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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year 2015 in review - ten years of blogging

Thomas Kraemer selfie taken in 2015 by a low quality videoconference cam

PHOTO: Thomas Kraemer selfie taken in 2015 by a low quality videoconference cam shows him wearing a traditional northwest Oregon Patagonia plaid shirt and the new glasses he bought to help improve his worsening low vision blindness related to a stroke that has also caused him some muscle paralysis, but he remains grateful to still be alive. It is uncertain which of his medical problems will worsen enough to prevent him from posting more blog pages, which he has NOT been doing for vanity, fame or profit, but he had been doing because the Google Blogger cloud application allows him to search his own notes from the nearly 2,000 blog posts he has written over ten years of blogging. He is constantly amazed by the ability of the Google search engine to find relevant things, including things he had forgotten about until a Google search of his blog rediscovers it, which is a feat that would be nearly impossible to do even with the old-fashioned and time-consuming method of doing a page by page search of paper notebooks.

When I first started blogging 10 years ago, blogs were the latest invention on the internet and there were several gay authors and opinion leaders, ranging from the conservative Andrew Sullivan to the liberal Michelangelo Signorile, who were both using the same Google Blogger cloud to author and publish their blogs as I still use today. The very prolific blogger Andrew Sullivan moved on to become one of the first paid subscription blog sites, but gave up a few years later, and Michelangelo Signorile's blog was repurposed to post only the free description of his daily paid subscriber Sirius radio show, and he has kept writing a weekly column on gay issues for a liberal website that pays him. (See Michelangelo Signorile Huffington Post Gay Voices). Also still using the Google Blogger cloud is the author and Professor Wayne R. Dynes along with a famous San Francisco AIDS activist and HIV-positive Michael Petrelis who morphed his blog from covering AIDS issues to be more toward supporting his political activity in San Francisco, where his husband provides him support for his blogging.

Other gay authors who are still writing online rarely have standalone blogs anymore, but they will still post content as part of a newspaper site, such as the Dan Savage Love column on Website, and they will maintain both Facebook and Twitter social network feeds, which are usually limited to only linking to interesting content instead of being sources of new content.

Some additional gay bloggers who are still active include the gay law Professor Arthur S. Leonard Blog at who blog posts about key gay law decisions, but his posts frequently are also printed as the regular column he writes for the N.Y. newspaper Gay City News Website.

One of the best gay blogs, which from day one insisted it was NOT a blog, is Jim Burroway's Box Turtle Bulletin Website that features a "Daily Agenda" of gay history. It can be easily read once-a-day in small chunks that will repeat, but have new content added to them each year. Jim recently discussed his pending retirement from his day job as a scientist in Tucson, because he will be 55 years old soon and his father died young. (See post by Jim Burroway, "The Daily Agenda for Monday, November 16," posted November 16, 2015) He also recently celebrated his blog's anniversary with the post , "10 YEARS AGO: Box Turtle Bulletin Goes Live: 2005," posted Nov. 16, 2015. in which he reiterated his original intention for it not to be a blog, but as a counter to the anti-gay forces common ten years ago. However, he notes, ". . . somewhere along the way, BTB became a blog. Not because I wanted it to become one, but because somehow that's just what happened." He also announced his plans "to rejuvenate the site" because, "The site's coding needs a complete overhaul," and he said, ". . .the blog's editorial direction will almost certainly change." My only request to Jim is to make sure the new site coding is done in a manner to be useable by ADA accessible browsers, like the one I use after becoming low vision blind due to a stroke. For example, I usually use his RSS feed because it gives me a simple plain-text stream that is easy to read with enlarged text sizes, however, I realize that RSS feeds are going the way of dodo birds and complicated Website designs are in demand by the fully sighted, however, through good design, I've sites provide mobile versions for small screens that can be easily used by desktop browsers with accessibility features or with assistive devices, such as for Braille readers.

The fully paid subscription model for online content has yet to catch on, as Andrew Sullivan learned the hard way, but advertiser-sponsored content on the internet has become huge, unlike ten years ago when there were few paid advertisements on the Web.

Blogs have become overshadowed by the social networking fashion led by Facebook and others. Despite desperate attempts to add social networking features to Google Blogger, most bloggers refused to spend the time required to sort through the spam of comments and social networking obligations it generated. In my case, I had a malicious attack on my blog that was done by repeatedly claiming I had objectionable content, which caused the Google blog robot manager to automatically disable all search functions for my own blog.

When I lost the ability of searching my own blog, I almost quit Blogger because I don't blog for vanity, fame or profit, but I so still blogs that I can search my own notes. I've written almost 2,000 blog posts during the last ten years and I am constantly amazed by the relevancy of the things a Google search will find on my own blog notes -- including things I had forgotten about until Google rediscovers them and refreshes my memory!

Although Google provides Bloggers the ability to share advertising revenue with them, I've never added advertising to my blog and so I wondered why Google would be willing to host my blog for free. I had a chance several years ago to ask the Google Founders why they hosted blogs for free and they said they love bloggers like me because it improves the quality of their search results, which is their profitable, bread and butter business. Blogs by individual will especially improve searches about more arcane subject matters. The Google founders have ordered their staff to keep blogs forever because one of the founders keeps finding amazing stuff in them he can't find anywhere else. Maybe I should be charging Google for all of the blog work I do! (Full disclosure: I have been profiting generously via my ownership of Google stock a.k.a. Alphabet voting shares even though I don't get any ad revenue from Blogger.)

I don't know how long I can continue blogging with my worsening blindness and paralysis, but I am grateful to be able to again, this year, post a list of my favorite links and posts from last year:

See my previous nine annual reviews of my blog posts:

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book by Michael McConnell on his marriage to Jack Baker that led to the first Supreme Court case on gay marriage

Cover jacket of 2016 book by Michael McConnell, with Jack Baker, about the world's first gay marriage

PHOTO: (click on photo to enlarge) The front and back cover jacket for the book by Michael McConnell, with Jack Baker, as Told to Gail Langer Karwoski, "The Wedding Heard 'Round the World - America's First Gay Marriage," University of Minnesota Press, 2016. The back cover book review blurbs include one from Thomas Kraemer, founding benefactor of the Oregon State University Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund for research concerning humans or animals with a minority sexual orientation or gender identity: "This is the only first-person account of two men who legally married, shortly after the Stonewall riot, and who recognized the importance of marriage in an era it was disregarded by society and angrily rejected by gay activists." (See "Celebrating the McConnell Files. Files document first U.S. couple to apply for a same-sex marriage license," University of Minnesota, posted October 28, 2015 and my previous blog post Baker on gay marriage in 1972 vs. 2015 reaction to Supreme Court ruling (7/17/15))

(REVISION ADDED Sept. 7, 2017 - for a good summary of the latest legal action and history of this marriage, see the personal blog page post by Michael McConnell and Jack Baker, Esq.), "Birthplace of a right to marry," posteed Apr. 20, 2017 edited June 20, 2017. It outlines the complicated legal issues they are still fighting, for example, Baker says, "After 44 years of heated public debate, the U.S. Supreme Court finally answered the question we posed. Marriage, it agreed, was a "fundamental right" that applied equally to all citizens. Undaunted, and unwilling to wait for federal courts to define equal protection, we applied again (August), in Blue Earth County, where the Clerk of Court issued a lawful marriage license. All marital rights vested for us after the Rev. Roger Lynn solemnized our union (September). A state court later refused to order Blue Earth County to record the Marriage Certificate and certify the wedding. Minnesota's Court of Appeals will soon decide if such action amounts to an abuse of discretion. Our legal brief was filed 30 June 2017")

Although same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide only recently by the 2015 ruling of the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the court's opinion legally cited their first ruling on gay marriage in the 1972 Baker v. Nelson case. (See previous posts Arthur Leonard CA Prop 8 appeal still citing Jack Baker gay marriage case (8/3/12) and Baker v. Nelson 1972 Supreme Court order on gay marriage (7/22/09))

For some unknown reason, perhaps the bias of back East gay activists, the pioneering gay marriage activism of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell has been continually ignored by both the mainstream press and even by other gay activists. For example, a nationally respected and very knowledgeable gay activist recently wrote the following year-end summary, for a major liberal website, which omitted any mention of the 1972 Baker case:

"The ruling by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, bringing marriage equality to the entire United States, was profound, empowering and simply majestic.

"Having the highest court in the land rule that same-sex couples are to be afforded the same dignity and respect under the U.S. Constitution as heterosexual couples was a monumental, hard-fought achievement.

"The couples and individuals who battled in state after state for this right -- eventually pushing the case to the high court -- were our heroes, as were the visionary attorneys at the forefront, including Mary Bonauto, Evan Wolfson, and Robbie Kaplan.

"Though the U.S. was late to the game compared to other countries that had brought marriage equality to their citizens, the Obergefell decision was surely a game-changer, as the U.S. has enormous global influence. The impact here and around the world can't be underestimated, and we saw enormous positive change in the months following, in part because of Obergefell, both in the states and globally.

"But the backlash to Obergefell can't be underestimated as well: Within hours anti-gay forces were diminishing the win, focusing on the narrow 5-4 decision, the unclear if lofty language of Justice Kennedy's majority decision and the sharp dissent by Chief Justice Roberts. "Religious liberty" became their mantra, as they moved to make themselves immune from the ruling via legislative efforts.

"It became clear that Obergefell was a powerful beginning -- not an end -- and that we'd be back at the high court many times, something LGBT Americans must fully comprehend if we're to secure full equality and not succumb to victory blindness."

(Quoted from Michelangelo Signorile, "Big Wins, Bigotry And Backlash: The Queer Political Stories Of 2015 - Huge wins followed by equally huge backlash. Obergefell -- And Beyond," posted Dec. 12, 2015)

Baker et al. v. Nelson, United States Reports, Volume 409, Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court, October Term, 1972, Oct. 10, 1972 'dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.'

PHOTO: the first court case on same-sex marriage was initiated by a University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker in 1970: Baker et al. v. Nelson, Oct. 10, 1972, "United States Reports, Volume 409, Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court, October Term, 1972," U.S. Government Printing Office, 1974, p. 810. The Appeal was "dismissed for want of a substantial federal question." Notice how this same phrase was used to dismiss scads of other cases in that era. The court seemed to be using it as shorthand to say a case was a matter of state law and not federal law. In fact, Baker's marriage has remained legal to this day because no court has ever ordered his legally performed marriage to be annulled or voided. See previous posts Arthur Leonard CA Prop 8 appeal still citing Jack Baker gay marriage case (8/3/12), Baker v. Nelson 1972 Supreme Court order on gay marriage (7/22/09) and Supreme Court on Jack Baker's gay marriage case 42 years later (3/26/13).

 Michael McConnell, 73, and Jack Baker, 73, at their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 1, 2015

PHOTO: Gay marriage pioneers Michael McConnell, 73, and Jack Baker, 73, at their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 1, 2015. (Courtesy Angela Jimenez) See previous post Baker on gay marriage in 1972 vs. 2015 reaction to Supreme Court ruling (7/17/15)

Before I wrote the book jacket blurb (see photo above), I had the honor of reading a galley proof of the new book by Michael McConnell, with Jack Baker, as Told to Gail Langer Karwoski, "The Wedding Heard 'Round the World - America's First Gay Marriage," University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

I just received a final printed copy from the first press run of the book and I hope to post my comments on it soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

OSU mails Corvallis residents glossy whitepaper on student conduct improvement efforts

Glossy newspaper Beaver Nation Corvallis Fall 2015 received in U.S. mail 12/8/15 - cover shows President Ed Ray and next page Corvallis livability index

PHOTO: A glossy newspaper from Oregon State University "Beaver Nation Corvallis," Fall 2015, with a cover letter to "Corvallis Community Members" from OSU President Ed Ray that sent to every "Postal Customer" in Corvallis via the U.S. Mail, which I received Dec. 8, 2015.

Just days after the local newspaper in Corvallis printed my Thomas Kraemer, "As I See It: OSU's growth is a good problem to have," Gazette-Times, Nov. 30, 2015, p. A7, Oregon State sent via the U.S. Mail, to every resident of Corvallis, a glossy whitepaper touting the improvement in "Corvallis livability" due a reduction in the number of student conduct cases they were having to manage. (See previous post Dealing with OSU growth and student conduct issues affecting Corvallis townies (11/30/15))

As a result, I thought it was fair to submit the following letter to the editor as an update to my previous opinion piece:

Every Corvallis "Postal Customer" recently received in their U.S. mailbox a glossy newspaper (Beaver Nation Corvallis, Fall 2015) featuring a cover letter from Oregon State University President Ed Ray to "Corvallis community members," and on the following page a graph showing the decline in "calls for service," as a measure of improvement for Corvallis "community livability," thanks to efforts led by Carl Yeh, director of OSU's office of student conduct.

Coincidentally, it arrived only a few days after the G-T printed (Nov. 30) my "As I See It: OSU's growth is a good problem to have," which called for leadership from President Ray and his staff in executing a fair and effective student conduct improvement process.

I assume OSU is sincerely using these metrics to help improve the student conduct process, instead of only for the reasons often parodied in "Dilbert" comic strips.

I worry these metrics will be ignored unless goals for them are set by the Board of Trustees of Oregon State University, none of whom live in Corvallis, but who are appointed by the Oregon Governor to hire OSU Presidents and who can be given feedback from Corvallis citizens via contact information found on the OSU Website.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Don't let OSU ignore metrics," Gazette-Times, Dec. 23, 2015, p. A9)

See the following links and previous posts:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Apple CEO tells CBS '60 Minutes' he came out gay to help others and brags about 60 hour work week for iPhone manufacturing employees

VIDEO: Apple CEO Tim Cook on the CBS "60 Minutes" program talking about Apple smartwatches, iPhones and why he waited to come out as gay, due to being a "private person," but he came out anyway, mostly to help others. Cook also bragged about reducing the work hours, of the Chinese workers assembling Apple iPhone products, to 60 hours per week (e.g. either 12 hours per day five days per week or 10 hours per day 6 days per week), but he was silent about the business profit implications of the lower wages paid in China. See report by CBS "60 minutes" TV report by Charlie Rose, "What's next for Apple? The technology giant's CEO, Tim Cook, addresses issues concerning his company -- including encryption technology, corporate taxes, and manufacturing products in China," broacast CBS TV Sun. Dec. 20, 2015

The political importance of gay people being "out and proud" has been recognized by gay activists since the Stonewall riot in 1969. Later, the important insights and activism of Michelangelo Signorile is well summarized by a gay Website:

"Michelangelo Signorile . . . After graduating with a degree in journalism at at Syracuse University, the Brooklyn native returned to New York where he got his first job at a public relations firm which specialized in placing stories about their entertainment clients in gossip columns. That naturally meant that he was collecting and trading in gossip, which is where he noticed the double standard in how the media glamorized the heterosexuality of celebrities while maintaining a veil of silence around anything that might be remotely gay. . . . Signorile is considered the pioneer of the controversial act of outing public figures. . . it was Time magazine which coined the term "outing," but Signorile always considered the term itself biased. He preferred to call what he did "reporting," and insisted that it was no different from the same kind of reporting that media outlets routinely do with straight people."
(Quoted from Jim Burroway, "TODAY'S BIRTHDAY: 55 YEARS AGO: Michelangelo Signorile: 1960," posted December 19th, 2015)

Tim Cook also showed off his palatial new "spaceship" Apple building in Silicon Valley California where his team will continue to design the products that will be built overseas. Rose asked Cook what it would take to bring these jobs and the Apple money back to America, but Cook said nothing new in response. What I have never seen Cook asked by investors is if he sees the risk in separating manufacturing in China from his designers in America? In my experience with doing international business for Hewlett-Packard, I learned that the best innovation happens when your research and development engineers are closest to both the manufacturing line and the end customer. The reason is that the R&D engineer will see what the problems in manufacturing are and be aware of how he can do it better in future products. Likewise, being slose to the customer will give the R&D engineer invaluable insight into what the customer both wants and needs in future product designs. What happens in manufacturing operations is that the people who work there are usually the ones who get these new insights and if they are not allowed to implment them, then they will leave the company and go into competition. Cook's strategy is one that will probably lead to Apple's demise, despite his designers bragging about how they are "more secret than the CIA." Although most of my career was in the R&D engineering of hi-tech computer and instrument products for Hewlett-Packard, I did have some manufacturing reporting me where I learned how many employees want a four-day per week, 10 hour per day working schedule because it gives them a three-day weekend. However, I saw how this idea broke down when it was extended to give workers alternating three-day and four-day weekends by having them work one week for three days at 12 hours per day, and then the next week for four days at 12 hours per day. Managers loved this schedule because it made it easier to do manufacturing 24-hour per day, seven days per week, and to maximize the use of expensive machines and capital, however, workers hated this work schedule and there was much anecdotal evidence that workers' health and injury rates increased.

Hewlett-Packard's co-founder Dave Packard, who is often considered one of the fathers of Silicon Valley, often grilled his managers on their strategy for global manufacturing. He thought HP should distribute their manufacturing resources around the world based on the relative percentage of customer demand for HP products. For example, two-thirds of HP's sales came from outside the U.S. (coincidentally, the same percentage Tim Cook said is the Apple revenue outside the U.S.) and therefore, Packard tried to set up two-thirds of HP manufacturing outside the U.S. However, Apple does virtually all of it manufacturing through a Chinese organization. Republican Presidential candidate Donald trump has also raised the issue of what will it take to get some of these jobs back to America. Implementing this will be complicated, and so there is no simple plan that can be explained in a few words, but it is clear to me that Wall Street moneymen have rewarded U.S. companies that engage in what is called labor arbitrage, which is the moving of factories to the lowest cost country at the moment. (After World War II it became Japan, then later China, which is now seeing manufacturing lines move to Vietnam and other lower labor costs countries.) Dave Packard rejected the labor arbitrage game as being only a short term strategy with short term gains in profit by lowering costs, instead of it being his desire for a long-term strategy to grow HP's business globally and profitably.

On a loosely related note, my memory about smart watches, which Tim Cook talked about, was jogged by the Businessweek article by Hugo Miller, "Intellectual Property, Building An Arsenal of Smartwatch Smarts, Swatch's boss has been cool on the idea but is stockpiling patents," Businessweek Dec. 14-20, 2015, p. 32-34 posted online Dec, 9, 2015 as "Swatch Is Secretly Stockpiling Patents, That's one way to take advantage of the smartwatch boom." that said, "Swatch has been burned by earlier forays into new technologies. Hayek has said the company still has unsold models of a 1991 pager that flopped and of the Paparazzi, a watch it made with Microsoft about a decade ago that could receive messages and stock quotes. But he also knows the risks of falling behind trends and the importance of protecting intellectual property. Hayek's father, Nicolas, formed Swatch in 1983 by merging two struggling Swiss watchmakers. Although the technology for quartz timepieces was developed in Switzerland, Japanese companies had been more successful in commercializing the new watches. . . "

See previous posts and links:

Monday, December 14, 2015

NBC won't say skier came out as gay only calling it 'a decision he made' this year

Skier Gus Kenworthy comes out as gay and celebrates winning the 2015 Dew Tour on NBC TV

