Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Credit Line

“There is a strange little cultural feedback loop that’s playing out again and again on social media. It begins with, say, a white American man who becomes interested in taking an outspoken stand against racism or misogyny. Maybe he starts by attending a Black Lives Matter demonstration. Or by reading the novels of Elena Ferrante. At some point, he might be asked to “check his privilege,” to acknowledge the benefits that accrue to him as a white man. At first, it’s humiliating — there’s no script for taking responsibility for advantages that he never asked for and that he can’t actually revoke. But soon, his discomfort is followed by an urge to announce his new-found self-­awareness to the world. He might even want some public recognition, a social affirmation of the work he has done on himself.

These days, it has become almost fashionable for people to telegraph just how aware they have become. And this uneasy performance has increasingly been advertised with one word: “woke.” Think of “woke” as the inverse of “politically correct.” If “P.C.” is a taunt from the right, a way of calling out hypersensitivity in political discourse, then “woke” is a back-pat from the left, a way of affirming the sensitive. It means wanting to be considered correct, and wanting everyone to know just how correct you are.

Earning the “woke” badge is a particularly tantalizing prospect because it implies that you’re down with the historical fight against prejudice. It’s a word that arose from a specific context of black struggle and has recently assumed a new sense of urgency among activists fighting against racial injustices in Ferguson, Sanford, Baltimore and Flint. When Black Lives Matter activists started a website to help recruit volunteers to the cause, they called it StayWoke.org. “Woke” denotes awareness, but it also connotes blackness. It suggests to white allies that if they walk the walk, they get to talk the talk.

“Woke” feels a little bit like Macklemore rapping in one of his latest tracks about how his whiteness makes his rap music more acceptable to other white people. The conundrum is built in. When white people aspire to get points for consciousness, they walk right into the cross hairs between allyship and appropriation. These two concepts seem at odds with each other, but they’re inextricable. Being an ally means speaking up on behalf of others — but it often means amplifying the ally’s own voice, or centering a white person in a movement created by black activists, or celebrating a man who supports women’s rights when feminists themselves are attacked as man-haters. Wokeness has currency, but it’s all too easy to spend it.”

Amanda Hess is a David Carr fellow at The New York Times.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – After two semesters of vigorous protest at campuses all over the nation, we come to the end of an academic year. At the University of Missouri, a graduate student’s hunger strike prompted the football team to announce a walkout, compelling in turn the resignations of the university president and chancellor. At Claremont McKenna College, protesters drove out the dean of students. Under pressure, Harvard and Yale did away with the title “master.” And at more than 50 schools in all, student protesters made demands – for greater faculty diversity, new courses, public apologies, administrator’s ousting.

It has been half a century since we’ve seen U.S. schools so roiled. This following recent years’ campus actions on sexual assault and student debt – has managed to broaden the attention on administrators and trustees. One of the signature achievements of the last century was the reconstitution of America’s higher-education system. After World War II, student bodies at the country’s public and private institutions started to look like America itself. But their faculties have not caught up. Less than 6% of full-time faculty at four-year institutions are African American. Faculty diversity has proved harder to pull off than student body diversity; the problem comprises not only universities’ struggle to keep professors from leaving but also the difficulty in diversifying doctoral programs.

In recent months, university presidents have pledged to address this problem. Yale vowed to spend $50 million on faculty diversity, Brown has said it will double its faculty diversity by 2025, and college presidents at less wealthy universities have signed off on protesters’ demands, promising movement on a handful of related issues.

Making black students and professors feel truly welcome at predominantly white U.S. colleges will require heavy lifting. Colleges without war chests would be well advised to do their damnedest to promote openness, tolerance and curiosity among their student bodies. The ex-protesters who will graduate this season deserve an extra cheer for dragging their schools into the future.


John Hopkins University – May 18: Spike Lee, filmmaker

Rochester Institute of Technology – May 20: France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation

Colby College – May 22: Arianna Huffington, journalist and author

SPOTTED – Alex B. Deputy Campaign Director to Josh Gottheimer’s New Jersey Fifth Congressional District and niece to this writer, hugging Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign function last week:

TRUMP REFERENDUM - This year, the presidential race isn't a clear referendum on the outgoing president/incumbent, and whether he will effectively get four more years through Hillary Clinton. This is a referendum on Donald Trump, the reality show candidate, the infotainment ringmaster, the Twitter-meister. As Marshall McLuhan put it long ago, the medium is the message. Just watch today's Sunday talk shows.

62 days to Cleveland, 69 days to Philly, 175 days to election.

INFLATION WATCH - The year-over-year rate of core CPI inflation rose steadily from a low of 1.6 percent in January 2015 to 2.3 percent in February this year. At that point, the three-month annualized rate had reached a startling 3.0 percent. You could be forgiven, therefore, for thinking that the dip in core inflation back to 2.2 percent in March was an inevitable correction ...
With upward pressure now evident in each major element of core CPI inflation - rents, non-rent services, and goods - we were quite surprised to see such a soft number in March. Prudence suggests, therefore, that we look for a 0.3 percent rebound in April, lifting the year-over-year rate back to 2.3 percent.

HISTORY 101 - 100 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK, the modern map of the Middle East was drawn: European powers secretly concluded the Sykes-Picot agreement that led to the modern Arab states. In 1916, during World War I, France and Britain secretly ratified the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which concerned postwar partitioning of Arab lands held by the Ottoman Empire.

50 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK - China barely notes start of Cultural Revolution 50 years ago: On May 16, 1966, the ruling Communist Party's Politburo met to purge a quartet of top officials who had fallen out of favor with Mao. ... The start of the Cultural Revolution was not widely known or understood at the time, but soon took on an agenda characterized by extreme violence.

SPORTS BLINK - As doping scandal grows, could Russia get Olympic boot? Is Russia's doping limited only to track and field and the winter sports at the Sochi Games? Why would that be? ... Earlier this year, the World Anti-Doping Agency announced that Russian swimming was being scrutinized.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Barb Colley …famous ROC administrator;  Bill Dillhoefer …the best practice swing in golf; Giselle Fernandez (55) Austin, TX; Shelly LaMotte …famous hospitality manager.


Major League Baseball Game of the Week: Saturday May 21, 2:10 pm ET; Fox – World Champion Kansas City Royals (19-19) vs. First Place Chicago White Sox (24-15). When will the Royals start playing like World Champs, we say now: Royals win 4 – 2.

The Preakness Stakes: Saturday May 21, 6:18 pm ET; NBC – A Sawbuck across the board:
Win – Nyquist,      Place – Exaggerator,       Show - Stradivari

Season to date (46 -26)

MARKET WEEK – Saudi Arabia held $116.8 billion in U.S. debt at the end of March, revealing for the first time the holdings of the world's biggest oil exporter. That puts the oil rich nation among the largest foreign nation holders of American debt.

Chinese investment in the U.S. real estate market has surpassed $300 billion and is growing despite China's economic weakness and increased currency controls, a new report shows. But China still only makes up 10 percent of all foreign direct investment.

STOCKS TO WATCH - Syngenta's (SYT) takeover by ChemChina will reportedly be scrutinized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Reuters reports the USDA is joining the government panel reviewing the planned $43 billion deal in this country.

Office Depot (ODP) is mulling a possible sale of some of its European operations, after its takeover by larger rival Staples (SPLS) was called off last week due to regulatory concerns.

Alaska Air (ALK) and Virgin America (VA) have been asked by the Justice Department for more information about Alaska Air's $2.6 billion acquisition of its rival airline. The two companies say they're cooperating fully with regulators as they move to complete the deal.

Pandora Media (P) is being urged to explore a sale by hedge fund Corvex Management, which has disclosed a 9.9 percent stake in the online music streaming company.

DRIVING THE WEEK -  Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Monday "will participate in a moderated conversation at the Anti-Defamation League's Shana Amy Glass National Leadership Summit ... Senate Finance has a hearing at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday on the corporate and individual tax system ... House Financial Services subcommittee has a hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday on "Interest on Reserves and the Fed's Balance Sheet" ...

House Financial Services has a hearing at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday on CFPB arbitration ... Consumer Prices at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise 0.4 percent headline and 0.2 percent core ... Industrial Production at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise 0.3 percent ... Index of Leading Economic Indicators at 10:00 a.m. Thursday expected to rise 0.4 percent ... WalMart reports first quarter earnings on Thursday ... G7 finance ministers meet Friday and Saturday in Sendai, Japan

Next week: Ten questions to a new college graduate and words of the month.

Until Next Time, Adios.

Claremont, CA

May 17, 2016

CARTOON OF THE WEEK –Moving to Canada

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