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Author Topic: The Meaning of "Is"
Anthony
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Accoring to Fox News, the following Clinton quote of one of three in the next edition of Barletts:

quote:
"It depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is. If the--if he--if "is" means is and never has been, that is not — that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement."
Grand jury testimony, August 17, 1998

As you can guess from my signature, I have never been a fan of our ex-president. But I never realzied until now that that was a real quote.

------------------
Right Wing Conspirator 34,736,902 (Hey, it's a VAST conspiracy, right?)


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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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Do you have the context? I mean, there are times that "is" implies the existence of what's under discussion, and times it only alludes to an hypothetical. It also implies the present, when the question might have to do with the past.

"Is your dog the one that bit my daughter?" No problem: concrete case.

"Is it your recollection that you never said 'xyz.'" Problem: what if it is *now* my recollection that I *did* say 'xyz,' but at the time of a previous testimony, it wasn't. What "is" my recollection?

Here's a good one: "Is it nine o'clock?" How do you answer that one under oath? Look at your watch: sure enough, nine on the dot. You say, "Yes." Ten minutes later, under cross examination, you have to change your answer.

"Members of the jury, the witness is changing his answer..."

These may seem silly -- hey, these *ARE* silly -- but take a look at two examples that HAVE been used by lawyers to impugn a witnesses veracity.

Example One: Policeman has finished summing up the details of a traffic stop. The defendant's attorney asks, "Is that your complete report?" Policeman: "Yes, it is." Attorney: "Was it windy that day?" Policeman: "Um...actually, no, it wasn't." Attorney: "That wasn't in your report. And yet you said your report was complete. I'm afraid I have to call your honesty into doubt..."

Example Two: Attorney: "Have you ever met Mister X before?" Witness: "No, sir." Attorney: introduces as evidence a photo of the two men, standing a few feet apart, at a crowded ballroom, obviously a big fund-raising event of some sort. "There you are, and there he is. It's obvious that you're lying."

Here's my bottom line: yes, Clinton "evaded" the truth, but he did it the way a lawyer does, by hedging to the exact "letter" of the law, and ignoring the spirit. He himself acknowledged that, and I think it has always been pretty obvious.

Remember: he asked the judge to give him the legal definition of "sexual relations." He examined that definition. Then he said that he had not had "sexual relations" with M.L. The judge's definitions apparently excluded the ol' lip-service. It ain't a "lie," just an evasion.

Silas ("You should'a seen *me* on the stand!") Sparkhammer


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snopes
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And that's exactly how it came up in context:

-----------------------------------

QUESTION: Mr. President, I want to go into a new subject area, briefly go over something you were talking about with Mr. Bittman.

The statement of your attorney, Mr. Bennett, at the Paula Jones deposition -- counsel is fully aware -- it's page 54, line 5. Counsel is fully aware that Ms. Lewinsky is filing, has an affidavit, which they were in possession of, saying that there was absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form with President Clinton. That statement was made by your attorney in front of Judge Susan Webber Wright.

CLINTON: That's correct.

QUESTION: Your -- that statement is a completely false statement. Whether or not Mr. Bennett knew of your relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, the statement that there was no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form with President Clinton was an utterly false statement. Is that correct?

CLINTON: It depends upon what the meaning of the word is means. If is means is, and never has been, that's one thing. If it means, there is none, that was a completely true statement.


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JK Will
The Red and the Green Stamps


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what are the meanings of obfuscation and circumlocution?
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Anthony
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Folks, my point was that I had always heard this "meaning of is" comment made. I always figured it was a made up quote. I never realized that CLinton really did say it.

And as a tax lawyer, I am used to hedging everything I say. But I have yet to hedge the meaning of "is".


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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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quote:
Originally posted by Anthony:
And as a tax lawyer, I am used to hedging everything I say. But I have yet to hedge the meaning of "is".

What time is it, sir? Under oath, please.

Silas Sparkhammer

--------------------
When on music's mighty pinion, souls of men to heaven rise,
Then both vanish earth's dominion, man is native to the skies.


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Anthony
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Has anyone every read "Stranger in a Strange Land"?

In the book there are these quasi-lawyer figures known as fair witnesses who are trained to observe and remember details, without commentary.

So, Silas, putting on my Fair Witness robe, I now say:

According to all the data, it is currently 11:45 a.m. EST.


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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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quote:
Originally posted by Anthony:
Has anyone every read "Stranger in a Strange Land"?

In the book there are these quasi-lawyer figures known as fair witnesses who are trained to observe and remember details, without commentary.

So, Silas, putting on my Fair Witness robe, I now say:

According to all the data, it is currently 11:45 a.m. EST.


That was a fun book, wasn't it! Of course, if I were crossly examining you (and I sometimes am told I resemble a badger) I could ask you to clarify, "All the data? Sir, did you check in with the National Bureau of Standards or the U.S. Naval Observatory?" So already I get to impugn you in front of the jury; "He said 'all the data,' when, of course, he merely looked at his watch..." But the point of the exercise "is" (hee hee!) that I get to tell the jury, "He said 'it is currently 11:45.' Well, as you can plainly see, it 'is' no such thing..."

What I guess I (am) getting at is not that the whole conversation was foolish, but that sometimes, lawyers do ask misleading questions, and it is the right of the witness to ask them to be more clear. My asking "what time is it" is a foolish question, but if you answer it carelessly, I can present it to a jury as something that makes you appear unreliable.

Witnesses: stay on your toes! Clinton was right to insist on a more precise question -- and so are we all.

Silas ("is awake, is hungry, is smiling") Sparkhammer

--------------------
When on music's mighty pinion, souls of men to heaven rise,
Then both vanish earth's dominion, man is native to the skies.


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snopes
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quote:
And as a tax lawyer, I am used to hedging everything I say. But I have yet to hedge the meaning of "is".

What "hedging"? It's a perfectly reasonable response, and it only sounds silly because it's always quoted out of context.

Your lawyer is asked if there is a sexual relationship between you and your secretary. The relationship between you and your secretary had ended two months earlier, so your lawyer (truthfully) answers "No."

Several months later, while you're giving a deposition, you're confronted by a questioner who maintains that when your lawyer was asked if you were having a sexual relationship with your secretary, your lawyer's answer was false. You (quite correctly) point out that your lawyer had been asked using the word "is," which implies an existing and ongoing action, and that he (correctly) answered "No" because at the time he was asked, the relationship had ended. Your lawyer was not asked whether such a relationship had ever existed, and it's not his place to volunteer that information unless specifically asked for it.

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Fusca 1976
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
Originally posted by Anthony:
And as a tax lawyer, I am used to hedging everything I say. But I have yet to hedge the meaning of "is".

Well, the meaning of the English verb "to be" IS so much imprecise that it may be translated into two completely different Portuguese verbs: estar and ser...

Eu estou doente = I am sick

(meaning being sick at this moment, a flu for instance)

Eu sou doente = I am sick

(meaning being permanently sick, as diabetes or haemophyllia)

So... are you a tax lawyer, or are you a tax lawyer?

Luís "hedging the meaning of is" Henrique


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