Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:



Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.



Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.



Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.


The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.


The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.


Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income



Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market



Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.



Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.


Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.



Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.



Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.


Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President



Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Jesse James Was An Irishman

Stepped in to the Temple Bar in Temple Bar (I know, not very creative) and was immediately approached by an older chap in a cable knit sweater, 5 inch greying locks swinging drunkenly against his forehead, his eyes a bit glazed but still soft blue, wiskey and beer on his breath -or was that his clothes, or both? He took my hand in a crushing grip and told me something damned important, but with his gaelic brogue I had no idea what he said.

I smiled and told him my name and where I was from, Sean from Oregon. The old drinker looked somewhere near my eyes and said "Ah, the Ore ee gun Tray ale, aye... my great grand uncle died on the Oregon Trail (he remembers who his great uncle was!?)... he left me a saddle and a banjo when he died. "Aye, Jessee James was an Irishman, dont ya know?"

He told me all aboput his contact with an American solicitor, or rather his mother's trouble with collecting the inherittance. And I was left to assume that the great wealth from Amerikay was lost on the usual, women and drink.

I bought Padraic and his mates a round of beers, dont assume nuthing... they were drinking Heinikens! And we proceded to egg on another old drinker as he danced a reel in front of the band -who themselves were not too pleased to share the spotlight with a drunk!

Then talk turned, as it always will in Ireland, to politics... the war, our nasty president, and the poor Iraqis. I was warned that Padraic was a professor and Lavinnia was a PHD canidate, these were not ignorant people! But then they proceded to whip out every old saw that I ever did hear about Iraq and W. Being me, I didnt back down, but rather proceded to attempt to paint the other side of the picture frame.

I reminded the group that the US has yet to take land in military conquest ala any European empire (with minor differences in perception on Hawaii and PR, but that is another discussion). I reminded them that we saved Europe with out asking for much more than land in Normand to bury our dead. I reminded them that Saddam is no De Velara... but is a brutal dictator who openly admires both Stalin and Hitler. I noted that in the areas that have been taken from his control by British and American enforced "no-fly-zones" there now exists something like Democracy. And I asked them if they recalled Patrick Henry and his request to be given either "Liberty or Death", I even noted that Irishmen had themselves risked a great deal to win their freedom from the British, and I asked if they thought that Iraqis were somehow different and preferred life over liberty?

Then I fielded some responses from the group, especially Vinnie. She reminded me that the Irish love Americans. She said they dont want to us to die either. Padraic brought up Rummy's "Old Europe, New Europe" comment... (oh the indignation that one brought out!). Then there were the usual lines about Bush being a monarch, a bully, and a greedy lout.

Well, he may be a lout I agreed, but he is hardly a monarch, he was elected (no matter how you see that one) by 50% of the vote, he has served only a few years of his first 4 year term and he may only serve one more, if he wins it. On the other hand, I asked, when has Chirac NOT been the leader of France? And the president of Ireland serves a 7 year term and can have two of those, that is 6 years LONGER than any US president can serve!

They also made a comment about not being fooled by one's government, (it seems they dont trust Brussels far as you can throw it) and I replied that I am not, I even accept that my government may have other motives than I do, but right now we both agree on the end result... spreading democracy and overthowing dictators.

I was asked, do all Americans really believe, as they said that I did, that "your freedom means our freedom"? I said, not that, but rather... "so long as one man remains oppressed, no one is truly free" and that my health, wealth, and hapiness as a "rich American" wasnt worth a damn if I wasnt willing to risk life, limb, and paycheck to help others... especially if our own security interests matched the result and especially if we had ANY hand in helping a dictator stay in power, that being the case, our risking our life to help Iraqis rid themselves if Saddam was the "right thing" to do. I also noted that Irish-Americans have a history of filling the roles of cop and fireman in the States, so I assumed that my sentiment must have something of a following in Ireland.

I also responded to ingorance of the true civilian death toll in the first Gulf War (about 850 by the count of the Iraqi ambassador to the US, contact him vie web as you wish) and the "body bag" count for the US was only about 200. That is, not that many people need to die to save Iraq. So, the upcomming peace marches in Europe, with the sanctimonious blatherings about "innocent Iraqis" and bombs, will be tre repsone of admittidly goof hearted people all hot and bothered about a fiction. This is not WWI, Baghdad is not Dressden, and we are not goign to "bomb Iraq" or even make war on Iraq -we are going after Saddam. And if the recent NY Times articles about Iraq and Kurdistan are any indication, these people are more concerned that we WONT attack Saddam then that we might!? How can Europe fight the wishes of Iraqis and Americans both and still claim any kind of moral high-ground?

To their credit, if not to mine, they truly appeared to listen! And when I was told by Vinnie to listen to Padriac, Pat, bless his heart said, "He is, he is!"

Eventually, I was allowed to count a tactical victory on the debate. That was, that Russia and France are more concerned about their oil deals with Saddam than they want you to pay attention to. And that China, the indader of Tibet and slaughterer of its own student protestors; Russia, the butcher of Grozny; and France, the colonial boot heel of Africa are the wrong people to look to for a moral judgment on war with Saddam.

Hapily through out all of this heated debate no one lost their good humor. I left the group with hugs and kisses, and a reminder that not all of Europe "hates America"... these people insisted that they loved us more than we do... But, I was really pleased that they DID seem to be willing to listen to our side of the story.

I was left thinking "Has the Bush team made ANY attempt to sell its argument in Europe?" Any? Or do they only worry about Germany and France? What they may have forgotten is that Jesse James was an Irishman... where as France may deride W as a cowboy, Padraic inherrited a saddle and Banjo from the Ore ee gun Tray ale!

Sean: Tuesday, February 04, 2003 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere