 1930s and destroyed 3.5 billion trees, one of every four trees in the Appalachian region was a chestnut. For families throughout our region a century ago, it was the wood of their crib, their schoolroom desk, their log home and their casket; a true cradle-to-grave resource.

The tragedy began in 1904 when chestnuts in the Bronx, N.Y., were found to be infected by blight. The blight was caused by a fungus traced to Japanese chestnut nursery stock, imported to the United States. In Japan and China, the blight and the chestnut evolved together, so it was not fatal to those species, but in the States, there was no resistance.

In ensuing years, airborne spores wafted upward of 50 miles per year northward into New England and southward through Virginia to Alabama. Within 50 years, Appalachian forests were decimated, leaving hillsides covered with standing pallid skeletons, resembling ghostly tombstones. The devastating effect on wildlife was commensurate. (link)

How different the forests must have looked back then.

Today, there are gypsy moth traps hanging from trees and bushes around the area, placed here by the U.S. Forest Service. The government is attempting to determine if the insects are infesting the forests of Southwest Virginia - yet.

Can our oak stands be next to go the way of the chestnut?

A 'Cowardly and Un-American Act'

PBS, radical Islamism, and censorship. Your tax dollars at work. Read Roger L. Simon's call for a protest of the Public Broadcasting System. "Too Fine For PBS."

Say It Ain't So!

We put the Democrats in charge in Washington to straighten out the mess. Didn't we?

Guess not:
Enthusiasm wanes on Hill for lobbying reform
Associated Press

House Democrats suddenly are balking at the tough lobbying reforms they touted to voters last fall as a reason for putting them in charge of Congress.

Now that they are running things, many Democrats want to keep the big campaign donations and lavish parties that lobbyists put together for them. They're also having second thoughts about having to wait an extra year before they can become high-paid lobbyists themselves should they retire or be defeated at the polls.

The growing resistance to several proposed reforms threatens passage of a bill that once seemed on track to fulfill Democrats' campaign promise of cleaner fundraising and lobbying practices. (link)
Well, it's not all bad. At least the Democratic leadership is looking into that pressing matter of attorney firings that has everyone on the edge of his seat.

Things To Ponder

This seems out of character, coming from the New York Times:
Genetic Testing + Abortion = ???
By Amy Harmon, The New York Times

As prenatal tests make it possible to identify fetuses that will have mental retardation, deafness, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and a range of other conditions, such personal deliberations are adding a new layer to the fraught political debate over abortion.

Abortion rights supporters — who believe that a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body — have had to grapple with the reality that the right to choose may well be used selectively to abort fetuses deemed genetically undesirable. And many are finding that, while they support a woman’s right to have an abortion if she does not want to have a baby, they are less comfortable when abortion is used by women who don’t want to have a particular baby.

“How much choice do you really want to give?” asked Arthur Caplan, chairman of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “That’s the challenge of prenatal testing to pro-choicers.” (link)
Actually, pro-life groups have been warning America of this eventuality for many years. And it won't stop with genetic defects. We are a discriminating people. If given the chance, would anyone not select a Lexus if it was among a host of vehicles - greater and lesser - from which a person could choose to take home for free. Children will be no different. Want blue eyes and blond hair? Tests show green eyes and brown hair? Dial up Planned Parenthood. You get a do-over.

This was all so predictable. And so tragic.

Well, Duh

To those who have ever purchased that Girls Gone Wild video, this makes perfect sense:

Nudist Groups Seeking Younger Members

Why be a nudist if you don't have hot, young, naked chicks to look at?