Friday, July 27, 2007

Parsing Parsing

I always thought that "parsing" referred to careful analysis of speech or writing to determine its meaning, and, hence was related to reading not writing. In careful speech or writing is "careful phrasing" not "parsing". Since Bill Clinton said "it depends on what the meaning of "is" is," "parsing" has been used to mean deliberately deceptive phrasing. Something that has to be parsed to be distinguished from a lie.

Thus "It depends on what the meaning of "is" is" is parsing -- here Clinton explained why his alleged perjury was an accurate statement that his affair with Lewinsky was not current or in the present (rather than the past) at the time that Paula Jones' lawyer carelessly asked "is there a sexual relationship involving you and Monica Lewinsky" or whatever.

Just as Clinton's proof that he did not commit perjury was considered to be aggravating not exonerating, his act of careful interpretation of his deliberately deceptive but true statement has lead to the use of "parsing" to mean "carefully constructing deliberately deceptive but true statements." as in

At issue is whether Gonzales' assertions that there was "no serious disagreement" within the government about the TSP was so misleading as to amount to perjury, or whether his distinction between TSP and Program X was merely a careful parsing -- perhaps misleading but not, to use Sen. Arlen Specter's word, actionable.

yech (not to mention that I think "careful" is superfluous. "Careful parsing" is like "dishonest perjury" or "dishonest Gonzales").

Strange but true, the Wikipedia is no help giving the original technical meaning of parsing which is now called "diagramming a sentence".

update: Before getting to the substance of the important article by Kiel and Ackerman, I'm going to go all twitty and parse some more. I love parsing. I would parse all day if I could find anyone willing to listen to me (or read a 24/7 parsing blog).

picky point 1: who revealed the NSA warrantless spying program ? "In December 2005, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau broke the story of the Terrorist Surveillance Program for the New York Times" [snip]"What President Bush described was far more constrained than the surveillance Risen reported." If I were Lightblau my wrath would be Risen.

Picky point 2 (I mean it's just the constitution)
"Prior to 9/11, such surveillance had to be approved by a FISA judge so as not to violate the 4th Amendment."

Also post 9/11 such surveillance had to be approved by a Fisa judge so as not to violate the 4th Amendment. The 4th amendment hasn't changed and it is being violated . I think the correct phrasing is "Prior to 9/11 the executive branch did not conduct such surveillance unless it was approved by a FISA judge so as not to violate the 4th Amendment." "had to be" is a statement about the nature of "such surveillance" and its relationship to the 4th Amendment (allowed only with a Warrant) . The fact that the Bush administration has falsely claims that it doesn't have to choose between getting warrants and violating the 4th Amendment doesn't mean they don't have to choose.

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