Wednesday, July 27, 2005


A birthday card to me from Great Britain... Posted by Picasa
Leo: (July 23—Aug. 22) Scientists will have completed a map of the universe within 25 years, making life hell for you and other lovers of ambiguity.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I AM FUCKING INSANE

Or am I?

As we close into the end of my birthday, albeit with a few hours to go until we reach the International Date Line, I thought it would be helpful to jot down a prospectus for my mental state for the upcoming year.

Having enjoyed the ups and downs that seem to fgo hand in hand with bipolar disorder (for some reason), I've decided to make the upcoming year of my life one big 365-day "up." For as much as I can control it, at least.

Coming into this year of my life, I'm filled with a sense of purpose.

In an article about Werner Herzog, Roger Ebert referred to Herzog as "messianic." I like that. That's what I want to go for. I want to communicate big ideas -- A Big Idea, even. I'll speak to inspire, or at least to communicate that I am Inspired. The film I'm working on will be a testament, of sorts. A way to empassion the viewers, as well as the actors and crew who work on the film. (I might want to keep that under my hat while I'm making it, otherwise they'll think I'm nuts. It might be enevitable.)

I just need to find it. So that's the purpose. To find purpose and to share with others, in every communication I make. To share my great vision with the world, whatever that vision is. And to do it all the time.

Am I crazy? Crazy to think like this? Posting this here is about as far as I'm willing to go, crazy-wise. Am I losing heart? I don't think so. I was thinking about emailing some close friends, but what's point in that? Better to deomonstrate through my actions. Email everyoen on my list? TOO crazy, I should think.

So now it's to work. What kind of clothes do messianic types wear? White robes? That'd go nice with a dazed expression. Purple? I'd look liek a pimp. A short, fat, Jewish pimp. Google reveals tha messianic color is red. Without realizing it, I just bought TWO red shirts. I'm on my way...

This is me, captured at midnight this morning, the exact momemnt I turned 32. To be honest, this isn't the first picture I took of myself, but it was the best one that I managed to take before 21:01. I used my new camera phone. Neat.  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Monkey Business
By STEPHEN J. DUBNER and STEVEN D. LEVITT

Keith Chen's Monkey Research

Adam Smith, the founder of classical economics, was certain that humankind's knack for monetary exchange belonged to humankind alone. ''Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog,'' he wrote. ''Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that.'' But in a clean and spacious laboratory at Yale-New Haven Hospital, seven capuchin monkeys have been taught to use money, and a comparison of capuchin behavior and human behavior will either surprise you very much or not at all, depending on your view of humans.

The capuchin is a New World monkey, brown and cute, the size of a scrawny year-old human baby plus a long tail. ''The capuchin has a small brain, and it's pretty much focused on food and sex,'' says Keith Chen, a Yale economist who, along with Laurie Santos, a psychologist, is exploiting these natural desires -- well, the desire for food at least -- to teach the capuchins to buy grapes, apples and Jell-O. ''You should really think of a capuchin as a bottomless stomach of want,'' Chen says. ''You can feed them marshmallows all day, they'll throw up and then come back for more.''

When most people think of economics, they probably conjure images of inflation charts or currency rates rather than monkeys and marshmallows. But economics is increasingly being recognized as a science whose statistical tools can be put to work on nearly any aspect of modern life. That's because economics is in essence the study of incentives, and how people -- perhaps even monkeys -- respond to those incentives. A quick scan of the current literature reveals that top economists are studying subjects like prostitution, rock 'n' roll, baseball cards and media bias.

Chen proudly calls himself a behavioral economist, a member of a growing subtribe whose research crosses over into psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology. He began his monkey work as a Harvard graduate student, in concert with Marc Hauser, a psychologist. The Harvard monkeys were cotton-top tamarins, and the experiments with them concerned altruism. Two monkeys faced each other in adjoining cages, each equipped with a lever that would release a marshmallow into the other monkey's cage. The only way for one monkey to get a marshmallow was for the other monkey to pull its lever. So pulling the lever was to some degree an act of altruism, or at least of strategic cooperation.

The tamarins were fairly cooperative but still showed a healthy amount of self-interest: over repeated encounters with fellow monkeys, the typical tamarin pulled the lever about 40 percent of the time. Then Hauser and Chen heightened the drama. They conditioned one tamarin to always pull the lever (thus creating an altruistic stooge) and another to never pull the lever (thus creating a selfish jerk). The stooge and the jerk were then sent to play the game with the other tamarins. The stooge blithely pulled her lever over and over, never failing to dump a marshmallow into the other monkey's cage. Initially, the other monkeys responded in kind, pulling their own levers 50 percent of the time. But once they figured out that their partner was a pushover (like a parent who buys her kid a toy on every outing whether the kid is a saint or a devil), their rate of reciprocation dropped to 30 percent -- lower than the original average rate. The selfish jerk, meanwhile, was punished even worse. Once her reputation was established, whenever she was led into the experimenting chamber, the other tamarins ''would just go nuts,'' Chen recalls. ''They'd throw their feces at the wall, walk into the corner and sit on their hands, kind of sulk.''


Chen is a hyperverbal, sharp-dressing 29-year-old with spiky hair. The son of Chinese immigrants, he had an itinerant upbringing in the rural Midwest. As a Stanford undergraduate, he was a de facto Marxist before being seduced, quite accidentally, by economics. He may be the only economist conducting monkey experiments, which puts him at slight odds with his psychologist collaborators (who are more interested in behavior itself than in the incentives that produce the behavior) as well as with certain economist colleagues. ''I love interest rates, and I'm willing to talk about their kind of stuff all the time,'' he says, speaking of his fellow economists. ''But I can tell that they're biting their tongues when I tell them what I'm working on.''

It is sometimes unclear, even to Chen himself, exactly what he is working on. When he and Santos, his psychologist collaborator, began to teach the Yale capuchins to use money, he had no pressing research theme. The essential idea was to give a monkey a dollar and see what it did with it. The currency Chen settled on was a silver disc, one inch in diameter, with a hole in the middle -- ''kind of like Chinese money,'' he says. It took several months of rudimentary repetition to teach the monkeys that these tokens were valuable as a means of exchange for a treat and would be similarly valuable the next day. Having gained that understanding, a capuchin would then be presented with 12 tokens on a tray and have to decide how many to surrender for, say, Jell-O cubes versus grapes. This first step allowed each capuchin to reveal its preferences and to grasp the concept of budgeting.

Then Chen introduced price shocks and wealth shocks. If, for instance, the price of Jell-O fell (two cubes instead of one per token), would the capuchin buy more Jell-O and fewer grapes? The capuchins responded rationally to tests like this -- that is, they responded the way most readers of The Times would respond. In economist-speak, the capuchins adhered to the rules of utility maximization and price theory: when the price of something falls, people tend to buy more of it.

Chen next introduced a pair of gambling games and set out to determine which one the monkeys preferred. In the first game, the capuchin was given one grape and, dependent on a coin flip, either retained the original grape or won a bonus grape. In the second game, the capuchin started out owning the bonus grape and, once again dependent on a coin flip, either kept the two grapes or lost one. These two games are in fact the same gamble, with identical odds, but one is framed as a potential win and the other as a potential loss.

How did the capuchins react? They far preferred to take a gamble on the potential gain than the potential loss. This is not what an economics textbook would predict. The laws of economics state that these two gambles, because they represent such small stakes, should be treated equally.

So, does Chen's gambling experiment simply reveal the cognitive limitations of his small-brained subjects? Perhaps not. In similar experiments, it turns out that humans tend to make the same type of irrational decision at a nearly identical rate. Documenting this phenomenon, known as loss aversion, is what helped the psychologist Daniel Kahneman win a Nobel Prize in economics. The data generated by the capuchin monkeys, Chen says, ''make them statistically indistinguishable from most stock-market investors.''

But do the capuchins actually understand money? Or is Chen simply exploiting their endless appetites to make them perform neat tricks?

Several facts suggest the former. During a recent capuchin experiment that used cucumbers as treats, a research assistant happened to slice the cucumber into discs instead of cubes, as was typical. One capuchin picked up a slice, started to eat it and then ran over to a researcher to see if he could ''buy'' something sweeter with it. To the capuchin, a round slice of cucumber bore enough resemblance to Chen's silver tokens to seem like another piece of currency.

Then there is the stealing. Santos has observed that the monkeys never deliberately save any money, but they do sometimes purloin a token or two during an experiment. All seven monkeys live in a communal main chamber of about 750 cubic feet. For experiments, one capuchin at a time is let into a smaller testing chamber next door. Once, a capuchin in the testing chamber picked up an entire tray of tokens, flung them into the main chamber and then scurried in after them -- a combination jailbreak and bank heist -- which led to a chaotic scene in which the human researchers had to rush into the main chamber and offer food bribes for the tokens, a reinforcement that in effect encouraged more stealing.

Something else happened during that chaotic scene, something that convinced Chen of the monkeys' true grasp of money. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility, the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)

This is a sensitive subject. The capuchin lab at Yale has been built and maintained to make the monkeys as comfortable as possible, and especially to allow them to carry on in a natural state. The introduction of money was tricky enough; it wouldn't reflect well on anyone involved if the money turned the lab into a brothel. To this end, Chen has taken steps to ensure that future monkey sex at Yale occurs as nature intended it.

But these facts remain: When taught to use money, a group of capuchin monkeys responded quite rationally to simple incentives; responded irrationally to risky gambles; failed to save; stole when they could; used money for food and, on occasion, sex. In other words, they behaved a good bit like the creature that most of Chen's more traditional colleagues study: Homo sapiens.

Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt are the authors of ''Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.''

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

ROVE-GATE FOLLIES!

Q: Does the president stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in a leak of the name of a CIA operative?

MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked related to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point.

And as I’ve previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it.

The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation. And as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren’t going to comment on it while it is ongoing.

Q: I actually wasn’t talking about any investigation. But in June of 2004, the president said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak to the press about information. I just wanted to know: Is that still his position?

MCCLELLAN: Yes, but this question is coming up in the context of this ongoing investigation, and that’s why I said that our policy continues to be that we’re not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium.

The prosecutors overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference to us that one way to help the investigation is not to be commenting on it from this podium....

Q: Scott, if I could point out: Contradictory to that statement, on September 29th of 2003, while the investigation was ongoing, you clearly commented on it. You were the first one to have said that if anybody from the White House was involved, they would be fired. And then, on June 10th of 2004, at Sea Island Plantation, in the midst of this investigation, when the president made his comments that, yes, he would fire anybody from the White House who was involved. So why have you commented on this during the process of the investigation in the past, but now you’ve suddenly drawn a curtain around it under the statement of, 'We’re not going to comment on an ongoing investigation'?

MCCLELLAN: Again, John, I appreciate the question. I know you want to get to the bottom of this. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States. And I think the way to be most helpful is to not get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation. And that’s something that the people overseeing the investigation have expressed a preference that we follow.

And that’s why we’re continuing to follow that approach and that policy. Now, I remember very well what was previously said. And, at some point, I will be glad to talk about it, but not until after the investigation is complete.

Q: So could I just ask: When did you change your mind to say that it was OK to comment during the course of an investigation before, but now it’s not?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think maybe you missed what I was saying in reference to Terry’s question at the beginning. There came a point, when the investigation got under way, when those overseeing the investigation asked that it would be — or said that it would be their preference that we not get into discussing it while it is ongoing.
I think that’s the way to be most helpful to help them advance the investigation and get to the bottom of it.

Q: Scott, can I ask you this: Did Karl Rove commit a crime?

MCCLELLAN: Again, David, this is a question relating to a ongoing investigation, and you have my response related to the investigation. And I don't think you should read anything into it other than: We're going to continue not to comment on it while it's ongoing.

Q: Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003, when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliot Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, "I've gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this"?

MCCLELLAN: And if you will recall, I said that, as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation, we're not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time as well.

Q: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you've decided not to talk. You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?

MCCLELLAN: I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation...

Q: (inaudible) when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate?

MCCLELLAN: If you'll let me finish.

Q: No, you're not finishing. You're not saying anything. You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn't he?

MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

Q: Do you think people will accept that, what you're saying today?

MCCLELLAN: Again, I've responded to the question.

QUESTION: You're in a bad spot here, Scott... because after the investigation began -- after the criminal investigation was under way -- you said, October 10th, 2003, "I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby. As I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this," from that podium. That's after the criminal investigation began.

Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?

MCCLELLAN: No, that's not a correct characterization. And I think you are well aware of that.....

And we want to be helpful so that they can get to the bottom of this. Because no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States.

I am well aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously. And at some point I look forward to talking about it. But until the investigation is complete, I'm just not going to do that.

Q: So you're now saying that after you cleared Rove and the others from that podium, then the prosecutors asked you not to speak anymore and since then you haven't.

MCCLELLAN: Again, you're continuing to ask questions relating to an ongoing criminal investigation and I'm just not going to respond to them.

Q: When did they ask you to stop commenting on it, Scott? Can you pin down a date?

MCCLELLAN: Back in that time period.

Q: Well, then the president commented on it nine months later. So was he not following the White House plan?

MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your questions. You can keep asking them, but you have my response.

Q: Well, we are going to keep asking them. When did the president learn that Karl Rove had had a conversation with a news reporter about the involvement of Joseph Wilson's wife in the decision to send him to Africa?

MCCLELLAN: I've responded to the questions.

Q: When did the president learn that Karl Rove had been...

MCCLELLAN: I've responded to your questions.

Q: After the investigation is completed, will you then be consistent with your word and the president's word that anybody who was involved will be let go?

MCCLELLAN: Again, after the investigation is complete, I will be glad to talk about it at that point.

Q: Can you walk us through why, given the fact that Rove's lawyer has spoken publicly about this, it is inconsistent with the investigation, that it compromises the investigation to talk about the involvement of Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff, here?

MCCLELLAN: Well, those overseeing the investigation expressed a preference to us that we not get into commenting on the investigation while it's ongoing. And that was what they requested of the White House. And so I think in order to be helpful to that investigation, we are following their direction.

Q: Does the president continue to have confidence in Mr. Rove?

MCCLELLAN: Again, these are all questions coming up in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation. And you've heard my response on this.

Q: So you're not going to respond as to whether or not the president has confidence in his deputy chief of staff?

MCCLELLAN: You're asking this question in the context of an ongoing investigation, and I would not read anything into it other then I'm simply going to comment on an ongoing investigation.

Q: Has there been any change, or is there a plan for Mr. Rove's portfolio to be altered in any way?

MCCLELLAN: Again, you have my response to these questions....

***

Q: There’s a difference between commenting publicly on an action and taking action in response to it. Newsweek put out a story, an e-mail saying that Karl Rove passed national security information on to a reporter that outed a CIA officer. Now, are you saying that the president is not taking any action in response to that? Because I presume that the prosecutor did not ask you not to take action and that if he did you still would not necessarily abide by that; that the president is free to respond to news reports, regardless of whether there’s an investigation or not.

So are you saying that he’s not going to do anything about this until the investigation is fully over and done with?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think the president has previously spoken to this.

This continues to be an ongoing criminal investigation. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States. And we’re just not going to have more to say on it until that investigation is complete.

***
Q: When the leak investigation is completed, does the president believe it might be important for his credibility, the credibility of the White House, to release all the information voluntarily that was submitted as part of the investigation, so the American public could see what transpired inside the White House at the time?

MCCLELLAN: This is an investigation being overseen by a special prosecutor. And I think those are questions best directed to the special prosecutor.

Q: Have you or the White House considered whether that would be optimal to release as much information and make it as open…

MCCLELLAN: It’s the same type of question. You’re asking me to comment on an ongoing investigation and I’m not going to do that.

Q: I’d like you to talk about the communications strategies just a little bit there.

MCCLELLAN: Understood. The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation, and that’s what he expects people in the White House to do.

Q: And he would like to do that when it is concluded, cooperate fully with…

MCCLELLAN: Again, I’ve already responded.

Q: Scott, who in the investigation made this request of the White House not to comment further about the investigation? Was it Mr. Fitzgerald? Did he make a request of you specifically?

MCCLELLAN: You can direct those questions to the special prosecutors. I think probably more than one individual who’s involved in overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference that we not get into commenting on the investigation while it’s ongoing.

Friday, July 08, 2005

I'M A WINNER!!!

Just got the following email...

Dear Before Sunset Fan:

Congratulations! You have been chosen as a Grand Prize winner of the “Warner Independent Pictures Before Sunset Member Giveaway” sponsored by Warner Bros. Online.

You have won the following:
One (1) autographed copy of the screenplay from the Warner Independent Pictures feature, “Before Sunset”
One copy of the “Before Sunrise” DVD
One copy of the “Before Sunset” DVD

All prizing will be mailed to the address you provided at time of entry. Delivery takes approximately 6-8 weeks.

We hope that you enjoy your prize! Don’t forget to check www.warnerbros.com for new and exciting sweepstakes!

Sincerely,

Warner Bros. Online Prize Fulfillment Team


This is the first time I've won anything since that size small "Dancer in the Dark" t-shirt a few years ago. Oh, and all those tools from my assistant's dance fundraiser last month.

Bask in my full life! In your face, losers!
Man Lights Himself on Fire to Propose



GRANTS PASS, Ore. - To prove his love, a 38-year-old man set himself on fire before getting down on one knee and asking his girlfriend to marry him.

About 100 people gathered to watch Todd Grannis perform the flaming stunt on Monday, which involved wearing a cape soaked in gasoline.

Grannis climbed up a 10-foot scaffold, was set on fire and then plunged into a swimming pool, dousing the blaze. Emerging unscathed, he got down on one knee and proposed, as a friend standing nearby slipped him the engagement ring.

"Honey, you make me hot," he told his sweetheart, Malissa Kusiek. "I hope I'm getting the point across that I'm on fire for you."

Kusiek, who has been dating Grannis for several years, said "yes," but added that she was a little angry because of the danger.

"At first I was mad, because I thought, 'He's not a stuntman,'" Kusiek said. "Then, of course, the tears started flowing. Of course I said yes. I was so thrilled."

Grannis said he came up with the stunt through the help of his friend, professional stuntman Eric Barkey. Barkey pulled out a photo of himself on fire and said, "You could do that," Grannis said.

Grannis met Kusiek, the owner of a local hair salon, when she cut his hair.

"I kept telling her sometime before I'm 50," said Grannis, who co-owns an Internet wholesale company. "She wasn't expecting it. She had no clue."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

TOO MUCH INFORMATION?

Don't ask why I was reading an online bio of Supreme Court Justice Bajamin Cardozo, but I was struck by this tidbit in the second-to-last paragraph: "As far as is known, Benjamin Cardozo led the life of a celibate." And I always assumed that being known as a "bachelor" in the history books meant one was gay. I hope when I go, history's gossip about my personal life will be a little less bleak than that.
Republicans. Unconciousness. Sodomy. It doesn't get any better than this.

Dr. Hager's Family Values

by AYELISH MCGARVEY

[from the Nation, May 30, 2005 issue]

Late last October Dr. W. David Hager, a prominent obstetrician-gynecologist and Bush Administration appointee to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), took to the pulpit as the featured speaker at a morning service. He stood in the campus chapel at Asbury College, a small evangelical Christian school nestled among picturesque horse farms in the small town of Wilmore in Kentucky's bluegrass region. Hager is an Asburian nabob; his elderly father is a past president of the college, and Hager himself currently sits on his alma mater's board of trustees. Even the school's administrative building, Hager Hall, bears the family name.

That day, a mostly friendly audience of 1,500 students and faculty packed into the seats in front of him. With the autumn sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows, Hager opened his Bible to the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel and looked out into the audience. "I want to share with you some information about how...God has called me to stand in the gap," he declared. "Not only for others, but regarding ethical and moral issues in our country."

For Hager, those moral and ethical issues all appear to revolve around sex: In both his medical practice and his advisory role at the FDA, his ardent evangelical piety anchors his staunch opposition to emergency contraception, abortion and premarital sex. Through his six books--which include such titles as Stress and the Woman's Body and As Jesus Cared for Women, self-help tomes that interweave syrupy Christian spirituality with paternalistic advice on women's health and relationships--he has established himself as a leading conservative Christian voice on women's health and sexuality.

And because of his warm relationship with the Bush Administration, Hager has had the opportunity to see his ideas influence federal policy. In December 2003 the FDA advisory committee of which he is a member was asked to consider whether emergency contraception, known as Plan B, should be made available over the counter. Over Hager's dissent, the committee voted overwhelmingly to approve the change. But the FDA rejected its recommendation, a highly unusual and controversial decision in which Hager, The Nation has learned, played a key role. Hager's reappointment to the committee, which does not require Congressional approval, is expected this June, but Bush's nomination of Dr. Lester Crawford as FDA director has been bogged down in controversy over the issue of emergency contraception. Crawford was acting director throughout the Plan B debacle, and Senate Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray, are holding up his nomination until the agency revisits its decision about going over the counter with the pill.

When Hager's nomination to the FDA was announced in the fall of 2002, his conservative Christian beliefs drew sharp criticism from Democrats and prochoice groups. David Limbaugh, the lesser light in the Limbaugh family and author of Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging Political War Against Christianity, said the left had subjected Hager to an "anti-Christian litmus test." Hager's valor in the face of this "religious profiling" earned him the praise and lasting support of evangelical Christians, including such luminaries as Charles Colson, Dr. James Dobson and Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham.

Back at Asbury, Hager cast himself as a victim of religious persecution in his sermon. "You see...there is a war going on in this country," he said gravely. "And I'm not speaking about the war in Iraq. It's a war being waged against Christians, particularly evangelical Christians. It wasn't my scientific record that came under scrutiny [at the FDA]. It was my faith.... By making myself available, God has used me to stand in the breach.... Just as he has used me, he can use you."

Up on the dais, several men seated behind Hager nodded solemnly in agreement. But out in the audience, Linda Carruth Davis--co-author with Hager of Stress and the Woman's Body, and, more saliently, his former wife of thirty-two years--was enraged. "It was the most disgusting thing I've ever heard," she recalled months later, through clenched teeth.

According to Davis, Hager's public moralizing on sexual matters clashed with his deplorable treatment of her during their marriage. Davis alleges that between 1995 and their divorce in 2002, Hager repeatedly sodomized her without her consent. Several sources on and off the record confirmed that she had told them it was the sexual and emotional abuse within their marriage that eventually forced her out. "I probably wouldn't have objected so much, or felt it was so abusive if he had just wanted normal [vaginal] sex all the time," she explained to me. "But it was the painful, invasive, totally nonconsensual nature of the [anal] sex that was so horrible."

Not once during the uproar over Hager's FDA appointment did any reporter solicit the opinion of the woman now known as Linda Davis--she remarried in November 2002 to James Davis, a Methodist minister, and relocated to southern Georgia--on her husband's record, even though she contributed to much of his self-help work in the Christian arena (she remains a religious and political conservative). She intermittently thought of telling her story but refrained, she says, out of respect for her adult children. It was Hager's sermon at Asbury last October that finally changed her mind. Davis was there to hear her middle son give a vocal performance; she was prepared to hear her ex-husband inveigh against secular liberals, but she was shocked to hear him speak about their divorce when he took to the pulpit.

"In early 2002," Hager told the churchgoers that day, "my world fell apart.... After thirty-two years of marriage, I was suddenly alone in a new home that we had built as our dream home. Time spent 'doing God's will' had kept me from spending the time I needed to nourish my marriage." Hager noted with pride that in his darkest hour, Focus on the Family estimated that 50 million people worldwide were praying for him.

Linda Davis quietly fumed in her chair. "He had the gall to stand under the banner of holiness of the Lord and lie, by the sin of omission," she told me. "It's what he didn't say--it's the impression he left."

David Hager is not the fringe character and fundamentalist faith healer that some of his critics have made him out to be. In fact, he is a well-credentialed doctor. In Kentucky Hager has long been recognized as a leading Ob-Gyn at Lexington's Central Baptist Hospital and a faculty member at the University of Kentucky's medical school. And in the 1990s several magazines, including Modern Healthcare and Good Housekeeping, counted him among the best doctors for women in the nation.

Yet while Hager doesn't advocate the substitution of conservative Christianity for medicine, his religious ideology underlies an all-encompassing paternalism in his approach to his women patients. "Even though I was trained as a medical specialist," Hager explained in the preface to As Jesus Cared for Women, "it wasn't until I began to see how Jesus treated women that I understood how I, as a doctor, should treat them." To underscore this revelation, Hager recounted case after case in which he acted as confidant, spiritual adviser and even father figure to his grateful patients. As laid out in his writings, Hager's worldview is not informed by a sense of inherent equality between men and women. Instead, men are expected to act as benevolent authority figures for the women in their lives. (In one of his books, he refers to a man who raped his wife as "selfish" and "sinful.") But to model gender relations on the one Jesus had with his followers is to leave women dangerously exposed in the event that the men in their lives don't meet the high standard set by God Himself--trapped in a permanent state of dependence hoping to be treated well.

In tandem with his medical career, Hager has been an aggressive advocate for the political agenda of the Christian right. A member of Focus on the Family's Physician Resource Council and the Christian Medical and Dental Society, Hager assisted the Concerned Women for America in submitting a "Citizen's Petition" to the FDA in August 2002 to halt distribution and marketing of the abortion pill, RU-486. It was this record of conservative activism that ignited a firestorm when the Bush Administration first floated his name for chairman of the FDA's advisory committee in the fall of 2002. In the end, the FDA found a way to dodge the controversy: It issued a stealth announcement of Hager's appointment to the panel (to be one of eleven members, not chairman) on Christmas Eve. Liberals were furious that they weren't able to block his appointment. For many months afterward, an outraged chain letter alerting women to the appointment of a man with religious views "far outside the mainstream" snaked its way around the Internet, lending the whole episode the air of urban legend.

Back in Lexington, where the couple continued to live, Linda Hager, as she was still known at the time, was sinking into a deep depression, she says. Though her marriage had been dead for nearly a decade, she could not see her way clear to divorce; she had no money of her own and few marketable skills. But life with David Hager had grown unbearable. As his public profile increased, so did the tension in their home, which she says periodically triggered episodes of abuse. "I would be asleep," she recalls, "and since [the sodomy] was painful and threatening, I woke up. Sometimes I acquiesced once he had started, just to make it go faster, and sometimes I tried to push him off.... I would [confront] David later, and he would say, 'You asked me to do that,' and I would say, 'No, I never asked for it.'"

I first heard of Davis's experience in 2004 through a friend of hers. After a few telephone conversations, she agreed to have me fly down to see her in her modest parsonage in Georgia, to tell me her story on the record. With her mod reading glasses, stylish bob and clever outfits, Davis, 55, is a handsome woman with a sharp wit. She spoke with me over two days in January.

Linda Davis (née Carruth) first met David Hager on the campus of Asbury College in 1967. "On the very first date he sat me down and told me he was going to marry me," Davis remembers. "I was so overwhelmed by this aggressive approach of 'I see you and I want you' that I was completely seduced by it."

Davis, a former beauty queen, was a disengaged student eager to get married and start a family. A Hager-Carruth marriage promised prestige and wealth for the couple; her father was a famous Methodist evangelist, and his father was then president of Asbury. "On the surface, it just looked so good," she remembers. The couple married in 1970, while Hager completed medical school at the University of Kentucky.

"I don't think I was married even a full year before I realized that I had made a horrible mistake," Davis says. By her account, Hager was demanding and controlling, and the couple shared little emotional intimacy. "But," she says, "the people around me said, 'Well, you've made your bed, and now you have to lie in it.'" So Davis commenced with family making and bore three sons: Philip, in 1973; Neal, in 1977; and Jonathan, in 1979.

Sometime between the births of Neal and Jonathan, Hager embarked on an affair with a Bible-study classmate who was a friend of Davis's. A close friend of Davis's remembers her calling long distance when she found out: "She was angry and distraught, like any woman with two children would be. But she was committed to working it out."

Sex was always a source of conflict in the marriage. Though it wasn't emotionally satisfying for her, Davis says she soon learned that sex could "buy" peace with Hager after a long day of arguing, or insure his forgiveness after she spent too much money. "Sex was coinage; it was a commodity," she said. Sometimes Hager would blithely shift from vaginal to anal sex. Davis protested. "He would say, 'Oh, I didn't mean to have anal sex with you; I can't feel the difference,'" Davis recalls incredulously. "And I would say, 'Well then, you're in the wrong business.'"

By the 1980s, according to Davis, Hager was pressuring her to let him videotape and photograph them having sex. She consented, and eventually she even let Hager pay her for sex that she wouldn't have otherwise engaged in--for example, $2,000 for oral sex, "though that didn't happen very often because I hated doing it so much. So though it was more painful, I would let him sodomize me, and he would leave a check on the dresser," Davis admitted to me with some embarrassment. This exchange took place almost weekly for several years.

Money was an explosive issue in their household. Hager kept an iron grip on the family purse strings. Initially the couple's single checking account was in Hager's name only, which meant that Davis had to appeal to her husband for cash, she says. Eventually he relented and opened a dual account. Davis recalls that Hager would return home every evening and make a beeline for his office to balance the checkbook, often angrily summoning her to account for the money she'd spent that day. Brenda Bartella Peterson, Davis's friend of twenty-five years and her neighbor at the time, witnessed Hager berate his wife in their kitchen after one such episode. For her part, Davis set out to subvert Hager's financial dominance with profligate spending on credit cards opened in her own name. "I was not willing to face reality about money," she admits. "I thought, 'Well, money can't buy happiness, but it buys the kind of misery you can learn to live with.'"

These financial atmospherics undoubtedly figured into Linda's willingness to accept payment for sex. But eventually her conscience caught up with her. "Finally...I said, 'You know, David, this is like being a prostitute. I just can't do this anymore; I don't think it's healthy for our relationship,'" she recalls.

By 1995, according to Davis's account, Hager's treatment of his wife had moved beyond morally reprehensible to potentially felonious. It was a uniquely stressful year for Davis. Her mother, dying of cancer, had moved in with the family and was in need of constant care. At the same time, Davis was suffering from a seemingly inexplicable exhaustion during the day. She began exhibiting a series of strange behaviors, like falling asleep in such curious places as the mall and her closet. Occasionally she would--as she describes it--"zone out" in midsentence in a conversation, and her legs would buckle. Eventually, Davis was diagnosed as having narcolepsy, a neurological disorder that affects the brain's ability to regulate normal sleep-wake cycles.

For Davis, the diagnosis spelled relief, and a physician placed her on several medications to attain "sleep hygiene," or a consistent sleep pattern. But Davis says it was after the diagnosis that the period of the most severe abuse began. For the next seven years Hager sodomized Davis without her consent while she slept roughly once a month until their divorce in 2002, she claims. "My sense is that he saw [my narcolepsy] as an opportunity," Davis surmises. Sometimes she fought Hager off and he would quit for a while, only to circle back later that same night; at other times, "the most expedient thing was to try and somehow get it [over with]. In order to keep any peace, I had to maintain the illusion of being available to him." At still other moments, she says, she attempted to avoid Hager's predatory advances in various ways--for example, by sleeping in other rooms in the house, or by struggling to stay awake until Hager was in a deep sleep himself. But, she says, nothing worked. One of Davis's lifelong confidantes remembers when Davis first told her about the abuse. "[Linda] was very angry and shaken," she recalled.

As Hager began fielding calls from the White House personnel office in 2001, the stress in the household--and, with it, the abuse--hit an all-time high, according to Davis. She says she confronted her husband on numerous occasions: "[I said to him,] 'Every time you do this, I hate your guts. And it blows a bridge out between us that takes weeks, if not months, to heal.'" She says that Hager would, in rare instances, admit what he had done and apologize, but typically would deny it altogether.

For a while, fears of poverty, isolation and damnation were enough to keep Davis from seeking a divorce. She says that she had never cheated on Hager, but after reuniting with a high school sweetheart (not her current husband) in the chaotic aftermath of September 11, she had a brief affair. En route to their first, and only, rendezvous, she prayed aloud. "I said to the Lord, 'All right. I do not want to die without having sex with someone I love,'" she remembers. "'I want to know what that's like, Lord. I know that it's a sin, and I know this is adultery. But I have to know what it's like.'"

Davis was sure that God would strike her dead on her way home that weekend. But when nothing happened, she took it as a good sign. Back in Lexington, she walked through her front door and made a decision right there on the spot. "I said, 'David, I want a divorce.'"

Marital rape is a foreign concept to many women with stories like this one. Indeed, Linda Davis had never heard the term until midway through her divorce. In Kentucky a person is guilty of rape in the first degree when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person by "forcible compulsion"; or when the victim is incapable of consent because she is physically helpless. The same standards apply to the crime of sodomy in the first degree (equivalent to rape, and distinct from consensual sodomy). Both are felonies.

