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Monday, March 27, 2017

Non-binary gender OSU student has nothing to do with computer science

Non-binary gender person front page Corvallis Sunday newspaper Mar. 26, 2017, p. A1

PHOTO: The front page of the Corvallis Sunday newspaper featured a story on two Corvallis, Oregon citizens who have a non-binary gender identity, including an Oregon State University doctoral student working toward a Ph.D. degree in nuclear engineering. (See story by Bennett Hall, "A question of identity: Courtney Nicholas becomes Benton County's first non-binary citizen," Gazette-Times, Sun. Mar. 26, 2017, p. A2, A4, A6-A7 posted Mar. 26, 2017)

The word binary was appropriated in the middle 20th Century by mathematicians and computer scientists for referring to the base-2 number system intrinsic to the theoretical mathematics of digital computers, which are built by using a large number of electromechanical relay switches or electronic transistor switches, which can be either turned on or off to represent a binary digit of zero or one, along with a combination of several switches configured with feedback in a way to form a binary flip-flop, which can be flipped back and forth between one of two states as a way to store a single bit of information for a long time. In contrast, humans commonly use the Base 10 number system for counting and for arithmetic calculations, which uses the ten numbers from 0 to 9, probably due to the fact that humans have ten fingers.

Until recently, I've rarely seen the word "binary" used for purposes other than computers, therefore the first time I heard of a non-binary gender identity, I immediately wondered what it had to do with the mathematics of computer science, until after I looked up the word. (See Google define:nonbinary accessed Mar. 27, 2017, which links to the article, "Genderqueer," From Wikipedia accessed Mar. 27, 2017)

Below are some selected quotes from the professional newspaper article shown above:

You've probably never met anyone quite like Courtney Nicholas. Then again, maybe you have.

Nicholas, who likes to be called Court, was named Jackson at birth and was raised as a boy. But at some point it became clear that designation didn't really fit.

"I first realized I was not a male about a year and a half, two years ago," said Nicholas, an 18-year-old Corvallis resident.

For awhile, Nicholas tried presenting as female, but that didn't feel right either.

Then, last June, Nicholas realized there was another option. In a first-in-the-nation ruling, a Multnomah County judge had just granted a petition by Portland resident Jamie Shupe to legally change sex to non-binary, meaning neither male nor female. A Polk County judge granted a similar request in November.

On March 8, Nicholas became the third person in Oregon -- and the first in Benton County -- to be granted non-binary status. . . .

"You can call me non-binary, you can call me genderqueer, you can call me agender or transgender or androgynous," they said. "I just don't see gender as being a big part of my world, my personal identity." . .

The issue has also played out in the controversy over whether to allow transgender people to choose which public restroom to use. Lawmakers in a number of states have introduced legislation that would either allow transgender individuals to use the restroom they feel more comfortable with or require them to use public facilities that match the gender they were assigned at birth. . .

Oregon courts have been split over granting that recognition to non-binary individuals. . .

Late last year a judge in Jackson County Circuit Court refused to grant a non-binary gender petition, saying state law doesn't allow it. But judges in Multnomah, Polk and now Benton County have chosen to interpret the law more broadly, to include an individual's choice not to identify as being on one side or another of the standard binary gender divide. . .

While Court Nicholas may be Benton County's first non-binary resident, they may not be the only one much longer.

Emory Colvin, a 32-year-old doctoral student in nuclear engineering at Oregon State University, filed papers last week in Circuit Court seeking non-binary recognition. Colvin, whose birth name was Emily, was brought up as a girl but didn't really identify as either male or female.

(Quoted from Bennett Hall, "A question of identity: Courtney Nicholas becomes Benton County's first non-binary citizen," Gazette-Times, Sun. Mar. 26, 2017, p. A2, A4, A6-A7 posted Mar. 26, 2017)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

George Weinberg who coined 'homophobia' died at age 87

Frank Kameny, Jack Nichols and George Weinberg riding on Heritage of Pride float

PHOTO: (left to right) Dr. Frank Kameny, Jack Nichols, and Dr. George Weinberg being honored as Grand Marshalls of New York City's 2004 Heritage of Pride Parade. George Weinberg who coined the word 'homophobia' died at age 87. See Dr. George Weinberg, "How Homophobia Became a Word," posted Mar. 23, 2017 and my essay, Thomas Kraemer, "Reviews: 'Society and teh Healthy Homosexual,' by Dr. George Weinberg, 1972, St. Martin's Press, 150 pages " posted November 10, 2003, plus the interview by Jack Nichols, "George Weinberg, Ph.D. - Badpuppy's February Interview," posted Feb. 3, 1997. (Photo courtesy of Randy Wicker -- See previous post Jack Nichols biography with blurb of my book review (2/17/13))

In the essay i wrote for the online publication of Jack Nichols (Thomas Kraemer, "Reviews: 'Society and teh Healthy Homosexual,' by Dr. George Weinberg, 1972, St. Martin's Press, 150 pages " posted November 10, 2003) pleased Dr. Weinberg so much that he took the time to call me and share much more of his thinking with me. A writer for the New York City "Gay City News" was working with George shortly before his death to write a more comprhensive history of how homophobia developed, and an uncompleted portion of it was printed in the same issue as his death announcement. (Dr. George Weinberg, "How Homophobia Became a Word," posted Mar. 23, 2017). Some selected quotes from my essay are below:

Dr. George Weinberg is a straight psychologist who is widely credited with coining the term "homophobia" to describe the fear many people express about homosexuals. His book Society and the Healthy Homosexual caringly described the problem of homophobia and it boldly rejected the prevailing medical opinion that homosexuality was a mental illness.

The title of Weinberg's book humorously mocks an archetypical 1953 book Society and the Homosexual by Gordon Westwood (with introduction by Dr. Edward Glover) that proclaimed, "The [homosexual] man determined to break society will be involved in all kinds of psychopathic crimes; these may seem to have no outward connection with his homosexuality, but a number of seemingly unrelated crimes are often found to have a homosexual origin." Westwood's opinions about society and the "unhealthy homosexual" were widely accepted as being true by virtually all psychiatrists of that era. . .

In Weinberg's book (pp. 132-136) he clearly states, "A colleague of mine, Kenneth Smith, who read a paper of mine on homophobia, did one of the first pieces of research on homophobia that I know of." . . I did an exhaustive computerized and physical page-by-page search for homophobia references in over fifty years worth of archival journals (the professional peer-reviewed journals that all university libraries index and expect to keep forever). The first publication of the word "homophobia" in an archival journal does indeed appear to be Smith's paper. However, it is indisputable that it was Weinberg's book that popularized the concept of "homophobia." . . .

Jack Nichols recalled (in a personal communication, November 2003) making up the word homophobia "out of the blue" and using it in the May 23, 1969 SCREW newspaper column titled "He-Man Horseshit," which he co-wrote with Lige Clarke. In this column, they defined homophobia as "fear of being thought attracted to one's own sex," which is slightly different from Weinberg's 1972 definition, "the fear of homosexuals." Nichols emphasizes that he credits Weinberg for coining homophobia because, "'Lige and Jack' were simply being somewhat flip. We simply came up with the word. The column was an early assault on machismo - - one that predated my major work that Lige inspired me to write: Men's Liberation, (Penguin Books, 1975)." . .

Given the recent brouhaha over the privacy of library records, I was amused to find the old library check out card still in the back of the book. Before this library converted to an electronic checkout system in 1987, patrons printed their name and Social Security number on the card, which was then stamped with a due date and kept by the library until the book was returned. The last checkout was in 1981 to a student that lived in a fraternity according to the student directory.

My old college library had a similar publicly visible checkout scheme. I was too scared in 1973 to sign my name and so I recall reading Society and the Healthy Homosexual while sitting in the library. I couldn't "steal" it as many 60's radicals recommended because everybody was physically searched at the exit. Today, electronic tags bound into the book spines will trigger an alarm at the exit. Library records may be "private" now, but government mandated library software programs censor and keep track of everything kids read. This is progress? . . .

one peer-reviewed scientific study found that men who have a negative view of homosexuals get more erections while viewing homosexual pornography than other men. In other words, homophobes are sexually aroused by gay sex. (H.E. Adams, et al., (1996) "Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?" Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 440-445) . . .

Another study tested the hypothesis that aggressive homophobic behavior occurs in men who are conflicted by simultaneous feelings of arousal and anger over homosexuals. This finding may explain why homophobes, such as Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, heatedly demand that homosexuals "keep it private" and stay in the closet. The mere presence of gay people may cause sexual arousal in homophobes, which makes them violently angry. (Jeffrey A. Bernat, et al., (2001). "Homophobia and physical aggression toward homosexual and heterosexual individuals," Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 179-187) . . .

A recent study found homophobia to be a "disgust" reaction instead of a "phobia." These researchers believe homophobia is psychologically closer to racism. (University of Arkansas psychologists presented this finding at the June 2002, American Psychological Society convention, New Orleans . . .

Racism and homophobia are equally wrong but are worse when they occur together. U.K. activist Peter Tatchell's essay "Homophobia: Why can blacks bash gays?" (New Statesman, 14 October 2002, pp.14-15) discusses "the crushing strength of black homophobia." Twenty-five mostly black fans of reggae anti-gay lyrics, such as "Kill the batty boy" and "Kill the chi chi men," recently kicked and punched Tatchell for protesting this hate music. . .

Anti-gay religious training also breeds homophobia. A recent scientifically sampled campus-wide study at Texas A&M measured this relationship as part of a larger study about the acceptance of women at this formerly all-male, all-military school. Unlike previous studies, this one looked to see if the 18 to 19 year old students that were raised in more conservative religions were more homophobic than other students. The authors' multi-variable statistically significant results confirmed this hypothesis. However, the authors found highly homophobic persons even in liberal religions, which means that religious training is not the sole cause of homophobia. Consistent with President Bush's beliefs and most religious teaching, homophobic Texas A&M students typically do not support discrimination against gay people, but they also believe that homosexuality is immoral and dangerous to the family. This type of homophobia would explain why so many people oppose gay marriages and gay clerics while they simultaneously oppose discrimination. (Barbara Finlay, Carol S. Walther, "The Relation of Religious Affiliation, Service Attendance, and Other Factors To Homophobic Attitudes Among University Students," Review of Religious Research, Vol. 44, No. 4, June, 2003) . . .

In Chapter 4, "The Healthy Homosexual," Weinberg said that a higher percentage of "gay liberation leaders" had never suffered from guilt. Later research confirmed this idea. (Walter G. Stephan, "Parental relationships and early social experiences of activist male homosexuals and male heterosexuals," Journal of Abnormal Psychology (1973) 52:3, 502-513. The "activists" in this study were gay men in Jack Baker's University of Minnesota FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression) group, which I joined in 1972.) . . .

Also in Chapter 5, Weinberg talks about "Communication with Parents." He quotes the notorious 1968 book by Peter and Barbara Wyden, Growing up Straight, which remains popular with ex-gay groups. The late Peter Wyden is the father of Oregon's U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. Not long after Wyden wrote this book he committed Ron's brother to a mental institution. (Including a brief stay at the famous Menninger Clinic) It is unclear why Peter Wyden was so obsessed with raising two "straight" sons that he would write a book about it. Are Wyden's sons gay? . .

I would like to share three of the many tributes to George Weinberg that I stumbled across while reviewing thirty years of homophobia literature:

L. Page "Deacon" Maccubbin, who recently purchased the legendary "Oscar Wilde Bookshop" in New York City, told The Washington Post about how he opened his first gay bookstore in 1974. He specifically mentioned George Weinberg's book as being pivotal in his success. He added that gay bookstores were important because regular bookshops didn't carry them and people didn't check out library books - - they stole them. (The Washington Post, "Bookseller's Success Speaks Volumes: Lambda Rising Owner Helped Bring Gay Literature Out of the Closet," April 2, 2003, Nation, page C01)

The second one, a history of the pioneering lesbian group Daughters of Bilitis, credited, among other things, George Weinberg's speech on the dangers of psychoanalysis at the 1965 ECHO (East Coast Homophile Organizations) convention for causing their publication The Ladder to question the illness model of homosexuality and to refocus on "homophobia" as being the primary problem. (Kristin Gay Esterberg, "From Illness to Action: Conceptions of Homosexuality in The Ladder, 1956-1965," The Journal of Sex Research, Feb. 1990, 27:1, pp. 65-80)

The third one, Arthur Evans, who helped start the Gay Activists Alliance in 1969, credited "George Weinberg, a straight psychologist," for regularly attending GAA meetings and for coining the word "homophobia" after watching with fascination the group's "zaps" and "media responses." Evans said this was an "example of how theory can be rooted in practice." (Arthur Evans, "The Logic of Homophobia," Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, Summer 2000, 7:3)

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Reviews: 'Society and teh Healthy Homosexual,' by Dr. George Weinberg, 1972, St. Martin's Press, 150 pages " posted November 10, 2003)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

OSU transgender bathroom sex desegregation and microaggressions

OSU transgender bathroom story in Barometer Mar. 13, 2017, p. 4-5

PHOTO: "Despite a decision by the Trump Administration to rescind federal protection for transgender students, Oregon State University has continued their commitment toward the inclusion and safety of all transgender students," says the student newspaper story by Jamie Chin, "OSU commits to continued inclusion of transgender students: Announcement follows U.S. Department of Education's recent change in guidance regarding access to restrooms and facilities for transgender students," Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 1, 4-5 and Jamie Chin, "OSU commits to continued inclusion of transgender students," Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 1, 4-5 Reader version. (See previous posts OSU 'gender inclusive' bathrooms hit front page of student newspaper (2/3/16) and Transgender bathroom politics today is similar to anti-gay politics of 50 years ago (5/23/16))

The title of this post, "OSU transgender bathroom sex desegregation and microaggressions," was inspired by the recent shift of conservatives and Christian Republicans from mostly opposing gay marriages to instead mostly demanding that public bathrooms be segregated according to the sex listed on your birth certificate. I assume that this shift in Republican political talking points is because gay marriage has become so normalized, it no longer motivates people to vote Republican, whereas the transgender bathroom issue still resonates, even with many Democratic swing coters.

The title of this post was also inspired by a student newspaper post by Sydney McHale, "Students encounter microaggressions," Barometer, Mar. 6, 2917 that discussed the concept of microaggression, which appears to have become a popular concept on college campuses across America. (For an example of a mircoaggression, see previous post Affirmative action bake sale at OSU ignores business case for diversity (3/14/17))

To check up on how the word "microaggression" is being defined today, I did a Google search define:microagression accessed Mar. 18, 2017, which defined a microagression as, "indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group." One of the top Google search results linked to the article, "Microaggression," accessed Mar. 18, 2017, which states, "A microaggression is the casual degradation of any marginalized group. The term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on African Americans."

Although the term microaggression was originally applied to black issues, it has clearly become a term more broadly applied, which led me to ask, "Is the segregation of bathrooms by the sex listed on your birth certificate an example of a microaggression by the cisgender people directed at the transgender?" For example, cisgender Christian Republicans have been exploiting the tansgender bathroom issue as a way to anger voters so that they will oppose granting equal rights to transgender people.

While thinking about the politics of transgender bathrooms, it occurred to me that rarely does anybody discuss the deeper question, "Why are public bathrooms segregated by sex, either by custom or even by law in many places?"

I recall asking my mother, when I was a child, why there was a separate men's lavatories and Lady's restrooms (often with couches), especially because she would insist on taking me with her into the women's restroom while telling me it was only for my own protection from bad men -- without answering my original question about why.

For example, I vividly recall one time when my mother took me into a women's bathroom while we were shopping in a large downtown department store, and an older lady took one look at me and screamed, "You are too old to be in here!" My mother instantly looked embarrassed, quickly ushered me outside and let me use the men's room from that day forward.

The practice of mother's taking their children into the women's room was common when I was growing up in the 1950's. The only places I see this today is where they have designated "family restrooms" used by either a mother or father with their child. These so-called family bathrooms are sometimes designated also for use by transgender people because they are supposedly unisex.

It wasn't until I became a teenager when I learned from reading the newspaper police reports that a few men had been arrested for "indecent behavior" in the downtown public library, where I had often visited with my mother and she would never explain to me what the "bad men" in there might do to me, nor would she tell me what they did to get arrested.

In fact, I didn't learn the details of these arrests until I read a book documenting the sociology of "Tearoom Trade" that described how many homosexual men would loiter in public restrooms looking to give or receive oral sex, or more rarely anal sex. Prior to the Stonewall riot in1969, many gay men thought tearooms were their only option to find sex because gay bars were often raided and there were few places where a gay man could hookup without being noticed. Today, out and proud gay men have much better places to hookup, but tearooms are still being used by those with a fetish for it and famously by a few closeted gay men who see it as a way to get sex anonymously.

In the early 1970's I bought a gay guidebook that included a list of tearooms, across America, and it said tearooms were often located in public libraries and Greyhound bus stations, including the Bus Station in Corvallis. In addition, the guide book listed two isolated bathrooms in the OSU Memorial Union as being hot tearooms. These rooms have not been changed by any remodeling, but I am not aware if they are still being used as tearooms.

As an accommodation to transgender students, OSU has designated many unisex bathrooms for students of all genders. Although this action has been well received, a few transgender people see it as being a microaggression by the cisgender because in their mind, all bathrooms should be accessible, instead of just designating certain ones.

This brings me back to the original question I asked as a child, "Why are bathroom segregated by the sex listed on your birth certificate?

Illogically, one reason might be that many people are disgusted by the idea of a transgender person using the same public bathroom, which is the reason a relative of mine gave me.

Even though this relative of mine usually rejected any logical argument concerning emotional or religious topics related to sex, I went ahead and asked her if she would want a transgendered man, who looked like a man, forced by law to use the same bathroom as her, just because female was listed on his birth certificate?

As expected, my relative's reaction was to look perplexed and physically agitated by my question. She reluctantly agreed that somebody who looked like a man in the lady's restroom would upset her even though they had been born a female.

This is why, at a minimum, transgender people should be allowed to use the hathroom they feel the safest in -- one that is congruent with their gender expression.

Of course, another reason some people oppose allowing a transgender person in their bathroom is because they worry perverts will pretend to be trans and sexually leer at the opposite sex.

My response to this reason is to acknowledge that sexually leering at another person is bad behavior, and this bad behavior is what should be forbidden, instead of barring all transgender people from the restroom of their gender.

For example, I asked the relative of mine, "How do sex-segregated bathrooms prevent gay women from coming in and starting at you sexually?" She went silent and gave no reply.

Gay men learn at a young age that sexually leering at straight men in a locker room will often result in physical violence toward them.

When I grew up and became an adult, I recall reminiscing with my mother about our experience taking me with her to the women's restroom as a child. She was able to laugh about how she was embarrassed by the women who yelled at me that I was too old be in the women's room with my mother. I then asked my mother again why she thought that so many people wanted bathrooms to be segregated by the sex listed on your birth certificate. The first reason she gave was her fear of a man sexually leering at her while she was undressed.

Other people have shared with me their more practical reason for wanting all bathrooms segregated by sex. For example, men want to have more urinals than toilets, whereas women want more stalls and they hate having to put the toilet seat down after a man has used the toilet standing up.

One man, who told me he had worked his way through college by cleaning restrooms, said that women were much messier than men, in his vast experience in many restrooms. I've heard women say the exact opposite reason to have sex-segregated bathrooms.

Although the practical reasons for sex-segregated bathrooms have some truth to them, I believe that the Freudian sexual hang-ups most people possess are the primary reasons for wanting bathrooms segregated by sex. This is clearly based on emotional logic instead of mathematical logic.

According to my Swedish Grandmother, all of the Swedes she grew up with in the 1800's considered the prudishness of Americans to be silly and puritanical because Swedish culture saw nudity as being natural -- it was culturally expected that you would go to a Swedish Sauna and bath naked with your whole family -- children and their parents would routinely see each other naked. My Grandmother told me about this custom of Swedes after she had discovered how modest I was about being seen naked as a boy when I refused to get undressed in front of her to take a shower. I was also embarrassed to watch her laid down naked on her deck sunbathing, despite the fact she could be seen from a major road running near her home. Unlike most other Americans, my Grandmother truly saw nothing wrong with nudity.

The present day transgender bathroom issue at OSU is described in the student newspaper article by Jamie Chin, "OSU commits to continued inclusion of transgender students," Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 1, 4-5. I've selected a few quotes below:

Despite the decision by the Trump Administration to rescind federal protection for transgender students, Oregon State University has continued their commitment toward the inclusion and safety of all transgender students.

An email was sent out to all students on Feb. 24 by Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for Student Affairs, and Scott Vignos, director of Strategic Initiatives, to ensure protection and continuing support of all gender non-conforming students. The email mentioned several things, including the expansion of gender inclusive bathrooms and the availability of cultural resources throughout campus. . . . .

The Pride Center, one of the OSU cultural centers which provides programs and support services to the LGBTQ community, started leading the ongoing #illgowithyou campaign about a year ago, an important OSU initiative that ensures security for transgender students who feel threatened, especially in bathrooms or locker rooms. (Photo of "I'll Go With You Button") . . . .

A significant thing that the university itself has done to help with the inclusion of trans students is build transgender bathrooms, which are now located throughout campus. There are single-user restrooms in the dining hall and on every floor of the residence hall. OSU has provided students with a campus map of all 125 gender-inclusive bathrooms and facilities, and are still continuing the expansion of these bathrooms. . . .

For those who are exploring their identity or identify as queer or transgender, Counseling & Psychological Services offers group therapy for transgender students called TransForm, which is led by Beth Zimmermann. . . .

(Quoted from Jamie Chin, "OSU commits to continued inclusion of transgender students," Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 1, 4-5)

(See previous posts OSU 'gender inclusive' bathrooms hit front page of student newspaper (2/3/16) and Transgender bathroom politics today is similar to anti-gay politics of 50 years ago (5/23/16))

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump Depression predicted by rise in debt and Schiller C.A.P.E. history

annotated chart of Federal debt as percentage of GDP chart Businessweek, Mar. 13-19, 2017, p. 9

PHOTO: Graph of the Federal Debt as a Percentage of Gross Domestic Product real and projected from 1790-2046 shows how it ran up before World I, which preceded the Great Depression, and then the Federal debt rose again due to World War II spending. After World War II the U.S. continuously worked down its debt until the U.S. President Ronald Regan sold Congress on the popular Republican theory that growth would solve the debt problem created by his agenda of cutting the tax rate paid by corporations and individuals. When this theory was tried out and disproven by actual experience, the U.S. President Bill Clinton compromised with the Republican Congress to actually raise taxes, which lowered the Federal Debt before Republicans gained control of the White House and Congress once again made the false promise they would balance the budget and also reduce the debt. The debt increase slowed during President Obama's term, mostly because Republicans forced budget cuts to the favorite projects of the Democratic Party. However, today the debt is projected to climb again due to the promises made by the Republican President Donald Trump to cut taxes like Reagan did, and to similarly solve the consequential deficits with growth according by using the plans of the Republican Congress to use "dynamic scoring" for future effects of legislation on the debt, contrary to their balanced budget rules they imposed on President Obama. I added annotations to the original graph above published in a business magazine's opening remarks that said, "President Trump Promised to Eliminate National Debt in Eight Years. Good Luck with that his administration plans to balance the budget with what he says will be huge gains in economic growth. Trump likes to point out that Obama presided over a huge increase in the federal debt. But it made sense for the government to run deficits during and immediately after the 2007-09 recession. With its deep pockets and solid credit, the U.S. used that deficit spending to offset retrenchment by households and businesses, thus preventing an even deeper downturn. Now that the unemployment rate is below 5 percent, there's less scope for stimulus. At least that's the Federal Reserve's position: Even before Trump has revealed his budget, the Federal Open Market Committee has indicated it's on track to raise interest rates three times this year to prevent inflationary overheating of the economy." (Quoted from Peter Coy, "The Trump Deficits in Trump's Future," Businessweek, Mar. 13-19. 2017, p. 9)

President Trump is egotistically taking credit for the good stock market performance during his first days in office, even though he has done nothing except to make big promises about cutting taxes and eliminating government regulations. Given Trump's pretentious promises combined with some market valuation data discussed below, I am concerned that the U.S. economy is headed for a Great Trump Depression.

Some of the measures of stock market valuation are gloomily mentioned in the same issue by Suzanne Wooley, "You can't retire on the Trump bump: US stocks keep booming but may not deliver the long-term returns hope for," Bloomberg Businessweek, Mar. 13-19, 2017, p. 38-39, to make the case that Baby Boom Generation retirees, whose retirement checks depend on the performance of the stock market, need to heed the data linked to from the Home page of Robert J. Shiller Sterling Professor of Economics Yale University accessed Mar. 12, 2017 -- "ONLINE DATA ROBERT SHILLER," accessed Mar. 12, 2017. Specifically, Shiller's Webpage says this data documents "The data collection effort about investor attitudes that I have been conducting since 1989 has now resulted in a group of Stock Market Confidence Indexes produced by the Yale School of Management." Schiller's Webpage includes a spreadsheet containing the data used for C.A.P.E. analysis of start market valuations: Robert Shiller, "U.S. Stock Markets 1871-Present and CAPE Ratio," accessed Mar. 12, 2017 (.xls format spreadsheet).

Commenting on the history of stock market performance, which many retiress have become dependent on for income, Business week said:

"One effect of that long rally is that stocks look relatively expensive. The average price-earnings ratio for stocks in the S&P 500 is 18.3, based on consensus estimates of 2017 earnings. That’s near the high end of the historical track record, says Fran Kinniry, a principal in the investment strategy group at Vanguard Group, which manages more than $4 trillion in assets. And when he looks at other valuation measures—such as those based on companies’ revenue or free cash flow—they’re all in the top 25 percent of historical readings. . . .

"Similarly, Shiller points to a measure he helped popularize, called the cyclically adjusted p-e ratio, or CAPE, which compares prices with the average of earnings over the past 10 years to smooth out the ups and downs of the business cycle. When the CAPE is high, Shiller has found annual returns will tend to be lower over a long period. A low CAPE augurs above-average returns. . .

"The average CAPE ratio for U.S. stocks over the past 100 years was about 17. It stands at 29.6 now—the only times it was higher were in 1929 and around the dot-com bubble, Shiller says. Those are worrisome precedents, but he’s quick to point out that during the dot-com episode the valuation multiple climbed to above 44 in 1999."

(Quoted from Suzanne Wooley, "You can't retire on the Trump bump: US stocks keep booming but may not deliver the long-term returns hope for," Bloomberg Businessweek, Mar. 13-19, 2017, p. 38-39 )

Coincidentally, in addition to the Businessweek coverage of stock valuations, a major retail stock broker's magazine, which they regularly mail to its customers, also cited the CAPE prediction of future stock market gains. (See "Is the stock market overvalued? The CAPE ratio may help you evaluate this on a long-term basis," Scwhab On Investing, Winter 2016, p. 8.)

(Also see "Cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio," From Wikipedia accessed Mar. 12, 2017 that says, "The cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio, commonly known as CAPE,[1] Shiller P/E, or P/E 10 ratio, is a valuation measure usually applied to the US S&P 500 equity market. It is defined as price divided by the average of ten years of earnings (moving average), adjusted for inflation.")

All I know, is that the future of the stock market is unpredictable, and retirees like me, who may not live a long enough time to ride out a big market drop, need to invest our retirement savings in a conservative manner, where we make sure we have enough stable income to survive in the event of a market drop, but also have enough invested to profit from any upside to the market and protect ourselves from inflation eating away any fixed income as it did circa 1980. In my case, I have a portion of my retirement account invested in a bond ladder of ten, 10-year Treasury Inflation Protected Securities staggered at one year intervals so that the bonds don't all come due at once. These TIPS are like other U.S. Government treasury bonds, but they are adjusted annually by the CPI-U Consumer Price Index of inflation, and in the event of deflation, you are still guaranteed by the full fail and credit of the U.S. Government to get back your original amount plus the interest.

Finally, some loosely related notes written to myself. Also in the same issue, "Wealth where the living is easy," Businessweek, Mar. 13-19, p. 41, shows a map of the U.S. State where passive income earners took in an average of $20,000 per year. (Passive income is from interest, dividends, rents, etc., and not earned income obtained by working for a living. Of course, a place like Palm Beach, where many rich people live or retire to, the passive income is $176,000. Silicon Valley, where there is much wealth, raises the average for California, for example, Lost Altos Hills has average passive earnings of $124,000. The chart doesn't say if it is really average or median income, but in either case it is interesting, because it shows how few American families have enough passive income to retire on today. I expect this to change over time as family wealth accumulates and is passed on unequally to heirs, who will be like the rich families that existed in America before the Great Depression and were hated by everyone else because they were out of touch with the people who had to work for a living.

I am also guilty of being out of touch because years ago I paid off my home loan and therefore I am unaware of what people are paying for mortgages. (My mortgage from the 1980's had an interest rate of nearly 14% and this forced me to buy a condo instead of a house because I couldn't afford a house loan even with a good salary. Recently, I became envious of younger folks after looking up the "Monthly Interest Rate Survey (MIRS)" Federal Housing Finance Agency accessed Mar. 2, 2017 and "Mortgage Rates Break Holding Pattern, Move Lower," March 2, 2017 that said, "30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.10 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending March 2, 2017, down from last week when it averaged 4.16 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.64 percent." I now understand why young people are complaining about mortgage rates going up, but I still think four percent is a good bargain.

