Friday, June 18, 2010

Kafka Was An Optimist

If you've ever taken Logic 101, one of the first things you learn is that you can't prove a negative. The Department of Homeland Security either doesn't know that, or doesn't care. Over at the Guardian, I discuss the case of Yahya Wehelie, an American citizen stranded in Cairo and forbidden from flying home unless he can prove he is not a threat to national security.


Blogger rhhardin said...

There's no difficulty in logic with proving a negative.

Precision has a different shape in logic than in ordinary life, is the difficulty.

"Just what the hell did you mean, you bastard, when you said we couldn't punish you?" said the corporal who could take shorthand reading from his steno pad.

"All right," said the colonel. "Just what the hell did you mean?"

"I didn't say you couldn't punish me, sir."

"When," asked the colonel.

"When what, sir?"

"Now you're asking me questions again."

"I'm sorry, sir. I'm afraid I don't understand your question."

"When didn't you say we couldn't punish you? Don't you understand my question?"

"No, sir, I don't understand."

"You've just told us that. Now suppose you answer my question."

"But how can I answer it?"

"That's another question you're asking me."

"I'm sorry, sir. But I don't know how to answer it. I never said you couldn't punish me."

"Now you're telling us what you did say. I'm asking you to tell us when you didn't say it."

Clevinger took a deep breath. "I always didn't say you couldn't punish me, sir."

3:58 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Thomas Mann called Kafka a religious humorist.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Charles Pergiel said...

You're writing for the Guardian? Isn't that based in one of them thar pinko socialist countries? I think that makes you a socialist, which is right there next to communist, which makes you a threat, a threat, I say, to Merika!

Hope you're not planning on flying anywhere.

12:26 AM  

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