Note: this reading group was written by an anonymous champion of the law.

Last week, President Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt for defying a court order. The subsequent public uproar brought new life to the impeachment movement, with some claiming that this was Trump’s most impeachable offense yet. So, this week, we’ll take a look at the basics of presidential pardons, the story of Joe Arpaio, and discuss where we think Trump stands in a long history of pardon-related controversies.

All Readings

(1) Explainer on presidential pardon power.

(2) Arpaio’s unauthorized immigration practices.

(3) An impeachable offense?

A couple of infamous past pardons:

(4) President Ford’s Nixon pardon (and what Trump could learn from it).

(5) President Clinton’s Marc Rich pardon for financial crimes.


“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

We’ve discussed many issues, ideas, events (historical and current) during this reading group. Quite often, we explore these topics at top-down level in order to digest their big ideas more easily. But through this approach we can gloss over the personal experiences of those who endured or instigated these events.

Therefore, I’d like to do something a little different for this reading group. I’d like each person to…


Humans are categorizing machines. Try this exercise: the next time you see a person on the street, try and guess aspects of their personality or background (gut reactions only — don’t think too hard about it).

Maybe you saw an Asian male walking on Berkeley’s campus and inferred that he’s a math major. Naturally, we’d say that your inference was rooted in the stereotype that Asians are good at math. You might defend yourself — “He was wearing a Berkeley Mathematics shirt!” — but who’s to say it was his shirt? Maybe he borrowed it from his girlfriend (or boyfriend?)…


Source: Penner, Andrew M. “Gender inequality in science.” Science 347. 6219 (2015): 235.

Women, overall, are underrepresented in science. If we look more closely at the data, however, we find that the issue of gender imbalance is more subtle. Fields such as psychology, biosciences, and the social sciences (excluding economics) exhibit gender parity. On the other hand, women are vastly underrepresented in areas such as mathematics, physics, engineering, and economics. How can we explain this phenomenon?

In this reading group, we’ll focus on the acclaimed paper “Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines” by Leslie et al., which provides a hypothesis for the gender distribution in the sciences. In addition, I’ve…


Source: http://time.com/4642399/womens-march-united-states-cities/

The day after Donald Trump was inaugurated, more than 2 million people throughout America took part in the Women’s March. This was the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history. In the two weeks following his inauguration, more protests erupted in response to Donald Trump’s executive orders, particularly his order on immigration.

Protesting is a part of the American tradition: the American Revolution began as a series of protests against the British Empire, the Civil Rights movement consistently utilized protest, and every war America has participated in has resulted in oppositional protest. Protesting is deeply associated with social and political change…


Source: http://www.expectmorearizona.org/blog/2015/10/20/arizonas-education-funding-proposals/

Throughout our reading groups, we’ve repeatedly wondered whether many of the social and economic inequalities in America can be traced back to the education gap — the disparity in education performance between different populations of students. Thus, education reform is of particular interest because it may serve as a viable long-term strategy to combat socioeconomic inequalities. So, how do we go about education reform — should we just naively pump in money to poorer schools?

We first need to understand how public school funding is dispersed in the first place. …


Source : http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/trump-us-politics-poor-whites/

Why were we so surprised to see Donald Trump upset Hillary Clinton in the election? One reason was his divisive rhetoric: many thought it would alienate Republicans who would normally vote along party lines. After all, some members of his own party would not endorse him. As it turned out, he had key support in the battleground states. So, what happened?

A cursory review of exit polls shows a clear discrepancy between white and non-white voters. For one, Donald Trump handily won the white “uneducated” (no college education) vote. …


The readings provided a thorough background on the electoral college’s structure in contemporary elections. We had several misconceptions on how the college operates that the readings were able to correct.

We spent the majority of the time discussing whether the electoral college is an appropriate method to elect the president. We unanimously agreed that the electoral college was designed (and redesigned) for a different time. Furthermore, the founding fathers did not anticipate the progression of American politics (specifically, the birth of the political parties and the two-party system) and hence could not take this into consideration in its design.

We…


Source: http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/13/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-swing-state-polls-2016-election/

In the recent presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (62,523,126 votes to Trump’s 61,201,031 at the time of this writing), while Donald Trump won the electoral college vote (290 votes to Hillary’s 232 at the time of this writing). This electoral college “misfire” is the second to happen in the last four elections, leading many to argue that the electoral college should be abolished and replaced with a national popular vote.

Before one can make an argument for or against the electoral college, it’s important understand its history and structure. …

Pratik Sachdeva

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