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Friday, February 17, 2017

OSU Queer Film Festival press release printed in local newspaper

OSU Queer Film Festival Gazette-Times, Feb. 16, 2017, p. C6

PHOTO: The professional newspaper in Corvallis printed "Queer Film Festival scheduled," Gazette-Times, Feb. 16, 2017, p. C6 right above another story about an event at the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center on the Oregon State University Campus. The article says in part: "The 2017 Corvallis Queer Film Festival will be Feb. 22-25 at the Darkside Cinema, 215 SW Fourth St., Corvallis. The international festival offers three feature-length documentaries and 60 short films by queer-and-trans-identified directors selected from more than 750 entries. It is a community project sponsored by the School of Language Culture and Society in the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University." The newspaper story printed the original OSU press release "Corvallis Queer Film Festival to run Feb. 22-25 at Darkside Cinema," oregonstate.edu posted Feb. 3, 2017, which includes a link to the full program, including descriptions of the films at https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1199626383 -- NOTE: this link is inaccessible to non-users of Apple iTunes or those of us who are low vision blind. (See previous post OSU School of Language, Culture and Society is perfect for OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund (2/19/12) and article by James Day, "Building a new curriculum: Queer studies," gazettetimes.com posted Jun. 4, 2013 about OSU Associate Professor Qwo-Li Driskill.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Religious liberty vs. working on Sunday to deliver Amazon packages

The letter by the Corvallis mailman, David Schaefer, "Amazon deal increases load on carriers," Jan. 16, 2017, p. A6, and a reply criticizing his letter by Padric Fisher, "Carrier does not speak for all," posted online as "Letter: Carrier's comment not representative," Gazette-Times, Jan. 27, 2017, p. A6 prompted my following letter to the editor:

I appreciated the Jan. 16 letter from a brave Corvallis mailman, which was criticized in a Jan. 25 reply by the "officer in charge at the Corvallis Post Office," because he explained why my Amazon orders were arriving on Sundays, despite not asking for this service.

However, I was surprised that a U.S. Post Officer did not confirm what Amazon told its shareholders, which is that Amazon's delivery contract will save the jobs of postal workers from being eliminated due to the decline in mail deliveries caused by email and paperless billing.

As a satisfied customer, I believe the Officer correctly praised "the majority of postal employees, who dedicate themselves to provide outstanding customer service at all times," but I hope he has also acknowledged the legitimate concerns of his mailmen.

For example, when I was a child, religious liberty laws forbid working on Sundays, except for newspaper men and emergency workers, but these "Sunday closing laws" were repealed after businesses lobbied State legislators because labor unions had won a 40-hour, 5-day work week in the private sector.

(Quoted from Thomas Kremer, "Sunday delivery and carriers," Gazette-Times, Feb. 16, 2017, p.A6 gazettetimes.com posted Feb. 10, 2017)

The business reason Amazon told shareholders was to explain how their business contract with the U.S. Post Office is beneficial to both sides -- good contracts works best when both sides have an interest in it. Amazon's contract lowers warehousing and supply chain costs by delivering it faster, plus fast delivery will lead to happier customers and more sales in the long run. The Post Office benefits by it helping to finance their decision to buy new delivery trucks, which are similar to what Fed Ex uses, so that they can shift away from delivering mostly first-class letters to delivering mostly packages due to the to rapidly growing internet commerce.

When I was a child, I recall the postman, who delivered mail to my childhood home, worked six days per week, and in high school I was taught how the Federal labor laws were based on a six-day work week, Monday thru Saturday, because a 6-day work week was standard before labor unions won the five-day work-week. I don't know how accurate my memory is and I have not researched the history of the labor movement, but I experienced firsthand Sunday Closing laws when I had to work around them, for example, making sure that I had filled up my car with gas on Saturday because no gas station would be open on Sunday, even at major freeway truck stops, when I was travelling long distances.

The term "religious liberty" is the new slogan for the anti-gay Christian Republicans and religious right in America, who are using it in their campaign for the right to discriminate against gay people based on their Christian religious beliefs. I bet few people realize how similar political campaigns were used decades ago to get the "Sunday closing laws" passed that I mentioned in my letter. Likewise, the Religious Right is still upset today over losing the mandatory Christian school prayer, which they like to blame the atheist activism of Madalyn Murry O'Hair as being the cause behind it. (See the article School prayer wikipedia.org accessed Feb. 15, 2017)

I now understand how societal norms shift over a century due to the fact that people take for granted their hard won freedoms and gains in equality, but then forget how it was in the past after a couple of generations. After people forget, a businessman or theocratic politician can easily take away these hard won rights by creating resentment in people and pitting one group against the other by pointing out the "special rights" certain groups are getting.

As a result, the conventional wisdom of most social justice activists is that these gains in equality and rights must never be forgotten by future generations and in order to ensure this they will set up institutions and processes to continuously teach children about it, which is why the Religious Right wants to weaken public schools by draining taxpayer dollars from them to fund their "school choice" programs for religious schools where they can teach how it is a sin to treat women and gays equally.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

OSU women's Center STEMinist group support science, technology, engineering and math majors

Women's Center STEMinist group in Barometer FEb. 6, 2017, p. 13

PHOTO: The inspiring concept of a STEMinist (science, technlogy, engineering and math feminist) and the Oregon State University Women's Center is shown in student newspaper article by Sydney McHale, Keep S.A.F.E. Blog Manger, "Keep Social Awareness For Everyone (SAFE) Women's Center Spotlight: Cultural center offers open space to promote social justice, feminism," OSU Barometer, Feb. 6, 2017, p. 13. The Women's Center was where the first OSU gay student group was formed in the 1970's shortly after the Stonewall riot in New York City. (See Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," printed to PDF from OutHistory.org in 2010 permanently stored by the OSU Scholars Archives @ OSU)

The big, plump colorful sofas, surrounded by the sounds of laughter and conversation is the climate created at the Oregon State University Women's Center.

The Women's Center is one of seven cultural centers on campus. This center's main focus is creating an open space to promote feminism in social justice, according to Natalie Cronan, a peer success facilitator at the Women's Center.

"The goal of the Women's Center is to create a space for students and anyone who feels comfortable to come and talk about social justice, and continue the fight towards equity and liberation for all," Cronan said.

The Women's Center was established in 1973, and since has been a sanctuary for women, and all identities, to come and enjoy a non-discriminatory space. . .

"Men at OSU dominate the science and engineering fields, but STEMinist works to provide an inviting and inclusive community for those who are feminine identifying within STEM," Cronan said. . .

(Quoted from Sydney McHale, Keep S.A.F.E. Blog Manger, "Keep Social Awareness For Everyone (SAFE) Women's Center Spotlight: Cultural center offers ofpen space to promote social justice, feminism," OSU Barometer, Feb. 6, 2017, p. 13)

While working in industry for three decades starting in the 1970's, I witnessed how often women were discouraged from working in the science, engineering, technology or math or STEM fields due to their often different ways of approaching a problem than most men do. I also witnessed how female customers of these men were often left out due to a lack of understanding of their needs. At the time, admitting this concept was controversial because many people assumed that women and men would be equal in all respects after discrimination had been eliminated, but instead many people realized that there were different ways of thinking that are not exclusively female or male, even though these often were associated with a person's male or female biological sex at birth.

I will be interested to see what insights are discovered by STEMinists in the future.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

OSU Queer Archives request for my participation

As my low vision blindness, muscle paralysis and weakness has been worsening after a series of small ischemic strokes, I was honored to receive a request from Dr. Bradley Boovy, Oregon State University Assistant Professor in World Languages and Culture (WLC) & Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program (WGSS) (Curriculum Vitae (PDF)) asking for my participation in the effort of the "Oregon State Queer Archives to preserve, share history of LGBT experience on campus" (See press release from OSU News and Research Communications oregonstate.edu accessed Jan. 28, 3017). Instead of creating a dusty paper archive, used only by historians, they are creatively using modern social networking, including the "Oregon State University Queer Archives - OSQA," Facebook page (accessed Jan. 28, 3017), which is referenced in the press release that calls for a broad partcipation from OSU alumni and staff members.

Bradley Boovy made the request, to me, as a co-director of the OSU Queer Archives and he said both he and Natalia Fernandez, an OSU multicultural librarian, would like to meet with me.

I would love to contribute to this archive, but my fragile health is preventing me from meeting for long, even with close friends and relatives. In fact, a close friend who calls me every day from California to check on me was shocked when I suffered a TIA (transient ischemic attack) stroke while talking to him on the phone because we had talked too long about his blind devotion to President Donald Trump. A few days later, after I sent him an email apologizing to him for yelling at him about Trump, I sent him a link to an essay by the queer blogger Michelangelo Signorile, "Why We Can't Be 'Friends' Any Longer After You Voted For Donald Trump," huffingtonpost.com posted Dec. 13, 2016 that describes how divisive the new President is to many people. (Also see previous blog post Why Trump is queer and loved by many men and women (12/23/16))

As a result, I have suggested a series of short telephone conference calls, for the initial get acquainted with each other purposes, and then, given that these calls may be limited by my muscle paralysis, I am also suggesting that we do a series of written questions and answers. This approach would allow me to work at my currently very slow pace without any issues. I am blessed to still have enough vision and the ability to touch type on a computer thanks to the various accessibility features that I first championed for inclusion in Microsoft operating systems and computers at Hewlett-Packard in the 1980's because my Mother and Grandmother were suffering vision loss at that time.

While neurologists tell me that the only area of my brain that has been affected by my stroke is the visual region, it has become difficult for me to form new memories, even though my long term memories appear to tbe unaffected, but I have lost my ability to visually navigate in even well know spaces, such as my own home or the grocery store. This has affected my ability to recall the physical location of things, and I may need to ask for your forgiveness if I am unable to answer questions that require topographical memory deductions.

One thing that has helped me has been both email and my personal Google searchable blog, because when I lose a newly formed memory, I can often search my digital cloud to refresh my memory. I had a blind research engineer working for me three decades ago, and I never understood how she functioned, but I now I understand the issues she faced with less sophisticated computer tools, which at the time were state-of-the-art HP artificially intelligent computer systems.

In any case, I am honored to have my contribution solicited to the OSU Queer Archive and I hope to figure out a way to do it with you.

Speaking of notes to myself that I can search for later on:

  • Curriculum Vitae: PDF icon boovy_cv.pdf - I wonder if there is a PDF copy of his Ph.D. thesis I could read concerning homophile magazines in 1950's West Germany? I would love to hear more about his theories on the post-war "homophile" publishing
  • "Oregon State Queer Archives to preserve, share history of LGBT experience on campus," OSU News and Research Communications oregonstate.edu accessed Jan. 28, 3017 SOURCE: Bradley Boovy, 541-737-0023 Bradley.Boovy@oregonstate.edu and Natalia Fernandez - OSU multicultural librarian Natalia.Fernandez@oregonstate.edu - The Oregon State Queer Archives, or OSQA, will include documents and materials as well as recorded stories from the OSU and Corvallis LGBT communities. Bradley Boovy, an assistant professor of women, gender and sexuality studies, and Natalia Fernandez, multicultural librarian at OSU, are leading the project. "We envision the archive less as a collection of out-of-date materials that only historians are interested in, and more as a living repository that nourishes the memories and stories of OSU's LGBTQ+ communities for creative engagement and that will potentially help future LGBTQ students navigate life at OSU," Boovy said.
  • "Oregon State University Queer Archives - OSQA," Facebook page accessed Jan. 28, 3017
  • Oregon State University Dr. Susan Shaw - Curriculum Vitae (PDF) - a Professor and leader at OSU of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) - "My background is in religious studies . . . my current research interests are in feminist studies in religion. My most recent book is Reflective Faith: A Theological Toolbox for Women, a book and workbook that make feminist theology and feminist biblical criticism accessible for a general audience. I am also working with a group of feminist scholars to co-edit a two volume anthology of essays on Baptist women. . . I'm also the Director of the School of Language, Culture, and Society which is Anthropology, Ethnic Studies, World Languages, and Cultures, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Our school focuses on issues of global justice, and we've just begun a new minor in social justice studies."

See previous posts:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Medicare affordability calculated using Obamacare standard

Article on HP12C calculator 30th anniversary by Cliff Edwards, 'The Little Calculator That Could, HP's 12C: 30 years and (still) counting,' Businessweek, Sept. 12 - Sept. 18, 2011, p. 42

PHOTO: The HP-12C calculator I used to do the calculation mentioned in my letter below was featured in a 2011 article, on the 30th anniversary of the HP-12C financial calculator, by Cliff Edwards, "The Little Calculator That Could, HP's 12C: 30 years and (still) counting," Businessweek, Sept. 12 - Sept. 18, 2011, p. 42 See previous HP-12C posts HP 12c financial calculator history (6/21/06), HP-12C calculator 30th anniversary in BusinessWeek (9/16/11)

I mentioned that Medicare Part B premiums are rising faster than inflation in my previous letter: Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: Why my check will be less," Gazette-Times, Jan. 10, 2017, p.A6, posted Jan. 5, 2017, and my letter drew a response in another letter by Dr. Mike Huntington, M.D., "Single-payer is best option," Gazette-Times, Jan. 17, 2017, p. A6 gazettetimes.com posted Jan. 16, who is a local single-payer activist that blogs at Mad As Hell Doctors -Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates mvhca.org. (See previous posts Medicare premium rises faster than inflation despite 'single payer' method (1/7/17) for a copy of my original letter and also my previous post Calculation of Medicare premiums for Social Security beneficiaries revealed (1/13/17) where I document the actual 2017 premium costs)

Dr. Huntington's criticism, of my letter, included data from an older period of time that showed Medicare costs were not going up faster than inflation. When I calculated the most recent five years, the result confirmed the fact that Medicare Part B premiums have been rising much faster than inflation, just as Businessweek and others have noted, but these costs have been obfuscated by the small Social Security check cost-of-living increase, which limited how much of the increase is seen by each current recipient, but the increases are being seen by new enrollees. It took me awhile to dig up the actual data, based on actual Medicare and Social Security documents, and and after doing the research, I wrote the following letter in response:

The Medicare Part B premium during 2012-2017 rose at an annualized rate of 6 percent ($99.90 to $134) -- a rate greater than the prior 2000-2015 period cited in a Jan. 17 letter by Dr. Mike Huntington, M.D. and much more than the 1.36% Consumer Price Index of inflation rate (from Dec. 2011 CPI of 225.672 to Dec. 2016 CPI of 241.432) as calculated by an HP-12C calculator.

My concern is that this real and rapid rise in Medicare premiums will be politically exploited by Trump's Republican legislators and used as agitprop to dupe Americans into tolerating his "healthcare for all" plan that will likely privatize Medicare and replace Obamacare with "Health Savings Accounts," which primarily provide a tax break only to the healthy and wealthy.

The subsidies for Medicare make it a bargain for us current beneficiaries who worked and paid taxes for it, but in 2017 medicare.gov says some people will pay the full monthly health insurance premiums for Medicare Parts A, B and D of approximately $881, or $10,572 per year.

"Affordable healthcare" is legally defined by Obamacare as being annual health insurance premiums of less than 8.13 percent of "household income."

If you applied this Obamacare affordability standard to Medicare, it would mean the "annual household income" of Medicare enrollees paying the full cost would need to be at least $130,000.

In order to provide healthcare for all, the real question should be, what is the percentage of income that Americans are willing to pay?

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: The real question about health costs," Gazette-Times, Jan. 27, 2017, p. A6 gazettetimes.com first posted Jan. 23, 2017)

Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has made single-payer the centerpiece of his plan to save healthcare, but Sanders never explains why single-payer will control the infinite demand for healthcare, other than the usual negotiation reasons. In fact, I have found no article that covers this basic economic issue of how healthcare should be rationed in a fair manner. An overview article "Single-payer healthcare," From Wikipedia accessed Jan. 17, 2017 says, "There are pros and cons to this kind of system. Single-payer health care plan also known as "Medicare for all" is the type of health insurance where a single public agency organizes health care financing, however the actual delivery of care are still left largely in private hands."

The affordability of Medicare is put into perspective by BLS data on median incomes. "Median weekly earnings of the nation's 111.3 million full-time wage and salary workers were $849 in the fourth quarter of 2016 " according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Division of Labor Force Statistics, "Usual Weekly Earnings Summary," For release 10:00 a.m. (EST) Tuesday, January 24, 2017 bls.gov. This weekly amount equals a median annual income of $44,148, which would mean affordable health insurance premiums of 8.13 percent of household income would approximately equal $3,589 or $$299 per month for at least a half of Americans.

The official U.S. Government's tax collection agency page, "Individual Shared Responsibility Provision - Exemptions: Claiming or Reporting," irs.gov Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 13-Dec-2016 is where I first learned the fact that Obamacare ACA law says you don't have to pay a fine for not having healthcare if the cheapest health care premiums you can get are more than 8.05 percent for 2015 and for 2016 8.13% of your "household income." Of course, this penalty might not be collected in the future because of President Trump's recent Executive Order that asks Federal government officials not to force Obamacare costs on individuals. So far, nobody is sure it this is what he really means.

Finally, an indication of how Obamacare has been dividing both liberals and conservatives is the essay by Seattle alternative newspaper editor and sex columnist, Dan Savage, "Obamacare: Evil. Less Evil. But Still Evil.," thestranger.com posted Jan. 19, 2017, who is a Bernie Sanders supporter, but also gives an example of how people in need are getting nothing from Obamacare. Savage is an unrepentant liberal, but his criticism of Obamacare is very balanced.

See previous posts:

Listed below are links to the sources of information summarized in my letter above:

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Anti-gay theocrat worships Trump and promotes sex book on his Christian TV show

Pat Robertson interviews Dr. Keven Dr. Kevin Leman 700 club Jan. 11, 2017

PHOTO: The anti-gay theocrat Rev. Pat Robertson (right) is seen hosting his Jan. 11, 1017 TV program The 700 Club on his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Robertson first worships the new Republican U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and later interviews a Christian book author (left) while showing the cover jacket (lower right inset) for the book by Dr. Kevin Leman, "Have a New Sex Life by Friday: Because Your Marriage Can't Wait until Monday," Revell (January 17, 2017). The electronic program guide and "TV Guide" description provided by CBN for this program says, "After a decade of feeling like outsiders, many on the religious right expect a resurgence in political influence" -- thanks to Donald Trump and his hand-picked U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, because Pence is a favorite of evangelicals according to Robertson. This pitiful political message of "we Christians are victims" has become a favorite one of the religious right as a political slogan to push for the "religious freedom" or "religious liberty" constitutional amendments and laws that would give them the right to discriminate against others based on religious beliefs, such as the right of a public baker to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage.

Amusingly, Robertson expresses his shock that the book's author Leman is the first ever guest on his show to wear shorts (how gay is the implication) and Robertson then, without any censorship, graphically discusses sexual orgasms and geriatric sex issues personally experienced by Robertson and the solutions given in the book.

Ironically, Rev. Pat Robertson is a lifelong member of the Southern Baptist church that for at least the last Century has supported the traditional blue laws in many states that have historically prohibited public displays of affection, outlawed gay sex acts, and censored sex publications, such as "Playboy" magazine.

Robertson started CBN in the early days of free over-the-air broadcast TV and today the "700 Club" is still being aired locally on Eugene's KMTR-TV Channel 16 at 10:00 AM and KLSR-TV Channel 34 at 11:00 AM. The "700 Club" program can also be seen through the most commonly subscribed to bundle of Corvallis Comcast on the cable TV channel Freeform at 10:00 AM weekdays. Freeform is a descendant of a cable TV channel Robertson started in the early days of cable TV before he became a billionaire by selling it to Walt Disney Company in 2001, who renamed it as ABC Family channel, and then later it became the cable TV channel Freeform.

It is significant that the cable TV channel and both of the Eugene TV stations airing the "700 Club" now precede the program with a notice saying the following is paid program that does not necessarily reflect the views of the station's management. In fact, it was just a few decades ago when at least one of these TV stations was owned by a devout Christian who was an early supporter of Robertson's TV ministry and evangelism, which I have personally witnessed to be truly helpful to many down-and-out people in need, but I have also witnessed Robertson harming gay people from his support of laws against their equal rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Robertson previously ran for U.S. President on a theocratic platform that is still supported today by Trump's hand-picked evangelical V.P. Pence, who condemns gay people and wants to reverse much of the progress made by President Obama.

The queer blogger Michelangelo Signorile has written much on the threats to LGBT equality from the new Vice President Mike Pence: Michelangelo Signorile, "The Mike Pence (Donald Trump) Assault On LGBTQ Equality Is Already Underway," huffingtonpost.com posted Jan. 1, 2017. Also see previous post Why Trump is queer and loved by many men and women (12/23/16) where I discuss and link to another excellent essay by Michelangelo Signorile, "Why We Can't Be 'Friends' Any Longer After You Voted For Donald Trump," huffingtonpost.com posted Dec. 13, 2016 that describes how divisive the new President is to many people.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Calculation of Medicare premiums for Social Security beneficiaries revealed

I sent the below letter to the editor shortly after my first letter was published and I noticed that the Medicare information had been updated online with the new means testing rules, which were created by Congress to "save" Medicare and they are now required by law. In theory, if you make enough money, you will be paying the full cost of the Medicare premium with no subsidy from taxpayers -- it is phased in over a range of income levels. (See my original letter: Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: Why my check will be less," Gazette-Times, Jan. 10, 2017, p.A6, posted Jan. 5, 2017 and also see previous post Medicare premium rises faster than inflation despite 'single payer' method (1/1/17)

The medicare.gov HTML web page now has a detailed explanation of how Medicare health insurance premiums for 2017 were calculated for each individual Social Security beneficiary; however, the printed brochure and online PDF file still contain old information.

The Medicare Part A medical insurance can cost up to $413 per month, but nothing if you worked and paid the taxes for it.

The optional Medicare Part B medical insurance typically costs $134 per month, if you enrolled for the first time in 2017, but much less for most people who were previously covered because their increase was limited by the small cost of living increase this year.

However, Part B can cost much as $428.60 per month, based on your 2015 federal tax return income, and infinitely more if you owe a penalty for signing up late.

The optional Medicare Part D drug plan costs are determined by the private providers, but many plans cost less than $40 per month.

It is still unclear who is paying the subsidy for the actual health care costs for each Medicare beneficiary of approximately $11,000 per year.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Here's more on Medicare costs," Gazette-Times, Jan. 13, 2017, p. A6 print edition and gazettetimes.com first posted online Mon. Jan. 9. 2017 1:00 PM)

This discussion traces back to a previous letter writer's question asking why many Social Security beneficiaries this year did not see any increase in their monthly check, and the short answer is it is because the Medicare health insurance premium went up more than the cost-of-living increase for many people, and Congress legislated that nobody would get an increase bigger than their individual COLA.

Listed below are links to the sources of information summarized in my letter above:

The reason for so much confusion is because the annual letter sent to beneficiaries by Social Security did not explain how the Medicare premium was calculated and I could not find any more information online, at least initially, until right after my first letter was published. Two other letter writers also speculated that the reason for seeing no increase in Social Security checks, despite a 0.3 percent cost-pf-living adjustment was due to it being limited by the rules:

Also, see the new letter by Mike Huntington, M.D.," Letter: Congress could gut health care," gazettetimes.com posted Jan. 9, 2017 that expresses concern over the repeal of Obamacare, which President Trump says he won't repeal until thye have a replacement in a few years -- a topic for another post.