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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Monday, June 30, 2003

Anti-Israeli Bias In English Academia

From the Telegraph, UK.

"An Oxford University professor has provoked outrage by rejecting an application from an Israeli PhD student purely because of his nationality.

In a reply sent by email on June 23, Prof Wilkie wrote: "Thank you for contacting me, but I don't think this would work. I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they [the Palestinians] wish to live in their own country. I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army. As you may be aware, I am not the only UK scientist with these views but I'm sure you will find another lab if you look around."

A series of attempts have been made to isolate Israeli scholars in protest at their country's operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In Britain, calls for an academic boycott have been led by Steven Rose, an Open University professor.

Last year the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology was forced to hold an inquiry after The Sunday Telegraph revealed that Mona Baker, a professor, had sacked two Israeli academics from the editorial boards of two journals because of their nationality. "

Sean: Monday, June 30, 2003 [+] |
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Europe Needs A Better Set Of Dentures, ones they make themselves?

Victor asks: "What is going on? After the defeat of the Axis and the long containment of the Soviet Union, the beneficiaries of past American sacrifices find their new identities in part by mouthing cheap anti-Americanism without cost. Fine; it's a free world. But they forget that the Middle East, the DMZ, Cyprus, the Balkans, the former provinces of the Soviet Union, the world's oil lanes, the shrines and icons of the West in Europe, all that and more thousands of miles from our own coasts can all blow up in their faces — and that we no longer can, or should, alone guarantee that they won't."


Sean: Saturday, June 28, 2003 [+] |
Thursday, June 26, 2003
England Un-goverened

As it turns out, England is not a nation. Wales, Scotland, and even Northern Ireland are, but not dear ol' England... according to Westminster.

Very few people outside the UK are probably aware of the anomaly that Prime Minister Blair and most of his senior ministers are in fact Scotsmen or Welshmen. So England is not being ruled by the English. A second anomaly is that Scotland and Wales have parliaments of their own in addition to their representatives in the UK parliament but England does not. So Scotsmen and Welshmen control England plus their own countries while Englishmen have no say over Wales, Scotland OR England! And to add insult to injury, the present UK government is even proposing constitutional changes that would almost certainly be rejected by the English if they were given the chance to vote on it all via a referendum. So a lot of the long-suffering English are getting pretty fed-up with all that...


Remember people, political reform begins at home...

Sean: Thursday, June 26, 2003 [+] |
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Judicial Review Part 3

The Supreme Court just dumped a pile of rulings into their collective "round file" this week. They upheld institutionalized racism and a Federal gag order on libraries, and struck down a California law that helped Holocaust victims investigate reparations claim. While I agree that these rulings are basically "correct", they leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.

First off, the Supremes ruled against the point based Affirmative Action admissions policy of Michigan State's undergraduate admissions program, great. But they also upheld the "principle" of Affirmative Action admissions in general?! They held that diversity on campus is such a valuable goal a legitimate school goal. Thus they argued that the school may pursue a racist policy in an effort to make up for past racism and its lingering effects. Huh? I believe that Dr. King called for a future in which an American (or any person) was judged for the "content of their character" and not the color of their skin. And I would settle for a present where an applicant to university was judged by the content of their transcripts and not the color of their skin. How can we end institutionalized racism when we are institutionalizing racism?

Second, the Supremes ruled against the Multnomah County Library (and several others) who challenged a federal order to add web monitoring and blocking software to all public library computer terminals. They held that withholding federal funds was not sufficiently coercive enough to worry about the "chilling effect" of computer monitors on free speech. But withholding funds is the same as levying a fine. And blocking "sex" related websites is only a step away from blocking offending religious or political speech as well. Can you imagine a world in which the Bush administration could fine a public library for allowing access to a website critical of the GOP, or a book critical of Nixon, or...? Multnomah County argued that the policy of restricting access to materials, rare books or pornography, has long been set by the individual libraries in compliance with the mores and views of the local community. But this court decided that "state's rights" only applies to... what, GOP friendly big businesses in defiance of environmental regs? Hypocrisy should be their middle name.

