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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Sunday, March 16, 2003

Baghdad Blogger Rants at the World...

"No one inside Iraq is for war (note I said war not a change of regime), no human being in his right mind will ask you to give him the beating of his life, unless you are a member of fight club that is, and if you do hear Iraqi (in Iraq, not expat) saying “come on bomb us” it is the exasperation and 10 years of sanctions and hardship talking. There is no person inside Iraq (and this is a bold, blinking and underlined inside) who will be jumping up and down asking for the bombs to drop. We are not suicidal you know, not all of us in any case."

Well, surely this is a personal comment that no one should argue with. But I have read other reports from resident Iraqis who DO say "bring on the bombs". Usually they are older than I take Salam to be (he still lives at home, at any rate) and are more "world weary", they understand that you cannot get "regime change" with out the use of force (unless your dictator has a bad bout of prostate cancer and has to run to Mt. Sanai for treatment).

"The entities that call themselves “the international community” should have assumed their responsibilities a long time ago, should have thought about what the sanctions they have imposed really meant, should have looked at reports about weapons and human rights abuses a long time before having them thrown in their faces as excuses for war five minutes before midnight."

Sure, of course, no argument there. But then again... there's France. It is 'funny' how the US gets berated from one side for not marching on Baghdad in 1991, for not pushing for "regime change" [which, as I noted, must be read as "war" because dictators don’t let you "change them" with out a fight], or "paying more attention" [which must be read as "CIA interlocutors" and other covert attempts at "imperialism"] over the last few years. On the other hand, any time that we "talk tough" the world then berates us for being "war mongers". Cricky, I DO feel like we are "globocop". We face the same crap that your average NY City cop faces... "why don’t you pay our neighborhood more attention and crack down on the drug dealers?" and then "you pigs are being unfair to our neighborhood, always watching us, busting our kids, we hate you!" Sigh.

"What is bringing on this rant is the question that has been bugging for days now: how could “support democracy in Iraq” become to mean “bomb the hell out of Iraq”? why did it end up that democracy won’t happen unless we go thru war? Nobody minded an un-democratic Iraq for a very long time, now people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! how thoughtful."

True, true, so long as Saddam only threatened WORSE thugs, like the Ayatollah and his crew, "no one minded" a thug in Iraq. Indeed, this is sad, but it is the USUAL way of the world. Notice that I didn’t single out the US or the UK for abuse on this? France was more than happy to arm Saddam over the last few decades, as was Germany, Russia, and China... to the extent that the US helped out Saddam at all, we have been mere bit players in this game.

But Salam should take a quick review of the history text, if he can get an uncensored one inside Iraq, and note that the sad truth is that nearly ALL nations have had to suffer war before they could gain democracy. Why? Because the opposite of democracy is dictatorship and dictators do not often voluntarily relinquish power.

The US itself had to engage in two bloody wars with England before we achieved our freedom, and yes, we DID look to other powers (like France) to assist us in this effort. Later France itself went through bloody revolution to advance towards democracy (their record hasn’t been all successes there, or at all a straight linear progression). Russia and China had their revolutions (which only proves that violence and revolt do not always lead to democracy). Latin America, Africa, and Asia also had their violent upheavals. Read up on Romania, Serbia, and Croatia...

Fact: major social and political change and reform is not with out its own costs and risks, which usually present themselves in the form of warfare, one way or the other.

Sure, it would be nice to have the world work differently, but don’t blame the US for this, talk to your local despot!

Sadly, and truthfully, Salam is lucky that the world is finally taking Saddam seriously now, at least, and not never. I realize this will be cold comfort to Salam if he himself becomes "collateral damage", and so I wish him all the best luck going forward.

A quote from US history, Thomas Jefferson writing from Paris on November 13, 1787: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants".

Surely it would be best if the Iraqis could lead their own revolt and push for democracy... more akin to the US... but our dictator lived on an island thousands of miles away and we had access to arms and room to plot a revolution. But Salam's despot lives just down the street and has secret police in every mosque and coffee shop. I hate to say it, but I don’t see a chance for Iraqi patriots to act on their own, to risk their own blood as it were, for their tree of liberty. To have this opportunity for sacrifice they may indeed have to wait for the US Army. Well, take heart, so did the French in the 40's!

"Look at the northern parts of Iraq, that is a model that has worked quite well, why wasn’t anybody interested in doing that in the south. Just like the US/UK UN created a protected area there why couldn’t the model be tried in the south. It would have cut off the regimes arms and legs. And once the people see what they have been deprived off they will not be willing to go back, just ask any Iraqi from the Kurdish areas. Instead the world watched while after the war the Shias were crushed by Saddam’s army in a manner that really didn’t happen before the Gulf War."

Well Salam, this is where "local initiative" comes in to play. I don’t see much good in blaming the US, or the UN, for the fact that democracy did not sprout and take root in the south of Iraq. Trurly, they live under the same quality and type of protection of the Kurds in the north (and technically, the southern No-Fly Zone is much larger and better patrolled). The Kurds were also crushed by Saddam BEFORE the first Gulf War and then haried afterward. But the Kurds have managed to mount both a military and political resistance to Saddam's rule since then. Truly, the only reason for the difference between the fate of these regions is the will of the locals.

"And there is the matter of Sanctions. Now that Iraq has been thru a decade of these sanctions I can only hope that their effects are clear enough for them not to be tried upon another nation. Sanctions which allegedly should have kept a potentially dangerous situation in Iraq in check brought a whole nation to its knees instead... And can anyone tell me what the sanctions really did about weapons? Get real, there are always willing nations who will help, there are always organizations which will find his money sweet. Oil-for-Food? Smart Sanctions? Get a clue. Who do you think is getting all those contracts to supply the people with “food”? who do you think is heaping money in bank accounts abroad? It is his people, his family and the people who play his game."

The US has agreed with this assessment for years. But there are only two other options to sanctions, capitulation and war. We could either declare Saddam in compliance and give him a little powder blue UN-Approved lapel pin... and then buy much more oil at even better prices... and let Saddam develop whatever weapons he wished, and maybe take over Saudi Arabia and Iran for good measure... or we could go to war and remove him by force. Those are the only options. So, you must realize that arguing against sanctions is the same as arguing FOR WAR.

"Do you know when the sight of women veiled from top to bottom became common in cities in Iraq? Do you know when the question of segregation between boys and girls became red hot? When tribal law replaced THE LAW? When Wahabi became part of our vocabulary? It only happened after the Gulf War. I think it was Cheney or Albright who said they will bomb Iraq back to the stone age, well you did. Iraqis have never accepted religious extremism in their lives. They still don’t. Wahabis in their short dishdasha are still looked upon as sheep who have strayed from the herd. But they are spreading. The combination of poverty/no work/low self esteem and the bitterness of seeing people who rose to riches and power without any real merit but having the right family name or connection shook the whole social fabric. Situations which would have been unacceptable in the past are being tolerated today."

Of course, I agree with you Salam. Being bombed back to the stone age and then not rebuilt is only half the package. You didn’t get the full "La Reconstruction meal deal". And for that, I sympathize. Well, if you want this fixed... welcome the US Army when it gets to town next week (or so).

I realize this isn’t perhaps the most pride-inducing answer. But I think people must face the facts here... with international complicity, Saddam broke your country. And it will take outside assistance to remove him and repair the damage. I regret that only the US, the UK, and Spain are up to fulfilling the duties of the "international community" in this effort.

You complained that for too long the world has left you to your fate... of having Saddam for a boss. Well, someone is now paying you attention. The US military will be coming to Iraq real soon. Of course, as you noted, this brings a myriad of risks to your people. But it also brings much opportunity. You might one day live in a nation run by your people, the majority of them, rather than one brutish man.

For what it is worth, Salam, you and your neighbors are not alone in the risk catagory and will not likily be alone in the suffering line either. The US is risking our hard earned tax dollars and the lives of our best and brightest to help your people out. And I might as well point out that the greater the coopertation between the Iraqi people and the US Army in removing Saddam and returning the Rule of Law to Iraq, the less the risk to both sides will be.

Meanwhile, you must make do with what you have. Tape up those windows, stock pile food and fuel, and wait for the "all clear". That's not suicidal Salam, that's pragmatic.

Sean: Sunday, March 16, 2003 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


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