The Mail

The Mail

March 8 1999
The Mail

The Mail

March 8 1999

The Mail

Men's health issues

your cover report on "Men's health" (Feb. 22) was a welcome and long overdue

piece of journalism, but I was disappointed you neglected the entire field of men's reproductive health. Even in this day and age, sex is as much a matter of procreation as recreation. Contraception issues provide considerable discord among couples, and unexpected pregnancies exact a heavy toll on the coronary arteries of many men and women. With the modem no-scalpel vasectomy, pain, complications, adverse effects and other horror stories of legl ______ end are virtually non-existent. Despite more than 30 per cent of vasectomies performed in the United States in 1995 being no-scalpel, the technique remains unappreciated in many Canadian centres.

Dr. Barry Rich, Vancouver

You mention briefly male menopause or andropause (“Putting the men in menopause”). I would like to point out that there is a blood test to diagnose andropause. It is the measure of “free” or “bioavailable” testosterone. I hope that your story will stimulate the formation of a men’s health movement in Canada.

Dr. Jean-Marie Ruel, Ottawa

I was dismayed to read that men with prostate cancer feel threatened by the government funding that is going to breast cancer and feel they should receive equal funding for their disease (“Confronting the menace”). Having worked long and hard, together with thousands of women with breast cancer, to eke out funding ($45 million over the next five years) from the federal government, I feel quite depressed that men with prostate cancer should begrudge us the money. I agree that prostate cancer is un-

derfunded, especially when you look at what the federal government is spending on AIDS. So, prostate cancer guys, don’t beat up on us gals with breast cancer—we have enough to worry about. Take your male counterparts in the powerful AIDS lobby to task instead.

Dr. Maria Hugi, Vancouver

It seems funny to me how you can write about men wanting their foreskins back as if it were such a popular thing. You make it sound as though so many men are at such a great loss because they have no foreskin. In fact, some men get circumcised later in life to help improve their sex lives and many of them wish they had it done sooner. I would suggest that you at least consider showing two sides to this issue and stop trying to start some kind of emotional roller-coaster that will eventually guide a number of unstable and insecure males into thinking their lives and sexual ability have been ruined because they haven’t a foreskin.

Mike Cormier,

Moncton, N.B.

Your cover story sure hit a nerve in this household. I am one of the thousands of sexually mutilated-at-birth men mentioned, who is quietly and non-surgically reconstructing

his foreskin. It was good to see a national magazine mention that we are out here— “tugging.” Although not yet finished, the improvement in the quality of sex for me and my patient sweetheart is remarkable. At age 57, my restored sex life is better than it was at 20. If more women knew what they were missing, they would demand their men get full coverage. If more men knew what they have been missing out on all these years, they would demand retribution. I have battled terribly to get behind me the sadness and anger over what was done to my sex life.

Gary Harryman, Topanga, Calif.

I went through an episode of clinical depression requiring hospitalization six years ago when I was 40. It was the most terrible event of my life. I agree that depression is likely caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and drugs may be needed in the short term to restore that balance. For me, however, the chemical imbalance lessened as I learned to regain control of my thoughts, emotions and resulting behaviour through cognitive, rational and logotherapy methods. I discovered after studying self-help materials available at public and college libraries and through the Canadian Mental Health Association that I could ditch the antidepressant drug Prozac. And knowing that

I had conquered the “black dog” by using my own mental resources for me instead of against me was truly emancipating.

Ray Marco, Dunmore, Alta.

Although I agree there’s no shame in suffering from depression, I’m troubled by the current emphasis on a neurophysiological cause, and by Dick Smyth’s statement: “All it is is a chemical imbalance in the brain.” It seems to me this attitude is an abrogation of personal responsibility and, more important, dis-empowering. Certainly, antidepressants are valuable in helping people to get out of danger and grounded enough to do the psychological work necessary to heal. I like to think, however, that those of us suffering from depression have the potential to eventually live free of medication. Taking ownership and control of the difficult internal work is my responsibility, but also my right.

Marc Kramer, Toronto

The Y2K problem

Allan Fotheringham, why do you pardon the nerds and geeks whose incompetence caused the Y2K problem (“Behold the Y2K bug—revenge of nerds and geeks,”

Jan. 25)? Or did they know what they were doing and yet continue to manufacture and market defective products? If it had been the misdealing of an automobile or pharmaceutical company, they would have been obliged to make a massive recall or face ruinous lawsuits by those institutions that have had to hire nerds and geeks to fix the faulty merchandise. Where are the lawyers?