And last, following up on the hypocrisy angle.. the Supremes overturned a California law (so much for state’s rights again) that set requirements for state licensing of insurance companies. All states license the insurance, banking, and medicine industries within their borders. And states use various criteria for issuing such license. A common requirement is that the companies are not engaged in illegal activity, law suits, or criminal investigations. California also asked insurers who provided coverage in Europe in the 40's to make their records available to Holocaust research and reparations efforts. The Supremes claimed that the Whitehouse has an implicit policy which is more light-handed and that California's requirement contradicted this policy, so they struck it down. I agree that the Fed's have the right to set foreign policy and States may not pursue their own agenda in contradiction to the Whitehouse. But I never heard that Bush wanted to protect insurers from such scrutiny. Meanwhile, the California law was one ray of hope for Holocaust victims world-wide, who are aging, dying, and running out of time, in their pursuit of justice in their lifetimes.

Overall these rulings meet the letter of the law and are beyond reproach on that front. However, they collectively undermine the very best efforts of our society to improve itself, to heal itself, and to preserve its best qualities. Michigan State will be allowed to continue institutionalizing racism. Libraries will become information censoring bureaucracies instead of fonts of knowledge. And California may not follow its progressive heart and help the victims of WWII to get justice from nameless, faceless, heartless insurance mega-corps. That bad taste in my mouth... I think I know what it is... crap!

Justice Department Follow Up: More Asscroft nastiness.... add to the abuse of the "material witness" process the bureaucratic nonsense of a "free speech zone".... from the Economist...

Sean: Wednesday, June 25, 2003 [+] |
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
The Rebels Strike Back

The AFP reports that the nascent revolution in Iran advances on the old violence meter...

A group of men carried out two armed attacks on a base of the Basij, the militia and morals police, near the central city of Isfahan, resulting in five people being injured and 21 arrested, the student news agency ISNA reported.

This is a serious step. It is the very beginning of the end for the Mullahs. We all heard much about the "tipping point of fear" in Iraq, well this is it in real life in neighboring Iran. For years the Basji militia have been used by the Mullahs to terrorize their citizens and keep the population in line. This is the first time that I know of when the students have actually turned the tables on the Basji. Add to this that even the police have turned on the Basji and you can truly see the depth and breadth of the opposition. Soon the Mullahs will have NO ONE responding to their edicts, decrees, and threats. On that day the Revolution is over and the Mullahs will be history.

Salon adds the perspective of an Iranian expat on his way home...

You know, once the wall of fear is broken, you get more and more people rallying. Since Monday it has spread to cities like Yazd, which was a very calm and provincial city before. So the momentum is growing in all directions.

He says that this time the protests are very, very serious...

We've never seen protests before like the ones now. For five days in July 1999 the streets were in the hands of the students, but at that time what was missing was the popular support. Now we are witnessing the ninth consecutive night of demonstrations, not only in many neighborhoods of the capital, but also in various other cities. We have come to a point of seeing people using Molotov cocktails, which happened in several areas on Wednesday evening, this should show to anybody on the planet the urgency there. We are no longer just talking about protesters or strikes; there are these Molotov cocktails and incendiary grenades that are beginning to be used.

And that the Americans really can help...

Of course. When people see that Iran has become neighbors with America on its borders, and how two regimes like the Islamic Republic have fallen ... the people know that this time the Americans are truthful in what they're saying -- that they are talking about regime change in these places and indeed they are sending their sons and daughters to do it. So now when they are saying that they're ready to help regime change in Iran, it gives people a lot of courage to come out.Nobody wants any foreign country to bring freedom for Iran. It's Iranian business and it should be done in Iran, by Iranian hands. But nobody can deny the impact of the moral support of the person representing the great superpower of the world. That's why there are all these slogans given in English, they are for people [in the West] to hear them. The Bush administration has caught this signal and has responded favorably. I can tell you honestly that the message of the Bush administration has gone straight to the heart of many, many Iranians.

And Europe better get its act together...

So if the European countries are really scared about their future interests in Iran, it's time for them to shift their position and put their investment into the people. Otherwise they may have to confront a very bloody revolution in Iran, which of course will have very bad consequences for years and years to come, for the Iranian people and for European economic partners.

