Some Bartenders Have the Gift of Pardon

by Henry Farrell on December 5, 2008

“Josh Marshall”: is a little uncertain about Jerry Nadler’s “proposed measure”: to reform the pardons process.

in addition to always being leery of fiddling with the constitution, I don’t know if I like the idea of changing the pardon power. I think it’s an important safety valve in our constitutional system. If it’s been a problem, rather than changing the constitution, maybe we need better presidents.

Looking more closely at what “Nadler is saying”:, it seems to me that there are two distinct elements. One is the suggestion that the President not be allowed to pardon members of his/her own administration. This, I suspect, is the bit that Josh is leery of – I imagine that his thinking is that in a country where the prosecution is highly politicized (as in the US), the benefits of having the President able to overturn politically-driven prosecutions may outweigh the benefits. This, I think can be argued either way. But I can’t see any very good argument against the second, admittedly more tentative element of Nadler’s proposal – that the President’s power to pardon be restricted during his/her final months in office. As we saw most notoriously with “Clinton”:, presidents may possibly have a strong incentive to pardon people in the closing months of their administration, because they won’t have to pay a significant political price for it. This creates real problems of democratic accountability, in an area where the arguments for political discretion seem relatively weak (e.g. if the claim is that the power would be used primarily to overturn bogus political prosecutions, then there shouldn’t be much of a legitimacy hit for pardoning people earlier in the President’s term). So is there any good rationale why the President shouldn’t be constitutionally forbidden from issuing pardons say, during the interregnum after November 4 and before the new President takes office?


The UW School of Medicine and Public Health has just adopted a new grading policy; for first year students it has gotten rid of public letter grades, replacing them with a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory division. You can read a bit about it here. In fact, the students do get assigned letter grades, but these do not appear on their transcript. The Wisconsin Association of Scholars asked me to participate in an event at the School this week, where we would simultaneously discuss the new policy (the Dean of the School was on the panel) and launch Grade Inflation: Academic Standards in Higher Education edited by my colleague Lester Hunt, who also spoke (adapting part of his really excellent summary afterword to the book). I adapted a bit of my chapter for the book in my talk (it also overlaps with this post announcing the book — the repetition isn’t too extensive though), but also said what I think about the new policy. I thought I’d post the talk partly because the panel was not so well attended, largely because it was one of those suddenly very cold Wisconsin evenings (my father-in-law, fresh from Iraq, did attend, but slept right through my talk!). The text is below the fold. I should add that my sense is that the W.A.S. set up the event partly because some people were very skeptical about the policy; I think that once people had heard the Dean all were convinced that it was sensible.

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Horowitz vs Australia

by John Q on December 5, 2008

The great David Horowitz campaign against evul academics has reached Australia, and has even occasioned a Senate inquiry. It was a load of fun. The report is good reading, as is the minority report by the Liberal (= conservative down under) Party Senators who called the inquiry in the first place, but lost control following their election defeat last year. A snippet suggests that those involved knew how to handle Horowitzism

From the committee’s perspective it appeared as
though it was to be called on to play its part in a university revue. The submissions,
the performance and the style – to say nothing of the rhetoric – presented by some
Liberal Students suggested a strong undergraduate tone. The ‘outing’ of Left and
purportedly Left academics and commentators (masquerading as academics as we
were told at one hearing) was in keeping with this tone. None of those outed objected.
Some appeared flattered to be named in the company of others more famous

The list of leftist academics is, I must admit, a sore point. I never located the full list (the links on the inquiry website were skew-whiff) but clearly I wasn’t on it. What does a leftist have to do to get noticed in this country?