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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Sean LaFreniere
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Tuesday, March 04, 2003

I like William Kristol. Yikes, there, I've said it.

I've seen the guy do the rounds of channels 44-49 for the last year or so and I have to say that he comes across as reasonable, nice, and right on target. Why cant the left get a man like that? Oh, right, they had a good voice in The Hitch, but they forced him to dump them.


(yes, I realize that The Hitch is not pleasant, like Kristol, but at least he was right).

Here is a very interesting article from early last year... (or is that late last year?)

Thank you, Chairman Biden, Senator Helms, and members of the committee, for inviting me to testify before you today. You have asked me to address the question, "What’s next in the war on terrorism?" The short answer is that Iraq is next. I am not simply saying that Iraq should be next – I am rather drawing a straightforward conclusion from President Bush’s State of the Union speech.

The president sees this war differently from our European allies and differently, I think, from the way his predecessor or even his father might have seen it. The president has chosen to build a new world, not to rebuild the old one that existed before September 11, 2001. And after uprooting al Qaeda from Afghanistan, removing Saddam Hussein from power is the key step to building a freer, safer, more peaceful future.

Have the events of September 11 fundamentally changed the world? Is our aim to restore the status quo through limited actions or is it a broader attempt to reshape the Middle East and the other breeding grounds of terror? And how and when should we deal with our enemies who possess or will soon possess weapons of mass destruction?

Reviving the status quo would mean that we would be satisfied at having deposed the Taliban, and at having dealt with Osama bin Laden – presuming we eventually find him – and having crippled his al Qaeda network. We would not overly concern ourselves with who’s in power in Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or in Central and South Asia. We would continue to try to keep Saddam Hussein "in his box" and similarly to contain Iran. We would return to the old Israeli-Palestinian "peace process." We would regard North Korea not as a Stalinist state organized for war but as an arms control problem amenable to an "agreed framework."

President Bush has been clear – and increasingly detailed and articulate – that there has been a fundamental shift in U.S. policy and strategy. On the evening of the attacks, he vowed to bring to justice "those who are behind these evil acts." Yet by September 20, when he addressed a joint session of Congress, he had determined that we were at war not only with a group of terrorists directly responsible for the attacks but with "every terrorist group of global reach" and with the "nations that provide safe haven to terrorism," as well.

The State of the Union address marked the maturation of the Bush Doctrine. This war, according to the president, has "two great objectives." The first is defeating terrorism. The second objective, marking the most significant declaration by an American president in almost 20 years, is an unequivocal rejection of the international status quo. "The United States of America," said President Bush, "will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons."

And President Bush singled out three regimes, North Korea, Iran and Iraq, as enemies; they constitute an "axis of evil" that poses "a grave and growing danger." Nor will he "stand by, as peril draws closer and closer." Time, he said, "is not on our side." The president is thus willing to act preemptively and, if need be, unilaterally. This is a matter of American self-defense.

The Bush Doctrine seeks to eliminate these weapons and the dictatorial regimes that would use them. The president also seeks to challenge tyranny in general. "No nation is exempt," the president said, from the "true and unchanging" American principles of liberty and justice.

Moreover, our role with respect to those principles will not be passive. According to the president, "America will take the side of brave men and women who advocate these values around the world, including the Islamic world," and will do so because it is the only lasting way to build "a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror." This is now a strategic imperative as much as a moral one.

The president’s words augur a fundamental departure from the U.S. policies of the past decade, from the pseudo-sophisticated "realism" of the first Bush Administration or the evasive "multilateralism" of the Clinton years. The Bush Doctrine rests on a revived commitment to the principles of liberal democracy and the restoration of American military power."

This is just a snipet. Frankly, its nothing new or ground breaking, heck, its a year old. But it is clearly stated. Bush looks like a strange apple for a Conservative Republican. [editorial update: the above Kristol-ization of the Bush policy is neatly echoed by Pollard in the Telegraph this week]

Compare the above vision with President Kennedy's, from the Cuban Missile Crisis:

My fellow citizens, let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can foresee precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead - months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.

The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are; but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world. The cost of freedom is always high - but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.

Our goal is not the victory of might but the vindication of right - not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this Hemisphere and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.

You know, its like I told a friend the other day over lunch...

“I don’t think that GW was a mature human being before 9-11. Sure, he sobered up, had kids, and got a "real job" (not necessarily in that order). But, everything came easy...

Bush’s first "job" involved gambling away the money of family friends, his next post was as "token" power button on the Ranger ownership club, and this was exchanged for him by the Texan elite into a "pet governor"ship. Then the fat cats in their smoky back room chose him for President.

He was taken along for a ride in all these things. He was useful to the powerful for his famous name and presumed connections. But no one worried that he had his own worldview or political agenda.

And truly, I don’t think he did. But the events of 9-11 appear to have snapped him into some kind of moral and intellectual shape.

Sure, the complicated intellectual gymnastics are still being done by some one else, no doubt. But I really think that Bush has a had a true change of heart since he admonished Gore that "nation building" and "peacekeeping" were not the job of the US government and military.

Today he threatens the world's dictators with serious military consequences and pushes a new vision of the world that shows itself as rather Progressive and based upon Liberal ideals.

I wonder how his old political friends, the Conservative Republicans and the Christian Right, feel about "their president" now?”

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

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere