aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Justice Department attorney fired for being lesbian?
That’s the suspicion. All Things Considered:
The Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating whether a career attorney in the department was dismissed from her job because of rumors that she is a lesbian. The case grew out of a larger inquiry into the firings of U.S. attorneys and politicization at Justice under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Several people interviewed by the inspector general’s staff described the case to NPR and said they came away with the impression that the Attorney General’s office decided not to renew Leslie Hagen’s contract because of the talk about her sexual orientation. Hagen received the highest possible ratings for her work as liaison between the Justice Department and the U.S. attorneys’ committee on Native American issues. Her final job evaluation lists five categories for supervisors to rank her performance. For each category, a neat X fills the box marked, “Outstanding.” And at the bottom of the page, under “overall rating level,” she also got the top mark: Outstanding.
The form is dated February 1, 2007. Several months before that evaluation, Hagen was told her contract would not be renewed.
The line that’s making the rounds of the gay blogosphere is what’s “even worse than being a Democrat” in Monica Goodling’s eyes.
Goodling, you will recall, was Alberto Gonzales’s senior counsel who “At the height of the scandal over the fired U.S. attorneys...admitted to making personnel decisions about career Justice Department lawyers based on improper partisan considerations.”
She took a personal interest in Hagen:
The Justice Department’s inspector general is looking into whether Hagen was dismissed after a rumor reached Goodling that Hagen is a lesbian.
As one Republican source put it, “To some people, that’s even worse than being a Democrat.”
Several people interviewed by the inspector general’s staff said investigators asked whether people drew a connection between the rumors and Hagen’s dismissal. The witnesses, who spoke to NPR on the condition of anonymity, said they felt that the rumors led to the decision not to renew Hagen’s contract.
Someone who worked in Hagen’s office says that in a 2006 meeting, senior officials were told that Hagen’s contract would not be renewed because someone on the attorney general’s staff had a problem with Hagen. The problem, it was suggested during the conversation, was sexual orientation - or what was rumored to be Hagen’s sexual orientation.
One person at the meeting asked, “Is that really an issue?” But the decision had been made.
When a different NPR story today called African Americans “the most reliable voters the Democrats have,” Doug disagreed. He thinks gays are.
I don’t know. Hagen’s “a GOP loyalist.” Look at the Cheney family. And the Log Cabin Republicans. It’s clear to me that this is yet another reminder of why we need a Democratic president in 2009.
GA Senate restricts release of sex tapes involving minors
State Senator Emanuel Jones, who very correctly complained and called for an investigation of the political release and distribution of the Genarlow Wilson sex video in that controversial case, followed up with legislation last month.
The Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to place new restrictions on the copying and inspection of sexually explicit material involving minors used as courtroom evidence.
The bill comes after a Georgia prosecutor came under fire last year for releasing copies of a videotape showing Genarlow Wilson engaging in sex acts with two underage girls. District Attorney David McDade said the state’s open records law required him to release the footage to anyone who requested it. U.S. Attorney David Nahmias labeled it child pornography and ordered him to stop.
The Wilson tape was released to members of the media. Several state lawmakers watched the tape at the Capitol as they considered legislation that would help Wilson.
Wilson was serving a mandatory 10-year sentence for having oral sex with a 15-year-old when he was 17. The Georgia Supreme Court freed him last year, saying the steep sentence amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
Under the bill that passed the Senate Wednesday, a judge could allow for public inspection of sexually explicit materials for inspection under open records law, but they couldn’t be copied. A version of the bill has already passed the House.
Leno apologizes for gay remarks from Phillippe interview
Jay Leno has apologized for remarks he made to Ryan Phillippe when Phillippe appeared on his show [inset] to promote the movie Stop-Loss. Leno mocked Phillippe’s first role as a gay teen on One Life to Live before pointing at the camera and asking a visibly disturbed Phillippe to give it his “gayest look.”
Said Leno in a statement: “In talking about Ryan’s first role, I realize that what I said came out wrong. I certainly didn’t mean any malice. I agree it was a dumb thing to say, and I apologize.”
The incident prompted an angry letter from Avenue Q scribe Jeff Whitty, who wrangled with the late night host about his homophobic remarks during the Brokeback Mountain days, and inspired the creation of My Gayest Look, a website at which you can find dozens of pictorial messages for Jay Leno (including mine).
LATER: Proving just how clueless he really is, he’s unapologized for the Ryan Phillippe remarks.
Fact of GAY life? Or time to change the POLITCAL world?
The husband of a colleague died recently. They were married four years. She will receive his pension for life.
Next year my partner and I will celebrate 9 years. We, of course, don’t have—can’t have—shared health insurance, tax benefits, inheritance, visitation privileges, or a myriad of other things taken for granted by heterosexual America today.
When I had that recent health emergency, we had to rush to see lawyers and worry that the Power of Attorney and Living Wills we put in place would be honored and not litigated.
Yadda yadda yadda… you know the story. You may wonder why I’m going on.
I was moved by this story posted on Towleroad as told by DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias by his friend Joel Kelly of the Slain Gay Hospital Worker Remembered as Hero in Georgia:
On Thursday afternoon in Columbus, Georgia, as reported here, a man entered Doctor’s Hospital, shot and killed two hospital workers and then another man in the parking lot on his way out before he was apprehended. My boyfriend Kevin Perry works at the hospital on the floor where the shootings took place and was at work when this happened. I knew both of the nurses that were killed. They were two of Kevin’s closest friends. A couple of things which I feel are important to say...one of which is that the second person who was shot and killed was gay. Not that this particular fact is noteworthy in and of itself...but I would like to say that Les Harris was shot in the face while he was trying to wrest the gun out of the hands of the shooter. The man was trying to kill a young woman and Les gave his life in order to save her. We don’t often hear about gay heroes . . . too often stories in which our humanity is front and center are lost in the chorus of the Christian Right. We deserve these stories to be told. The second part of this and the reason that I am sending this to you is to let you know that his partner, Keith Cavender, another nurse at the same hospital, was unable to secure his partner’s personal belongings, was kept from seeing him before and immediately following his death, and of course will receive none of the benefits due our heterosexual counterparts. Common human decency is not a privilege accorded us under current law. Please let the powers that be in the Party know that we desperately need to win back the White House and let everyone know that we have heroes among us.
Dan Ariely’s “Self-Control” credit card
Among the books I’m reading these days is Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. Dan’s in the news a lot lately, as well he should be. The book is a joy to read, and reduces very complicated concepts to easily understood highly readable chapters.
The other day I noted that college students are crying out for limits to be placed on credit card marketing. This is absolutely consistent with much of Ariely’s work. His 2002 study, Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment, is referenced in his book and available at SSRN.
But the brilliant joy of his book is the way he hypothesizes applications for his research. Here, for example, from page 123, the idea of a “self-control” credit card:
A FEW YEARS ago I was so convinced that a “self-control” credit card was a good idea that I asked for a meeting with one of the major banks. To my delight, this venerable bank responded, and suggested that I come to its corporate headquarters in New York.
I arrived in New York a few weeks later, and after a brief delay at the reception desk, was led into a modern conference room. Peering through the plate glass from on high, I could look down on Manhattan’s financial district and a stream of yellow cabs pushing through the rain. Within a few minutes the room had filled with half a dozen high-powered banking executives, including the head of the bank’s credit card division.
I began by describing how procrastination causes everyone problems. In the realm of personal finance, I said, it causes us to neglect our savings-while the temptation of easy credit fills our closets with goods that we really don’t need. It didn’t take long before I saw that I was striking a very personal chord with each of them.
Then I began to describe how Americans have fallen into a terrible dependence on credit cards, how the debt is eating them alive, and how they are struggling to find their way out of this predicament. America’s seniors are one of the hardest-hit groups. In fact, from 1992 to 2004 the rate of debt of Americans age 55 and over rose faster than that of any other group. Some of them were even using credit cards to fill the gaps in their Medicare. Others were at risk of losing their homes.
I began to feel like George Bailey begging for loan forgiveness in It’s a Wonderful Life. The executives began to speak up. Most of them had stories of relatives, spouses, and friends (not themselves, of course) who had had problems with credit debt. We talked it over.
Now the ground was ready and I started describing the self-control credit card idea as a way to help consumers spend less and save more. At first I think the bankers were a bit stunned. I was suggesting that they help consumers control of their spending. Did I realize that the bankers and credit card companies made $17 billion a year in interest from these cards? Hello? They should give that up?
Well, I wasn’t that naive. I explained to the bankers that there was a great business proposition behind the idea of a self-control card. “Look,” I said, “the credit card business is cutthroat. You send out six billion direct-mail pieces a year, and all the card offers are about the same.” Reluctantly, they agreed. “But suppose one credit card company stepped out of the pack,” I continued, “and identified itself as a good guy--as an advocate for the credit-crunched consumer? Suppose one company had the guts to offer a card that would actually help consumers control their credit, and better still, divert some of their money into long-term savings?” I glanced around the room. “My bet is that thousands of consumers would cut up their other credit cards-and sign up with you!”
A wave of excitement crossed the room. The bankers nodded their heads and chatted to one another. It was revolutionary! Soon thereafter we all departed. They shook my hand warmly and assured me that we would be talking again, soon.
Well, they never called me back. (It might have been that they were worried about losing the $17 billion in interest charges, or maybe it was just good old procrastination.) But the idea is still there-a self-control credit card-and maybe one day someone will take the next step.
We have groups like Working Assets setting up credit cards for social ends. I expect one day soon some progressive organization like MoveOn.org will set up the self-control credit card on its own.
RELATED: Ariely is hardly the only hero of behavioral economics. I’ve long been a fan of the libertarian paternalism work of Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler.
Friends say they’d better do something about that name. I’d say that the title of their new book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, is a promising move in the right direction.