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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Sunday, March 09, 2003

Your Freidman of the Month Selections

Here Tom accurately paints the European portrait racist:

There is only one group of Arabs for whom Europeans have consistently spoken out in favor of their liberation — and that is those Arabs living under Israeli occupation, the Palestinians. Those Arabs who have been living under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein or other Arab dictators are of no concern to President Jacques Chirac of France and his fellow travelers.

Tom also joins the growing chorus of Euro Watchers who have begun to smell a certain brand of Vodka on the French breath lately...

The truth is, France is not interested in promoting égalité, fraternité and liberté in the Middle East. It is primarily interested today in managing American power. It is primarily interested in positioning France to become the world's next great "Uncola," the leader of the alternative coalition to American power.

Or as our friend at DenBeste puts it:

But there's also the entire question of Europe itself. Some there are attempting to design the new government of the EU in a fashion such that its true centers of power would be largely disconnected from voter influence. They're also trying to codify a lot of other rather pernicious principles, and the result could well end up being what one of my readers referred to as the "European Soviet Socialist Republics", whose declared foreign policy was to oppose and obstruct the US, and to create what would amount to a new Comintern to spread the enlightened socialist message to the world (in opposition to American "globalist" capitalism).

You might recall what I said one day back about Russia having "won" the Cold War after all? And you said I was being silly. ;p

When it comes to actually addressing the ball being tossed about at the table, regime change and democracy building in the Arab World (or the Muslim World, for that matter), Tom quotes another great Middle East Watcher, Stephen P Cohen:

"But because Arab peoples and systems have never developed their own way of getting rid of bad leaders, they can only look to outsiders to do it — and that evokes the worst memories of imperialism and colonialism," notes Mr. Cohen. "They don't want to get rid of Saddam at the cost of being controlled by Americans." So they are paralyzed — wanting their Saddams removed, but deeply afraid of who will do it and what will come next.

Sadly, Tom doesnt see the current Bush stance on Iraq to be legit and he notes:

What all this means is that when it comes to building democracy in Iraq, the Europeans are uninterested, the Americans are hypocritical and the Arabs are ambivalent.

Well, I may end up being kicked in the teeth, but I am betting that Bush was, in fact, truly altered by the "wake up call" of 9-11 and is taking his chance to make a difference here seriously. We shall all see beginning on March 17th they say.

Hold The Presses... Tom shares my wager!

Seriously folks... Tom assesses the popcorn crunching quality of the upcoming war with some gallows humor... and this quote:

A U.S. invasion to disarm Iraq, oust Saddam Hussein and rebuild a decent Iraqi state would be the mother of all presidential gambles. Anyone who thinks President Bush is doing this for political reasons is nuts. You could do this only if you really believed in it, because Mr. Bush is betting his whole presidency on this war of choice.

Friedman joins Pollard, Kristol, and myself in claiming that Bush has a real 'plan' for the world that is both transformative and progressive.

But President Bush is a man on a mission. He has been convinced by a tiny group of advisers that throwing "The Long Bomb" — attempting to transform the most dangerous Arab state — is a geopolitical game-changer. It could help nudge the whole Arab-Muslim world onto a more progressive track, something that coaxing simply will not do anymore. It's something that can only be accomplished by building a different model in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. No, you don't see this every day. This is really bold.

You might also doubt the sincerity or the ability of Mr. Bush, but I think it is hard to deny his claim to the vision:

"A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interest in security and America's belief in liberty both lead in the same direction — to a free and peaceful Iraq."

But I see that Tom doesn’t get, or doesn’t share, my conclusion that removing Saddam and bringing the hope of Democracy to the Middle East was NOT foremost on Bush's mind when he took office, but only became a real idea in his mind AFTER 9-11. And this is what gives me the hope that it is genuine. I think the "handlers" of W wanted him to remain clueless on the foreign policy front and a tool of US corporations. I think this is why he acted the way he did before 9-11, trashing the idea of nation building and peace keeping by the US Army and acting ill-tempered towards the Europeans...

if taking out Saddam and rebuilding Iraq had been my goal from the minute I took office (as it was for the Bush team), I would not have angered all of Europe by trashing the Kyoto global warming treaty without offering an alternative. I would not have alienated the entire Russian national security elite by telling the Russians that we were ripping up the ABM treaty and that they would just have to get used to it. (You're now seeing their revenge.) I would not have proposed one radical tax cut on top of another on the eve of a huge, costly nation-building marathon abroad.

... Bush acted this way before 9-11 because he was directed to. I think that his new "mission" as Tom puts it is a truly heartfelt, and "simple-minded", response to a very real assault.

Ultimately Tom ends his post on a minor key note:

" I am terribly worried that Mr. Bush has told us the right thing to do, but won't be able to do it right. "

Tom Addressed the Poultry, (no, I dont mean the French... oh, wait, I do!).

What continues to breathe life into Saddam's camp is not the Arab street (which already smells his weakness and mostly wants him gone) but the French street, which is so obsessed with countering U.S. power that it can't acknowledge what is happening right before its eyes: Saddam is finally doing some real disarming, not because the U.N. sent more inspectors to Baghdad, as France demands, but because Mr. Bush sent the 101st Airborne to Kuwait.

Tom then goes on a tirade against Bush "buying allies". Well, I have news for Tom, and trust me that I feel silly saying that, allies are, to a certain extent, ALWAYS bought. Such is life (no, I wont give you the French version of that). Turkey wants $30 billion in aid for some very good reasons. First, because they can. Second, because Iraq is currently their largest trading partner (what with the EU acting like asswipes towards the Turks lately) and they stand to lose about $30 billion in trade. This is how REAL diplomacy (as opposed to that tripe at the UN and NATO hq's) works. In REAL LIFE, nations play the game of "you scratch my back and I will get yours". No matter the facade of NATO or the UN, behind the scenes, or boldly in front of them if you are France, nations make deals for their own benefit. True, to some degree real "shared feelings", ideologies, attitudes, and familial bonds also shape alliances -that would be the UK. But, before either you or Tom get to bent out of shape over this "vote buying" in the UN by the US, check out Chirac bullying Eastern Europe and making the jet-set rounds of Africa this week. One always buys allies to some extent. In order to judge the relative merits of the positions of the East and West Atlantic you have to weigh the merits, not the diplomacy.

I hate seeing smart men act dumbly...

Tom should know better than to utter this claptrap:

The first thing that bothered me was the phrase, "When it comes to our security . . ." Fact: The invasion of Iraq today is not vital to American security. Saddam Hussein has neither the intention nor the capability to threaten America, and is easily deterrable if he did.

Come on Tom... whenever I hear a pundit discuss Saddam this way it makes me want to pull my hair out (if I had any). Saddam's threat never has been direct invasion of the US. Then again, aside from one bad movie, neither was the Soviet's. But we were not confused about the threat they posed!

Saddam is a major font of terrorism. In a very real sense, although the moniker sucks, this IS part of the "War on Terror". Saddam signs the checks that keep suicide bombers active in Israel, thus he fuels the "cycle of violence" that often riles "the Arab Street" to "hate us". Saddam hosts Al Queda trainers and training camps and shares recipes for biological and chemical weapons. Saddam stands as a symbol, along with Bin Laden, of Arab defiance and antipathy towards the US. He also stands as "one more dictator" that the US tolerated in the Middle East because democracy seemed unavailable. We have "Saddam's Bombmaker" on our nightly news weekly telling us that, no matter what the Blix inspectors tell you, Saddam may well have nuclear, or at least "dirty", bomb capability. We already well know, again no matter whether Blix says he saw a pitri dish with his own eyes or not, biological and chemical weapons. Any of these can be shipped to the US via FedEx, overnight if he pays extra.