PHOTO: The skier Gus Kenworthy comes out as gay this year and wins again the Toyota Dew Tour 2015 Men's FreeSki Slopestyle Championship at Breckenridge broadcast live on the NBC TV Network, Sun. Dec. 13, 2015 10:30AM-PT. The NBC TV network sports announcer used only the euphemism Gus Kenworthy had "made a decision" this year instead of saying explicitly that Gus had "come out as gay" before the Dew Tour competition in Breckenridge. In addition, it appears that Gus was allowed to say on-the-air only that he "had come out of the closet" without explicitly saying he had come out as gay, despite the fact that Gus has talked about his coming out as gay in other media. Sadly, this type of homophobic censorship has been commonly practiced by mainstream media outlets that justify the censorship by saying they don't want to sound "political" or "push the gay agenda." In reality, the thought of "gay" probably disgusts them and they fear losing viewers who have a similar homophobic reaction. Overall, it is a good sign of progress that Gus has been able to come out because decades ago his sponsors would have demanded that he stay in the closet, whereas today his sponsor Nike seems to be OK with it, however, NBC's refusal to say Gus came out as gay is a good example of the progress that has yet to be made in America. (See previous post Breckenridge skier comes out apes 1963 ski flip by Stein Eriksen (12/10/15))

VIDEO: Gus Kenworthy discusses coming out gay on ESPN (video accessed Dec. 10, 2015). Gus Kenworthy's story, which includes being a Breckenridge local, was featured in a Dec. 6 NBC TV preview of the Dew tour Breckenridge Dec. 10-13, 2015 that was broadcast 10-12 noon by the NBC network in HDTV Dec. 12 and 13, 2015 as part of the NBC Sports coverage of winter Dew Tour in Breckenridge. (See previous post Breckenridge skier comes out apes 1963 ski flip by Stein Eriksen (12/10/15))

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Breckenridge skier comes out apes 1963 ski flip by Stein Eriksen

Stein Eriksen ski flip demonstration in 1963

PHOTO: In 1963, I had the honor of watching in person a ski flip demonstration performed by the famous Stein Eriksen (born December 11, 1927) who is a former alpine ski racer and Olympic gold medalist from Norway and who is credited with devising "aerials," a freestyle skiing event. Stein Eriksen would often demonstrate a flip on skis, which in 1963 was considered an astounding feat, even though he would modestly tell the crowd that kids in his homeland would often do it over deep powder snow to catch themselves if they fell. Note that Eriksen is wearing a traditional knitted Norwegian sweater that was commonly sold in ski shops of that era. My father took the above photo in 1963 using a miniature Minox spy camera that had a very small film negative and low resolution -- it was the GoPro camera of its day. I was inspired to dig up this old photo after watching a Dec. 6, 2015 NBC TV preview show that mentioned how a 24-year-old Breckenridge, Colorado Olympic medalist freeskier Gus Kenworthy had come out gay. (See Alyssa Roenigk, ESPN The Magazine senior writer , "Olympic freeskier Gus Kenworthy's next bold move -- coming out," posted 10/22/15 and Chris French, "Why it's important that skier Gus Kenworthy came out as gay," posted Oct. 28, 2015)

VIDEO: Gus Kenworthy discusses coming out gay on ESPN (video accessed Dec. 10, 2015). Gus Kenworthy's story, which includes being a Breckenridge local, was featured in a Dec. 6 NBC TV preview of the Dew tour Breckenridge Dec. 10-13, 2015 that will be broadcast 10-12 noon by the NBC network in HDTV Dec. 12, 2015 as part of the NBC Sports coverage of winter Dew Tour in Breckenridge.

Gus Kenworthy mentions one of the issues he had with coming out was how "the word 'gay' was used all the time as as a replacement for 'lame.'" In my experience, this this is a good example of the type of things that feed internalized homophobia in many gay men, despite the fact that many young men have no issue with coming out publically. (See previous post OSU 'I am gay' writing class essay printed as paid advertisement in student newspaper (11/24/15))

Breckenridge ski area chair lift circa 1960s and Thomas Kraemer's new skis

PHOTO: Thomas Kraemer seen riding a double chairlift in the 1960's at the Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado (top) and also showing off his new state-of-the-art snow skis. Every year back then, he would combine visiting his grandmother, who lived nearby the Colorado ski areas, with a ski trip to Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, and Winter Park ski areas to enjoy the spring skiing. By the 1990's he was able to afford a a ski-in, ski-out condo that was adjacent to a main ski lift at Breckenridge, and thanks to a real estate recession, he was able to buy it, fix it up, rent it out and then sell it for enough of a profit that he could build his current home in cash. (See "History of Breckenridge" accessed Dec. 9, 2015)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

OSU Pride Center moves to be 'Brave Space' and 'gender inclusive' instead of 'Safe Space' or 'gender neutral'

Pride center safe space and condoms Barometer Nov. 20 and Dec. 1, 2015, p. 1

PHOTO: (top) A condom display at the OSU Pride Center for gay students is shown for the Oregon State University student newspaper story by Julie Cooper, "OSU named first in sexual health," Barometer, Nov. 10, 2015, p. 1 and (bottom) the OSU Pride Center for LGBT students is shown again for a front page story by Marcus Trinidad, "Cultural resource centers promote empowerment of marginalized groups," Barometer, Dec. 1, 2015, p. 1, which says students are moving from calling the Oregon State University Pride Center a "safe space" to a "brave space" because, "There's always going to be people who will challenge your beliefs . . . (and) These are spaces where you are going to feel brave, supported and validated," said Pride Center student liaison Malik Ensley.

Both of the above OSU student newspaper articles referenced the excellent STD and HIV prevention programs at Oregon State University, which are in addition to the female contraceptive services provided by the student health center. These are important services, especially important to the many college students who are becoming sexually active for the first time in their lives and have come from a place where such education and information was not available to them.

I was living in San Francisco in the 1980's when AIDS first became visible and I witnessed firsthand the effects of it on the gay community -- I could not walk around the famously gay Castro district without seeing crippled young men literally dying from AIDS. Although thankfully today, HIV has become controllable with widely available pills and treatments, there is still no cure for the virus that causes AIDS. Still to this day, HIV and AIDS are no joking matter.

Understanding AIDS A Message From The Surgeon General page 1 with picture of C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc. D, Surgeon General 1988

PHOTO: AIDS was first noticed in 1981. By April of 1984, scientists in France and America announced they had discovered the virus likely to cause AIDS. It was not until 1988, after the AIDS crisis had become very severe, that the above brochure was allowed by Republicans to be mailed out to every household in America: "Understanding AIDS A Message From The Surgeon General," 1988, page 1 shows picture of C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc. D, Surgeon General. See my previous post Understanding AIDS 1988 (9/23/06).

