WHILE WE WHINGE ABOUT ANYTHING THEY DO:

Let’s Face It: Sanctions Are Warfare by Another Name (ASSAL RAD, MARCH 19, 2024, Inkstick)

At first glance, sanctions may appear like a useful alternative to war. Proponents of sanctions will argue that they avoid putting boots on the ground, thus protecting American servicemembers, they have the power to alter the behavior of targeted states, and prevent the devastation to innocent civilians caused by conventional warfare. But a deeper analysis of sanctions shows a starkly different picture.

Though there has certainly been evidence and literature that shows the limited efficacy of sanctions and their humanitarian costs on civilians, those findings are not always accessible to the broader public and tend to have a narrower focus.

And while many may recall the horror stories of how US sanctions hurt Iraqi children and civilians in the 1990s — especially the now infamous remarks by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stating that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children were “worth it” — sanctions policy is still not part of a wider political debate among the American public.


This discrepancy is due in part to the fact that sanctions are a silent killer. They do not draw the same media attention as bombs, dead bodies, and images of cities and homes turned to rubble — as we are seeing in Gaza now. To be clear, the enormous destruction and loss of life at such a rapid pace in Gaza should be the headline of every news outlet. But while sanctions can profoundly damage an entire society, the slow death they produce often goes unnoticed.

THE BUSINESS OF GOVERNMENT IS NOT BUSINESS:


Javier Milei takes a chainsaw to Argentina’s state companies(Ciara Nugent, 3/21/24, Financial Times)

“All of these companies . . . spend 20 per cent of their budgets on delivering their specific goals, and 80 per cent on management costs,” Guillermo Francos, Milei’s interior minister, told Argentine television network LN+ last month. “We must strive for efficiency.”

ASAP, a local NGO tracking government finances, found Milei had cut transfers to state companies to 456bn pesos, or $535mn at the official exchange rate, in February — a 61 per cent decline in inflation-adjusted terms from the same month in 2023.

The roughly 40 state-owned companies provide public services including passenger rail, sewerage and energy. Most operated at a loss under previous governments. Now Milei’s administration has appointed new management at many of them, with a mandate to slash staff numbers and revamp their strategies.

Juan Cruz Díaz, managing director of the Cefeidas political consultancy, said: “There’s a lot of space to cut costs, make things more efficient, improve management [in Argentina’s state companies]. But the government has an ambition to move much more intensely. This is a question of principles as much as costs.”

IT COULD HARDLY BE MORE CONVENTIONAL:

Some therapists now offer unconventional form of treatment with surprising benefits: ‘It connects me to being human’ (Jenny Allison, March 21, 2024, The Cool Down)

Over the last several decades, but particularly the last several years, more and more psychotherapists, psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, and social workers have begun incorporating nature into their treatments. These approaches range from simply conducting talk therapy sessions outdoors to going hiking, going skiing, and even building fires. […]

Therapists agree — the technique shows promise, especially for people who are hesitant about traditional therapy or interested in something that doesn’t feel one-size-fits-all. It’s the reason why groups such as Maryland’s Center for Nature Informed Therapy or New York’s Boda Therapy have been growing in recent years.

“By blending the healing properties of the natural world with proven modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Nature Informed Therapy addresses a wide range of mental health concerns, promoting overall well-being, life satisfaction, and a harmonious relationship with the environment,” the Center for Nature Informed Therapy’s website explains.

The benefits aren’t just anecdotal, either. A 2023 study of forest bathing, the Japanese practice of taking a mindful stroll in the woods, found that taking such walks significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, simply just hearing birdsong has been shown to soothe anxiety.

Get out of your own head.

NEOLIBERALISM JUST KEEPS FAILING UPWARDS:

Too Much: Three First World Problems (Art Carden, Mar. 21st, 2024, AIER)

Magnificently, free markets that have given us these “problems” also give us solutions. Capitalism comes to the rescue. Do you have a weight problem? Gyms cater to people of all budgets and with all sorts of fitness goals. There are cheap gyms like Planet Fitness (I’ve been a member for about seven years and honestly don’t use my membership that well) and more expensive gyms that are almost country clubs. Do you have too much stuff? There is a burgeoning market for professional organizers who will help you keep it all organized (this episode of EconTalk with Adam Minter, author of Secondhand, is fascinating). Too busy? We can’t all hire a personal assistant, but there is a similar market for companies that help people manage their projects and calendars (I’m a member of Asian Efficiency and was on their podcast in 2022).

Where our ancestors lived lives that were solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, the twenty-first century has us overwhelmed with connections, opportunities, and experiences.