Not to mention the history of verbal threats that Saddam has spewed since the 80's. He has made overt and public threats against: Jews, he has threatened and even launched multiple missile strikes -not to mention all the actual invasions of the 60's and 70's; Muslims, Saddam has threatened ANY Muslims that support his removal by either internal revolt or external military threat; Turkomens, over Kurds, over pipelines, over supporting the EU, NATO, or the US; Assyrians, whatever this means, I assume he means Jordanians, Lebanese, and Syrians whenever they seem to lean towards his removal; all Arabs, meaning the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia -not to mention his own citizens (who are more than just Arab, Iraq is rather multi-ethnic); and Persians, his difficulties with nighboring Iran are legion. Saddam has also simply openly invaded Israel, Iran, and Kuwait. He also threatened UN inspectors through out the 90's. He even threatened his own miltary, scientific, and government workers with pay cuts, relocations, prison, torture, and execution for a variety of offenses... most famous being his jailing of nuclear scientists for refusing to work back in the 90's and for talking to the UN about it this year. He openly threatened France with both economic and "unspecifie" retaliation when they supported the No-Fly Zones (predictably they surrendered and withdrew their planes). And he has made public threats against the US and our president (even a botched bombing attempt against Bush Sr -when he wasnt even President any longer!?). And for those who doubt Saddam's nuke plans... this was well understood, even by Europe, back in 2000.

So it is simply inaccurate and rather silly to claim that Saddam "poses no threat to the US" and is "containable" when the facts show plainly otherwise.

I did like the story Tom relates here:

A story. In 1945 King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia met President Franklin D. Roosevelt on a ship in the Suez Canal. Before agreeing to meet with Roosevelt, King Abdul Aziz, a Bedouin at heart, asked his advisers two questions about the U.S. president: "Tell me, does he believe in God and do they [the Americans] have any colonies?"

The real question the Saudi king was asking was: how do these Americans use their vast power? Like the Europeans, in pursuit of colonies, self-interest and imperium, or on behalf of higher values?

Despite what any far left anti-capitalist, anti-American tells you, the answer to the King's question(s) was "Yes and No". America is a "god fearing nation" (although please note this does not mean that God needs to be in our political system or that non-believers must pack up and leave). All US Presidents invoke the Almighty with nearly every official speech. And our chaplains, rabbis, and imams travel with our troops. But the US did not then have "colonies" in any real sense (yes, we held Guam and the like, and Puerto Rico still hadn’t decided to be a state or be independent). We did not have an official system of occupying and running large foreign nations, like the British, French, Belgians, et al in the mid 20th century.

Tom ends a bit off his mark, I would say...

That's still the most important question for U.S. national security. The world does not want to be led by transparent cynics like the French foreign minister and his boss. But it also does not want to be led by an America whose Congress is so traumatized by 9/11 that it can't think straight and by a president ideologically committed to war in Iraq no matter what the costs, the support, or the prospects for a decent aftermath. But, France aside, the world is still ready to be led by an America that's a little more humble, a little better listener and a little more ready to say to its allies: how can we work this out? How much time do we need to give you to see if inspections can work for you to endorse the use of force if they don't?

Think about F.D.R. He had just won World War II. America was at the apex of its power. It didn't need anyone's permission for anything. Yet, on his way home from Yalta, confined to a wheelchair, F.D.R. traveled to the Mid East to meet and show respect for the leaders of Ethiopia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Why? Because he knew he needed them not to win the war, but to win the peace.

Thomas Friedman and his fellow NY Times editor Judith Miller were instrumental in educating me regarding how people in the Middle East see power, authority, and legitimacy. He helped explain that a major reason that the US was struck on 9-11 was because we showed Bin Laden that he COULD by acting "weakly" to past provocations. So, Tom's assertions about right not making right and calling upon the US to "be more humble" ring rather hollow on my ears. Also, FDR's meeting with the "royal" heads of state in Africa and Arabia was NOT an auspicious moment. We are currently preparing to begin a region wide clean-up of these petty dictators, who were set in power by departing European colonial empires. Tom didn’t mention that here. Too bad.

Still, thus far for the moth Tom is, as always, a good read, and I will faithfully check in on him.

Sean: Sunday, March 09, 2003 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere