Debunked: Chance a prisoner seeking a commutation for President Clinton/Bush/Obama

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
This seems like a prime example of lying with statistics. The suggestion is that Obama is being especially draconian in refusing commutations. Here's how the bunk appears:

http://harpers.org/archive/2013/03/harpers-index-348/
[bunk]Chance a prisoner seeking a commutation of sentence under President Clinton received one: 1 in 90
Under George W. Bush: 1 in 780
Under Barack Obama: 1 in 6,631[/bunk]

The source of these statistics is given rather loosely as "Office of the Pardon Attorney". I say loosely as it's quite easy to give a direct link to the actual figures, and it's almost like they don't want you to check.

http://www.justice.gov/pardon/statistics.htm

The reason that these figures are bunk is they only cover the first four years of Obama's presidency. The majority of commutations are given in the last four years, peaking very sharply in in the last year.

If you look just at the same time period, you'll see that the are basically the same number of commutations. Three for clinton, two for Bush, one for Obama. It's not a meaningful distinction.

 
Last edited:

Grieves

Senior Member
Dude. You've completely discounted the 'pardon' figures. They count.
from the other thread.
To date,the Obama administration has issued a total of 22 pardons and 1 commutation in five years, out of a total of 8337 petitions received for either/or.
The Bush administration, by its fifth year, had issued a total of 60 pardons/commutations, out of 5174 received petitions.
The Clinton administration by its fifth year had issued a total of 56 pardons/commutations, out of 3315 received petitions.
no statistical spin here, those are the figures taken directly from the page. Obama's current record of pardons/commutations is quite clearly and absolutely far less forgiving than those of the Bush or Clinton administration, even in their first five years, by a good 50+%. Take into account the number of petitions received, and the difference becomes far more stark. The numbers are the numbers.
You going to scratch out that 'debunked'?
it's almost like they don't want you to check.
Every issue of Harpers features an 'Index' at the start, citing interesting statistical figures which have come down the pipeline lately. Though these figures are sometimes tongue-in-cheek or even politically motivated where the intent of their being listed is concerned, they are usually accurate, and their sources are always cited toward the back of the publication. If they didn't want you to check, they wouldn't cite their sources. As far as I know nothing is obliging them too.Harper's, so far as I'm concerned, is one of the most respectable American publications still in print.
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
Pres Obama, can't do anything without folks SCREAMING about it. If Michelle buys a 'designer' coat, to go over her J.Crew outfit, the right wingers will bitch and moan. He CAN'T do as many pardons.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I didn't discount the pardon figures. I'm debunking the quote, which specifically deals with commutations. So that quote is debunked.

If you look at the actual pattern, with several years of zero, then it's clear that it's not simply one guy being tougher than another, the figures are too randomly distributed to draw any inference. Like if you take just the first three years, Bush only had 7 pardons, Obama had 17.
For five years we have:

Clinton Pardons: 0,0,53, 0, 0
Bush Pardons: 0,0, 7,12,39
Obama Pardons: 0,0,17, 5, 0

What can you deduce from this pattern? Statistically nothing.
 

Grieves

Senior Member
The figures out of Haprer's are based on the totals thus-far. Clinton, out of 5,488 petitions total during his presidency for commutation, granted 61. That makes 1 in 90 an almost perfectly accurate figure where odds are concerned.
The Bush administration, receiving 8,576 applications for commutation, granted 11. That makes 1 in 780 an almost perfectly accurate figure where odds are concerned.
Obama, in his presidency thus-far, has recieved 6,986 applications for commutation, and has granted 1. That makes 1 in 6k+ an obviously accurate figure where odds are concerned.
And so, thus far at least, the figures are entirely accurate. That the odds may change as Obama's presidency progresses doesn't change the odds as they stand currently, and the quote directly relates to the odds, or 'chance', based on current figures. Still, even if we disregard those figures on the basis the Obama presidency isn't over yet, it's still quite accurate to say, based on a review of the first five years of all three presidents, that Obama, thus far, is by far the least likely to offer a pardon/commutation. Those are the numbers. Nothing's been debunked. Even if you claim those statistics shouldn't be considered significant given the Obama presidency is still ongoing and the figures COULD change, they're still the figures. You CANNOT call this quote debunked in honesty. The information is factual, even if you strongly disagree with what I suggest it implies.
 

Grieves

Senior Member
5 ways statistics are used to lie to you every day - this fits at #2 and also #1

Edit: It also fits the fallacy that something that is decided deliberately is a matter of chance - which isn't listed but I suspect should be.
I brought up these figures as being worthy of note while mentioning the less than liberal bent of the current administration. When entering a petition with a bureaucratic process of government there's a significant element of chance involved in how your individual case is handled.

The suggestion is that Obama is being especially draconian in refusing commutations.
My implied inference has no bearing on Harper's publishing of these figures. There wasn't a little article saying 'this is what we think about that', it's just those three bullet points. Disagreeing with what I believe is inferred doesn't 'debunk' the figures themselves. This thread opened suggesting, or at least seeming to suggest, the figures themselves were inaccurate spin to begin with.
 
J

Joe

Guest
Pres Obama, can't do anything without folks SCREAMING about it. If Michelle buys a 'designer' coat, to go over her J.Crew outfit, the right wingers will bitch and moan. He CAN'T do as many pardons.
If our economy wasn't in the toilet I'm sure Us Right wingers wouldn't care less . Why tell America we have to tighten our belts when the first family goes completely overboard with lavish perks and parties , Its called setting a example . So the left wingers never bitched and moaned over Bush ? Its America we have every right to complain about who we support with our tax money .
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
My implied inference has no bearing on Harper's publishing of these figures. There wasn't a little article saying 'this is what we think about that', it's just those three bullet points. Disagreeing with what I believe is inferred doesn't 'debunk' the figures themselves. This thread opened suggesting, or at least seeming to suggest, the figures themselves were inaccurate spin to begin with.

I was not saying the figures were inaccurate in themselves. I opened the tread suggesting it was "lying with statistics". That means using accurate figures to paint a misleading picture. Here it's misleading because they compared a period that has low and sporadic figures with a larger period that has higher figures. So it's a misleading comparison. They also pick commutations, because there's just one, so it makes the (already misleading) comparison even more misleading because the comparison with other presidents is ten times greater than if they had used pardons plus commutations.

So I stand by my posts. What is debunked is the suggestion that this is an accurate representation of the differences between the presidents. It very clearly is not. The figures DO seem to show some differences, but it's hard to see any statistical significance given the previous random timings of pardons and commutations.
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
The trouble is, is that the Obamas PAY for their OWN clothes. Many of the things that circulate on FB about their lavish lifestyle are not true. Take the salary of the dog trainer. First, they pay that, second the amount that was being said he made, was his TOTAL salary and he works for many folks. If Romney had won, it would have been just as wrong for folks to complain about how much her horse trainer was paid.

Complaining about how much the President and his family spends is not new with the Obamas, it has been done for many years. I believe that there were editorials that complained about how much Mary Lincoln spent on clothes
 

walliswallis

New Member
I lost track of where this was going. Something about pardons and then it became about how we were all incorrectly mad about their Macy's bill so the pardon stats were wrong.
 
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