In sexual assault cases, the outcome hinges on the issue of consent. A high-level domestic violence prosecutor in Kentucky confirmed that a scenario such as this one, in which Davis was in a deep sleep from the narcolepsy, could meet the "physically helpless" standard required for a first-degree offense. A prosecutor could also argue that Hager engaged in sodomy with Davis by means of forcible compulsion, even though the alleged encounters did not involve violence. According to the Kentucky Supreme Court's decision in 1992 in Yarnell v. Commonwealth, a climate of abuse involving "constant emotional, verbal, and physical duress" is tantamount to forcible compulsion. In that case, the victims submitted to the sex acts to avoid a loss of financial security, as well as to maintain peace in the household.

Historically, the legal system has long been indifferent to the crime of marital sexual assault; as recently as twelve years ago in some states, it was legal for a man to force his wife physically into sex, or commence having sex without her consent--actions that could land a stranger in jail. Until 2000 the Kentucky Penal Code still contained archaic procedural obstacles for prosecuting marital rape, including a requirement that it be reported within one year of the offense. (No other felony--including "stranger rape"--contains a statute of limitations.) Even today, marital sexual assault is a notoriously difficult crime to prosecute. Women like Davis often have strong financial incentives to stay with their spouses; those who speak out frequently face an uphill battle to convince people that their husbands, who may be well liked and respected, are capable of something this ugly at home. Also, because marriages play out over many years, some sex is consensual, while other sex is not--a fact that may complicate matters for a jury in a criminal proceeding.

Linda Davis chose not to bring allegations of marital rape into her divorce proceedings; her foremost desires at the time were a fair settlement and minimal disruption for her sons. Nonetheless, she informed her lawyer of the abuse. Natalie Wilson, a divorce attorney in Lexington, asked Linda to draw up a working chronology of her marriage to Hager. "[It] included references to what I would call the sexual abuse," Wilson explained. "I had no reason not to believe her.... It was an explanation for some of the things that went on in the marriage, and it explained her reluctance to share that information with her sons--which had resulted in her sons' being very angry about the fact that she was insisting on the divorce."

As it turned out, when the dust settled after their divorce, nearly everyone in the Hagers' Christian and medical circles in Lexington had sided with Hager, who told people that his wife was mentally unstable and had moved in with another man (she moved in with friends).

Davis had only told a handful of people about the abuse throughout her marriage, but several of her longtime confidantes confirmed for this article that she had told them of the abuse at the time it was occurring. Wilson, the attorney, spoke to me on the record, as did Brenda Bartella Peterson, Davis's close friend of twenty-five years. Several others close to Davis spoke to me off the record. Two refused to speak to me and denounced Davis for going public, but they did not contest her claims. Many attempts to interview nearly a dozen of Hager's friends and supporters in Lexington and around the country were unsuccessful.

As for David Hager, after repeated attempts to interview him for this story, we finally spoke for nearly half an hour in early April. That conversation was off the record. "My official comment is that I decline to comment," he said.

As disturbing as they are on their own, Linda Davis's allegations take on even more gravity in light of Hager's public role as a custodian of women's health. Some may argue that this is just a personal matter between a man and his former wife--a simple case of "he said, she said" with no public implications. That might be so--if there were no allegations of criminal conduct, if the alleged conduct did not bear any relevance to the public responsibilities of the person in question, and if the allegations themselves were not credible and independently corroborated. But given that this case fails all of those tests, the public has a right to call on Dr. David Hager to answer Linda Davis's charges before he is entrusted with another term. After all, few women would knowingly choose a sexual abuser as their gynecologist, and fewer still would likely be comfortable with the idea of letting one serve as a federal adviser on women's health issues.

(Lest inappropriate analogies be drawn between the Hager accusations and the politics of personal destruction that nearly brought down the presidency of Bill Clinton, it ought to be remembered that President Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky was never alleged to be criminal and did not affect his ability to fulfill his obligations to the nation. This, of course, did not stop the religious right from calling for his head. "The topic of private vs. public behavior has emerged as perhaps the central moral issue raised by Bill Clinton's 'improper relationship,'" wrote evangelist and Hager ally Franklin Graham at the time. "But the God of the Bible says that what one does in private does matter. There needs to be no clash between personal conduct and public appearance.")

Hager's FDA assignment is an object lesson in the potential influence of a single appointment to a federal advisory committee that in turn affects thousands, even millions, of lives. Witness the behind-the-scenes machinations that set the stage for the FDA's ruling against Plan B, a decision that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called a "dark stain on the reputation of an evidence-based agency like the FDA."

On December 16, 2003, twenty-seven of the FDA's advisers on women's health and nonprescription drugs gathered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of emergency contraception for over-the-counter use. (The Plan B pill, which drastically reduces the risk of pregnancy when used within seventy-two hours after intercourse, has long been available by prescription only; its advocates say its greater availability could significantly reduce the nation's abortion rate.) After a long day of highly technical deliberation, the advisers voted 23 to 4 to drop the prescription-only status of emergency contraception. "I've been on this committee...for almost four years, and I would take this to be the safest product that we have seen brought before us," announced Dr. Julie Johnson, a professor at the University of Florida's Colleges of Pharmacy and Medicine.

But on May 6, 2004, the FDA rejected the advice of its own experts and refused to approve the sale of Plan B over the counter. In his letter to Barr Laboratories, Steven Galson, acting director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, claimed that Barr had not provided adequate data showing just how young adolescent women would actually use the drug.

That issue was never voted on by the committee. It was, however, broached by Hager at the meeting; he mentioned his concern for these "younger adolescents" several times.

In his private practice back in Kentucky, Hager doesn't prescribe emergency contraception, because he believes it is an abortifacient, and, not surprisingly, his was one of the four votes against widening its availability. But rather than voice his ethical opposition to the product, Hager emphasized his concern about adolescents, which other committee members have since called a "political fig leaf." According to Dr. James Trussell, who voted in favor of Plan B, the FDA had at hand six studies examining whether teens as young as 15 would increase their "risky" behavior if they knew they had a backup emergency contraceptive--and none of the studies showed any evidence for that contention.

