Two Quotes

“What does that mean, ‘outrages upon human dignity?’ That’s a statement that is wide open to interpretation.”

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

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6 Responses to Two Quotes

  1. I think in this case “upon” is the problem, which is considerably more serious than…. never mind.

  2. Walt says:

    Tim — You’re just having fun, right? You don’t think “outrages upon human dignity” is a clear enough standard for criminal prosecution, do you?

  3. Timothy Burke says:

    I think it’s a clear enough standard to make clear that “waterboarding” and other techniques are included under the meaning of the phrase. Just as I think it’s clear that “blow jobs” are included under the general meaning of “sex”. In both cases, the difficulty of precise legalisms is being used to obfuscate a clear *general* and *understood* meaning of a concept.

    Which, I was given to understand by some of Clinton’s critics, was the scandalous thing about Clinton: that he would use legalisms to deflect common sense conceptions of the truth.

  4. Walt says:

    I see your point. I just don’t think it helps for those of us who care about civil liberties to mock one of its core principles, which is a clear advance statement of what the law requires. “Outrages upon human dignity” just isn’t clear, and people who are trying to obey the law are entitled to an interpretation, one way or another.

  5. Timothy Burke says:

    Again, no doubt. But in this case, the statement is being made with a mock-concern for that legal issue, as what the President wants is to exempt a great many actions that commonsensically would be described as “outrages upon human dignity”. He is using legalism as a pretext to engage in Orwellian violence against the meaning of words.

  6. christopher m says:

    I think it’s clear that “blow jobs” are included under the general meaning of “sex”.

    That doesn’t seem clear to me at all. No doubt the meaning of “sex” varies by social context (and perhaps generationally as well). But if, say, a friend asked me, about someone I was dating, “Have you two had sex yet?” and my activity with the person had been limited to blow jobs or other non-intercourse activity, I certainly wouldn’t say “Yes.” “No” seems the truthful answer to me, though it’s ambiguous enough that a clarification is probably called for: “Well, not actual sex, but…” It would simply be false, in the language I use, to say “Yes” and leave it at that.

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