L. A. Cummings, Waterloo, Ont.

Military sponsorship

Charles Gordon’s concern about corporate sponsorships is misplaced (“Have we forgotten the Trojan Horse?” Another View, March 1). We have a long history of sponsorship, especially in the military. I draw your attention to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the Princess Louise Fusiliers. Given that rich princesses with a military bent are now in short supply, why not seek commercial backing for our troops? As a former Maritimer who was an infantryman in the Second World War, I would have been proud to serve in K. C. Irving’s Motorized Dragoons or Sobey’s Light Infantry. What Quebec youth would not have been pleased to serve, with alacrity, in the Bank of Montreal’s Light

Chausseurs? The Royal Loblaw Regiment would have been a natural for the men of Ontario and the Canadian Pacific Great Plains Rangers would have had no trouble obtaining all the troops they needed from those droves of young westerners in whom the love of Empire was strong. Across the mountains, no regiment could have been more popular than Macblo’s Motorized Hussars. I urge, therefore, that Gordon cast his concerns aside. Let’s get on with it: the times they are a-changin’. Sigh.

DavidJ. Chabassol, Victoria

Repairing diplomacy

Yes, everything that Bruce Wallace says in his column “Asleep at the wheel” (Feb. 22)—and more—happened. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien could also have asked former prime minister Joe

Clark to attend King Hussein’s funeral in his absence. But he did not. King Hussein’s death is an irreversible tragedy. But the inability of the Prime Minister to attend his funeral is a repairable diplomatic fiasco. Islam allows only 24 hours to perform a burial, but it also allows a formal period of 40 days to mourn and comfort the family. Our Prime Minister and his wife can still


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make a private visit to Jordan and express the condolences of the people of Canada. Water is not under the bridge yet.

Suresh Kurt, Richmond, B.C.

I guess that the “Little Guy from Shawinigan” doesn’t have what it takes to play with the “Big Boys in the Big Leagues.” Canadians deserve better.

Daniel R. McLaren, Prince George, B. C.

Split-run magazines

Regarding Bill C-55 and so-called U.S.

split-run magazines (“A fight reborn,” Business, Feb. 15), few seem to realize that the editorial content of a magazine is the product’s labour component. After that, it’s just paper, press time and marketing expense. Forget for a moment the position of Canadian magazines and Canadian culture. Imagine the hue and cry the Americans would raise were a Canadian firm to export a product for sale in the United States that had little or no labour cost, thereby enabling it to severely undercut the price of its U.S. competitors. If Canada does not stand firm on this issue, we might as well resign ourselves to total domination by the United States, cultural as well as economic.

Peter Perry, Collingwood, Ont.

Small lies are OK?

Let me be sure I have learned aright the lessons to be drawn from the conclusion of the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton brouhaha (“Payback time?” World, Feb. 22). It must, after all, have an important bearing on what we teach our young people. 1.) A person will not be punished by the courts (read the Congress of the United States) for lying as long as the lie was small enough. The issue was, surely, never whether Clinton lied but whether the size of the lie justified removing him from office. Thus, our young people should learn that lying is all right as long as the amount is not too large. 2.) In the eyes of the majority of the people of the United States, it is permissible for the President to be a womanizer and a liar so long as he does a good job of being President. So I can teach young doctors that

The Odd Squad

Your article about Vancouver police officers known as the Odd Squad and their idea to show film of drug users to high-school kids (“Taping the horror,” Television, Feb. 22) brought back memories of 30 years ago. My youngest son, Dean, was in Grade 1 when his school showed a film on what smoking does to your lungs. When he got home, he destroyed a fresh carton of cigarettes my wife had just bought for me. On my arriving home and needing more cigarettes, I finally found them in the garbage can. When asked why he had done it, he said, “Smoking will kill you.” After cooling down, I realized that whatever my six-year-old had been shown must have been serious. Dean and I made a deal, that I would quit and he would never start smoking. I have not smoked in 29V2 years and Dean never started. Get Through a Blue Lens shown to as many schools and people as possible and the film may help save many lives and avoid serious health problems for others. Congratulations to Vancouver police offers AI Arsenault and Toby FI inton.

Bruce Watchorn, Strathroy, Ont.

it is all right to have extramarital relationships and lie about them so long as they are good physicians. Have I got it right?

Dr. William G. Green, Townsend, Ont.

The next time an American political party sets out to crucify a president, they should have a supply of nails—not thumbtacks.

Edward W. Barrett, Montreal

U.S. President Bill Clinton deserves a special award as best actor of the year in, well, what category would you say: drama? tragicomedy? farce? fantasy? And the envelope, please.

Evelyn Eppes, Halifax

Good government

The solution of lowering taxes in order to prepare for the future (“Future shock,” Cover, Feb. 15) is nonsensical. The social problems you predict can only be resolved by infusions of money into the right places at the right times, and only government has the resources, mandate and compelling interest to do the job. What other social mechanism exists to ensure that the aged can live in dignity, that socially benevolent research and development can be instituted, and that income can be redistributed sufficiently to


ensure that Canada remains an essentially middle-class society? Certainly, globalization or the market or even high economic growth will not provide such benefits. At the beginning of this century, Wilfrid Laurier claimed it would belong to Canada, and at the end it seems that the United Nations agreed that it did. Canada’s high standard of living and social cohesion were achieved by making its experiment in government work (though not without difficulties) and not by defunding the only force that treats us as citizens and employers, rather than customers and wage slaves.

David E. Armstrong, Austin, Tex.

Using figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to compare U.S. and Canadian taxes without comparing the services provided is misleading. In the United States, we pay through premiums and fees a good deal of what Canadians pay through taxes. Our family’s health insurance premiums cost us $6,698 (U.S.) last year—and we still had additional co-payments for services. Fees at most public universities are higher than in Canada, and private colleges generally charge $20,000 or more per year. Services still have to be paid for. Canadians pay more through public taxes, but Americans pay more through what amount to private taxes.

David Macleod, Mount Pleasant, Mich.

PCBs in the tar ponds

There are not, as stated in your recent article, 40,000 tons of poisonous PCBs in the tar ponds in Sydney, N.S., (“Sydney’s dangerous legacy,” Canada, Feb. 8). There are 40,000 tons of material contaminated with PCBs, which are measured in parts per million.

Florence Sigut, Sydney, N.S

The Road Ahead

The myth of Internet profits

As investors and mutual fund managers rush to Internet stocks, we would be well-advised to recall what British journalist Charles Mackay wrote in his 1841 classic, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds: "Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or phantasy into which it plunges, spurred on by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation.”

It is ironic that even as the Internet creates seemingly vast profits for its corporate pioneers, its long-term impact will be a great victory for consumers, and another step towards ever-declining corporate profitability.

Data assembled by Mercer Management Consulting shows that return on assets and corporate margins have been in decline for almost all of the past 50 years. The reason, simply stated, is that the tree-market system works. Monopoly products earn monopoly profits. Monopoly profits, in turn, attract new entrants and the development of substitute products, both of which drive down profit margins. Products as disparate as the ballpoint pen and Aspirin are evidence of this reality.

The Internet is likely to further accelerate the long-run decline of margins. is growing rapidly by taking sales away from traditional retail outlets. Amazon offers a dramatic improvement on both price and convenience to the book-shopping public. Yet soon, by accessing just one Internet site, a prospective book purchaser will probably be able to compare the price of a particular volume sold by Amazon with those of four or five other online vendors.

John Koopman, Oakville, Ont.

Books will have effectively turned into a commodity, and commodity industries are notoriously price sensitive.

Classic economics tells us that in perfectly competitive markets no one makes any money. But in part because few consumers ever had perfect information, not many markets were perfectly competitive. The Internet represents a major step towards dramatically improving consumer information. It will effectively turn many markets into commodities. As consumers get closer to perfect information, corporate opportunities to profit from imperfect information will decline.

Microsoft and a few other companies that are building this new infrastructure do for the moment enjoy attractive margins, but for most vendors of most products the Internet presents a real business opportunity only because it allows them to reduce margins. Amazon is really nothing more than a means of distributing books at margins lower than those possible for traditional retail stores.

We are looking into the face of the greatest transfer of power from producers to consumers since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. In the Internet world, if your product is just a hair more expensive than your competitors’, the world's consumers will know, and act accordingly.

The Internet will change the way the world works and plays. In the long run, however, it will not make a lot of shareholders rich, despite the current share-price mania surrounding Internet stocks. Those of you who believe otherwise would be welladvised to reread Charles Mackay.

The Road Ahead invites readers to advance specific solutions to Canada's political, social and economic problems. Unpublished submissions may run condensed as regular letters or appear on an electronic bulletin board.