Friday, August 01, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
For decades American legal theorists have talked about the indeterminacy of legal language. Probability theorists prefer to talk about the uncertainty of legal terms. But in a recent message to a discussion list Lotfi Zadeh once again noted that it is important to distinguish between uncertainty about the meaning of words (language) and the elasticity, or plasticity, of words (language). The distinction that Zadeh makes between uncertain meaning and elastic language is, think, very important for an understanding of the nature of legal reasoning and interpretation. Although elastic words (I would say) produce uncertainty, it is important to remember that words themselves are elastic, i.e., that words exhibit elastic "behavior." Note: it is possible, in principle, to know fairly precisely how elastic words behave under various circumstances. When we have such knowledge about a word, we are not really very uncertain about the meaning of the word but we still can say and must say that the meaning of the word in question varies, or stretches, depending (for example)on the context. (In such a situation there is only a very loose -- and possibly misleading -- sense in which it can be said that the meaning of the word is indeterminate.)
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
William Glaberson, "A U.S. Trial by Its Looks, but Only So," NYTimes (July 29, 2008)Question: If some detainees are acquitted, will this prove that the Guantanamo somewhat-trial-like proceedings are just?
Answer: It may just prove that some military jurors are good-hearted -- or, alternatively, that some of the military actors are concerned about public relations or other such matters.
A system of adjudication can be distorted if it produces an unacceptable number false negatives as well as if it produces too many false positives. One thing seems reasonably sure about the proceedings at Guantánamo: much of the important evidence will not be subjected to adversarial testing. There is good reason to wonder if it will be subjected to an adequate degree and quality of nonadversarial evaluation.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
How much of a difference have such aid programs made? Consider just one piece of data from the story cited above:
The current $15 billion act, which expires at the end of September, has helped bring lifesaving anti-retroviral drugs to some 1.7 million people and supported care for nearly 7 million.