Ethics Hero: President Barack Obama

President Obama granted clemency to 231 deserving individuals, yesterday, the most individual acts of clemency granted in a single day by any President inU.S. history. He also issued 153 commutations, and has now commuted the sentences of 1,176 individuals, including 395 life sentences. The President also granted pardons to 78 individuals, bringing his total number of pardons to 148.

Good.

The pardon and clemency powers of the President are underused, and until the last two years, Obama underused them more than any modern President. Now, presumably in a last minute flurry to enhance his legacy, Obama has embraced these acts of mercy as one thing he can do that Donald Trump will not be able to reverse. Obama’s motives are irrelevant, however. The “quality of mercy is not strain’d…” and it also shouldn’t be criticized. We must assume that the beneficiaries of Obama’s mercy are deserving, and that there aren’t any Marc Rich-types in the group.

There is so much that is right with Obama’s commutations and pardons. They match the spirit and ideals of the season; they provide second chances to Americans who need them; it returns citizens to their families. Let’s hope that he has begun a permanent competition, and that every President will now strive to exceed the number of official acts of mercy of his or her immediate predecessor.

Thank-you, Mister President.

You just made the United States  a little more ethical.

A lot, in fact.

89 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

89 responses to “Ethics Hero: President Barack Obama

  1. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Hopefully some of these freed pieces of garbage will be moving into his neighborhood or near where his daughters will be going to school. I think the presidential pardon power should be exercised sparingly, and the presumption should be in favor of anyone convicted of any offense involving violence, the threat of it, or drugs, serving out their full sentence, which means, as in John Gotti’s case or Richard Reid’s case, they leave prison feet first on a cooling board, and no other way.

      • Steve-O-in-NJ

        It would be poetic justice if one of these freed dealers sold one of Obama’s daughters a fatal dose of something. Then again, we all know Obama isn’t a Pepsi drinker…

        • Reading the linked article would make me think he commuted the sentences of individuals showing serious efforts to reform themselves.

        • Jeez…calm down! They vet these people. No one wants to pardon or commute a likely recidivist, especially a violent one. The vast majority, if not all of them, are old, model prisoners, or have served long terms. It saves money, it helps the economy, and it shows compassion. 5, 10X as many could be pardoned with no substantial risks. More.

          • I donno. I think recidivism rates would be an interesting stat to see. But I can’t seem to find a national stat focused on recipients of clemency.

            Guys arguing against the power to reprieve and pardon are wrong, but not doubt I will agree with guys who say the power shouldn’t be used in unjustifiable quantities. And that’s where recidivism rates may make a difference. Though that could be a moral luck thing.

        • Chris

          It would be poetic justice if one of these freed dealers sold one of Obama’s daughters a fatal dose of something.

          You’re a really awful person.

          • Steve-O-in-NJ

            And you’re a scumbag. Besides, didn’t I tell you to leave the blog a while back? So what are you still doing here?

            • valkygrrl

              I must have missed the part where you have any authority to order people not to comment here.

              • Steve-O-in-NJ

                I just said what a lot of us have been thinking for a while. Frankly, neither of you have much to offer that’s worth listening to, and you serve no purpose other than to be contrarians at best, obnoxious at worst. You too should pack up your essential oils and gender studies books and make for the border.

                • Steve-O-in-NJ said, “you serve no purpose other than to be contrarians at best, obnoxious at worst. You too should pack up your essential oils and gender studies books and make for the border.”

                  Seriously Steve, take a pill.

                  I have days that I’m like that too, so do you (your initial comment in this blog is exactly that), and so do many others around here, so maybe we ALL should “pack up your essential oils and gender studies books and make for the border”.

                  • Steve-O-in-NJ

                    I already take a few each day, but if you mean cool it, I will do so, but only with regard to those I deem worthy of respect here. I’ve butted heads with you, I’ve butted heads with a few others, but most others here are worthy of respect, even (grudgingly) Spartan, who at least has a level of intelligence, though she’s coming from a place I can’t grasp conceptually. Chris is not. He is obnoxious, ideologically rigid, stupid and stubborn. People like him are to be fought back against, not engaged with. V-girl is all of those and vicious, and also to be battled, not engaged.

                    • Steve-O-in-NJ,
                      Well those rationalizations made it all better.

                      I end up butting heads with almost everyone, friend or foe, and that’s partly because I’m can also be obnoxiously rigid and stubborn. When I see something that is clearly wrong by my standards, I step up and say something. You were showing a double standard and it needed to be pointed out.

                    • Steve-O-in-NJ

                      There’s a difference between being intelligent but stubborn, which I think is you and me, and just being an ass, which is those two. Maybe it is a case of (justified) hatred coloring my view.

                    • Steve-O-in-NJ said, “There’s a difference between being intelligent but stubborn, which I think is you and me, and just being an ass, which is those two.”

                      Perception Steve-O-in-NJ perception!

                      Sometimes I’m just an asshole.

                      Steve-O-in-NJ said, “And you’re a scumbag. Besides, didn’t I tell you to leave the blog a while back? So what are you still doing here?”

                      That was you being an ass; own it, learn from it, and move on.

                      The End.

                • valkygrrl

                  *blows a raspberry*

                • Chris

                  Steve, you misspelled “Sorry, I shouldn’t have wished death on the first daughter.”

                  I’ll admit my response to you was harsh. Your comment was awful, but it’s not enough for me to judge you as a whole person. But it would be wise of you to apologize so that others can see you’re better than that comment indicated.

                  • Comparing; “you’re a really awful person” and “your comment was awful”; one is a direct personal insult the other one is focused on the content of the comment NOT the person.

                    I too wander into this territory when it’s not warranted and need to be corrected. I try to learn but I still resort to old ways sometimes.

                  • Technically, as awful as his comment was, he didn’t *wish* death on the first daughter.

                    Make sure you attack someone actually stated.

                  • Steve-O-in-NJ

                    “I’ll admit my response to you was harsh.”

                    Well, that’s very big of you. But, as Jack’s dad used to say, that and a quarter will get you a ride on the subway.

                    Look, Chris, I am not going to apologize, first of all, certainly not because of anything YOU said. Maybe if Jack said apologize under threat of being banned I might consider it. I hate Obama and his family, and I don’t deem them worthy of anything but contempt, sort of like you feel about Trump.

                    You can phrase these comments however you want, however, you are not going to convince me to view you with anything other than hatred and contempt either. You are an obnoxious ideologue who isn’t capable of seeing things any way than through a very blue lens, and you hold those who don’t truck with your view of the world in very low esteem.

                    Unfortunately, those of us who truck with my very red view of things don’t give a damn, because we have just put folks like you in a very unpleasant place, and you helped us put you there with your eight years of smug, condescending, smarminess-dripping arrogance. We have no reason to work with you or be merciful or even polite to you, and we will not do so. So kindly take your comments and stuff them up your ass.

                    • Chris

                      Look, Chris, I am not going to apologize, first of all, certainly not because of anything YOU said. Maybe if Jack said apologize under threat of being banned I might consider it.

                      So you would only do this ethical thing under threat of punishment? Do you think that speaks well of you?

                      I hate Obama and his family, and I don’t deem them worthy of anything but contempt, sort of like you feel about Trump.

                      I’d never say it would be any kind of justice for Ivanka to be killed, so no, your feelings toward the Obamas are not like how I feel about Trump; your feelings toward the Obamas are clearly more irrational and unhinged.

                      We have no reason to work with you or be merciful or even polite to you

                      Ethics seems like a pretty good reason to me.

                    • Spartan

                      You hate Obama’s family? What on earth have these children done — and they are children Steve — to warrant your hatred?

                      Steve, there are times when I think you just need a hug. I mean … hating children is a pretty big deal. It’s Christmas — joy, peace, good will to men, etc., etc.

                    • Steve-O-in-NJ

                      Actually Malia does qualify as an adult as of July, but that’s beside the point. Why don’t you ask the folks who told GWB to “send the twins to Iraq” or the idiot artists who are now telling Ivanka to take their art, which she bought, off her wall because they can’t stand to have it associated with her? Barbara and Jenna had nothing to do with their dad’s policies and Ivanka Trump is categorically neither Republican nor Democrat (she raised a ton of money for Cory Booker), though she DID introduce her dad at the GOP convention. I don’t see why Obama’s kids should be immune from the same harsh attacks for the same reason – being the kids of a politician that some people despise.

                      My main point, though it got lost, is that I thought Obama’s generous use of the pardon power here was unwise, at least based on the limited information we have, and I took the jump to it would serve him right if mistaken or not thought through use of that power came back on his family. We never concern ourselves with our mistakes or with things we do that might hurt others we don’t know, but when things hurt our loved ones, suddenly it’s a very big deal.

                      I don’t do hugs, I have never been on so much as a first date.

                    • Spartan

                      Rationalizations. It is not okay to be cruel to the kids of political families just for the sake of politics. I have personally praised one of the Bush twins on social media for her good works. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Bush_(born_1981)

                      Dating is overrated so don’t fret about it. But if you want a Christmas dinner with good people, let me know and I’ll set a place.

                    • Steve-O-in-NJ

                      Yes, yes, and I have never targeted Chelsea, nor will I until she actually runs for office (which may not be too far off…), in fact this is the first time I went this far.

                      Thankfully I DO have family at Xmas (mostly my dad’s family, who are the better side, sorry mom), but if you are around for the Cherry Blossom Festival (which I am going to try to make this year) maybe I can buy you a cup of coffee/tea/whatever your social beverage of choice is.

                    • I would love it if you and Spartan actually did this. S is a wonderful person, and I bet you two would hit it off. This would make me happy.

                    • Spartan

                      That sounds like a plan! Let’s invite Jack too — let me know actual dates when you get time. My treat.

                      Jack, I assume you’ll share email addresses? Thanks!

                    • Steve-O-in-NJ

                      That’s easy – the parade (which is my main target for photography purposes) is on April 8, 2017. Dunno for how much longer I would be in DC – probably at least Friday also since that Friday is not a motion day.

                      I hesitate to pronounce anyone wonderful who I only know through faceless posting, however, I will take Jack at his word since he knows Spartan personally.

                    • While you’re at it, carve out some time for me. I’d love to meet you in person.

                    • Steve-O-in-NJ

                      Ahahahahaha… be careful what you wish for… BUT I do usually stay in your hometown when I am in DC.

                    • Chris

                      Actually Malia does qualify as an adult as of July, but that’s beside the point. Why don’t you ask the folks who told GWB to “send the twins to Iraq” or the idiot artists who are now telling Ivanka to take their art, which she bought, off her wall because they can’t stand to have it associated with her? Barbara and Jenna had nothing to do with their dad’s policies and Ivanka Trump is categorically neither Republican nor Democrat (she raised a ton of money for Cory Booker), though she DID introduce her dad at the GOP convention. I don’t see why Obama’s kids should be immune from the same harsh attacks for the same reason – being the kids of a politician that some people despise.

                      It must take some balls to make this comment here, of all places on the Internet. As Spartan pointed out, this is nothing but rationalizations.

            • Now now. That’s MY job. I have so few…

        • I really wonder what gets into you when you write things like this. I think I know you well enough to presume it’s hyperbole, but what would ever make a rational person capable of critical thought descend to pure lizard brain hatefulness like this? It also undermines your ability to persuade when the Real Steve is in control. What’s going on?

          • Steve-O-in-NJ

            Fair enough. That was what you call a “snap response” that was more emotion than thought.

            Let’s step back and answer a bit more thoroughly. I think this article is, I am sorry to say, shallow and doesn’t represent a full analysis of the situation. It comes a little too close to just saying mercy is good, so its application must be good. In all fairness, all we have before us are numbers and some generalities of why the decision to grant various forms of executive mercy to these numbers were made. That’s not really enough, I don’t believe, to form a complete and reliable opinion or belief as to the ethics of the whole situation.

            Presumably, if this application of mercy is being done the way its supposed to be done, it’s being done on an individual basis, not en masse. Therefore, each such person’s case is supposed to be looked at and decided upon based on “the totality of the circumstances.” Going by this article we don’t know that, and, more importantly, we don’t know the particulars of the individual cases. For all we know, the ethics of granting mercy in some or all of them might be at least reasonably debatable. I don’t think, given Obama’s poor track record for faithful execution of the law, politicization of the Justice Department, and lousy handling of what has been pretty darn close to a war on law enforcement for the last 2-3 years, that he is entitled to a presumption that all these choices were correct or meritorious. I may be wrong, we can’t tell from this article, but I am not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

            I do not generally believe in mercy for criminals. I believe the presumption should always be in favor of deference to the findings of the judicial system, doubly so when a jury’s findings of credibility are involved, and triply so when more than one level of the system is involved: i.e. the trial court’s findings were upheld by the appellate level of court. I dislike the idea of one person, particularly one person who no longer has to face voter accountability, as Obama does not, here, being able to wipe all of that out and substitute his own judgment for the judgment of all those other folks. That means that, absent a finding that there was a mistake of law or fact, or that there was duress, bribery, or corruption in the process, anyone duly convicted should serve out his full sentence, up to and including life, or, if so decided, death. It also means that anyone duly convicted should suffer whatever disabilities come with that conviction. On the flip side it also means that a finding of acquittal is inviolate. I won’t pretend any of these are good situations, but, I think it often gets forgotten that these situations are usually of the convicted person’s own making.

            I do not believe in second chances as a matter of course, absent clear and convincing evidence of rehabilitation, remorse, and restitution if applicable, and to me that means someone who has served his full sentence, paid damages if applicable, and has kept out of trouble, I mean not so much as a traffic ticket, for five solid years. In the case of someone who is still imprisoned, it means serving any stipulated period of parole ineligibility, or, absent one, at least 80% of one’s sentence, expressing remorse, passing a psych evaluation to screen out lying, and having a clean record during the time of incarceration.

            As such, I think the executive power to grant clemency or pardon should be used sparingly at best, and never used lightly. It certainly should never be for sale as in the case of Marc Rich, but, at least going by what we have in this article, we aren’t dealing with that – I don’t think. I believe the state’s sympathies should lie with the victims, not the perpetrators, and as such, there should be minimal chances that the victim should have to see the guy who passed his son the drug that killed him, or who broke his jaw, or who raped her, or who killed their loved one, walking around free. That being the case, I think wide use of that power isn’t something to be celebrated with this limited information.

            I also have often said that no one should say it is better to let ten guilty men go free than one innocent man be imprisoned unless he is willing to let those ten guilty men move into his neighborhood. There are real consequences for real people when habitual criminals and those otherwise unfit for society slip through the proverbial cracks, and they seldom fall on those who allow those cracks to open wider than they should. In 2007 we had a TRIPLE homicide here, committed by someone who should have been deported long ago. The consequences of the decision not to ship this guy back south of the border didn’t fall on whatever official made that decision. They fell on the three families who saw their kids’ lives cut short through no fault of their own. I wonder if those who cut proven wrongdoers slack, or allow them the benefit of the doubt, would think twice about doing it if they knew the consequences for being wrong would fall on their own families rather than on strangers.

            We know very little of this here, and, as such, this article is too vague to be worthy of ethical celebration.

            • “As such, I think the executive power to grant clemency or pardon should be used sparingly at best, and never used lightly….That being the case, I think wide use of that power isn’t something to be celebrated with this limited information.”

              Something like 1.35 million prisoners are STILL serving their terms and 4.5 million people free after serving their sentences still have the crime on their records…

              So, at 1,176 commutations, we have roughly .09% of those serving sentences being commuted. Which by the way, doesn’t necessarily mean they are let off immediately and it certainly doesn’t have the weight of pardon, as their conviction remains on their record.

              At 148 pardons, that is .003% of former convicts having their record cleared OF THE PARTICULAR CRIME in question — so not even their full record if they have multiple convictions, though I’d submit in all likelihood not too many repeat offenders are on the pardon list if any.

              .09% and .003%… what’s your definition of “sparingly”?

              “I also have often said that no one should say it is better to let ten guilty men go free than one innocent man be imprisoned unless he is willing to let those ten guilty men move into his neighborhood.”

              And in the reverse, no one should say it is better for one innocent man to be imprisoned than to let ten guilty men free unless he is willing to be that innocent man who is imprisoned (or worse).

              Your Signoff

              I’m not sure your final anecdote is relevant to the topic being discussed. Though it is interesting from an immigration standpoint.

              My Thoughts
              1) Obama’s motives may have been to bolster his legacy, in which case there is real chance he gave more mercy than was warranted or didn’t review some cases DEEPLY enough. On the other hand, it may merely indicate that previous Presidents failed to grant mercy ENOUGH, and Obama, attempting to pad his impact on history just hit on some moral luck.

              2) This really is a balance between the efficacy of the justice system and the power of the President. As our system gets more refined and Due Process is more accurately applied, in theory, the rate of non-deserving convicts…that is to say, the actually innocent…should approach zero. But then again, the President’s power isn’t there JUST to reverse injustice…

              3) Given that balance, yes I agree with the abstract limit that the power should not be used willy-nilly and it should not be used as an immediate counteracting of a court’s ruling, but I also agree with the abstract need for Mercy to be permitted in our system — and I really don’t think anyone can make a good argument that it shouldn’t be, though Zoltar tried. But, to quantify those abstracts is where there is room for debate- what percentage of commutations and pardons is “willy-nilly”?

              4) And I don’t like the notion of stating an “appropriate” amount of clemency, lest it become an expected ritual, in which case it becomes just another game for people to play trying to get that clemency. It can’t be seen as something to be gamed or earned, because then it is no longer Mercy.

            • Better.
              But the presumption, based on what we know about the process, is that mad dog killers are not on the list, at least intentionally.

          • Steve-O-in-NJ

            P.S. Lizard brain? Never thought of lizards as being particularly hateful, but if you mean my brain shrank to the size of a lizard’s or a dinosaur’s (some of whom had famously small brains), ok. I’ll file that under anger making people stupid.

            • valkygrrl

              Lizard brain is the most primitive part situated near your brain stem*. The bits that evolved before we became mammals and the fancier stuff got added on top. Jack is accusing you of reacting to things without engaging the part that thinks about those reactions.

              Jack’s words show wisdom. Heed them.

              *https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/where-addiction-meets-your-brain/201404/your-lizard-brain

              • Steve-O-in-NJ

                Physician, heal thyself. I won’t repeat everything I said, but you’ve engaged in an awful lot of hate spew as well. I get that you’re upset about what happened last month, I get that you think that the system as it exists now isn’t fair, and I get that you hate the man who’s going to take the reins in less than 30 days.

                Virgil’s Aeneid begins with the fall of Troy. As the walls collapse, the fires rise, and the last of his soldiers fall, King Priam brushes off the women of his family’s pleas to flee to the altar of Jupiter and is about to join the fight when his last son, Polites, collapses before him, pursued by Pyrrhus, son of Achilles. Though Priam tries to raise his spear, Pyrrhus simply sneers “non tali auxilio nic defensoribus istus tempus eget – not such aid nor such defenders does the time require,” before he strikes Priam down.

                This is that time – the time for this kind of talk is over. Those on the left need to begin their Aeneid, and hope they can build a Rome out of the ashes of this Troy.

                • valkygrrl

                  At the Alamo would you have fled?
                  When Mehmed II breached the walls of Constantinople would you have fled?
                  Would you have climbed down from Masada when the Romans laid siege?
                  Should Leonidas have just let Xerxes have it all?
                  Would you have taken Denethor’s way out when he saw a black fleet in the Palantír?
                  Would you have urged Duchess Harrington to sail 8’th fleet off to Grayson after Home fleet and 5’th fleet were destoryed by Havenites? Leave Admiral Tourville able to control Manticore’s orbitals and dictate surrender terms to Empress Elizabeth?
                  Should Princess Longknife have fled from those six Peterwald battleships demanding Wardhaven’s surrender just because all she had was a dozen very light ships, a destroyer and some lightly armed merchant vessels?

                  You Steve-O have been clear that you’re coming for us on the American left. You want to hurt us. We have to stand and fight.

                  • Steve-O-in-NJ

                    (Kermit the frog scrunched face) Wha? You lost me after the Lord of the Rings reference. The other historical references I am familiar with, however, and the Alamo, Masada, Constantinople and Marathon all had one thing in common – none of the defenders walked away. The only difference between them and the suicidal garrison on Okinawa or the doomed Teutonic Order at Tannenberg is that they are perceived as being on the right side now, because their side later won. I do not think.any such later victory awaits the American left.

                    • valkygrrl

                      You’ve really never read the Honor Harrington books? Totally your loss, Horatio Hornblower in spaaaaaace written by a right-winger. And no Kris Longknife either? Kids these days. No one reads any more.

                      *mutters something about swapping in The Song of Roland and the siege of Stalingrad for people who can’t be bothered to pick up books filled with epic space battles and tales of derring-do.

                    • Steve-O-in-NJ

                      I thought I was going to have to reach out to my millennial budding writer friend on the West Coast, but Wikipedia is very helpful. Both those series have female protagonists, and I, like most guys, tended to pass those over when I was younger (I was in graduate school when Honor Harrington hit). The same isn’t true the other way, as far as women reading stuff with male protagonists, but that is a whole other discussion (which I had an interesting conversation about with a feminist but practical writer named Anna over mulled cider at a rainy Renaissance Fair two years ago, including the idea of choosing a character’s gender last of all). Interestingly I am working on my own fantasy series with the overarching title Days of Honor, but it refers to the quality, not a character, as it will explore, from the standpoint of several princes and noblemen, all the various aspects of what it means to be a hero, with a secondary plotline examining the balance between heroism and kindness.

                      I am of course familiar with the other two matters you cite, I took a whole course on epic and romance in college, which is where I also studied the Aeneid, and the siege of Stalingrad is well known to military history buffs. That said, last stands, and there are lots of them in history and literature alike, make for good stories, and some of them achieved something, i.e. Thermopylae, which did enough damage to the Persian army to make Salamis and Plataea, and Stalingrad, which tipped the balance on the Eastern Front just as Midway did in the Pacific. Denethor was already mentally precarious when he looked into the palantir, and the palantir was being fiddled with by Sauron to feed him incomplete information. BTW, in the books, Denethor takes his own life when the forces of Mordor close in and he believes his son Faramir to be dead, so he loses all hope and chooses to die with him. It is only in the rather poor Rankin-Bass adaptation of ROTK that he orders his own execution after seeing the vision of the black fleet.

                      Better examples to look to, though, are Rorke’s Drift, where 80 British soldiers successfully resisted a siege by 4,000 Zulus, Peking, where about 400 multinational legation guards withstood a siege for 55 days until relieved, Lucknow, where the few British and loyal Indians held the line until they heard the bagpipes of the 93rd Highlanders playing “The Campbells are Coming,” and Missolonghi, which withstood three sieges, the last of which ended badly only due to treachery (and turned into a political defeat for the besiegers).

                      No one is “coming for” anyone, unless it comes to open civil war, and I don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interest.

                    • valkygrrl

                      Poor adaption my left foot. I challenge you to find anything more awesome in all of animation than hundreds of orcs singing if there’s a whip there’s a way.

                      Do not dis that cartoon, I was watching it when I was toddling. Didn’t read the books till I was 11 and home sick with the flu.

                      Female protagonists do just as well captaining spaceships as men. Honor Harrington, Ky Vatta, Kris Longknife, Esmay Suiza, Breq.

                    • Steve-O-in-NJ

                      I was 10 when it hit NBC, and even then I was unimpressed, but I’d already read (sort of) the books by then. The book simply can’t be compressed into an hour and be faithful to the author’s intent. Yes, I remember the orc marching song “where there’s a whip, there’s a way” and the rest of the soundtrack. Although I thoroughly enjoyed Glenn Yarbrough’s ballad “The Greatest Adventure” from The Hobbit, I think too much music (at least three choral pieces, one melodrama spoken by Gandalf, and three folk ballads, two of which [one a dream of post-adventure peace, the other a lullaby to a struggling Frodo] actually stop the action) was used in ROTK to the point where it got in the way of the story. That said, I also get that it was pitched at kids, who would be generally a lot less critical.

                      In fiction I am sure women do just as well as men at a lot of things, including commanding starships. Unfortunately I would be willing to bet a bottle of fine champagne none of those characters could carry a film to success, nor would male moviegoers be concerned with much more than how screwable they look and whether or not they get naked.

                    • valkygrrl

                      That reflects poorly on male moviegoers and the people who raised them. So instead I’m going to choose to believe that your attitudes are not universal among males.

                    • Steve-O-in-NJ

                      I didn’t say that I thought that way. I don’t go running for films with female protagonists, although the upcoming Wonder Woman film may be one since it has the WWII element and the high fantasy element. I did watch a few TV series that had female protagonists or included female protagonists such as Law and Order and the various Chicago series (hey, one of the women on Chicago Fire was even a lesbian, although she became a victim of Bury Your Gays). Believe it or not Touched By an Angel was even a guilty pleasure for a while (Sunday night cup of cocoa viewing, and I am easily smitten by Irish women).

                      Who does think that way is most movie execs, who are all about selling tickets. Rom-coms, of course, are all about female protagonists because they are typically movies women drag their men to see. Sci-fi, action, etc., are usually movies pitched at men, where the protagonist is typically someone men want to BE. Men will watch sexy female action protagonists like Xena and like Lara Croft, but let’s not kid ourselves, they don’t care about anything but how they look.

                      Lousy attitudes, true, but unfortunately factual.

            • The “lizard brain” is a term used for our primitive, “fight of flight” reflexes, that we share with lwoer life forms, and that can take over due to say, emotion or substance impairment.

              • Speaking of the brain…

                Thought you might like this “funny” just don’t take it too seriously!!!!!

                Tea Party supporters use primarily the medulla oblongata portion of the brain. This part of the brain controls basic motor functions like: cardiac, respiratory, vomiting and vasomotor centers and deals with autonomic, involuntary functions, such as breathing, heart rate and blood pressure; all else is irrelevant to them. The general population that falls into this category are red-necks; because they just want to be left alone to exist in their own way. They like the Tea Party because it has the word “Party” in the name. Their favorite phrase is, “Where’s the beer?” This population rarely uses any other part of the brain.

                Pompous Intellectual Democrats are supported by those that use primarily the right side of the brain. This side of the brain controls the main parts of creative thought/thinking, imagination, artistry, socializing, and completely ignores things like analytical thought and facts. The general population that falls into this category are the ones that like to manipulate the “system” to their advantage to gain what they want while doing little to nothing such as Lawyers and those on welfare. They like democrats because they are “obviously” intellectually superior to them. Their favorite phrase is, “Woe is me”. This population rarely uses any other part of the brain except the medulla oblongata; they do have to keep the heart pumping to collect the next check.

                Ignorant Republicans are supported by those that use primarily the left side of the brain. The left side controls the main parts of analytical thought/thinking, math, distinguishing things, technical skills, facts, and completely ignores things like creativity and imagination. The general population that falls into this category are the ones that like to do things themselves without outside interference. Their favorite phrase is, “I can do it, get out of my face”. They like Republicans because they don’t want anyone in office that might be smarter than they are. This population rarely uses any other part of the brain except the medulla oblongata, they do have to be able to fart.

                Unlike the blind ideologies of the pompous Democrats (who only use the right side of the brain), ignorant Republicans (who only use the left side of the brain), and drunken Tea Partiers (who only use the medulla oblongata portion of the brain); Independents center their use of the entire brain around the cerebral cortex and the corpus collosum. The cerebral cortex plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness and the corpus collosum integrates the left brain and the right brain which allows communication to flow freely throughout the entire brain. Some of the most intelligent and talented people have very healthy “corpus collosum” because it’s the integration of the left and right brain skills that results in wondrous achievements. This cross function of the entire brain gives the independents the ability to distinguish between fact and bull sh!t. Their favorite phrase is, “Please engage your brain before opening your mouth to change socks!” This population is rarely caught not using their entire brain including the medulla oblongata; after all they need the motor functions to keep the pompous Democrats, ignorant Republicans and drunken Tea Partiers out of elected government positions.

                Then there are people that simply do not fit into any of the above honorably mentioned categories at all because they actually don’t use any portion of their brains – or what’s left of it after the self-destruction of hateful thoughts generated by all the tainted illegal drugs they take. They have no useful positions on any subject. Their motor functions are extremely limited; their keepers only change them when they are paid to do so, which just makes them angrier at the world so they anonymously lash out at others on the internet in extremely childish and hateful ways which makes them feel like they are finally worth more than the full depends they are sitting in. These individuals are properly labeled TROLLS which we all know to be someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. Complete sentences are not their forte because that would require complete coherent thoughts and the ability to string multiple intelligent words in a string that would relay that thought. Trolls are a spineless panzies that hide behind their computer monitors.

              • Steve-O-in-NJ

                Emotion – not impairment in this case. If you ever catch me drunk posting you can personally kick me off the blog.

    • It wouldn’t appear that a significant number (if any) of the pardons/commutations could be interpreted as directly letting someone off the hook almost as soon as the judge’s gavel hit the bench and jury’s chairs were still warm…

    • Steve-O-in-NJ,
      There is a right way of discussing this topic and a wrong way, I think you have chosen the wrong way. Take a pill.

  2. Jack said, “We must assume that the beneficiaries of Obama’s mercy are deserving…”

    Why must we assume that? Isn’t that “deserving” a bit of a rationalization?

    This is a topic where I firmly disagree with many other people.

    I for one do not agree with any single person, whether it is the President of the United States or a State Governor, having the sole power to override our system of justice that was put in place to take individuals that have violated standing laws and put them back on the streets before they have served out their sentence for their crime.

    That said; I have only two exceptions and that is in cases where a prisoner was put in prison for a non-violent criminal act that has been stricken from the books and is no longer an enforceable law, and the second is removing a death penalty of an individual in favor of life-in prison without parole.

    Forgiveness and mercy is different than overriding our system of justice.

    • That said…

      This is a privileged granted the President (and some state Governors) and I disagree with the basic concept.

    • “Forgiveness and mercy is different than overriding our system of justice.”

      I don’t think this is accurate.

      By definition Mercy IS an overriding of Justice –

      Justice is the APPLICATION of punishment towards a miscreant.
      Mercy is the WITHHOLDING of punishment towards a miscreant.

      Now, those are the two base definitions free of nuance, and one could argue that a miscreant who has demonstrated contrition and reform has “earned* a kind of mercy and therefore it isn’t mercy but just a kind of justice. But our system doesn’t work that way. You commit a crime, you do the time allotted FOR THAT crime, regardless of how stellar any of your previous or follow-on conduct is.

      Which is why it is still MERCY to withhold the remainder of a punishment even if the reason is due to miscreants supposed reform.

      And yes, Mercy IS a counteracting of Justice.

      And thank God it’s a component of our system (It’s definitely a component of HIS system).

      • texagg04,
        You’re welcome to your opinion about mercy;but we disagree.

        In my opinion (and I think this is supported by available definitions) mercy is granted by those that have the power to punish; the justice system has the power to grant mercy, judges have the power to grant mercy, juries have the power to grant mercy, and victims have the power to grant mercy; the President and Governors do not have this power.

        • As Alexander Hamilton argues in Federalist #74:

          “Humanity and good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favour of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel. As the sense of responsibility is always strongest, in proportion as it is undivided, it may be inferred, that a single man would be most ready to attend to the force of those motives which might plead for a mitigation of the rigour of the law, and least apt to yield to considerations, which were calculated to shelter a fit object of its vengeance. The reflection that the fate of a fellow creature depended on his sole fiat, would naturally inspire scrupulousness and caution: the dread of being accused of weakness or connivance, would beget equal circumspection, though of a different kind. On the other hand, as men generally derive confidence from their number, they might often encourage each other, in an act of obduracy, and might be less sensible to the apprehension of censure for an injudicious or affected
          clemency. On these accounts, one man appears to be a more eligible dispenser of the mercy of the government than a body of men.”

          • I don’t want to hear any more from that idiot…
            Kidding. Sort of.

            • Anytime a discussion that ultimately derives from a Constitutional issue arises, I always like to include pertinent commentary from the Founders. I am still scouring the individual notes of Convention participants regarding the Electoral College in regards to that discussion, so it isn’t just Hamilton’s opinion guiding the discussion of its origins.

              Full disclosure…however in this instance, about 15% of my motivation WAS to take a cheap jab at an irritant all in good fun.

              But still 85% motivation because the guy’s who crafted the Constitution left us a vast repository of essays helping us understand their vision.

        • Then you deny the role of checks and balances.

          The WHOLE system is concerned with the enactment and enforcement of Law.

          Determining and applying Justice is written Most heavily and essentially exclusively into the Judicial Branch. Yes.

          And within that branch, checks against the application of punishment are hard-wired into the system. Opportunities for Mercy are found EVERYWHERE in the system. From limitations such as the need to prove guilt beyond “reasonable doubt”, to the trial by Jury, Mercy is written into the system. But at the end of the day, the Judicial system determines the final guilt of someone. This cannot be an EXCLUSIVE power, lest it give the Judicial system complete control over the fate of an accused individual.

          We call that tyranny. A tiny tyranny yes, but tyranny nonetheless.

          So, we give 2 checks back to the Executive branch. At the onset the Executive branch can decide NOT to even press charges and at the tail end the Executive branch can reprieve and pardon.

          And as noted in the argument for this power, by Hamilton, the President himself is checked on numerous fronts from using this power willy-nilly or to actively undermine Justice.

  3. Lastly; I don’t think this makes Obama an ethical hero in any way. This is a privilege granted the President, he can choose to use it or he can choose not to use it based on his own personal beliefs.

    Since using this Presidential privilege is overriding our justice system, I don’t believe it is ethical; sure it’s legal but that doesn’t make it ethical.

    • Checks and balances are precisely why we have a “more perfect” system…

      I don’t think ANYONE can say clemency, either through pardoning or commutation is, is Ethical or Unethical. Nothing necessitates the whole concept to be unethical.

      Now, if you were to do the grunt work and review EVERY single one of the cases in question, you might find on individual cases some of the acts are unethical whereas some are perfectly within the realm of Mercy.

    • If it comforts you any, the remaining estimated 1.35 million prisoners are STILL serving their sentences as prescribed by the regulations…

  4. “Now, presumably in a last minute flurry to enhance his legacy, Obama has embraced these acts of mercy as one thing he can do that Donald Trump will not be able to reverse. Obama’s motives are irrelevant, however.”

    Maybe. I’m still undecided on the whole “right thing for the wrong reasons” problem.

    Maybe ethical…but less ethical than “right thing for the right reasons”.

  5. Jack,

    Does the President’s power of clemency only act as a check against Federal convictions? Or can he make the decision regarding people serving time in State prisons for State convictions?

  6. It would be fascinating to me to know some aggregated statistics about how the future panned out for recipients of presidential clemency. What great things have they done and how many stumbled again. It would be a curiosity and a great waste of time to peruse that info.

  7. Paul Compton

    Gotta love ‘The Merchant of Venice’.

    Having espoused the wonderful and ennobling nature of being merciful, Portia immediately descends into the worst of spitefulness! True, where someone refuses to show mercy they are deserving of none, but to suggest that mercy should be the all in all and then not only go for the jugular but to kick the bloke when he’s down and finish off by peeing on the body does seem to indicate she isn’t quite as merciful to others as she’d like them to be!

    Perhaps it could be updated to a hip hop production, the focus changed, and call it ‘The Merchant of Vengeance’!

  8. Neil Dorr

    Jack,
    “We must assume that the beneficiaries of Obama’s mercy are deserving, and that there aren’t any Marc Rich-types in the group.”

    Why must we? I don’t disagree; I have no opinion because I honestly don’t know the list very well. Please disregard if you answered above.

    • We must because there’s a presumption that a President isn’t a slime bag, unless he has indicated that he is one. Even Bill Clinton, whom we knew was a slime bag, surprised us by essentially selling a pardon for an awful person like Marc Rich.

  9. zoebrain

    It would be good if all those found (in Scalia’s words) to be Factually Innocent were automatically granted a pardon. Also those who were only convicted due to a desire for judicial finality, but who would have won on appeal had they been allowed one. For example, by their attorney filing too late due to illness, or the courts simultaneously determining that an appeal was both untimely due to not having exhausted all other remedies, but also too late due to statutes of administrative limitations.

    That latter really gets my goat – no penalties for administrative review boards who usually ignore their legal obligation to give timely replies, but a system that assumes that they always do reply within that timeframe, so have hard time limits for appeals to be filed.

  10. luckyesteeyoreman

    Dang! Seems I almost always miss the best discussions here as they proceed. ‘Tis the season, I guess; I’ll just have to pay closer attention to everyone’s time tags…a quick glance through those makes clear that participation would likely conflict with my job responsibilities, my hours of “peak work.” My current view on pardon powers, at this hour, is “do not like”…would prefer a sizable group’s consensus to one individual’s decision. On the other hand, I don’t want to neglect how “a sizable group’s consensus” probably precedes the individuals’ decisions, anyway…

  11. Remarkably, this one generated less *discussion* than I anticipated.

  12. Al Veerhoff

    As I understand it, there is an immense backlog of prisoners that people in the judicial system believe are worthy of pardons or commuted sentences. In addition to such abuses as post-trial discovery of exculpatory evidence or mismanaged defense, there are many convicts who received mandatory sentences (often for long periods) during the times when we were really going to crack down on drug offenders. They are still in prison even though times have changed and drug dealers now receive lighter sentences, especially when the drug is marijuana. These more recent offenders are out on parole while the older convicts remain in prison.

    Is that clear? Obama is dealing with a problem that has gotten bigger across two administrations. Soon it will Donald Trump’s problem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s