November 12, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


Biden pledges to raise refugee ceiling to 125,000 in address to Jesuit group (Emily McFarlan Miller, Jack Jenkins, 11/12/20, RNS)

President Donald Trump has set the refugee ceiling -- the maximum number of refugees admitted to the U.S. each year -- to a new historic low every year he has been in office.

Trump recently put that number at 15,000 for the current fiscal year, which started in October.

By comparison, former President Barack Obama set that number at 110,000 his last year in office. Faith-based organizations have rallied each year for Trump to return the number to its historic average: 95,000.

HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield said Biden has a record of standing with refugees, noting that as a senator, Biden had co-sponsored the Refugee Act of 1980, which codified the U.S. refugee resettlement program and asylum system.

"The election of Joseph Biden marks a return to (American) values, an acknowledgment that refugees and immigrants have always been a benefit, not a burden to our great country," Hetfield said in a video message.

LIRS President Krish O'Mara Vignarajah said in a written statement that Biden's election is a "new dawn" after a "dark chapter for our immigrant brothers and sisters." She pointed to the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy at the U.S.-Mexico border and his so-called travel ban, which limits travel to the U.S. from a number of mostly Muslim countries.

Biden promised during his campaign he would end the ban, also referred to as a "Muslim ban," on the first day of his presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


Biden Wants Another Crack at 'Comprehensive Immigration Reform' But Activists Are Wary of Past Failures (ADRIAN CARRASQUILLO, 11/12/20, Newsweek)

President-elect Joe Biden wants to hit the ground running, undoing President Donald Trump's hardline immigration executive orders on day one, and producing "comprehensive immigration reform" legislation, to be worked on with Congress during his first 100 days.

But while weary and wary immigration activists count down the days until Biden can erase Trump's administrative orders, they do not see a large-scale legislative overhaul contained within one bill as a workable strategy any longer.

Previously the gold standard, a bipartisan comprehensive approach to reforming the nation's immigration laws--essentially one bill to rule them all--has been the Democratic strategy for the better part of the past two decades.

But as Biden again backs trying to negotiate with Republicans, veterans of past immigration battles in the advocacy world said the time has come to move on from a "failed" strategy, they told Newsweek.

He should offer Senate Republicans an opportunity to help craft a comprehensive reform, but make it clear that if they won't, and won't pass the House version either, then he'll issue a blanket pardon for immigration offenses.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


The Rise of "Psychological Man" (CARL R. TRUEMAN, 11/09/20, Public Discourse)

To offer an abbreviated narrative of the intellectual genealogy of psychological selfhood, we can start in the eighteenth century with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He argued that human beings would be at their most authentic if they were not forced to play alien roles imposed on them by the polite conventions of society. In his world, it is society that corrupts, with its demands that we conform to its conventions. Society's ills stemmed from this alienating external environment. In the hypothetical state of nature, human beings would have been free, morality would have rested on a spontaneous empathy, and everyone would have been outwardly that which they felt themselves to be inwardly.

This notion--that culture and civilized society was the problem and that rightly tuned emotions were the answer--was picked up and popularized by the Romantics, whose artistic focus on nature was the means by which they connected their audience with authentic emotions. The accent lay on inner psychology as constitutive of the real person. True selfhood and true happiness were found within.

We can see how influential this development has been by reflecting on the notion of job satisfaction. I recall once asking my grandfather, a lifelong sheet metal worker in a Birmingham factory, if he had found satisfaction in his work. His answer was that he did indeed find his work satisfying because it enabled him to put food on his family's table and shoes on his children's feet. This response is striking precisely because it is so outwardly directed. Any feelings of satisfaction he had were the result of actions he did for others. Ask me the same question and my answer would be that I find my work satisfying because I enjoy teaching. It makes me feel good to stand in front of a class and talk about interesting ideas. To be colloquial, it gives me a buzz. The difference is clear: my notion of satisfaction is an inward-directed one, less to do with my impact on others and more to do with my own immediate feelings than with my impact upon others.

If the turn inward to psychology and emotions is one major element of the development of the modern self, the next is the demolition of the notion of transcendent human nature. The nineteenth century is critical here. Hegel's phenomenology set the historical development of human consciousness at the center of his philosophical inquiries, thus potentially relativizing any specific historical expression of human nature. Marx famously turned him on his head, placing economic relations at the heart of history and thus making human nature itself a function of the changing means of production, thereby arguably intensifying its plasticity. Darwin's theory of evolution undermined notions of human exceptionalism by eliding the difference between human beings and other forms of life. And Nietzsche called the bluff of Kantian philosophy by declaring that neither claims to knowledge nor judgments of right and wrong could have any truly authoritative status in a world where God had been consciously removed from any active role in the picture of the universe with which Enlightenment philosophers operated. At this point, the psychological turn we find in Rousseau and the Romantics loses the stability provided by their confidence that there was such a thing as human nature that we all share. And with that move, all that implicitly remains of human purpose is the attaining of personal psychological happiness in whatever form happens to work for the individual concerned.

There are, however, two more steps in the story that need to be noted before we can address the pathologies of the present day. The first is the role of Sigmund Freud. While many of Freud's specific theories have been roundly rejected in the decades since his death, one basic idea has continued to grip the cultural imagination: human beings are shaped at a very deep level by their sexual desires. Freud's theory of infant sexuality made sexual desire a constant factor in what it meant to be a human being. His notion that the prototype of human happiness is sexual satisfaction had the effect of sexualizing that psychological inner space we find in Rousseau and the Romantics. It thereby made human flourishing in its ideal form identical with sexual satisfaction. It also--and most significantly--made sex a matter of identity and not primarily an activity. After Freud, sex is something you are, not merely something you do.
The second step is the appropriation of Freud by certain Marxist thinkers in the mid-twentieth century. Freud famously argued that civilization or culture was the result of a trade-off between individual sexual desire and the demands of communal living and social preservation. Put simply, human beings curb their darkest instincts in order to be able to live together in relative peace, diverting the energy created by this repression into culture or civilization, embodied in activities such as art, politics, sport, and religion. Civilized people are therefore doomed to be somewhat discontented because civilization represents a level of repression.

