Category: HackWatch

Aurora Tragedy Shines Spotlight On Medical Schools

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Aurora, Colorado: As families and friends of the victims of today’s tragic shootings gather to mourn for the departed, a storm of suspicion is gathering over the institution some say is at the heart of the nation’s recent epidemic of mass homicides, the American medical school.

In the early hours of confusion surrounding the attacks at a screening of “The Dark Night Rises” at an Aurora movie theater, some media outlets and politicians erroneously tied the shootings to the Tea Party movement, the Democratic Party, violent videogames, and enemies of Judeo-Christianity. But as details on the shooter emerge, a clearer picture is coming into focus. The sole suspect in the shootings, James Holmes, was a recent drop-out from the University of Colorado medical school.

Experts caution that it is too early to say that the suspect’s medical education led him down a path ending in mass murder, but many are reminded of Dr. Nidal Hassan, who is presently awaiting trial for his role in the Fort Hood shootings of November 2009, and who, like James Holmes, attended medical school.

“I don’t want to speculate on whether attending medical school inspired the Batman killer’s rampage,” said Professor Lewis Deery of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in an interview on MSNBC, “but the similarities are eerie. Here you have one graduate of a medical school opening fire, with no apparent motive, on innocent people on an Army base, and here you have another man who attended medical school opening fire, with no apparent motive, on innocent people at a midnight movie. Am I saying that these men were trained to kill when they attended medical school? No, but that possibility can’t be discounted based on the limited information we have at this time.”

In a roundtable discussion on the Fox News Channel’s Fox and Friends, Ariel Spain of the Columbia School of Journalism’s Tragedy Studies Department echoed Professor Deery’s caution concerning the Dark Knight shooter’s medical background. “It would be irresponsible, and reckless, to claim that James Holmes was programmed to become an unthinking assassin at the Colorado medical school simply because of the countless cases in which medical school graduates have gone on murder sprees, but many are asking themselves, right now, about the similarities between the Aurora shootings and the case of Dr. Jeffrey McDonald, who murdered his entire family in the 1970s. In both cases, I’ll note, the murderer attended a highly regarded medical school.

Following a moment of silence for the fallen in the United States House of Representatives, House majority leader Eric Cantor promised a grieving nation that its Congress would conduct a full investigation into the causes of the Aurora shootings. “It’s far too early to say whether the nefarious crimes of the infamous assassin James Eagan Holmes were the work of insidious medical professors, transforming our nation’s best and brightest into psychopathic killing machines. But,” Cantor informed the House, “the American people have a right to know.”

Across the capital, Attorney General Eric Holder convened a news conference on the killings, promising federal aid to Colorado authorities in conducting full, fair, and impartial investigation into the tragedy. “I cannot comment on specifics of the case at this time, and  it would be imprudent for me to speculate on who may be responsible for these horrific crimes at the outset of an investigation, but let me assure the grieving people of Aurora that the Department of Justice will hold all those who aided and abetted this tragedy responsible, from the lowest professor to the Dean of the medical college himself.”

Historians of past calamities reiterated the Attorney General’s warning against pre-judging the case. On C-Span’s Books in Review, Dr. Thomas Waltham of the American University’s Department of European History warned against a “witch hunt” in connection with the Aurora case. “Time and again, we historians see cases in which the people are led, by politicians, the media, and religious leaders into demonizing some despised minority for the actions of one. That only compounds the tragedy. It would be reckless to tie the Batman shootings into some historical framework of past atrocities by medical school graduates, such as the infamous “Doctor’s Plot” in the Soviet Union, where prosecutors showed that a sinister cabal of people who, just like Nidal Hassan and the Batman killer, attended medical school had committed an unspeakably vile series of murders aimed at destabilizing and overthrowing the government.”

Representatives of the American Association of Medical Colleges, which represent medical schools including the Colorado institution where James Eagan Holmes was allegedly trained, were contacted for comment, but did not return telephone calls before this story went to press.

