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:

 

Conservative:

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.

 

Liberal:

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.

 

Reactionary:

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

 

Radical:

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

 

Capitalism:

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

 

Socialism:

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.

 

Communism:

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.

 

Democracy:

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.

 

Republic:

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

 

Fascism:

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, March 18, 2003

The Rules of War Debate

I hear so many people talking about the upcoming war in Iraq repeating the same old, tired rhetoric –from both sides. Let me please express some basic rules for making an intelligent, and useful, comment on the war, one way or the other.

1. Don’t talk about war damaging the opinion of our “allies”, the “Arab Street”, or the “international community”. China, Russia, and France have not been our allies since the end of the Second World War. And Germany was ‘merely‘ a client. I do not intend to denigrate the friendliness of Germany in years past. But Germany was a client state, and as such we have d very little unbiased activity, one way or the other, by which to judge them as an ally. Whether Germany is friend or foe will be spelled out post-reunification and post-withdrawal of US troops, and we aren’t there yet. Syria? Do I even need to respond? Please note, also, that these nations have been run by iron fists for most of their existence and are collectively responsible for the deaths of nearly 200 million souls. The Arab Street is not a street, nor is it entirely Arab. The phrase “Arab Street” has been used to collectively describe public opinion from the Barbary Coast to Indonesia. It has included in its numbers Arabs, Africans, Persians, Afghans, Indians, and Asians. These people do not live in an environment similar to your average American or European “street”. They live in undemocratic nations, ruled by despots, with media that gets its script directly from their governments. Their opinion is not based on free information and rational discourse (please understand, of COURSE there are those privileged few who live in these parts of the world who DO have access to free information and do use their intellect to come to conclusions… but these people are never part of this “Arab Street”, even if or when they agree). The views of the captive public in this part of the world is shaped by the biased info allowed in by the government and tempered by the rhetoric from the pulpit. They would have plenty of cause to hate us if we pulled out every soldier from the region and paid a monthly stipend to their governments (which, of course, is EXACTLY what the Koran proposes for our infidel selfs). We cannot move the opinion of the Arab Street one way or the other, therefore arguing our national security and state policy based upon appeasing this viewpoint is worthless. There is no such thing as the “international community”. Or rather it is everything and it is nothing. People who wish to portray our policy as “unilateral” will point to the contrary views of four or five nations and call it “world opinion” while ignoring over two dozen prominent nations that agree with us. It is a meaningless chit played by either side. References to state actions as either “legal” or “illegal” is also worthless. There is not world political body, don’t kid yourself about the UN any longer. There is no political and military power exercising sovereignty over the planet, therefore discussions of the “legality” of an action are obviously with out factual merit. The discussion of a state action in this light is merely cover for the preformed views of the person invoking the term for intellectual cover. One should argue state actions in the pragmatic, or in the moral, not in the legal. Tell me if an action will harm the state or tell me if you find it unconscionable, but until I elect a President of Earth I don’t want to hear talk of “illegality” one way or the other.

2. Don’t talk about the “Zionists” in the White House. This is racist and stupid. The US government is far to cumbersome and far to exposed to public scrutiny to stomach any conspiracy more complicated than one party gaining or staying in power. We live in a nation where everyone is interested in what the government is up to, no one trusts them, and everyone has an economic angle on exposing what they are up to. Don’t try to seriously argue that some minority has enough power to direct the nation either towards or away from something as large as a war. Meanwhile, once again, this is a disgusting racist point of view, you cant argue it, and it will only make you look absurd in the attempt.

3. Don’t bring up “bush’s Credibility”. This points out that your opposition is political. Playing politics with the lives of US servicepeople and with the political fate of our potential beneficiaries is beneath us all. Argue the merits of the case. Do you think Saddam is harmless? Do you think the war will harm American interests? Do you think that more harm then good will come to the Iraqi people, or neighbors, as a result of war or inaction? Too many people concede that they agree with the Bush Administration that Saddam is a monster and his people would suffer less with this removal, but then fall back on “but I don’t trust Bush”. So what? I don’t trust the CEO of my company to put our interests above his pocket book, but I still go to work every day. Obviously the 50% of Americans who didn’t elect Bush “don’t trust him”. So what? The 50% of people who didn’t elect Clinton didn’t trust him either, and with much more reason it seems. Trusting your political opponent is simply to much to ask. But one can always ask Americans to trust our political machinery. The government of this nation was DESIGNED by people who didn’t trust government, and for good reason. They made our government inherently ill suited to obfuscation and manipulation. And no, I don’t consider a political party pursuing its agenda whilst in power as manipulation, or putting political spin on how it describes its decisions as obfuscation. That is simply politics and both sides of the isle do it to the same degree while in power. Leave off with the invectives against your political enemies and argue the merits of the case itself.

4. Don’t claim that Arabs can’t move to democracy. This is racist, and patently not true. Many Arab nations have had, or are experimenting with various forms of democracy or civilian government reform. Meanwhile, many people said the same thing about all people, even Europeans, in the 18th century, yet most European states, with the exception of maybe France, have successfully transitioned to democracy since then.

5. Don’t assert that casualties are “unacceptable to the American people”. Asserting your own cowardice, selfishness, or cynical nature isn’t going to bring anyone over to your side. Even if it is true that the Gallup response to casualties is a plummet of “support”, so what? National security and state policy should never be decided by a poll of the TV audience. Of COURSE as soon as the going gets tough public “support” declines. We don’t elect our political leaders to follow polls, oh they do, but they should not. It could be argued that our Congressional representatives are indeed in D.C. to merely vote reflective of the public that elected them. But the office of the president is quite different. Senators and the President have a duty to SHAPE public onion, not to follow it. It is the job of the Executive Branch, and the senior statesmen on the Hill, to push Americans to take on the difficult tasks, to meet challenges, and to make sacrifices in our bests interests no matter the ugly reality and the lack of popularity. War is no different.

6. Don’t talk about “instability in the region”. The neighborhood of Iraq is replete with despotic and repressive regimes. It is these governments themselves who create a population that that marinates in misery and learns to hate. Maintaining stability in this region means maintaining monsters in power and people in suffering. There is NO OTHER WAY to put this. So leave this argument in the trash where it belongs.

7. Don’t talk about the economic costs of the war. This is fine for a company accountant, but unbecoming to a moral person trying to make their argument. One cannot put a price on human dignity and individual freedom, nor on the national equivalents thereof. The costs of the upcoming war in Iraq will be between $40 billion and $90 billion, and a 10-year occupation and rebuilding could be about $100 billion. By comparison, the state of Texas makes $4billion on the lottery, Illinois spends $7billion a year on welfare, and Florida makes $15billion and Texas makes $30billion from sales taxes alone. The entire war and rebuilding would not top 2% of the entire US GDP for just one year.

8. Don’t claim that not finding WMD is a failure, but so is Saddam’s using them in the war… these are mutually exclusive.


Sean: Tuesday, March 18, 2003 [+] |
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