SNOWFLAKES MELT:

The Crisis in Teaching Constitutional Theology (lee j. strang, 3/20/24, Law & Liberty)


I was surprised by Jesse Wegman’s essay, “The Crisis in Teaching Constitutional Law,” which purports to show that a newly “politicized” Supreme Court has exploded the possibility of teaching the foundation of our legal system. I hadn’t experienced a crisis teaching constitutional law and, to be honest, I was also a little embarrassed for my profession by some of the over-heated rhetoric by faculty Wegman interviewed. One of the interviewees even succumbed to sobbing: “While I was working on my syllabus for this course, I literally burst into tears.” The reason? “I couldn’t figure out how any of this makes sense.”

I haven’t had that problem; I haven’t cried even once while writing my syllabi, and it’s not for lack of teaching constitutional law. I have been teaching US constitutional law, constitutional interpretation, and Ohio constitutional law, since 2005, and I co-edit a casebook Federal Constitutional Law, so I’m familiar with what it takes to teach constitutional law. My primary pedagogical goal is to give my students the knowledge and tools they need to effectively advocate on their clients’ behalf. This body of knowledge includes the key cases and the doctrines that govern discrete areas of law, and the tools include the conventional building blocks of constitutional interpretation, such as textual, structural, and precedential arguments. I continue to do so four times a week this semester without any significant difficulty, and certainly without any greater difficulty compared to twenty years ago when I began teaching. […]

Wegman’s evidence supporting the purported crisis is exceedingly thin. At one point, Wegman complains that “these justices have moved quickly to upend decades of established precedent.” It’s not clear if Wegman is lamenting both the alacrity and the overruling of precedent, but even if it is both, it’s hard to take this “crisis” seriously, at least in context of the broad sweep of American history. Anyone who has taught one of the Warren Court’s many areas of doctrinal innovation knows that today’s Court is no more innovative than prior Courts. Moreover, as someone whose goal it is to teach all cases—including those challenging ones authored by Chief Justice Warren—charitably, I can confirm that any difficulty in teaching Bruen, Students for Fair Admissions, and the others Wegman complains of pales in comparison to the herculean task of painting Miranda v. Arizona (1966), as a good-faith interpretation of the Fifth Amendment.

SAVING CITIES:

People Hate the Idea of Car-Free Cities—Until They Live in One (ANDREW KERSLEY, MAR 19, 2024, Wired)

London’s car-reduction policies come in a variety of forms. There are charges for dirtier vehicles and for driving into the city center. Road layouts in residential areas have been redesigned, with one-way systems and bollards, barriers, and planters used to reduce through-traffic (creating what are known as “low-traffic neighborhoods”—or LTNs). And schemes to get more people cycling and using public transport have been introduced. The city has avoided the kind of outright car bans seen elsewhere in Europe, such as in Copenhagen, but nevertheless things have changed.

“The level of traffic reduction is transformative, and it’s throughout the whole day,” says Claire Holland, leader of the council in Lambeth, a borough in south London. Lambeth now sees 25,000 fewer daily car journeys than before its LTN scheme was put in place in 2020, even after adjusting for the impact of the pandemic. Meanwhile, there was a 40 percent increase in cycling and similar rises in walking and scooting over that same period.

What seems to work best is a carrot-and-stick approach—creating positive reasons to take a bus or to cycle rather than just making driving harder. “In crowded urban areas, you can’t just make buses better if those buses are still always stuck in car traffic,” says Rachel Aldred, professor of transport at the University of Westminster and director of its Active Travel Academy. “The academic evidence suggests that a mixture of positive and negative characteristics is more effective than either on their own.”

For countries looking to cut emissions, cars are an obvious target. They make up a big proportion of a country’s carbon footprint, accounting for one-fifth of all emissions across the European Union. Of course, urban driving doesn’t make up the majority of a country’s car use, but the kind of short journeys taken when driving in the city are some of the most obviously wasteful, making cities an ideal place to start if you’re looking to get people out from behind the wheel. That, and the fact that many city residents are already car-less (just 40 percent of people in Lambeth own cars, for example) and that cities tend to have better public transport alternatives than elsewhere.

Plus, traffic-reduction programmes also have impacts beyond reducing air pollution and carbon emissions. In cities like Oslo and Helsinki, thanks to car-reduction policies, entire years have passed without a single road traffic death. It’s even been suggested that needing less parking could free up space to help ease the chronic housing shortage felt in so many cities.

THE rIGHT IS THE lEFT:

Jacob’s Dream: MAGA meets the Age of Aquarius (Frederick Kaufman, Harper’s)

It took some doing to get him to sit for an interview, as Jacob is wary of what he calls Operation Mockingbird, an alleged CIA-sponsored effort begun in the Fifties to use mass media to influence public opinion. Jacob believes that people like me are the tools of the Mockingbird operation, of the deep state, international bankers, pharmaceutical cartels, and corporate monarchies that control the world. People like me believe in medicines that are addictive drugs, in food that is poison, in environmentalism that is ecocide, in education that is ignorance, in money that is debt, in objective science that is not objective. “People are brainwashed by the elites and their propaganda networks,” he said. “Mass hypnosis, bro.”

He had agreed to meet with me on a number of conditions, including:

  1. That I mention Dr. Royal Raymond Rife, the American inventor of an oscillating beam-ray medical technology that, according to Jacob, is a cure for cancer that has been quashed by the government, the military, and pharmaceutical giants; and
  2. That I call attention to the existence of a clean, free, wireless, and renewable energy source powered by the earth’s magnetic field that was discovered by Nikola Tesla but suppressed by the government because such a technology would make the existing energy grid obsolete, and thus threaten the rule of the globalists and their corporate monopolies.

Jacob believes he has been sent to earth to combat wicked forces such as Warner Bros. and MGM. He believes in the clear and present danger of a global ring of slave-trading, adrenochrome-swigging Clintonistas. He would also like to lift the ban on psilocybin mushrooms. And he’s been doing the work for a long time—for “millennia,” he told me. “I have reincarnated on this planet numerous times throughout the ages.”

Jacob is as apt to paraphrase Shirley MacLaine as WikiLeaks Vault 7 or Alex Jones, which is why I had reached out to him. He is Exhibit A of the widely reported observation that MAGA, QAnon, and the broader conspiratorial mishmash draw substantial support from the consciousness-raising, om-chanting, sound-healing, joint-toking, crystal- and chart-reading crowd, the long-haired hippies who half a century ago were lumped together with the fellow travelers of the left, but have been reincarnated two generations later as pivotal elements of the Trump coalition.

I DON’T THINK WE’RE IN HAVANA ANYMORE:

Long COVID patients report improvements following self-regulation therapy, study finds (Will Houston, 3/13/24, UCLA Health)

Clinical psychologist Dr. Natacha Emerson, the study’s lead author and assistant clinical professor in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, said her study sought to test whether biofeedback would improve both the physical symptoms associated with long COVID and the psychological distress that often accompanies untreated chronic symptoms. While biofeedback has been established for chronic somatic symptoms, this is the first study to explore its effects in long COVID.

Immediately following the six-weeks of treatment, participants self-reported significant improvements in physical, depression and anxiety symptoms as well as in sleep and quality of life. The benefits were also sustained three months later without further intervention.

ALL OF WHICH GOES DOUBLE FOR UBI:

The Conservative Case for Remote Work (Frank DeVito, 3/18/24, Public Discourse)

[T]he economy has been steadily moving out of homes and into centralized locations for the last two centuries or so. Yes, this has meant mass production of cheaper goods, including those essential to keeping people alive. But there has been a massive downside: it has become the norm for people to spend more of their waking hours at a workplace than at home. Critics of feminism (properly) lament that the cultural norm for new mothers is to leave their children in another’s care in order to work outside the home (and they face increasing pressure to do so in light of a poor economy). Conservatives also speak (correctly) about the disastrous effects of fatherlessness on children and family life. Might it not be worth asking, then, if there ought to be a conservative case against normalizing traffic-jammed commutes and long hours in an office when it isn’t strictly necessary?

Remote Work: A Return to Family-Centered Life

The massive move to remote work has opened many eyes. All of a sudden, fathers spent their lunch breaks with their wives and children rather than alone in a cubicle or with colleagues. Work breaks meant stepping outdoors with children or holding babies, rather than idly gossiping with co-workers. Working professionals realized that it was possible to fulfill their professional responsibilities, get their work done . . . and still live in the midst of their own families. For many workers, remote work is not primarily about cutting out commuting time or luxuriously working in sweatpants, but about a return to a family-centered economic life. This is about much more than an equation to properly achieve “work–life balance”; it is about an opportunity to rediscover a properly ordered life.

Of course, there are jobs where remote work is not possible. Policemen must be on the streets, pilots must be in the cockpits, and laborers must be in the factories where things are actually made. But for white-collar workers, the “laptop class,” there is no universal reason why they must leave their homes and families to do their laptop work in a central office rather than at home—at least not every day.