Environment, Medication, and Control

Isn’t it nice when you can pretend to care about the environment while helping the pharmaceutical companies rip people off even more? And place even more restrictions on how people access their medication?

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday patients who use the epinephrine inhalers to treat mild asthma will need to switch by Dec. 31 to other types that do not contain chlorofluorocarbons, an aerosol substance once found in a variety of spray products.

The action is part of an agreement signed by the U.S. and other nations to stop using substances that deplete the ozone layer, a region in the atmosphere that helps block harmful ultraviolet rays from the Sun.

But the switch to a greener inhaler will cost consumers more. Epinephrine inhalers are available via online retailers for around $20, whereas the alternatives, which contain the drug albuterol, range from $30 to $60.

Mind you, I have nothing whatsoever against switching to more environment-friendly inhalers. However, I don’t understand why this switch has to remove the possibility of ordering the inhalers online. Why are asthma sufferers suddenly condemned to getting prescriptions for something they never needed a prescription for until now? How is it reasonable to ask people to switch to something that is more expensive in the current economy? For many people, this will be a serious increase in price that they might not be able to afford.

As it is, there are way too many substances that unreasonably require prescriptions. Take contraceptive pills, for example. What sense does it make that one can buy heroin easier and more hassle-free than oral contraceptives?

After this kind of news, it becomes easier to understand why so many people in this country say they are sick and tired of the government’s constant meddling and paternalistic attitudes.

Thank you, Estherlou, for pointing me towards this story.

Why Offering Criminals a Choice Between Jail and Attending Church Is a Horrible Idea

On the heels of our recent discussion about a decision by a small town in Alabama to offer criminals a choice between a short prison sentence and attending church, I want to offer the following considerations:

1. Such a decision violates the US Constitution and its guarantee of separation between church and state in an egregious way.

2. It sets a dangerous precedent of the government relegating its functions to private individuals and organizations. From there to vigilante justice, there is a very short distance.

3. If the government starts relegating its functions to private individuals, we will soon lose any vestige of the separation between the public and the private spheres. When the functions that belong strictly to the government are not well-defined and limited in nature, there is nothing to stop the government from invading every aspect of our personal lives.

4. The goal of incarceration is, first and foremost, to impose punishment for a crime. Equating church attendance with punishment is offensive to the religious people.

The very reason this country came into existence was the need to separate the church and the state. I can imagine nothing more un-American can opposition to this separation. A society where there is absolutely any overlap between religion and government is not a civilized one. The separation of church and state is one of the greatest inventions of humanity on the road to progress. Any violation of this great principle will lead to horrible results.

Sunflower Seeds and Meditation

Do you know why Ukrainians are always so happy, relaxed, laid-back, and stress-free?

Because we eat a lot of sunflower seeds. Getting them out of their shells requires such intense concentration that it becomes a great meditation technique. And the seeds themselves lower blood pressure. (Of course, the seeds should be bought as nature created them, in shells and unsalted.)

Just try it. It’s a road to nirvana.

Why Do the Russian People Like Putin So Much?

In spite of all the fraudulent elections and the utter disrespect for freedom of speech and human rights that characterize Putin’s regime in Russia, he has very high approval ratings in the country. Simply put, the absolute majority of people love him. In order to understand the reasons for this seemingly strange attachment of the Russian people to a KGB guy with zero charisma and totalitarian tendencies, please consider the following:

1. In the 1990ies, FSU countries went through the period known as “bandits’ wars.” It was the time when criminal organizations engaged in brutal struggles over the property that use to belong to the state but was now massively privatized. Now that these criminals have served their purpose, Putin has jailed some and pushed others into exile. Many people see him as a politician who has brought back law and order rather than a member of an organization that is responsible for unleashing the gangsters to begin with and then clamping down on them after they stop being useful.

2. Putin uses the money he gets from peddling Russia’s vast supply of natural resources to keep people somewhat fed and provided with basic social services.

3. He also conducts a huge patriotic, imperialist propaganda campaign that allows people to feel proud to live in such a big and powerful country. Putin routinely ridicules Western politicians in a very public manner, and it makes the Russian people who saw the loss of former colonies as a huge trauma to feel vindicated.

4. Putin is openly dismissive towards his wife. In a culture of domineering women and weak men, a strong, powerful male politician who doesn’t allow his wife to walk all over him is very appreciated because he embodies fantasies of many people of both genders. One of the reasons Soviet people hated Gorbachov so much was that he was obviously in love with his strong and powerful wife.

5. The reason why people don’t value the loss of the freedom of speech is their memory of the late eighties when there was a lot of freedom and a lot of speech but all that eventually degenerated into the bandits’ wars.

Putin is still pretty young, which means that there are many decades ahead of us of his regime in Russia.

Split Personality and Slacking

Fellow blogger Z published a charming story on her blog. Two grad students are talking:

Parisian: I have spent the whole afternoon reading Shakespeare, and I do not see that it has done me any good!

Londoner: Surely not. That is why I spent the afternoon asleep!

Z asks her readers to guess the gender of these students. I have no idea what their gender might be but I can say that they neatly symbolize 2 aspects of my personality: the obsessively hard-working Jewish persona and the happy-go-lucky, perennially snoozing Ukrainian persona.

I’ll let you guess which side of me wins more often.

When and How Will UN Vote on Palestine’s Independence?

Many people come to this blog asking when the UN will vote on Palestine’s independence. So here is an update: Mahmoud Abbas has now returned to Palestine, and the Palestinian leadership has decided to push the UN security council to vote as soon as possible. The UN security council will start debating the issue tomorrow (Monday). Potentially, the vote could be postponed for as long as several months.

I find this entire show staged by politicians to be very cruel towards the inhabitants of Israel and Palestine. There are mounting tensions in the area that only grow because of all of the fiery speeches made by politicians. I’m afraid that if the UN vote doesn’t take place soon, we will see many more violent eruptions in the area that will become more and more bloody as the time progresses and there is still no vote in sight. And this is precisely what the US is trying to make happen:

According to a report from Haaretz, the Obama administration is engaged in behind-the-scenes efforts to delay voting on recognition of Palestine as an independent state in both the General Assembly and the Security Council.

A “silent agreement” is reportedly in place between several Western countries to postpone the U.N. votes through a number of bureaucratic stalling tactics, the use of which are being promoted by Washington.

So let me tell you once again: the way I see it, the US has done everything in its power over the years to ensure that the conflict between Israel and Palestine remains in this simmering stage forever. Obama is shilly-shallying on the issue right now but this attitude on his part is something we have seen, time and again, from every US leader for decades. (I remember I would gag every time I saw Clinton’s smirk as he talked about Israel and Palestine.)

A permanent conflict in the Middle East is extremely useful to the US. A perennially besieged Israel provides the US with an excuse to launch an attack at any country in the area that can be accused of threatening Israel. At the same time, people are much more likely to see Israel as the cause of any war in the area because latent anti-Semitism still clouds many folks’ vision of world politics. This strategy brings the US a lot of power in the oil-rich region and allows Americans to shift the blame for everything that might go amiss onto those genocidal, intolerant Israelis and those barbaric, terrorist Palestinians.

In the meanwhile, Palestinians and Israelis alike are paying the price for these political machinations.

Do You Know Why University of California Is in the Toilet?

Because of this:

Senior administrators now officially outnumber faculty at UC. And would you like to know how much the university that is supposedly broke pays its useless paper-pushers? See here. The only job of these bureaucrats is to make the lives of the faculty and the students so miserable that very little actual education takes place. And they are amply compensated for producing reams of useless paperwork.

This is why it is not at all surprising that University of California has been circling the bowl for a while now.