In the mid-twentieth century Marxist thinkers such as Herbert Marcuse and Wilhelm Reich seized upon this idea of psychological repression as the key to solving one of the great lacunae in Marxist theory: how to enable the working class to develop a revolutionary self-consciousness. This was a particularly acute issue because of the history of the early twentieth century. Why, for example, did the revolution succeed in 1917 in Russia--a feudal, agrarian society with no developed industrial working class--and yet fail in 1919 in Germany--an industrialized nation whose ruling class had just led the country to ignominious defeat in the First World War? And why did the workers support reactionary movements such as Nazism and Fascism rather than the Communist Party? How could the proletariat be roused from its political slumber?

The answer was the dismantling of traditional sexual codes. Reich and Marcuse saw such codes as effectively enforcing the normative nature of the nuclear family, something that the Marxist Left regarded as the training ground for social conformity and obedience--a factory, if you like, for the production of mindless automata who will accept the bourgeois status quo with blind obedience. As children learn to fear, love, and obey the father, so they are prepared for the obedience demanded by political dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini. Thus, the New Left agreed with Freud that the structure and values of society were the result of sexual repression; but they saw this as a historically contingent thing, an ideological construct, designed to reinforce the authority of the dominant bourgeois class. Revolution must therefore have at its heart the dismantling of the bourgeois sexual morality of lifelong monogamy, normative heterosexuality, and suppression of adolescent sexual activity. The psychological self thus becomes central to the political struggle, as do sex and sexuality.

Never be yourself; be better.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 PM


US right-wing media is in a civil war after Trump's defeat (Adam Epstein, 11/12/20, Quartz)

Even before the election, Newsmax was cozying up to Trump in ways that might make even the president's toadies at Fox News blush. Its CEO and Trump confidant, Christopher Ruddy, has hired a slew of political operatives in Trump's orbit to host shows on the network, including his former press secretary Sean Spicer and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who in August was indicted for money laundering and wire fraud.

Former US presidential candidate and Trump surrogate Herman Cain was also supposed to host a show on Newsmax, but he died from Covid-19 before it could start airing.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Fed is set to take on a new challenge: climate change (Jeff Cox, 11/12/20, CNBC)

The Federal Reserve is going green, and that could mean a substantial change for the way financial institutions have to prepare for the unexpected.

In recent days, several central bank officials have spoken about the importance of taking climate change into effect when considering dangers posed to the system. Along with that, the Fed's financial stability report, which usually talks about how economic and market forces could impact banks, insurance companies and other firms, mentioned climate for the first time. [...]

"Federal Reserve supervisors expect banks to have systems in place that appropriately identify, measure, control, and monitor all of their material risks, which for many banks are likely to extend to climate risks," the financial stability report said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Greece is slashing income taxes to lure remote workers from abroad (Silvia Amaro, 11/12/20, CNBC)

Greece has introduced new tax incentives in an effort to attract those working from home as it looks to rebuild its battered economy.

Anyone moving to Greece in 2021 will not have to pay income tax on half of their salary for the next seven years, whether salaried or self-employed.

Why would you punish income at all?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

NICE THREADS, EMPEROR (profanity alert):

Trump's National Security Adviser Tells Staff: Don't Even Mention Biden's Name (Erin Banco, Spencer Ackerman, Asawin Suebsaeng, Noah Shachtman, Nov. 12, 2020, Daily Beast)

Other officials familiar with the matter noted that O'Brien has also pushed national security officials to publicly embrace the absurd Trump message that the election has not been certified and that there are still legal battles playing out across the country that could turn in the president's favor.

"If you even mention Biden's name... that's a no-go, you'd be fired," one national security official said. "Everyone is scared of even talking about the chance of working with the [Biden] transition."

Asked if officials in the White House feel comfortable saying Biden's name in the West Wing, one senior White House official said, half-jokingly, "Sure, you can say his name. If you're talking about who lost the election to the president."

Behind closed doors, one official claimed, O'Brien has been much more forthcoming about Trump's loss and the need to prepare for a transition. The problem, the other officials said, is that O'Brien hasn't made that known to the commander in chief.

O'Brien, who stepped into his current position as national security adviser in September of 2019, has deep ties to the Republican Party and was viewed by national security officials upon his arrival in the White House as someone who would be able to keep Trump in check. Since stepping into the position, however, officials who have worked with him say O'Brien has supported the president at every turn. One former senior national security official said he is known among his staff as a yes-man. "He does whatever Trump says," one current national security official said. [...]

"It's like dealing with a lunatic on the subway. Everyone just kind of sits and stares ahead, pretends they can't hear him, and waits for him to eventually get off," a GOP source close to the administration told The Daily Beast.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republican senator says he will step in if Biden doesn't have access to intelligence briefings by Friday (Alison Main and Caroline Kelly, November 12, 2020, CNN)

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford said Wednesday that he will intervene if the Trump administration has not allowed President-elect Joe Biden access to presidential daily intelligence briefings by the end of the week, one of the first rights of a presidential candidate after winning the election.