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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Monday, March 24, 2003

Wartime Reality Check

The campaign against Saddam is going fine; don’t let Iraqi TV, or the BBC, convince you otherwise. The war is only at day five. It simply has to be somewhat slow because the US forces are trying to leave most Iraqi infrastructure intact and avoid killing large numbers of either Iraqi civilians or soldiers (this contrasts with how the Russians, Chinese, French, and Germans have handled their wars). But the 7th and 3rd Cavalry has now crossed some 800 miles in less than a week; it is the fastest armored advance in world history.

Yes, there has been some harrying of our rear. US troops have purposely bypassed towns in order to protect the civilians and in order to get to Saddam in Baghdad sooner. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, then, when a few pockets of resistance show up in the South. But they don’t last long and they haven’t done much damage. “Allied” forces have lost more men to driving accidents in the last year than they have to hostile action in Iraq this last week. But, for every US, UK, Australian, or Polish soldier killed in these skirmishes, perhaps hundreds of Iraqi civilians were spared carpet bombings, heavy artillery, and indiscriminate machine gun fire. I realize that losing a few landmark buildings in Baghdad is distressing and seeing houses with blown out windows points to the civilian danger that remains, despite all precautions. But it could be MUCH WORSE. The 12 US casualties we have taken so far are a direct result of our caution and restraint, we know full well that those lives could have been spared if we didn’t mind killing more Iraqis. I only wish that Saddam’s troops were as concerned for the Iraqi people.

Other units have engaged our columns in the front. These were expected all along. They are, in fact, the other side of our dance card, they are the troops we are racing to fight. So, it makes no sense to point to their eventual engagement as some sort of failure or problem for our side. Quite the contrary, every unit that stands in front of us and fights is a unit that could possibly cause trouble for our forces or liberated Iraqi civilians later if we missed them. So, its nice that they are identifying themselves now, so that we can eliminate them. And with the kind of firepower that Americans have, both on the ground and from the air, these skirmishes last only as long as we let them (in the interests of not flattening Um Qasar the US marines removed the Iraqis one at a time with small arms, a few tanks, and one small air strike). I do hope that when reports of these few engagements reach the captive audience in Baghdad that it occurs to them that the only reason there are any delays, any firefights, any armed resistance at all from Saddam’s units is because we choose not to carpet bomb and napalm Iraqi cities and farms, but we COULD, and Saddam WOULD (and he has).

One thing to note, when you hear the stories of heroic Iraqi units “resisting”, there is another story there. What some are doing is pretending to surrender and then shooting our soldiers when they approach. Others have changed into civilians clothes and then sneak into our rear column, the maintenance and supply kids -one poor lady cook- who are not really combatants, and shooting them or taking them captive and executing them on TV. These are violations of international norms on war. Their actions support arguments in the US that we should be killing more Iraqi soldiers instead of leaving them unharmed. Thus, their behavior is not heroic resistance. It is underhanded and dishonorable. Worse, it putts their lives, those of other Iraqi soldiers, and the civilians they hide amongst, at risk.

Contrary to what you might have heard lately, large numbers of Iraqi troops have been surrendering, an entire division (the 51st) at once in fact (some 8,000 men). True, the numbers are much less than in the first Gulf War, but that is largely because US troops have not engaged many Iraqi units head on, nor bombed them flat, but are heading for the capitol, and concentrating bombing on military hardware around the city. Also, US forces have not even asked for the surrender of many Iraqi units (they don’t have enough twist ties and food and water to go around). Iraqi units have instead been directed to simply stand aside or even go home. And many have done just that. US forces have come across many abandoned positions, with artillery, guns, ammo, and uniforms left behind (which US forces then destroy).

On another point, there have indeed been many civilians welcoming our troops. However, by their own accounts they are still waiting to a) see Saddam’s dead body and b) see that we are sticking around for a while before they do much dancing in the streets. They don’t want to face regime ”pay back” if America isn’t serious about liberation this time. And, since the media is “embedded” with the troops they moved on towards Baghdad instead of sticking around to interview villagers for TV. But, again, this is only day five and there will be plenty of time for these kinds of “human interest” stories later.

Don’t be too impressed with Saddam’s footage trying to convince you that he is doing just fine. He has not given a live broadcast, or referenced any current affairs in any of his last taped messages. Truly, I am convinced that he has lost his grip and the “defense” is running largely on autopilot. Most of the country has significant Allied troops present, while most of his troops have fled their posts. The pockets of Baathist resistance from his special units only last for an hour before they are taken care of. Meanwhile the US is certainly trying to spare pain and suffering for the Iraqi people… that is why you still have internet access, water, and power. So, I hope people there can sense who will be their better friend in the future and I hope they have faith that Saddam will be finished quite soon.

Re-reading my own posts I realize that I might come across like a US government propaganda officer. For that I apologize. It is just that I truly believe in democracy and human rights. I also believe that nations that have “made it” have a duty to help the next guy on the ladder. I also truly believe that Saddam is a violent and mentally unstable man and I don’t want him any better armed than he is now. I also don’t want to see sanctions continuing to strangle the Iraqi people. And I don’t want to read any more about Saddam’s torture methods (the thing with the plastic recycler was just too much). And the two sentiments don’t co-exist well. The UN has proved itself to be critically wounded by having non-democratic nations (for instance, every Arab country) in a voting position and France on the Security Council. NATO is a joke, as Turkey proves when it asks for more money to uphold its obligations. And the Iraqi people are self-declared unable to free themselves. So, honestly, I haven’t been able to think up a solution other than this war. Truly, I don’t much like GW. But I will hold my nose if he can do this one thing and free the Iraqi people.

No one wants this war. Do you hear about the vocal anti-war minority in the US? But please keep in mind as well that if Saddam had kept to the terms of the cease-fire that ended the last Gulf War, we wouldn’t be at war with him now. We can’t tolerate Saddam getting any more weapons or becoming any more wacko. When we see footage of Saddam standing on a balcony dressed like Al Capone, smoking a cigar, and firing a shotgun into the air this contrasts directly with America’s cartoon image of a “nice guy” President. Saddam scares the heck out of sensible people in the West. Meanwhile, defectors who escape Iraq tell us horror stories and beg us to intervene. We are trying to get rid of him and to bring the Iraqi people a better future. I would like to think that every Iraqi understands this and is willing to sacrifice rubble in the streets and the few “collateral damage” (I agree that term sucks) casualties to end 20 plus years of Saddam and the millions of Iraqis dead or fled because of him.

Sean: Monday, March 24, 2003 [+] |
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