Does the NY Times even have editors anymore?

Published by marco on

So it’s another dreary Saturday (weather-wise) and I’m trying to make my way through this article, List of Pardons Included Many Tied to Power by Campbell Robertson (NY Times).

It tells of a traffic accident:

“Scotty Plunk, the driver of the truck, was killed. The driver of the Toyota, 19-year-old Joel Vann, had been drinking so much that he did not remember the accident.”

Plunk killed by teenage drunk driver, Vann. The story is about why Haley Barbour—notoriously corrupt governor of Mississippi—pardoned him.

“It is unclear what persuaded the governor to pardon Mr. Vann; his clemency application contains glowing references and a case study.”

The two parts of this sentence directly contradict each other. I’m almost certain the author meant to write “It is clear”. That’s a pretty major slip-up so early in the article (the part that even the worst editor will actually read). The next couple of sentences are even more mysterious. The letter applying for clemency came from Vann’s father and “traced [young] Vann’s path from rehabilitation through college, marriage and fatherhood”. That seems like a lot of living to pack in to 19 years. Either the guy’s age was given incorrectly at the beginning of the article or Vann did all of that either while pending trial or while in jail.

The article settles down after that and is quite an interesting read about the pardons made by Haley Barbour on his way out the door: “he issued 10 times as many as his four predecessors combined”. The people released were both overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly well-connected. “Many of the applications contain the type of recommendations that a poor person could be hard-pressed to collect: character references from state legislators or local elected officials.” One guy—“serving 33 years in prison for growing eight pounds of marijuana”—spent $1000 he barely had to apply for a pardon and never heard back.

The basic problem is that the law even allows such a sweeping override of the judgments of courts by an official. The problem with executive override also exists at a federal level. “Grants of clemency are solely at the governor’s discretion, and he is not obligated to give his reasoning.” Not only does the governor (or president) have final say, there is no way to prove corruption because he or she has power of fiat.