Another loosely related note concerns life expectancy, a key number in planning for retirement. Frepublicans are exploiting the rise in life expectancy as a reason to copy President Reagan, who increased the retirement age from 65 to 67 years old. Some in Congress are calling for raising the retirement age to 70 years old supposedly to keep "Social Security" and "Medicare" solvent, but I think it is really for the same reason Reagan did it, which is their hatred of these FDR and Johnson administration programs, which Republicans really want to eliminate entirely. One IRS life expectancy table ranges from 27.4 years at age 70 to 1.9 years at age 115 and over. (See Previous posts IRS IRA distribution substantially equal payments method (10/6/14) and Fixed amortization option for IRA distribution versus required minimum distributions (8/6/13))

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Affirmative action bake sale at OSU ignores business case for diversity

Thomas Kraemer affirmative action letter in OSU Barometer Mar. 13, 2017, p.14

PHOTO: Oregon State University student newspaper published my letter (Thomas Kraemer, "Diversity is necessary," OSU Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 14 or Thomas Kraemer, "Diversity is necessary," OSU Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 14 ( version)) in reaction to the OSU students who joined the national college protests against "affirmative action" by holding a bake sale that used reverse discrimination to determine what price they charged people. (See story by Joe Wolf, "Conservative students hold controversial bake sale," OSU Barometer, Feb. 27, 2017, p. 7 or Joe Wolf, "Conservative students hold controversial bake sale," OSU Barometer, reader) Ironically, perhaps intentionally or not, the editor laid out the opinion page so that the headline for my letter "Diversity is necessary" was placed right above the headline for the next letter, "(Not) renaming buildings on campus," which was a letter in response to the story about erasing the names of slave owners from campus buildings described in the story by Erin Dose, "Certain campus building names cause controversy," Barometer, posted Mar. 6, 2017

A popular Republican talking point, which was started in the 1970's when racists Southern Democrats started to move to the Republican Party, is the Republican talking point asserting that Republicans are not racists and do not discriminate, but conservatives are now the victims of "reverse discrimination" caused by "Affirmative Action" programs, which, in fact, had been legislated by the U.S. Congress and a few companies had been ordered by a court of law to comply with by using a quota based hiring system designed to remedy discriminatory hiring practices.

It is a talking point that resonates positively with many people who are in the majority and feel resentment toward being passed over for hiring or promotion by a woman (who ironically are in the majority) or a member of a minority, such as a black person. I acknowledge that it is hard for anybody to be passed over for a job or promotion because the process is very subjective and it is rarely obvious why somebody is picked for a job as the better candidate by the employer. As a former employer, I know firsthand how often there are multiple candidates who are equally good, making it hard to decide between them.

The legal term "Affirmative Action" is often erroneously used when referring to voluntary "Diversity Programs" that employers often choose to implement for the business purpose of getting a more diverse workforce instead of for for compliance with a court order to remedy past discriminatory hiring.

For example, some conservative OSU students held an affirmative action bake sale that determined prices they charge by using "reverse discrimination" based on your skin color, which echoed the popular Republican talking point about being a "victim" of it. The student newspaper described the bake sale as follows:

"Two weeks ago, a bake sale was held in the SEC Plaza in which the prices of goods were determined by the buyer's race or ethnicity. This event was put on by Turning Point USA, a conservative activist group with chapters on college campuses across the country, to argue against the use of affirmative action to make distinctions between white and minority students in college admissions." (Quoted from oe Wolf, "Conservative students hold controversial bake sale," OSU Barometer, Feb. 27, 2017, p. 7 and Joe Wolf, "Consrvative students hold controversial bake sale," OSU Barometer, reader)

Another student responded negatively to the bake sale in the student newspaper: Jim Gouveia, "Letters: Do your research first," Barometer, Feb. 13, 2017.

The original story of the bake sale prompted me to write the following letter in response:

The conservative students who held an affirmative action bake sale (The Baro, Feb. 27) appear not to understand the business reasons why a 1954 OSU EE graduate, John Young, and his boss Dave Packard wanted more diversity at both OSU and at Hewlett-Packard.

David Packard, cofounder of HP and a lifelong conservative Republican who also served in a Cabinet positon at the request of the Republican U.S. President Richard Nixon, was proud that HP had never discriminated and therefore was not constrained by any court-ordered affirmative action hiring quotas designed to remedy past acts of discrimination, as were some other American companies.

Instead of resting on his laurels, Packard set an objective for his managers to hire a diverse workforce that numerically reflected HP's customers who were of all races and nationalities from around the world, because it would help grow business globally by making it easier to meet the needs of all HP customers.

To accomplish Packard's objective and still hire only the best people without imposing artificial hiring quotas, HP managers expanded the number of colleges from where they typically recruited graduates, such as OSU and Stanford University where HP had hired many White-American male college graduates.

Over three decades, I witnessed the positive business results due to HP's more diverse workforce when I managed engineering research in America, Germany and China.

Diversity at OSU helps all students get a better and more global education, which is necessary today to get the best jobs after graduation.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Diversity is necessary," OSU Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 14 or Thomas Kraemer, "Diversity is necessary," OSU Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 14 ( version))

On a related note, OSU students are also participating in the popular campus activism that objects to university buildings being named after racists and then the activists demand the buildings be renamed. This type of liberal social justice activism resonates with many minorities. Unfortunately, what gets ignored in the process is the history of how the buildings were named and used over time, for example, if they were named after University Presidents, and also missing is any discusion of the history of how the social construction of racism has changed over the years. In my opinion, it would be better to leave the names alone and use them as a history lesson for students.

A more embarrassing part of the history of building names lies in the fact that at many universities the way a building gets named is by how much money you contributed or by the equivalent political contribution made by a politician or university president to get the money required ot build the building. At OSU, only a few buildings, such as Reser Stadium, have been named after a big donor, perhaps because most OSU alumni are too poor to donate the tens of millions of dollars to OSU required to name a building. See the following links:

Another popular talking point of Republicans, related to building names discussions, is to denounce university people for being much too "politically correct" and as a result enforcing things silly social customs on campus. As somebody who has spent much time in both academia and industry, I can see how many people can get irritated by the social customs in either place, which in my mind is a general problem with any social group you are alien to or don't agree with their customs. Academics can be pedantic and obstructionists when it comes to getting anything done for real, but industry people can likewise be obstreperous and destructive to other people when they are unwilling to slow down and see the implications of their actions. This type of behavior doesn't make the customs of either group right or wrong, because these different approaches by multiple groups of people are usually required for a breakthrough in understanding can occur.

Some dismiss being open to others as being "political correctness," but other people see it as just being polite, for example in a typical university social group. As a result, it is easy to be offended when somebody is not polite or you perceive it that way, even if you don't intend it that way. This has led to the newly popular idea of a "microaggression" on campus. For example of this, see the student newspaper article by Sydney McHale, "Students encounter microaggressions," Barometer, Mar. 6, 2017, which says, "According to Jason Dorsette, the OSU associate director of Diversity and Cultural Engagement, 'Microaggressions are discriminatory incidents that come from well-intended people that do not have the historical background that what they're saying or doing is wrong. They are unintentional racist or discriminating instances.'"

It is ironic that that I have used the politeness argument for years as a way to describe "political correctness" as just an attempt to avoid microaggressions, but after having done this, my favorite comic strip characters showed how the goal of "politeness" can also be misused. (For example, the recent comic strip series by Scott Adams of "Dilbert," which shows how Dilbert's company politeness policy, which forbids employees from turning and walking away before somebody has finished talking, leads to humorous and illogical consequences.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Oregon bottle deposits law is anachronism of the 20th century

Six-liquid-ounce glass Coke bottles say return for deposit on their 6-pack cardboard tote holder

PHOTO: Six-liquid-ounce glass Coke bottles say "return for deposit" on their 6-pack cardboard tote holder. Each thick glass Coke bottle weighs nearly a pound empty so that it is durable enough to be washable and refillable many times. Today's glass bottles are much thinner and lighter, partially due to better glass making technology and also because non-returnable bottles are used only once and do not need to be as durable to last until they are put in with other recyclable glass.

The article "Oregon Bottle Bill" From Wikipedia says, "The Oregon Bottle Bill is a container-deposit legislation passed in the U.S. state of Oregon in 1971 and amended in 2007. It requires cans, bottles, and other containers of carbonated soft drink, beer, and (since 2009) water sold in Oregon to be returnable with a minimum refund value."

The following newspaper story about plans to expand the Oregon Bottle Bill, and the local newspaper editorial are what prompted my letter to the editor seen after the list below:

Below is my letter to the editor in response:

Oregon's 5 cents' bottle deposit originally provided a huge incentive to return it, but it would need to be 29 cents, adjusted for inflation, to provide the same incentive today. (From 1972-2017 the CPI-U went from 42 to 241)

It was much easier to return bottles in 1972 when every Corvallis supermarket cashier would credit the deposit after a bag boy counted your returned bottles, before he bagged your groceries and took them out to your car.

Today, can deposit return machines are dirty, hard to use, and you must often wait for somebody returning a bag full of cans.

Oregon's bottle bill was originally passed to reduce litter in reaction to the business decision by bottlers to use disposable containers because it reduced costs, throughout the entire supply chain, due to lighter weight glass and aluminum cans.

For example, Coke was packaged in 6 liquid-ounce returnable glass bottles, weighing almost a pound empty, compared to today's 12 liquid-ounce aluminum cans weighing less than an ounce empty, and bottlers of Coke would take back the Coke bottle, refund the deposit, wash and refill it many times.

Increasing the deposit only from 5 to 10 cents will mostly lower the income of the homeless I see collecting cans from the curbside recycling containers in my neighborhood, because my neighbors will probably redeem more cans themselves.

Oregon's bottle deposits are an anachronism of the 20th century and should be eliminated in the 21st century, instead of increased.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: Eliminate deposits on bottle returns," Gazette-Times, Mar. 16, 2017, p. A6 posted Mar. 7, 2017)