Saturday, June 03, 2006

A MATTER OF INTERPRETATION

Two items which might seem completely different yet have somehow become equated in my feverish brain: There has been a huge brouhaha about Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom and a synopsis of a course he is planning to teach or is teachin presently which concerns linguistic theory and interpretation of text. Now, I'm no linguistic theorist, so I shan't get into the argument about whether he is correct or not in his assessment. Suffice to say that Goldstein belives in authorial intention as the only correct way to interpret a text. Of course, he then has to explain what he means by authorial intention, and to a degree, he does, arguing that the author's intention concerning a text can be found through ancillary works and notes and what the author himself has stated the work means. This is all well and good, but it leads me to ask a question of Goldstein about what he means. If he indeed believes that authorial intention is the only right and proper way to determine a text's meaning, why for example does he not hold the same standard to the text of the FISA Law? Why, for example, does he accept the Attorney General's interpretation of that law as the only one that matters when the framers of that specific law are available to be asked what in fact their intention was?

Now, before you pillory me for taking Goldstein's theory of authorial intention out of context, I'd like to point out that he uses a similar argument about law and interpretaion in his paper so I feel justified in pointing out his inconsistencies (to be kind). There really is only one point: If Goldstein believes that authorial intention is the only correct and proper way to interpret a text, then he is either a hypocrite, liar, idiot, moron, or just plain obtuse individual if he cannot see that any interpretation of the FISA Law which does not take into account authorial intention is a direct contradiction to his own theories.

Which brings me to my second item concerning interpretation: Job Growth and Unemployment. The numbers came in Friday for Job Creation in May. To say the least, they fell far short of what is necessary just to keep up with new job seekers in the work-force. 75,000 new jobs, as compared to the 150,000 necessary, to be a bit more precise. Yet, according to the Federal Gov't, unemployment was lower for May. Huh? Think about that. There are 75,000 fewer jobs than job-seekers, yet unemployment is supposedly down. So what happened to those 75,000 unemployed job seekers?

Now, again, I have to admit I'm no economist and I'm certain there are many factors which go into the unemployment and jobs numbers. But unless more than 75,000 people retired last month, I can pretty much guarantee you that there were more unemployed than less. Part of the reason the unemployment number is so off is that if you are unlucky enough to reach the end of your benefit cycle, you're miraculously off the unemployment rolls. Hallejuha; You're no longer unemployed! You just don't have a job.

Anothe part of the equation is the under-employed. When a software engineer takes a job at WalMart just so he can put food on the table, well, he's not really unemployed, is he? Or if you decide to call yourself a consultant because, let's face it, calling yourself unemployed just doesn't look good. To a great many employers, if you're unemployed, you're damaged goods. No, what it comes down to is a matter of interpretation. In Europe where they have a social safety net, you hear about 10%-11% unemployment, and we go, Hozzah! Look at the US economy! We're beating the pants off those damn Europeans! Except we're not really. We're just fudging the numbers and pretending that that makes us better off. I would guess ( and, yes, this is a guess, but one based on at least a little education), that if we were really to count up the number of unemployed in the US workforce, we would find that our numbers aren't that much better than the Europeans, if at all. And while they have something to fall back on, we have only our eternal optimism.

So what do these two items have to do with each other? Well, it all comes down as to how you choose to interpret the data. As someone once said, "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics."

1 Comments:

Blogger protein wisdom said...

Why, for example, does he accept the Attorney General's interpretation of that law as the only one that matters when the framers of that specific law are available to be asked what in fact their intention was?

Griffin Bell said FISA was never meant to intrude on the NSA's powers nor on the President's Article II powers.

Even thus,the argument there is about separation of powers -- what we believe FISA to mean (and its intent) v. the intent of Article II and the President's war powers.

There, I've stated I believe that I don't think it Constitutional (and I've appealed to the founders' intent) for the legislative branch to attempt to mitigate the President's Article II powers.

I'm not trying to be a jerk here. Just trying to clear this up.

As to intentionalism, there is nothing wrong or unusual about getting someone's intent wrong. The point of intentionalism to remember is that we must, if we claim to be interpreting in the first place, appeal to that originary intent.

12:45 AM  

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