At the risk of making AIDS a joke or diminishing its importance, and also at the risk of being disrespectful to the concept of "political correctness," reading the above two articles in the OSU student newspaper led ne to feeling the "liberal guilt" frequently parodied by the animated cartoon, "South Park," because my reaction was one of amusement over the students' shift to be a 'Brave Space' in the Pride Center instead of a 'Safe Space' with a 'gender inclusive' restroom instead of or 'gender neutral' toilet. (I wonder if my "politically incorrect" reaction is the first sign of me becoming senile? -- Yes, my nursing home friends will accuse me of being insensitive to their condition!) I have no objections to this renaming and the reasons why are rational, but I am also old enough to be amused by the deep thinking leading to it that can usually be found only on a college campus full of intelligent people. Similarly, I have been involved in research for enough decades to have developed some skepticism about statistical correlations and the inferences made from them, especially when it comes to anything doing with human culture because there are so many variables that are loosely coupled, which make accurate deductions difficult to make. I have never become a denialist of basic facts, such as that HIV causes AIDS, but I am always open to looking for the exceptions to the rules in everything.

Perhaps my amused reactions have been caused by watching the humorously perverted "South Park" that inspired the concept of "South Park Republicans," defined as socially liberal and fiscally conservative people who seek liberty from the "tyranny of a nanny government" that claims to protect citizens. The "South Park" cartoon characters also often parody and make fun of the "PC liberals" in their fictional Colorado town that is inhabited by characters ranging from conservatives to liberals wanting to impose their "political correctness" on everyone. South Park even lampoons the anti-gay right-wing religious nuts that today make up a part of the Republican Party wanting a Christian theocracy to bring back the secular laws against homosexuals.

South Park cartoon children standing in front of a Republican elephant and the U.S. flag

PHOTO: gay-friendly South Park Republican values are embraced by the children of the animated cartoon "South Park." See my previous post South Park Republicans (4/25/07).

See previous posts:

Oregon State University Cultural Resource Centers:

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dealing with OSU growth and student conduct issues affecting Corvallis townies

Cover of official program for Oregon State vs. Iowa 1967 Rose Bowl football game PHOTO: (click on photo to enlarge) The magazine cover for the official program of the 1957 Rose Bowl football game between the University of Iowa and Oregon State College (the former name of Oregon State University and also the Oregon Agricultural College). This cover is from an era that not only was the OSU Football team more successful than it is today, but OSU students could receive a college education without having to go deeply into debt as they do today. (See previous posts OSU 1957 Rose Bowl program Cadillac Ad (1/12/12) and Cost of OSU outpaced inflation letter to the editor (11/5/14))

Over the last 20 years, the President of Oregon Sate University Ed Ray has chosen to grow the college instead of shrink it in response to reduced funding from State of Oregon taxpayers. The growing pains associated with it have been the topic of much discussion in Corvallis, which is the small college town where OSU is located. For example, Corvallis's local professional newspaper recently published the "Editorial: Slow growth at OSU good news for Corvallis," Gazette-Times, Nov. 10, 2015, p. A7 posted Nov. 10, 2015 plus the news articles by Bennett Hall, "OSU enrollment up 2.4 percent," Gazette-Times, Nov. 10, 2015, p. A1, A6 posted Nov. 9, 2015 and by Nathan Bruttell, "Police respond to major jump in calls for service over Halloween weekend," Gazette-Times, Nov. 11, 2015, p. A1, A9 posted Nov. 11, 2015. Also see the reader's opinion submission by Suzanne King, "As I See It: Time for OSU to control its students," posted November 04, 2015 and a reader's letter in response by Yvonne McCallister, "Letter: Where are the adults at OSU?" posted Nov. 18, 2015.

A related issue to the growth of OSU has been the defunding of public education by Republicans, which has made it impossible for a student to work his way through college without going deeply into debt. (See articles by Bennett Hall, "Students rally for free education," Gazette-Times, Nov. 13, 2015, p. A3 and Katy Murphy, "Debt-free college: the next Democratic mantra," Gazette-Times, Nov. 15, 2015, p. A9)

All of this discussion motivated me to submit the following opinion piece to my local newspaper:

As a permanent Corvallis resident and Oregon State University alumnus, I would rather deal with problems created by the growth of OSU instead of problems related to shrinking enrollment, for example, after most male students left campus during World War II or after the Baby Boomer generation graduated.

Corvallis felt like a ghost town the last time OSU enrollment dropped, especially given a coincidental reduction in jobs related to logging and a downsizing at Hewlett-Packard, where the first personal computers and inkjet printers were being invented, but were not yet profitable.

Depressed Corvallis citizens stole a macabre joke from Boeing workers, who had been laid off in Seattle, and localized it to ask, "Would the last person leaving Corvallis please turn out the lights?"

The biggest problems created by growth at OSU are the increase in nuisances, such as noisy parties, and very serious public safety issues, such as public urination and personal injuries due to drunk drivers.

Previous presidents of OSU, working with Corvallis city leaders, have more successfully dealt with student conduct problems, but to be fair, they received more help from the Oregon Legislature.

For years, the Oregon Legislature was able, by capping enrollment at 15,000 students, to both control the cost to taxpayers and subsidize tuition at OSU sufficiently enough so that any Oregon resident student could graduate debt-free using only the money they could earn from a typical part-time job.

Today, students without wealthy parents or a scholarship are forced to go deep into debt because Republicans have cut the taxpayers' contribution to OSU in an attempt to undermine what Republicans see as one of their political adversaries, "progressive liberal college professors."

OSU President Ed Ray has rationally responded to reduced funding from taxpayers by choosing a strategy of growth, in both enrollment and funded research, instead of choosing to shrink OSU.

While I support Ray's strategic response of growth, I worry it might conflict with his ability to successfully mitigate unacceptable student behavior in Corvallis with a student conduct process, which to be effective must be able to quickly suspend or expel students without having to worry about maintaining enrollment growth.

According to decades of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, as long as a student conduct enforcement process is fair, it can be much more efficient than using only the police and court system, because it doesn't have to follow the lengthy process of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, as a Benton County judge must do under the U.S. Constitution.

Perhaps my viewpoint is distorted by old college friends, who as law students defended other students against being expelled for protesting the Vietnam War - this student conduct was deemed to be un-American and disruptive to campus life by university administrators. My friends learned the hard way that while the U.S. Supreme Court firmly upheld their First Amendment rights to free speech, the court also upheld the very broad rights of university administrators to discipline students for the common good of the community.

Executing an effective student conduct improvement process requires leadership from the OSU president and his staff, because if they ask their attorneys for permission, they will probably hear only about the few corner cases where a student was treated unfairly, instead of hearing how it can be designed to work fairly and effectively.

Likewise, the OSU president must ask his marketing staff to figure out how to sell students on the long-term career advantages of going to a disciplined OSU instead of a "party school" like the University of Oregon.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "As I See It: OSU's growth is a good problem to have," Gazette-Times, Nov. 30, 2015, p. A7)

The fact that the Republican President Ronald Reagan when he was the Governor of California cut the nearly free college education for California students was mentioned in a letter to the editor, which also covered a point I had previously made in a letter to the OSU student newspaper about how the cost of OSU tuition has outpaced inflations:

"From reading the news these days one might get the impression that the idea of a tuition-free state university is new. It isn't. . . . Governor Ronald Reagan ended free tuition at the UC campuses in 1969. . . . . Those were the days when politicians and citizens alike, thought that an educated populace was for the common good and that education should be free, or nearly so, to students at all levels. . . ." (Quoted from G. Brent Dalrymple, "Letter: We're to blame for high tuition," posted Nov. 19, 2015)

See previous posts:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

OSU 'I am gay' writing class essay printed as paid advertisement in student newspaper

Cory Zimmerman 'I am gay' essay paid insert to Barometer Nov. 20, 2015

PHOTO: An "I am gay" essay by Oregon State University student Cory Zimmerman (listed as Interior Design major in the accessed Nov. 21, 2015). The essay was written for an OSU WR121 writing class student project and inserted as a "paid advertisement" in the student newspaper, The Daily Barometer Nov. 20, 2015.

I found Cory Zimmerman's "I am gay" essay to be an excellent example of how common issues of sexual orientation and identity have evolved at OSU since World War II. First, if Cory reads my comments below, I hope he will not take them as criticisms and instead take them as questions for self-reflection and learning. Furthermore, he should take my interest as being praise because I have to choose carefully the smaller number of things I can read and comment on today given my low vision blindness. Google was unable to find me a link to Cory's essay, and so I've included below my personal scanned OCR text version that is suitable for reading with an ADA accessible Web browser like the one I use (note: please accept my apologies for any OCR transcription errors I couldn't see):

"[Headline: I am gay]: These three words are pivotal in a homosexual man's life. They characterize him and shape his life. Whether or not he chooses to define himself by those three words are his choice. Most, however, do not.

"Many gay men prefer to keep their sexuality a very small flavor in their life's main dish. Yes, they're gay. Yes, it's who they are, but it isn't the only thing that defines us. We're singers. We're engineers. We study biology, business, and medicine. We play video games, and Netflix, binge. We play sports. We jam out to music. We like to take photos. We're adventurers and hikers.

"There are many elements of my life that people sometimes thoughtlessly ignore. Recently, I was being introduced to someone by my friend. She began the introduction with my name, how she knew me, and immediately divulged my sexuality. This apparently, was to her, the only quality worth mentioning. This new acquaintance will most likely associate me solely as being gay from here on out. And although there is a possibility that I can salvage this relationship and substitute a hobby or passion as my defining feature, it is doubtful, and I will likely receive various phallic shaped objects for my birthday as gag gifts rather than actual gifts that I may enjoy. Instead of a new book or maybe a gift card, it's more likely I'll receive a shot glass shaped like the male organ. That's all that matters. I am gay so there is no need to remember anything else about me. Yeah, okay.

"I am not saying there is anything wrong with this lifestyle. I know many gay men who would prefer their sexuality be a very visible part of their identity, to the point of adorning, themselves with rainbow-trimmed tee shirts and flower crowns. They make it known that they want products sahped like a penis for their birthdays. A friend of mine back home wears pink shirts with the words "gay" and "queen" and the like on it. He often makes various gay jokes, typically at his own expense. However, he also loves biology. No, I'm not talking about anatomy -- he loves plants. When he came to visit me at OSU, I introduced him to my friends as my friend from back home who wanted to major in botany. He immediately interjected and said that he was one of my gay best friends. In that introduction, though I chose to leave the gay part out, he made a conscious decision that he wants his homosexuality to be included as a prominent part of his identity and on par with his passions.

"When it comes to sexuality, different people assign it different degrees of significance. This goes for anyone from the LGBT community. Some people don't care for it being viewed as any more than a minor trait, while others let it define them. Some prefer it to be somewhere in the middle. Any way is acceptable. What is not acceptable, however, is to presume for anyone -- straight or gay -- the degree to which their identity is determined by their sexuality."

(Quoted from Cory Zimmerman , "I am gay," "The Exchange," paid advertisement insert to OSU student newspaper, Barometer, Nov. 21, 2015, p 3 of ad between pages 4-5 of printed newspaper and not in online edition)

Google failed to find a link to the above essay, but amazingly Google found a relevant link to "The English Letter," College of Liberal Arts Spring 2015, p. 15-16 (PDF 2.4 MB) that explains how "The Exchange" will be written "by students of WR121 and appear in a special insert (of the OSU Barometer student newspaper) with a print run of 7,000 and distribution across Corvallis."

In addition, Google also relevantly linked me to an OSU gay frat boy page that I assume was written by the same student: "Delta Lambda Phi is a traditional Greek social organization founded by and for a decidedly nontraditional group: gay, bisexual, and progressive men." contact " Cory Zimmerman 2251 SW Jefferson Ave. Student Experience Center Suite 306 Corvallis, OR 97331 ( page accessed Nov. 21, 2015)

As I said above, I found Cory Zimmerman's "I am gay" essay to be an excellent example of how common issues of sexual orientation and identity have evolved at OSU since World War II. First, if Cory reads my comments below, I hope he will not take them as criticisms and instead take them as questions for self-reflection and learning.

Cory's essay is a good example of how young gay men today have no issue with coming out in their school newspaper, but they feel a need to have some control over "the degree to which their identity is determined by their sexuality."

Cory admirably acknowledges and accepts the choice of other gay men to advertise they are gay on their t-shirt, and I likewise accept his choice to decide when, where and how much he wants to identify as being gay. However, based on my experience with these issues over the last 50 years, I think he should do some deeper self-reflection by asking himself why does being introduced as being gay bothered him enough to write and publish an essay?

For example, would he have the same reaction if somebody introduced him as being a student in the interior design department? I doubt he would have a problem today, but prior to the 1969 Stonewall riot, he might have been offended by this because introducing somebody as an interior design major or a fine arts major, like I was when I was as a freshman, would have been interpreted by most people as saying you are gay, which in those days also labeled you as being either a criminal or a mentally ill person. As a result, gay men back then were careful to only use such introductions if they wanted to drop "hair pins" to suggest to somebody they were gay.

Cory should also ask himself, is internalized homophobia behind his desire for "some control" over how he is introduced? Why is Cory not comfortable with deflecting the conversation to the things he wants people to know about him -- he says his fear is that the "new acquaintance will most likely associate me solely as being gay from here on out."

Note that I am not asking the question of "internalized homophobia" to offend or browbeat anybody, as it was historically used by Stonewall era gay liberationists who accused the more conservative homophile activists of being "internally homophobic" because they wanted to avoid a backlash from mainstream society by working quietly within the system to achieve equal rights for gay people. (Note: a famous homophile activist W. Dorr Legg was an OSU Professor during World War II before he later founded the Log Cabin Republicans)

Instead, I am asking the question about internalized homophobia, based on my experience with totally out gay men still being timid about disclosing their gay identity in certain situations. While I think it is both polite and appropriate not to make gay jokes in front of your evangelical Christian aunt because it will shock her, I also believe this type of restraint should provoke one into thinking about how you should discuss it with her in the future -- e.g. do you wait until you invite her to your same-sex wedding ceremony?

The problems of identity are universal and age-old. My first experience was with the cultural identity of children I grew up, who all looked the same to me as blond haired and blue-eyed Scandinavians, but I quickly learned that it would offend them if you called a Norwegian a Swede or said they were from Finland instead of Sweden or Norway. I learned that the reason was that all of these cultures had over millennium built up different cultural stereotypes that nobody wanted to be associated with. It took me awhile to be able to see it, but there are certain genetic physical differences that most native Scandinavians can use to detect the other person's country of origin. They really are born that way!

My experience has made me realize that it is easy to lose sight of how the customs of your own culture can subtly affect your behavior and how you interact with other people. It also made me realize that yes, there were some situations where I had "internal homophobia" and was in fear of how others might react to my queerness. For example, when I started college as a Fine Arts major, I wanted to do computer animation, but realized I would have to take engineering classes to learn how to design the computer needed for doing it, but the Fine Arts Dean refused to sign my course plan. Instead, I had to go to the engineering dean, who signed off on my cross-disciplinary coursework because the University President wanted to see more engineering students taking liberal arts classes. (Back then there were almost no female engineering students.) I quickly learned not to go to an art class and say I was taking engineering because I would be discriminated against. Likewise, engineering students had a stereotyped view of liberal arts students being non-productive and unemployable in a good job.

I found the issues and concerns raised by Cory's essay to be historically interesting because they represent a young man's view of similar problems shared by gay men decades ago. For decades, gay men have argued if it was right to "flaunt being gay," or better to "stay in the closet except during sex." Cory represents the modern and more tolerant view of accepting where a person chooses to be, including somewhere in-between on the spectrum of always introducing yourself as being gay to only coming out when it is relevant.

In my experience, I would advise Cory to lighten up and not worry so much about how he is being introduced. If somebody locks it in and forever associates him as being the gay guy, then so what? If it is a real problem, then address the problem instead of wishing that everyone will be polite and allow you to decide how and when to identify yourself.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Why do I own two cars despite being too blind to drive anymore?

Raiju 2016 Subaru Crosstrek and 2011 Toyota Landcruiser in front garage workbench

PHOTO: A 2016 Subaru Crosstrek all-wheel drive automobile is shown, in the foreground, beside a 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser 4-wheel drive motor vehicle, and are shown parked in the garage of my private residence. I've named the Subaru Crosstrek Raiju (Japanese for thunder beast), which is a legendary creature from Japanese mythology, and I named the Toyota FJ Cruiser Kaiju (Japanese for strange beast), which is a race of amphibious creatures genetically engineered. Although I am too blind to drive anymore, I am fortunate to still be wealthy enough to own both of these cars, which I let other people use when they drive me to the store, doctor or dentist appointments. If I need to save money in the future, I can use the Dial-A-Bus service or the city bus, but the nearest bus stop is nearly a mile away and I have become too paralyzed to walk that far. I bought the new Subaru for its fuel efficiency and reliability, after considering buying a less fuel-efficient van with a wheelchair lift, but my optimism gives me hope it won't be necessary before I die. (see Subaru Crosstrek 2016 model year brochure (PDF 26MB) accessed Jan. 19, 2016)

In my experience, buying a new automobile is always more work than it needs to be. Similar to most states in America, local car dealers in Oregon have successfully lobbied both Federal and State legislators to pass laws to protect their businesses from buying a car from Amazon. While I agree it is nice to have local car dealers and service, and I am willing to pay for it, I still believe the buying process should be easier than the many times I've bought new cars in states wide apart as Virginia, Minnesota, Colorado, Washington, California and Oregon. Hopefully, I will be able to blog some more on my experiences and suggestions for how it could be improved. (See New 2015 & 2016 Subaru Inventory in Corvallis, OR accessed Oct. 12, 2015)

2016 Subaru Crosstrek driver's side WeatherTech floor mats

PHOTO: gray color WeatherTech all-weather floor mats are shown installed on the driver's side of my 2016 model year Subaru Crosstrek all-wheel drive automobile. The standard factory installed ivory cloth seats, with orange stitching, and the black interior, work well with these gray colored aftermarket floor mats, which also are available in tan and black colors. The black mats would also work, but the interior is too dark to begin with. These mats look like they will keep the mountain snow and Oregon rain from flooding the floor better than other mats.

UPATE 1/27/16: The Subaru Crosstrek is a considered a small sports utility vehicle, which is not as huge as a standard SUV because it is built on a all-wheel drive car chassis instead of a truck frame. As a result, it can't climb over as big of things as a big four-wheel drive SUV can do, but it has much better fuel efficiency. In fact, my first city gay mileage reading was more than 22 miles-per-gallon doing short three-mile trips, and my first full tank highway drive at 60 MPH got over 34 miles-per gallon of gasoline fuel economy. This is the most fuel efficient car I've ever owned. Many people call these small SUVs "cute-utes" short for cute utility vehicle. (See article by Keith Naughton, "SUVs Are T-Boning the Family Sedan," Businessweek, Jan. 18-24, 2016, p. 31, "Small SUVs, Once Mocked as Wimpy, Are About to Rule U.S. Market," posted Jan. 11, 2016 and Keith Naughton, (c) 2016 and Bloomberg, "Once mocked, small SUVs are set to rule U.S. market," posted Jan. 11, 2016)

See previous posts and related links:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Corvallis History by Roy Bennett

W. Dorr Legg in 1938 from Before Stonewall, Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context, Edited by Vern L. Bullough, 2002 PHOTO: W. Dorr Legg in 1938. W. Dorr Legg (1904-1994) was an assistant professor of Landscape Architecture at Oregon State University from 1935 to 1942. (See my previous posts W. Dorr Legg OSU archives records 1935-1942 (7/31/10), FBI files on gay OSU professor 1956 (7/7/10)and Gay Oregon Professor 1935 (12/16/06))

I noticed that a mention of the gay OSU Professor W. Dorr Legg was mentioned in the new book by Roy Bennett, et al. "The Story of Corvallis: A Streaming Narrative," Corvallis Community Pages, LLC, Jun. 2013, printed April 24, 2015 and purchased at the Book Bin, Corvallis, Oregon (PDF 14 MB). (Also see Roy Bennett, et al. "The Story of Corvallis: A Streaming Narrative," Corvallis Community Pages, LLC, Jun. 2013 (mobile version))

The book is very rough and incomplete in spots and unfortunately the author recently died. (See "Founder Departs This World," corvallis TODAY accessed Jun. 25, 2015 and "Obituary: Roy Bennett (May 5, 1949 - April 12, 2015)," posted Apr. 22, 2015)

Roy was the quintessential example of the type of eccentric iconoclasts you can find hanging around a small college town -- it is what makes living in a small college town so enjoyable!