In his sermon at Asbury College last fall, Hager proudly recounted his role in the Plan B decision. "After two days of hearings," he said, "the committees voted to approve this over-the-counter sale by 23 to 4. I was asked to write a minority opinion that was sent to the commissioner of the FDA.... Now the opinion I wrote was not from an evangelical Christian perspective.... But I argued it from a scientific perspective, and God took that information, and He used it through this minority report to influence the decision." [Emphasis added.]

None of the four panel members I spoke with for this article were aware of Hager's "minority opinion." An FDA spokeswoman told me that "the FDA did not ask for a minority opinion from this advisory committee," though she was unable to say whether any individual within the agency had requested such a document from Hager. This past January the FDA missed a deadline to respond to a new application from Barr Laboratories, and any forward motion on making Plan B more widely available has completely stalled.

Meanwhile, David Hager's stock has been rising among conservatives. Though his term on the FDA panel is set to expire on June 30, observers on both sides of the political divide anticipate his reappointment. In March I spoke with Janice Shaw Crouse, executive director and senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the research arm of Concerned Women for America. She is one of Hager's staunchest advocates in Washington (some credit her with engineering his FDA appointment); Crouse sits alongside Hager on Asbury College's board of trustees. In May, when informed of the allegations against him, she declined to revise her earlier statement. "I would not be at all surprised to see Dr. Hager elevated to a higher position or to another very influential position when it comes to women's care," she told me. "Because he has shown that he does care about women regardless of...the [religious] issues that people want to try to raise.... When people try to discredit him, he continues on. He hasn't caved in, and he hasn't waffled. He has been a gentleman. He is a person of character and integrity, and I think people admire that."

Saturday, July 02, 2005






I am very disappointed that I didn't get this from the Outlaw Indian Lawyer.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Even the former doctor for the President's father hates America now...

The Stain of Torture

By Burton J. Lee III

Friday, July 1, 2005; Page A25

Having served as a doctor in the Army Medical Corps early in my career and as presidential physician to George H.W. Bush for four years, I might be expected to bring a skeptical and partisan perspective to allegations of torture and abuse by U.S. forces. I might even be expected to join those who, on the one hand, deny that U.S. personnel have engaged in systematic use of torture while, on the other, claiming that such abuse is justified. But I cannot do so.

It's precisely because of my devotion to country, respect for our military and commitment to the ethics of the medical profession that I speak out against systematic, government-sanctioned torture and excessive abuse of prisoners during our war on terrorism. I am also deeply disturbed by the reported complicity in these abuses of military medical personnel. This extraordinary shift in policy and values is alien to my concept of modern-day America and of my government and profession.


The military prides itself, as do physicians, on being professional in every sense of the word. It fosters leadership and discipline. When I served as White House physician, my entire professional staff was drawn from the military, and they were among the best and most competent people I have met, without qualification.

The military ethics that I know absolutely prohibit anything resembling torture. There are several good reasons for this. Prisoners should be treated as we would expect our prisoners to be treated. Discipline and order in the military ranks depend to a large extent on compliance with the prohibition of torture -- indeed, weak or damaged psyches inclined toward torture or abuse have generally been weeded out of the military, or at the very least given less responsibility. In addition, military leaders have long been aware that torture inflicts lasting damage on both the victim and the torturer. The systematic infliction of torture engenders deep hatred and hostility that transcends generations. And it perverts the role of medical personnel from healers to instruments of abuse.

Today, however, it seems as though our government and the military have slipped into Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." The widespread reports of torture and ill-treatment -- frequently based on military and government documents -- defy the claim that this abusive behavior is limited to a few noncommissioned officers at Abu Ghraib or isolated incidents at Guantanamo Bay. When it comes to torture, the military's traditional leadership and discipline have been severely compromised up and down the chain of command. Why? I fear it is because the military has bowed to errant civilian leadership.

Our medical code of ethics requires us to oppose torture wherever it is inflicted, for any reason. Guided by this ethic, I served as a volunteer with the international group MEDICO in 1963, taking care of people who had been tortured by the French during Algeria's civil war. I remain deeply affected by that experience today -- by the people I tried to help and could not, and by their families, which suffered the most terrible grief. I heard the victims' stories, examined their permanently broken bodies and looked into faces that could not see me because of the irreparable damage done not only to their senses but also to their brains. As I have studied reports of torture throughout our troubled world since then, I have always found comfort in knowing that at least it did not occur here, not among Americans.

Now that comfort is shattered. Reports of torture by U.S. forces have been accompanied by evidence that military medical personnel have played a role in this abuse and by new military ethical guidelines that in effect authorize complicity by health professionals in ill-treatment of detainees. These new guidelines distort traditional ethical rules beyond recognition to serve the interests of interrogators, not doctors and detainees.

I urge my fellow health professionals to join me and many others in reaffirming our ethical commitment to prevent torture; to clearly state that systematic torture, sanctioned by the government and aided and abetted by our own profession, is not acceptable. As health professionals, we should support the growing calls for an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, and demand restoration of ethical standards that protect physicians, nurses, medics and psychologists from becoming facilitators of abuse.

America cannot continue down this road. Torture demonstrates weakness, not strength. It does not show understanding, power or magnanimity. It is not leadership. It is a reaction of government officials overwhelmed by fear who succumb to conduct unworthy of them and of the citizens of the United States.

The writer is a former physician to the president to George H.W. Bush and a board member of Physicians for Human Rights.