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Thoughts on the Power and the Limits of Presidential Pardons

Was President Trump right when he tweeted that “all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon”? It is true that the power of the President of the United States to issue pardons is indeed one of the president’s most powerful Article II powers – but, it is also, despite the implication of President Trump’s tweet, limited.

August 2017 / 7 min.

Publishing leaked materials: the Pentagon Papers case

Within a month of taking office, President Donald Trump announced his desire to go after “leakers” who have helped embroil his administration in controversy. He also declared many traditional news outlets to be “enem[ies] of the American People!” What does this mean for those who publish such material?

July 2017 / 5 min.

Promoting involuntary sterilization: early hints of problems in the 1930s

A 1930s article published in The Journal of Heredity, “Beginnings of Sterilization in America,” is notable for the way it portrayed sterilization, particularly when it is compared to an earlier account of the same interview with Dr. Sharp that formed the basis of the article and that has been preserved in the archives of California’s Human Betterment Foundation.

February 2017 / 10 min.

Fake news, libel, and press protections against executive power

The press serves an important role in checking executive power in the American system. The first article in this series deals with libel suits against newspapers; the second will cover the publication of leaked materials (the so-called “Pentagon Papers”).

January 2017 / 4 min.

“Baloney Detection” in the era of “fake news”

In attempting to help my students (and extended family) recognize these categories more responsibly – preferably before they share them – I think it’s useful to remember Carl Sagan’s chapter on “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” from 1996.

January 2017 / 3 min.

E. S. Gosney Papers and Records of the Human Betterment Foundation

As part of my dissertation on privacy and technology, I’m looking into sterilization in the early part of the twentieth century. The E. S. Gosney Papers and Records of the Human Betterment Foundation have a number of archival records capturing information about these patients, especially those who were institutionalized.

October 2016 / 2 min.

Privacy, autonomy, and birth control in America, 1860-1900

Access to birth control became, controversially, protected by the “right to privacy” in 1965; a hundred years before, “procreation was a matter of public concern.” Yet, contradictorily and confusingly, Victorian women – and their bodies – were protected (and limited) by a powerful social division between private and public spheres.

May 2016 / 6 min.

Victorian domestic specialization and gender roles

As the Victorian version of separate spheres solidified in the mid-nineteenth century, the “idea of wifely sainthood gained ever more credence as housewives found themselves increasingly isolated from the male-operated world.”

May 2016 / 3 min.

Justice Scalia on the Constitution, privacy, and criminality

Justice Scalia once noted that “the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all.”

April 2016 / 1 min.

Prohibition and the domestic home

The Volstead Act (implementing Prohibition), in keeping with American legal tradition, gave special recognition to the home and the private, domestic sphere.

April 2016 / 2 min.