The book's PDF file is not easily read by those of us with low-vision blindness without doing some extra steps, therefore it may be a while before I can blog more on what Roy has said. The parts that I have been able to read are packed with interesting facts, although his sourcing if hard to verify on many of them.

Social Security spouse benefits unclear after Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage

 Michael McConnell, 73, and Jack Baker, 73, at their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 1, 2015

PHOTO: Gay marriage pioneers Michael McConnell, 73, and Jack Baker, 73, at their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 1, 2015. (Courtesy Angela Jimenez) (See previous post Baker on gay marriage in 1972 vs. 2015 reaction to Supreme Court ruling (7/17/15))

UPDATE 12/10/15: On Dec. 10, 2015, I received in the U.S. mail the standard, annual letter from Social Security, "Your Benefit Amount," which this year for the first time included a link to more information for same-sex couples:

The above link redirects to:

"Same-Sex Couples: Important Information for Same-Sex Couples," dated June 26, 2015 by the Google search engine

Note: as of Dec. 10, 2015, this page is still unclear.

END OF UPDATE 12/10/15.

The recent Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriages, under state marriage laws, has left opened the question of how, in the future, Federal benefits should be paid equally to same-sex married couples.

In addition to the simplest case, of a same-sex couple who is married when neither partner is transgender, there are many other corner cases, such as a transgender FTM (female-to-male) person born with a female birth certificate, but who is currently identified as being male and who was legally married before any gender transition to a person who was born male and still identifies as being male. Legally, do you treat this marriage based on the sexes assigned at birth, or do you treat it legally based on the current gender of the two people?

My curiosity about the above questions, combined with my own retirement planning efforts, has led me to look up what are the spouse benefits for Social Security and Medicare -- Medicare eligibility for both a worker and his spouse is always 65 years old, except for people who are determined as being disabled under the law. For a spouse, either working or non-working, to receive Social Security benefits, the rules are more complicated. Two key ages for a non-working spouse are 60 years old for "widow" benefits and age 62 for "spouse benefits."

In addition to Social Security benefits, there are the retirement benefits and so-called minimum distributions, or withdrawals, which must be taken out of the IRA and 401(k) type of plans. The following business magazine article discussed some of the modern problems if combining Social Security benefits with these tax-deferred plans that were first promoted by Republicans during President Reagan's administration as being a future replacement for Social Security, which is a FDR era program that Republicans consider to be socialistic and should be cut.

". . .The lack of plans is fueling a retirement-savings crisis. Few workers save anything outside of employer-sponsored plans. Only 8 percent of taxpayers eligible to set aside money in an IRA or Roth IRA did so in 2010, according to the IRS. . . Low-income Americans have long relied mostly on Social Security. Now middle-class professionals and managers are increasingly doing the same. But the average Social Security benefit -- $15,700 a year ($1308 per month) -- doesn't come close to replacing the earnings of those with mid-five and six-figure salaries. . . Some 58 percent of the 68 million wage-and-salary workers without a company-sponsored retirement plan in 2013 worked for a business with fewer than 100 employees, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. . ." (Quoted from Carol Hymowitz, "No-Retirement-plan Starter Pack: With no program at work, few people save anything at all; There's huge coverage gap that needs to be addressed," Business Week, Oct. 26 - Nov. 1, 2015, p. 33-34 and posted online as "The 401(k) Crisis Is Getting Worse: Half of U.S. workers lack company-sponsored retirement plans; 45% of businesses with fewer than 100 employees offer 401(k)s" Oct. 22, 2015)

A legally married spouse, who has never worked in a paid job, can qualify for Social Security benefits (and Medicare) on the work record of the other spouse who worked enough to qualify for benefits. Traditionally, the sexist assumption by Congress is that the male husband is the worker and breadwinner for his family and his female wife was a stay-at-home mom and housewife who did not work in a paid job subject to Social Security insurance taxes and benefits. Likewise, even if she had worked in a job that paid less than her husband, then she could get the larger Social Security Benefits based on the record of her husband who had made more money and who therefore was qualified to receive a higher benefit.

Listed below are some of my miscellaneous notes and links about Social Security spouse benefits I recently learned about:

  • "Survivors Benefits For Your Widow Or Widower," accessed Oct. 3, 2015 says, "At present, there are about 5 million widows and widowers receiving monthly Social Security benefits based on their deceased spouse's earnings record. And, for many of those survivors, particularly aged women, those benefits are keeping them out of poverty. . . Your widow or widower can receive: reduced benefits as early as age 60 or full benefits at full retirement age or older . . . benefits as early as age 50 if he or she is disabled AND their disability started before or within seven years of your death. . ."
  • "Disability Planner: Benefits For Your Spouse," accessed Oct. 3, 2015 says spouse benefits can be received at, "Age 62 or older, unless he or she collects a higher Social Security benefit based on his or her earnings record. The spouse benefit amount will be permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months up to his or her full retirement age."
  • "When can my spouse get Social Security benefits on my record?" accessed Oct. 3, 2015 says, "Your spouse may be able to get benefits if he or she is at least age 62 and you are getting, or are eligible for, retirement or disability benefits. . . "Your spouse may be able to get benefits if he or she is at least age 62 and you are getting, or are eligible for, retirement or disability benefits. . ."
  • "Retirement Planner: Benefits For Your Spouse," accessed Oct. 3, 2015 says, "Even if he or she has never worked under Social Security, your spouse may be able to get benefits if he or she is at least 62 years of age and you are receiving or eligible for retirement or disability benefits. He or she can also qualify for Medicare at age 65."

On a loosely related note: Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press, "No rise for Social Security," Gazette-Times, Oct. 16, 2015, p. A9says, "The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, by law is based on a government measure of inflation that was released Thursday. . . But as far as benefits are concerned, the lack of a COLA will affect more than 70 million people, over one-fifth of the nation's population. Almost 60 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security benefits. The average monthly payment is $1,224."

I will leave the Consumer Price Index and the topic of inflation for another post. (See previous post Cost of OSU outpaced inflation letter to the editor (11/5/14))