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Where Are the Obama Pardons?

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President Obama rightfully noted the injustice leading to so many people, largely people of color, thrown in prison for long periods of time because of drug crimes. He wanted to pardon many of them. But that hasn’t happened, despite a few yesterday. This led to the resignation of the attorney in charge of the process a few days ago. Why? This is a good piece on the limits of rapid presidential action on complex issues like this.

The pardon office didn’t have the resources it needed to process all the applications it was receiving. Partly this is the fault of Congress, which responded to the Obama administration’s moves in 2014 by trying to defund them. As a result, the office couldn’t hire the extra attorneys it needed to process the new petitions coming in. That’s what Leff’s letter was referring to when she says that “the requests of thousands of petitioners seeking justice will lie unheard.”

But this isn’t entirely Congress’s fault. Leff says she’s been “instructed to set aside thousands of petitions for pardon and traditional commutation” in order to look at the applications the Obama administration asked prisoners to send in 2014. The letter makes it seem that the Obama administration was already dealing with a backlog when it solicited thousands of new applications, without a plan for how it was actually going to process either the new ones or the existing ones.

The pardon attorney didn’t have enough of a role in the pardon process. The president makes the final decision on all pardons and commutations. But before an application reaches the president’s desk, a recommendation is made by the pardon attorney, then by the White House Counsel.

Leff, however, writes that she didn’t have any access to the White House Counsel’s office to explain her recommendations. Furthermore, she says, in an “increasing number of cases,” the Department of Justice “reversed our recommendations.” Given the stinginess of commutations so far, it’s reasonable to assume this means the Department of Justice has been stepping in to recommend that commutations be denied, even when the pardon attorney’s office says they should be granted.

In other words, the president is not all-powerful and big initiatives like this take a lot of resources and attention. The president saying he support something can get a ball rolling, but it can’t go very far without a lot of resources in the face of other parts of the government protecting their own interests by resisting.

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  • Joe_JP

    Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy Blog has long been on Obama regarding this issue & my thought was partially “can’t go very far without a lot of resources in the face of other parts of the government protecting their own interests by resisting” etc.

    Do think he chose to use his limited resources in certain ways & probably can be faulted for not doing more here. After all, this is his final year, and the numbers are lower than seems warranted.

    But, not sure how much.

    • JL

      Well, if the DOJ is reversing the pardon attorney’s recommendations – the Attorney General is a presidential appointee. The DOJ is part of the executive (and I’m guessing that the people who make such decisions at the DOJ are pretty high up).

      Congress defunding or failing to fund important things, of course, is not Obama’s fault. But I’m more willing to fault him, at least in part, for what high-level executive branch people get up to.

      • Chuchundra

        There’s a lot of institutional inertia to overcome.

        Even if you find a person for the top slot who is dedicated to pursuing all the goals you want pursued, the DOJ is a big organization with a lot of moving parts.

        • addicted44

          Wasn’t one of W’s major achievements stuffing the DoJ with right-wing acolytes?

  • ThrottleJockey

    It might also be that the brotha from Chicago is a little bit more cautious about this “mass incarceration” fad. Just because racially discriminatory policies put a disproportionate number of black people in jail doesn’t mean some of those people don’t belong there.

    CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago man initially planned to cut the fingers and ears off the 9-year-old son of a member of a rival gang but ended up luring the boy into an alley with the promise of a juice box and shooting him dead, authorities said Tuesday.

    Dwright Boone-Doty, 22, was charged Monday in the Nov. 2 killing of Tyshawn Lee. He has been jailed since a November arrest on unrelated gun charges. Prosecutors also charged him with shooting two people about two weeks earlier, including a 19-year-old woman who died from her wounds.

    Boone-Doty was paroled from the Illinois Department of Corrections in August after serving about two years on a five-year sentence in a drug case.

    In 3 months he went from parolee to murderer. Why even parole him?

    • Denverite

      Why even parole him?

      Because two years on a drug sentence is enough?

      • so-in-so

        Somewhere a “conservative” is opining that the 9 year old would be a gang member himself in a few years, so why worry about it…

        The question would be if there were signs that the parole board missed that this guy was going right back to his old ways, only worse. Was he even in the gang before prison, or was he recruited (and made more violent) while on the inside?

      • Why stop there, If we locked him up for life before he committed even the drug charge we could have prevented that too. I hope I don’t give any ideas to President Trump.

      • ThrottleJockey

        I’ve recently had this discussion with a lot of friends. It seems like a lot of white liberals thinks there’s a big giant wall between committing drug crimes and committing violent felonies and only Super Felon can jump over that wall. That’s not true in reality.

        Just last week I had to call the police because of old friend whose an ex-con (penny-ante drug dealer) was about to beat the living shit out of somebody. This 20 year old “kid” had been harassing him while we were playing ball. I couldn’t get the kid to shut his Yap or to just move on . But my friends an OG for real though. Brotha loves fighting. Fortunately nobody got arrested or hurt but I’m honestly shocked at that. 5 cops came out that night. We’re lucky that the one to arrive first wasn’t a hothead.

        • Yes, criminal justice is complicated which is why your solution of locking every potential future violent criminal up for a long time is unjust, simplistic and stupid.

          • Bruce B.

            But refusing to make any distinctions would free up the vital resources needed to make sure that our hero Bill Cosby remains at large and untroubled. Priorities, Go-cart, priorities.

        • royko

          There’s also no wall between committing jaywalking and committing violent felonies, and sure, locking up all jaywalkers for life would probably prevent a few violent criminals from committing violent crimes, it still would be an insane policy.

          Locking people up under a fairly unsuccessful and arbitrarily enforced drug policy just because it happens to round up what you consider to be “the usual suspects” is just an awful way to go, one that will definitely lead to people being locked up because of their hue.

        • JL

          There are also people with no record at all who would beat the living shit out of someone under some circumstances. I would believe that having a conviction record is correlated, because incarceration is good at normalizing violence and training people to be violent. But just as there’s no giant wall between being convicted of drug crimes and committing violent felonies, there’s no giant wall between people in general and committing violent felonies. So, hooray for effective violence prevention efforts. That still doesn’t make long sentences for drug charges a reasonable thing.

          Incidentally, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1990 and 2002 (the first numbers I could find), only 7% of people convicted of violent felonies in large urban counties were out on parole at the time they were arrested for the violent felony. Nearly half of people convicted of violent felonies in that time and set of places (44%) had no previous conviction record at all. Murderers and rapists were actually less likely to have prior convictions than violent felons as a whole (47% of murderers and 58% of rapists had never been convicted of anything before).

          • ThrottleJockey

            Murder and rape have one thing in common: They’re both more likely to happen at the hands of someone you know well.

            Based on the BJS statistics I’ve read the way I would interpret your statistic above is that with the rapidly increasing incarcerated population fewer repeat offenders we run the streets to commit crimes. I said that because felons have a 60% recidivism rate and our incarcerated population soared during that timeframe.

            A few weeks ago you and some others made the point that you could empathize with both victims and criminals that it wasn’t a zero-sum game. You can see why I might think in reality that’s not possible. We see lots of posts here about mass incarceration but no post about victims of urban crime.

            • JL

              Murder and rape have one thing in common: They’re both more likely to happen at the hands of someone you know well.

              Very true and I’m not sure how that’s relevant to your anecdote about the murdered 9 year-old (which was why I brought up the fact that murderers and rapists, the people generally considered the worst of the worst, are even more likely to have no record than other violent felons).

              You can see why I might think in reality that’s not possible.

              Honestly, no.

              I mean, look, I volunteer as a rape crisis counselor and a domestic violence hotline staffer. I would hope that suggests that I have empathy for victims of sexual and domestic violence. I have literally talked to hundreds of them and heard their stories. I also don’t think that “lock ’em up and throw away the key” is a good response to sexual and domestic violence*, or that the existence of sexual and domestic violence justifies harsh sentencing regimes. In fact, I’ve gotten into arguments in this very comment section before about domestic violence and sentencing/incarceration. It’s just not that hard to have empathy for a wide range of people.

              *Relevantly, I also do sexual violence prevention volunteering. I did a workshop about boundaries and consent yesterday with middle schoolers, which was fun. It turns out that if you give middle schoolers sunglasses to bribe them to answer your questions, it’s going to be nigh-impossible to get them to stop trying the sunglasses on and mugging for each other. Despite the sunglasses, the teachers are hoping to have us back to do more prevention work with more kids.

              We see lots of posts here about mass incarceration but no post about victims of urban crime.

              Do you see the multitude of gun control posts over the years, or at least some of them, as relevant to urban crime?

              In either case, “IMO this blog’s priorities are out of whack” is a very different statement from “It is literally not possible to empathize with victims of crime regarding the crime itself while also empathizing with perpetrators being screwed over by the legal and corrections systems.”

              • ThrottleJockey

                You’re a one-in-a-million person JL.

                Most of the gun control posts follow mass shootings so no I don’t think of that as being the same bucket as commonplace crime. And I’m not saying that this blog’s priorities are out of whack. I’m just using it as a convenient example. This blog is not unique in this regard . Throughout liberal media spaces and blogosphere you see lots of writing about mass incarceration but very little about urban crime. I don’t see a way to interpret this except that the former is prioritized over the latter.

        • malraux

          All those college pot heads are clearly on the edge of being murderers?

          There’s almost certainly a link between conviction of a drug crime and later violence, but home much of that is a function of how we chose who to enforce drug laws against, and what we do to those that get convicted.

          • so-in-so

            I remember a movie like that. “Reefer madness”.

            When I was in college it was shown as comedy.

        • JB2

          I’m a “white liberal”, but I’ve also been a state prosecutor in a high-crime big city for over 23 years. A past history of drug convictions is not a particularly reliable predictor of violent behavior; more reliable than having no record whatsoever, obviously, but much less than e.g. weapons offenses.

          • ThrottleJockey

            I’m not saying it’s a reliable predictor of future of violence. I’m saying that this brightline Loomis and other liberals draw between drug crimes and other types of crimes doesn’t really exist in reality.

            • Roberta

              Neither does the bright line you’re drawing between criminals and the rest of us.

          • ThrottleJockey

            By the way thanks for your service. We could use more liberal DAs.

            • JB2

              And thank you for your kind words – there are a lot more of us than you might think.

        • addicted44

          Have you considered the idea that locking up petty drug offenders with murderers and gang members helps significantly in lowering, if not demolishing that wall?

    • You are Lee Atwater’s kind of guy.

      • ThrottleJockey

        No Lee Atwater was famous for calling people like me n***** n***** n*****.

        I just want the kids who grew up on my block to have a shot at seeing their 10th birthday. And it might be nice to be able to sit through dinner without worrying about bullets flying through your wall. The Simple Pleasures are the best pleasures of all.

        • While you would just call all drug offenders “Future murderers!, future murderers!” which is totally different.

        • Bill Murray

          no Lee Atwater said you can’t call people that anymore, so you go to the dog whistles like tough on crime and drug wars

          • In retrospect perhaps I should have said “Future Democrat Voter! Future Democrat Voter!”

          • ThrottleJockey

            From my windowsill and ain’t no dog whistle. Our homicide rate is up 84%. Folks expect a bloodbath this summer.

            Late at night this month, the pastor’s phone beeped with a text message from an anguished parishioner. Andre Taylor, the church member’s great-nephew, had been shot and killed.

            “Dre had just turned 16,” the message to the pastor, the Rev. Ira Acree, read. “I think that it’s time to call for action and solicit help, have the National Guard to take over and patrol the Chicago streets.”

            • ThrottleJockey
            • Denverite

              TJ, whereabouts do you live in Chicago? I was just thinking this morning (when thinking about my exchange with DrDick re: better-off South Side neighborhoods) how I used to do long runs when training for a marathon in 2005 or so where I’d:

              Start at 38th and Union right by Shinnicks.
              Go down to 47th through Canaryville.
              Cut over to Michigan in some neighborhood I don’t even know what it’s called.
              Go down Michigan to Garfield (55th).
              Cut over on Garfield through Jackson Park until it looped over to 51st.
              Go down 51st through Hyde Park/Kenwood all the way to the lake.
              Take the lakeshore path from Hyde Park all the way up to Madison east of Grant Park.
              Cut over on Madison all the way to Clark.
              Take Clark south all the way to Archer.
              Cut over on Archer through Chinatown to Canal.
              Go down Canal until it dead ended into 29th.
              Cut over on 29th to Union, and then take Union back through Bridgeport to where I started.

              It was quite the tour of the South Side.

              • ThrottleJockey

                For a long time I lived in Hyde Park right by the museum now I’m in Rogers Park. I was too close to Harold’s Chicken down there. :-D

                • Denverite

                  I lived at 52nd and Woodlawn for a couple of years. My dog would try to eat the chicken bones strewn all over the sidewalk from the people stopping at Harold’s on there way wherever they were going. The building also had the unfortunate combination of (1) a furnace with a broken thermostat/timer that required the janitor to turn it off and on and (2) a janitor that got really high and would forget to do it.

    • Rob in CT

      I don’t know the details of his prior case, but he was serving a “5 year sentence in a drug case.” [your link doesn’t work]

      Maybe it was a non-violent crime. Do you have a problem with paroling people convicted of non-violent crimes?

      I get that it sucks to release someone and then have them turn around and commit violent crimes. I don’t want that either. If there is indication that someone is violent, we should be reluctant to release them (and if released, they should be monitored). If there is no such indication, though, then what?

      • ThrottleJockey

        The reason I like Federal sentences is because they tend to reflect the findings of the jury. Most state courts lack truth in sentencing.

        Sorry for the messed up link. I’ve corrected it below.
        http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2016-03-08/chicago-man-charged-in-9-year-old-boys-shooting-death

        • Denverite

          The reason I like Federal sentences

          Holy shit this might be the most insane thing you’ve ever written on here.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Come on dude do you really prefer State sentences where people do less than half the time that they’re sentenced to?

            • Arouet

              Yes.

              • ThrottleJockey

                Why???

                • rea

                  It makes no difference. The judges know how the system works. Getting out in 2 years on a sentence for 5 years imposed by a judge who knows that a person sentenced to 5 years will only serve 2 is simply a matter of labels, not substance.

                • Arouet

                  What Rea said. State judges can make the punishment fit the crime. What you’re talking about is explicitly making sure they don’t based on some insane theory that people deserve punishment for crimes they may or may not commit after they return to the streets.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  You just made the argument why people prefer mandatory minimums two judges playing God. They don’t hold a candle to the real one.

                • so-in-so

                  So a legislature working in the abstract “playing god” is good? Got it. I’m sure “three strikes gets you life” sounded good, until some poor schmuck got life for three bad checks.

                • Arouet

                  Someone has to be in charge of sentencing. That person is expected to make the punishment fit the crime within the confines of law.

                  Even if the restriction is statutory, all you’re doing is transferring discretion from judges to either a) legislatures, or b) even less accountable sentencing administrations/commissions.

                  Someone “plays god” in criminal sentencing so long as there is criminal sentencing at all.

            • Denverite

              It’s not just me. It’s the hordes of federal judges (including the judge I clerked for) begging Congress to reform the sentencing guidlines so that people aren’t put away for life for nonviolent drug violations.

              • ThrottleJockey

                So you’re telling me that the Bundy won’t ever see the light of day again? (Breathes sigh of relief)

                Since most common (and violent) criminals go through state courts I’m more concerned with under sentencing there then over sentencing in federal courts.

                • Denverite

                  Ted? No. Al? I wouldn’t necessary rule out a Married with Children reunion. Ed O’Neill and Kate Segal are both pretty hot now.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Modern family meets married with children in the big house! IC Academy Award written all over it!

      • They could have used Obama’s Time Machine, but They. Didn’t. Even. Ask. Him. If. They. Could. Borrow. It.

    • njorl

      It was ridiculous to parole the guy after reading the future newspaper accounts of those murders. What was the parole/time-traveling board thinking?

      • LWA

        Obviously the Pre-Cogs were asleep at the switch or something.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Maybe they just shouldn’t parole if they can’t do it well? As the doctors swear “First Do no harm.”

        The Five-Year recidivism rate for felons exceeds 60%. The bias should therefore be to keep them in.

        • Arouet

          You realize they’re almost all going to get out eventually, right? Is your position that all prisoners should never be released from prison? Because otherwise you’re going to have to come up with some way to address recidivism that’s not “keep everyone locked up as long as possible.”

          • ThrottleJockey

            Its math: Reduce the churn = reduce the time they’re out on the streets = reduce the violence.

        • Rob in CT

          So, no parole then.

          • Bill Murray

            well we could do more about training and getting felons decent jobs, but we can’t even do that for non-felons

        • JL

          As I said above, according to the Bureau of Justice statistics, between 1990 and 2002, in large urban counties, only 7% of violent felons were out on parole, for any level of offense, at the time of their violent felony arrest.

          The Five-Year recidivism rate for felons exceeds 60%. The bias should therefore be to keep them in.

          Or maybe we should have better transition resources for felons, and make it more possible for them to get jobs when they’re out.

          • ThrottleJockey

            I point out above that this is a reason to interpret mass incarceration as a good thing not a bad thing. We had a dramatically soaring incarceration rate during that timeframe. Ergo the people being arrested for violent felonies tended to be first timers.

            • JL

              I think this is trying to establish a causal link with no basis for it. If you found numbers showing that in earlier periods (preferably pre-1975, since that’s about when mass incarceration started), violent felons were less likely to be first-timers than during periods of rising incarceration, and that violent felons being first-timers was correlated with falling crime, you might have more of an argument.

              My argument, on the other hand, was that while it’s obviously no comfort to the family and friends of the poor 9-year-old (are statistics ever a comfort in individual cases?), there’s no epidemic of people committing murder or other violent felonies while on parole for drug crimes or any other crime. Or at least there wasn’t in 2002, and if you have more recent numbers that contradict that I’d be happy to take a look.

              • ThrottleJockey

                We have two different statistical facts and I think there’s only one model that explains them both. On the one hand we have recidivism rates for felons that exceeds 60%. On the other hand during a time when we dramatically increased sentences for crime and also dramatically increased felons and prison we see that a majority of people arrested for murder and rape were first timers. (BTW increase sentencing didn’t really start until the late eighties to nineties).

                Ergo the reason that the majority of people arrested for murder and rape are first-timers is because: 1) you’re more likely to be murdered or raped by someone you know, and 2) by incarcerating people for longer periods of time there are fewer repeat offenders on the street to commit crimes in the first place.

                Is there an alternative explanation that fits the facts better?

      • wjts

        The whole thing could have been prevented if the prison guards had had the foresight to torture him and thereby learned the name of the person he would go on to kill after his release. Leave no stone unturned there are lives at stake by any means necessary.

        • ThrottleJockey

          +1 for wit and a good memory. :-)

    • malraux

      To take the other side, how much of how gang links were driven by being in prison and coming out with a drug conviction, which strongly limits ones options?

      • ThrottleJockey

        To answer your question with a question: How likely is someone to sell drugs in Chicago without being in a gang?

        Answer: Not likely at all if they value their life.

        • postmodulator

          Er. I’m not saying I have personal knowledge of exceptions to that, but I’m not not saying it, either.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Lol, part of this depends on the neighborhood. You’re pushing drugs at Northwestern or you’re making heroin house calls in Linkin Park you’re probably not in a gang.

            • efgoldman

              You’re pushing drugs at Northwestern…

              …you’re probably white, with a decent private attorney, and are therefore already ahead of the game.

    • Roberta

      Your logic seems to be that if someone commits one crime, the criminal justice system must treat them as being very likely to commit several other, more serious crimes.

      This is bad logic. It also flies in the face of “innocent until proven guilty.” The only thing this person was proven guilty of was a drug crime, and that’s all we can punish him for. Not for the speculation that he might murder someone.

      • so-in-so

        Also, if you come out of prison and immediately do something worse than before you went in it appears there is a huge problem with the justice system.

        • ThrottleJockey

          The huge problem with the justice system is that he was let out early. The “huger” problem is that he was an evil man. That’s on him though.

          • so-in-so

            In three more years he would be less evil?

            The problem is that the system is just housing people away from society for some period, maybe making them more violent during that time, then spitting them out. If the failure rate of a machine was 60%, you wouldn’t keep using (much less paying to replicate) the machine.

      • ThrottleJockey

        No I’m not arguing he should be punished for committing a crime he didn’t commit. I’m arguing that he should be punished for committing the crime he committed . But he wasn’t punished for it. He was let out three years early and now a nine-year-old boy is dead.

        • Roberta

          Sure he was punished for it. Parole is part of the punishment, and judges often wouldn’t sentence people to 5 years if they knew there was no chance of parole.

          Is there any reason to think he wouldn’t have killed someone if he was let out three years later? Maybe he would have killed more than one person after being even more hardened by three more years of prison life. Is your solution to let no one out ever?

          • ThrottleJockey

            Aside from pot which I think should be legal I think we should lengthen sentences not shorten them…that’s my solution.

            The solution we are solving for is keeping 9 year old boys alive.

            • Roberta

              Alive long enough so they, too, can be given lengthy sentences for non-violent slip-ups?

              And what happens when they get out? Unless you lengthen all sentences to life without parole, they will get out. And they won’t be noticeably kinder or gentler when they do.

              • ThrottleJockey

                Selling crack is more than a slip-up… which is why the vast majority of us don’t do it.

                • Roberta

                  Call it what you like–you still haven’t explained why it needs a five-year sentence.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Because crack kills? Because it destroys families?Because women pimp their bodies to buy it? Because kids rob their parents to get it? Because significant violence attends its sale?

                • Gregor Sansa

                  “Women pimp their bodies”

                  I understand that that turn of phrase, and the implied power relations and lack of freedom, may be metaphorically intended. But metaphors aside, a woman, addicted or no, has a different relationship to her body than a pimp has to a whore.

                • Roberta

                  Long sentences for drug crimes also kill. And destroy families, and communities. And result in the sexual abuse of incarcerated women.

                  There’s a point where the cure is worse than the disease.

            • Arouet

              That can be your solution, but it flies in the face of modern criminology, not to mention proportionality and individual rights. Fortunately, society at large has chosen a different path of recent.

        • efgoldman

          He was let out three years early and now a nine-year-old boy is dead.

          So if they kept him in for some other length of time, perhaps some other kid would be dead. There’s no way to know or predict that, outside of dystopian scifi.

    • wengler

      And some don’t. What’s your point?

  • Denverite

    Obama pardoned Demaryius Thomas’s mother in 2015. She was serving a multi-decade sentence for helping her own mother run a crack ring. Prosecutors offered to cut her a deal with little or no prison time if she’d roll on her mother, but she refused. The AFC divisional playoff round was the first time she’s ever seen her son play in person. Manning made sure that Thomas got the game ball to give to her.

    • Joe_JP
    • ThrottleJockey

      Yeah I recall that. It was either 30 For 30 or maybe 60 minutes that did a piece on her a year or two ago. She was a real piece of work herself.

      • Denverite

        His mother? She seemed pretty ordinary to me. She did the same thing almost anyone else would if they were poor and living in a rural area with no jobs, and their mother just happened to be making a killing running a crack ring. The only thing she really did “wrong” was that she was not savvy enough to understand that her mother was going away forever regardless of her testimony. But that’s more on her lawyer. He’s got to explain the CBA to her.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Dude lots of poor people–in fact the vast majority of us–don’t run drug rings… in no way shape or form is it something that most of us do. And running even a small drug ring means that you’re not poor!

          Here’s the thing this isn’t about poverty it’s about greed. I had a friend so even though he had already done a stint in jail for selling drugs resume the practice long after he had afamily and middle-class life. He tells me he only sold pot. On the side. But he really valued the extra 40 Grand a year it put in his pocket.

  • so-in-so

    It does sound like he might have a “talk” with the DOJ about their role.

    Maybe they should take the first look, and weed out anyone they will object to before the pardon lawyers spend time on them.

  • rewenzo

    The answer to this question may be obvious, but here goes: what stops the Party or some wealthy donor, or some firm with pro bono hours to dole out, from assigning an army of attorneys to review pardons and make recommendations? From what I understand, the President’s pardon power is supreme and exclusively vested in him – and he can pardon anyone for any reason. There’s no law that says he has to get recommendations from government lawyers is there?

    • Nick056

      Because that gives the appearance of allowing powerful interests to exert undue influence over the pardon power. It solves the problem of an insufficiently productive pardon operation by endorsing a private office to act as sub rosa counsel to the President on pardon matters.

      Bad politics. Probably bad policy too. People already lobby for pardons. Creatong a special relationship with an extra-governmental advisor is messy. It also creates new and terrible privilege issues.

      • Happy Jack

        Giving one of a precious few pardons to a relative of a NFL player also creates an appearance problem. General amnesty removes any favoritism problems.

        • rewenzo

          Or, even if you’re only pardoning 2,000 people a year, the privilege problem would be somewhat diluted.

      • rewenzo

        I thought this is about people who were arrested for drug offenses for which, under current laws, they would be released already? What kind of powerful interests are there? As long as we’re not pardoning Marc Rich, I don’t see the immediate problem.

        The privilege issue sounds interesting, but (a) I don’t see why this can’t be worked around or (b) why Obama necessarily needs the pardon team’s deliberations to be privileged.

  • shah8

    The resumption of police seizure as a means of “self-funding” is another example…

  • LWA

    Off topic, but still…”What is the best thing in life?”

    “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their pundits

    • sonamib

      I do also enjoy the sound of Wall Street Journal columnists crying. Unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall. (If a pundit cries behind a paywall, does it make a sound?)

      • LWA

        The opening line was enough for me.

        “Barack Obama will retire a happy man. He is now close to destroying his political enemies—the Republican Party, the American conservative movement and the public-policy legacy of Ronald Reagan.

        Yes, I admit to needing a cigarette after this. Don’t judge me.

        • sibusisodan

          Yes, curse that Obama for forcing the Republican party to hoist themselves on their own petard!

          Obama’s been great at the ‘don’t interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake’ thing, as well as judiciously stirring the pot occasionally, but that doesn’t really count as active desctruction…

          • ThrottleJockey

            Hope and change wins!

      • Cheerful

        If you want to read a discussion from someone with access behind the wall,see

        http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2016_03/how_barack_obama_destroyed_the060108.php

      • efgoldman

        Unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall.

        If you’ve read the WSJ and Henninger for any length of time, you already know he’s been unhinged from reality for years, maybe decades.

        ETA: They’re editorial; and op-ed pages have been sewers forever.

  • dm

    That is so disappointing. I had half a hope that political prisoners like Leonard Peltier stood a chance of finally getting released.

  • AMK

    He’s still got 8 months. i’m sure we’ll see some pardoning done in the lame duck.

  • Ronan

    “Largely people of color”

    Really? The prisons are full of Indians, Bangladeshis and east Asians? What’s wrong with using the term black. Black and Latino. Or even black, Latino, native American and poor whites. The denizens of watts, east Harlem, the reservations and Appalachia. What’s the use of this nonsense terminology “POC”? What exactly does it clarify ?

    • dm

      It does clarify one of the benefits of white privilege ….

      • Ronan

        That if you’re a poor white youre more likely to be locked up than a wealthy poc?

        • Ronan

          (Also Note the use of the term person of color. Could still be that poor whites (though probably region specific) are less likely to go to prison than relatively wealthy African Americans, but that doesn’t equal this all encompassing terminology poc)

        • ThrottleJockey

          Have you seen the stats on this? It’s actually the reverse.

          In some ways, though, discrimination against people of color is more complicated and fundamental than economic inequality. A stark new finding epitomizes that reality: In recent decades, rich black kids have been more likely to go to prison than poor white kids.

          “Race trumps class, at least when it comes to incarceration,” said Darrick Hamilton of the New School, one of the researchers who produced the study.

          • Ronan

            I did, they’re also concealing with the term. They shift from people of colour to black

    • JL

      “People of color” is less cumbersome than “Black, Latino, and Native American,” less fraught than “black and brown,” and recognizes that there are in fact some subsets of Asian-Americans are in fact disproportionately affected by mass incarceration.

      “People of color” can be used, intentionally or unintentionally, to cover up issues like anti-blackness. It can, however, also be used to make sure that people who often get overlooked, like Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders, are included in the narratives.

      PrYSM is a Southeast Asian organization that does very good work around racial profiling and overpolicing of Southeast Asians (that I know about because they’re not far away from me and I’ve met some of their people).

      • Ronan

        Sure, but by doing so it sidelines the incarcerated (predominantly poor, probably regionally skewed) whites. And it camoflagoues the important (though not necessarily predominant) role of class as well as race.
        That’s before you get to the incoherence of the term itself. It conflates multiple different cultures, material interests and differences for a false sense of solidarity, and imagines white supremacy as one dimensional. Surely if there is a hierarchy with whites placed at the top and African Americans at the bottom then there’s a lot of place in the middle for other groups to position themselves against and to the detriment of black Americans? So why the need for the term at all? Or at least to be employed as commonly as it is? Surely accepting the complexity of these categories is the analytically correct position?

  • PatrickG

    I’d just like to note, Balloon Juice style, that ThrottleJockey’s comments currently comprise 27% of the total comments (ok, 27.8%, I’m rounding down). I’m always slightly awestruck by people who feel such a need to dominate conversation.

    That aside, I’m pretty amazed by the repeated assertions that people who deal drugs (of any kind) a priori deserve incredibly long prison sentences. Criminology, wut?

  • MissVane

    Too bad this is just an April Fools prank article:

    BREAKING: Obama Signs Executive Order, Pardons Drug Offenders, Removes Pot as Schedule 1 Drug

    Washington D.C. — As his second presidential term comes to an end, Barack Obama, an admitted pot smoker, finally came to terms with the fact that locking people in a cage for possessing a plant that makes them happy is criminal. On Friday morning, the President issued Executive Order 21302, effectively pardoning all non-violent drug offenders and ordering their release.
    Also contained within the text of EO 21302 is an addendum which removes cannabis from the Food and Drug Administration’s scheduling protocol under the Controlled Substance Act. Instead of simply bumping cannabis up to a level 4 or 5 classification, the executive order removed it entirely.
    In a press conference Friday morning, Obama apologized for not acting sooner, but noted that his hands were tied because much of the government exists solely to enforce the war on drugs.
    “We understand that this move will undoubtedly eliminate thousands of government jobs who rely on the war on marijuana,” Obama said. “However, we cannot continue locking people up for possessing it.”

    Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/breaking-obama-signs-executive-order-pardons-drug-offenders-removes-pot-schedule-1-drug/#oHqfx6oUP3rEWZ1h.99

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