Jenny McCarthy Continues Killing Kids

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

With Jenny McCarthy in the news for appearing on the cover of this month’s Playboy and hosting a dopey reality show on NBC, I thought now was a good time to remind people that she is responsible for the death of hundreds of children as a result of her scientifically bogus anti-vaccination rhetoric.

After McCarthy’s son was diagnosed with autism in 2005, she became the unofficial spokesperson for the notion that certain vaccines caused autism.  Even though it was discovered that the study that linked vaccines to autism was invented after lawyers bribed the study’s author to write the report in hopes that they could strike gold by bringing lawsuits against drug companies, and even though McCarthy found out that her son was misdiagnosed and never actually had autism, she continues to preach against vaccinating children.

While McCarthy’s anti-vaccination campaign has never prevented a single case of autism, it has successfully caused hundreds of thousands of children to become ill and hundreds more to die from diseases that had been functionally eradicated for decades. Measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough are all making a comeback thanks, almost exclusively, to McCarthy.

The website Jenny McCarthy Body Count continues to do outstanding work tracking the lives damaged and lost due to McCarthy’s continuous spewing of unscientific bullshit.

Read more in the editorial that I wrote in today’s Chattanooga Times Free Press.

And please, take the advice of doctors rather than the advice of a nude model when it comes to the health of your children.

Drew Johnson

HackWatch: A Good Chunk of the GOP Senate Edition

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Dana Milbank plays gotcha with GOP senators on the filibuster. Surprise! Their feelings on the parliamentary maneuver are largely dependent on who’s in power. He starts with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose leading the filibuster against U.S. District Judge David Hamilton, Obama’s first appellate court nominee.

For much of this decade, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, now the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, led the fight against Democratic filibusters of George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. He decried Democrats’ “unprecedented, obstructive tactics.” To have Bush nominees “opposed on a partisan filibuster, it is really wrong,” he added. He demanded they get “an up-and-down vote.” He praised Republican leaders because they “opposed judicial filibusters” and have “been consistent on this issue even when it was not to their political benefit to do so.”

So now a Democratic president is in the White House and he has nominated his first appellate judicial nominee, U.S. District Judge David Hamilton. And what did Sessions do? He went to the floor and led a filibuster.

“I opposed filibusters before,” the Alabaman said with his trademark twang. But in this case, he went on, “I don’t agree with his judicial philosophy. Therefore, I believe this side cannot acquiesce into a philosophy that says that Democratic presidents can get their judges confirmed with 50 votes.”

And the others fall into line…

There was, for example, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). Back in 2005, he demanded “a simple up-or-down vote” for nominees and urged the Democrats to “move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.” He declared that Democrats wanted to “take away the power to nominate from the president and grant it to a minority of 41 senators.”

On Tuesday, McConnell voted to sustain the filibuster.

There was also Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.), who in 2005 gave his considered opinion that “neither filibusters nor supermajority requirements have any place in the confirmation process.”

On Tuesday, Brownback voted in favor of filibusters.

And there was Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who warned four years ago that “if the filibuster becomes an institutional response where 40 senators driven by special interest groups declare war on nominees in the future, the consequence will be that the judiciary will be destroyed over time.”

On Tuesday, Graham voted to institutionalize the filibuster.

Not all Republicans senators were inconsistent. Just the vast majority of them. For not even attempting to explain away their hacktasticness, the GOPers get a 9.5 out of 10 on the completely arbitrary Hackery Index.

Last week, HackWatch took aim at lefty Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson for his own flip on the use of the filibuster.

Prior editions of HackWatch here.

HackWatch: Harold Meyerson

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Jeremy Lott catches the Washington Post columnist flipping on the use of the Senate filibuster.

Writing in the American Prospect after the Republicans cleaned up in the 2002 off-year elections, Meyerson predicted that the nation would “suffer” under united Republican rule. He worried about “all the right-wing judicial appointments that will be ratified, for the Supreme Court on down, now that the Republicans control the Senate” and about the “lack of scrutiny” that the Bush administration could expect “now that the Democrats control no committees.”

“Only the filibuster,” he warned, “now stands between the nation and the unchecked rule of the most right-wing xenophobic and belligerent administration in the nation’s history.”

And now?

In his column yesterday in the Washington Post, he praised the House of Representatives for passing Pelosicare and damned the Senate as “Dithering Heights” for its refusal to ram the bill through tomorrow.

“A catastrophic change has overtaken the Senate in recent years,” he wrote. Because of the filibuster, “the Senate has become a body that shuns debate, avoids legislative give-and-take, proceeds glacially and produces next to nothing.”

Why just “earlier this month” — that is, November — “Senate Republicans blocked consideration of an extension of unemployment insurance.” And when they “finally let it come to a vote” — all of several days later, by his account — “the measure passed 98 to 0.”

Meyerson earns a strong 8.5 out of 10 on the completely arbitrary Hackery Index. Well done, Harold!

Prior installments of HackWatch here.

Hackwatch: Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.)

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Rep. Harman, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, has long been an aggressive defender of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, calling federal whistleblowers who revealed the program’s abuses “despicable,” and at one point even suggesting criminal prosecution of the New York Times for revealing how the program may have been in violation of U.S. law.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Harman “was overheard on telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency agreeing to seek lenient treatment from the Bush administration for two pro-Israel lobbyists who were under investigation for espionage.” In return, “the caller promised her that a wealthy California donor…would threaten to withhold campaign contributions to Representative Nancy Pelosi…if she did not select Ms. Harman for the intelligence post.”

Suddenly, Harman isn’t so fond of NSA’s wiretapping program, or the idea of federal eavesdropping in general, even though the tap on her own phone was legal, and administered after federal officials actually bothered to secure a warrant. Yesterday on CNN, Harman unleashed a torrent of (self) righteous indignation:

I’m just very disappointed that my country — I’m an American citizen just like you are — could have permitted what I think is a gross abuse of power in recent years.  I’m one member of Congress who may be caught up in it, and I have a bully pulpit and I can fight back.  I’m thinking about others who have no bully pulpit, who may not be aware, as I was not, that someone is listening in on their conversations, and they’re innocent Americans.

I don’t really see any ameliorating factors, here. Harman gets the first perfect score—a 10 out of 10—on the somewhat arbitrary Hackery Index.

If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it here, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line. Prior installments of HackWatch here.

(Hat tip: Glenn Greenwald)

HackWatch: Inauguration Edition

Monday, January 19th, 2009

By some estimates, the price tag on President-Elect Obama’s three-day inauguration celebration may hit $170 million. That’s at least as much as President Bush’s inaugural festivities in 2005, though just how much more expensive depends on how you’re measuring public vs. private contributions, and how you’re factoring in the cost of security.

Leftist critics were livid at the cost and security presence at Bush’s swearing in 2005, juxtaposing the gilded balls and black limos next to the slumping economy and the festering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they’ve been conspicuously silent about Obamarama, even though the festivities are both pricier and draped with an even heavier security presence.

Here’s Eric Boehlert, writing at Salon in 2005:

This week’s inauguration story came ready with two interesting news angles: the huge cost (in contrast with the dire situation in Iraq) and the unprecedented security. And in both cases, the political press corps, as has been its habit under the Bush administration, showed little interest in prying. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, the press has largely treated inauguration criticism as partisan and silly, making sure to give Bush backers lots of time and room to defend the unmatched pomp and circumstance.


And it might have been helpful in the limited media debate that did take place about the inauguration’s costs to point out that if the $40 million to $50 million raised for the GOP’s parties had been donated to the war effort, as some have suggested, the money would have covered only about six hours of the U.S. military’s operations in Iraq.


Nonetheless, like butter on a humid summer day in Washington, reporters have simply melted away from asking pointed questions about the costly security overkill (nearly 9,000 police officers and military personnel will be deployed) — a buildup that clearly plays to Bush’s political advantage by keeping terrorist threats at the top of people’s minds.

This year’s inauguration will feature more than 25,000 security personnel. The city’s decked out in Hummers, APVs, snipers, and every bridge between D.C. and Virginia is closed (unless you’re in a limo—they’re permitted). We still have two wars going on. The economy’s more in the tank now than it was then. But this time around, Boehlert has no criticism for Obama, only for Obama’s critics, who Boehlert says are underestimating the cost of Bush’s inauguration in 2005.

In 2005, the Center for American Progress excoriated the Bush inauguration with a series of “Harper’s Index”-like statistics under the headline “Lifestyles of the Rich and Heartless.” This year? The only article I could find is a piece praising Obama for keeping his big party environmentally friendly.

Finally, the A.P. reports:

In 2005, Reps. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Jim McDermott, D-Wash., asked Bush to show a little less pomp and be a little more circumspect at his party.

“President Roosevelt held his 1945 inaugural at the White House, making a short speech and serving guests cold chicken salad and plain pound cake,” the two lawmakers wrote in a letter. “During World War I, President Wilson did not have any parties at his 1917 inaugural, saying that such festivities would be undignified.”

Weiner actually went the extra step of asking President Bush to skip inauguration, and donate all of the money he raised to the troops, instead. Doesn’t look like he’s demanding the same gesture from Obama. McDermott doesn’t seem to have much criticism for Obama, either.

For his obvious attempt at misdirection, Boehlert gets an 8 out of 10 on the somewhat arbitrary Hackery Index. Because their hackery comes by way of omission, the Center for American Progress and Reps. Weiner and McDermot get a 6 out of 10.

If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it here, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line. Previous editions of HackWatch here.

HackWatch: Nancy Pelosi

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Nancy Pelosi in 2004:

House Democrats’ anger at heavy-handed Republican tactics reached a new level yesterday, with the chamber’s top Democrat asking the House speaker to embrace a “Bill of Rights” for the minority, regardless which party it is.


Pelosi’s document, which she vows to honor if Democrats regain the majority, says: “Too often, incivility and the heavy hand of the majority” have silenced Democrats and choked off “thoughtful debate.” She called on the majority to let the minority offer meaningful amendments and substitutes to important bills; to limit roll-call votes to the normal 15 minutes rather than keeping them open to round up needed votes; and to let all appointees to House-Senate conference committees participate in meetings and decisions.

“When we are shut out, they are shutting out the great diversity of America,” Pelosi said in an interview. “We want a return to civility; we want to set a higher standard.”


Democrats and several analysts say recommital votes are largely meaningless. Hastert’s leadership team portrays them as “procedural votes” rather than matters of policy, and unwritten parliamentary rules make it essentially treasonous for lawmakers to vote against their party’s leadership on procedural matters.

The inevitable party-line vote that keeps Democrats from recommitting a Republican bill “is the whole ballgame,” Ornstein said, because it prevents Democrats from having a debate and a vote on the substance of their alternative proposals.

Nancy Pelosi, 2008:

The spirit of bipartisan cooperation didn’t survive the first day of the 111th Congress as House Democrats pushed through a package of rule changes Tuesday that the furious Republican minority said trampled their traditional rights to affect legislation.


The most contentious rule change places new restrictions on motions to “recommit” a bill for new amendments to the committee that approved it. In practice, that motion often meant a lengthy or even permanent delay in passing the measure. Motions to recommit would still be possible, but the new rules allow the full House to reconsider the bill almost instantaneously.


Because of the special rules regarding budgetary legislation, Republicans argued that the new restrictions on motions to recommit will hobble their ability to challenge tax increases that are included in larger, “must-pass” bills.

Unlike in the Senate, where the threat of a filibuster gives the minority strong bargaining leverage, the minority party in the House has relatively few tools to challenge the majority’s will. Mr. Dreier noted that the recommit motion had been in place for 100 years, and he rejected Democratic claims that the new rules were a minor tweak to an obscure parliamentary proceeding.

In Congress, he said, “process is substance.”

It’s a somewhat complicated procedural issue, but the bottom line here is that while Pelosi demanded minority rights and decried GOP procedural chicanery while her party was in the minority, she’s starting the new Congress by pushing through rules changes that would make it much more difficult for Republicans to have any influence on pending legislation.

Pelosi gets a 7 out of 10 on the somewhat arbitrary Hackery Index.

HackWatch installment on Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) here, on former White House Office of Legal Counsel honcho John Yoo here. If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it here, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line.

HackWatch: John Yoo Edition

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Per Jacob Sullum’s post at Hit & Run on the John Yoo/John Bolton piece in the New York Times, I think we have a new addition to our HackWatch feature.  Yoo, who under President Bush has argued that the president has the power to unilaterally withdraw from treaties, now wants the Senate to reassert its treaty power, because he fears the sorts of entanglements into which President-Elect Obama might get us enmeshed.

Yoo gets an 9 out of 10 on the somewhat-arbitrary Hackery Index.  The only ameliorating factor, here, is that Yoo’s hackery seems more issue-oriented than strictly party-oriented. That is, he isn’t explicitly arguing that Republican presidents should have more power than Democratic presidents.  Rather, he believes the president should have  plenary power to negate treaties pertaining issues broadly related national security, but wants the Senate to reassert itself on treaties related to domestic policy.  Of course, the issues where Yoo wants plenary executive power happen to be issues where he agrees with Republicans, and the issues where he wants more Senate control are those issues where he doesn’t trust Obama.  But Yoo does at least have a constitutional argument for making the distinction. It just happens to be a crappy one.

If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it to us, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line.

HackWatch: Our First Installment!

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Well that didn’t take long.

We already have our first installment of HackWatch, courtesy of Gene Healy.  Your inaugural hack-tastic politico: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Here’s Kyl in 2005 (pdf) on the subject of using the Senate filibuster to hold up Supreme Court nominations:

Republicans seek to right a wrong that has undermined 214 years of tradition – wise, carefully thought-out tradition. The fact that the Senate rules theoretically allowed the filibuster of judicial nominations but were never used to that end is an important indicator of what is right, and why the precedent of allowing up-or-down votes is so well established. It is that precedent that has been attacked and which we seek to restore….

My friends argue that Republicans may want to filibuster a future Democratic President’s nominees. To that I say, I don’t think so, and even if true, I’m willing to give up that tool. It was never a power we thought we had in the past, and it is not one likely to be used in the future. I know some insist that we will someday want to block Democrat judges by filibuster. But I know my colleagues. I have heard them speak passionately, publicly and privately, about the injustice done to filibustered nominees. I think it highly unlikely that they will shift their views simply because the political worm has turned.

Here’s Jon Kyl’s warning to President-Elect Obama last month:

Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, warned president-elect Barack Obama that he would filibuster U.S. Supreme Court appointments if those nominees were too liberal.

Kyl, Arizona’s junior senator, expects Obama to appoint judges in the mold of U.S Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and Stephen Breyer. Those justices take a liberal view on cases related to social, law and order and business issues, Kyl said.

“He believes in justices that have empathy,” said Kyl, speaking at a Federalist Society meeting in Phoenix. The attorneys group promotes conservative legal principles.

Kyl said if Obama goes with empathetic judges who do not base their decisions on the rule of law and legal precedents but instead the factors in each case, he would try to block those picks via filibuster.

Kyl has set the bar pretty high, here.  So high, in fact, that I’m having a hard time envisioning how anyone could top him.  There’s really no wiggle room in those two statements.  For that, I’m giving him a 10 out of 10 on the somewhat-arbitrary “Hackery Index.”

If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it here, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line.