The end is near Mullahs.

Sean: Tuesday, June 24, 2003 [+] |
Monday, June 23, 2003
Honey, the Plumbers are here with their lead pipes..."

The BBC reports that: Our friends in the Oil Mafia sent men round to visit a dissident living in London. They wanted to take Saad home with them, but settled for stabbing him in the leg as a "message" from the "family". Luckily they didn’t kiss him on the lips!

Saad al-Faqih, head of the London-based Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia and critic of the Saudi royal family, was admitted to hospital on Sunday with a leg wound, a Scotland Yard spokesman said. Mr. al-Faqih told the BBC that two men claiming to be plumbers knocked on his door and then forced their way into his home.

No blood for oil? Indeed.

Sean: Monday, June 23, 2003 [+] |
Saturday, June 21, 2003
Evan Coyne Maloney, of Brain Terminal, eviscerates the Leftist hue and cry over no WMD

Ultimately, this war was a Rorschach test for the world. Some people simply believe that Saddam Hussein--trustworthy chap that he is--voluntarily disarmed while nobody was looking, and that President Bush lied to lead us to war. Frame the argument however you want, this fundamental division still underlies any discussion about the war: you either trust President Bush more than you trust Saddam Hussein, or you don't

Go

Sean: Saturday, June 21, 2003 [+] |
Guest Financial Commentary From Jack Whitsel, a reformed banker and day trader, Part Two

It is a common saying that "doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result each time is the definition of insanity" and it appears that the common investor is doing just that.

As of the end of trading on 6/11/03, the DOW reached 9183 and the Nasdaq 1646. The last time the DOW hit that level was last July. Last June the DOW reached as high as 9600 and yet the economic downturn came into play soon after and massive layoffs began. Wall Street realizing that everything was over priced, caused the DOW to plunge to 7200. And yet, once again the Dow is over 9000 and all because our economy is in.... recovery?

Now I have always been "the glass is half full" type of guy, but I think we are very premature to be swept away by what Greenspan called "irrational exuberance". Minor improvements have been made. GDP is sluggishly moving ahead, the unemployment rate at least has stopped nose diving and consumers are "beginning" to spend again (but maybe not for long, ed.). However, to presume that the economy is strong enough to send the major markets to the level they are today is...insanity.

The DOW and Nasdaq are at the level they were right before many of my friends were beginning to get laid off. Things are going so well, we are having another rate cut by the end of this month. The point of all this is to be careful out there. There are still some descent "bull" plays but you may start wanting to structure your portfolio for a "bearish" move. Option trading is a great way to do that while reducing your risk. But, that's a story for another time.

Happy trading,

Sean: Saturday, June 21, 2003 [+] |
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Fron the NY Times:

PARIS, June 17 - French authorities today arrested more than 150 members of a long-established armed Iranian opposition group, accused them of organizing terrorist acts, and seized $1.3 million in hundred-dollar bills.

The move against the Mujahedeen Khalq, as the group is known, effectively shuts down its operations in France and sends important political signals to Iran, France's European partners and the United States.

Senior French officials insisted that the crackdown was not linked to events inside Iran. But it coincides with demands by the United Nations' chief nuclear weapons inspector, the European Union, the United States and Russia that Iran allow international weapons inspectors to conduct more intrusive examinations of its nuclear facilities.

It also coincides with a wave of student protest in Iran. On Sunday, President Bush encouraged anti-government demonstrators in Iran to continue their protests for the sake of creating "a free Iran" and today in Phnom Penh Secretary of State Colin Powell encouraged Iranians to protest for their rights, dismissing Tehran's charges that Washington was interfering in its domestic affairs.

In Iran, the government welcomed the crackdown against the group, which has been allowed to operate openly in France since its leaders fled Iran after the 1979 revolution in which they participated turned against them.

"This is a positive step on the part of France, and we are expecting France to treat these people as dangerous terrorists," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said, according to a statement quoted by the official news agency IRNA. "We have been waiting for a long time for the French authorities to act against them and conform with the decision of the European Union, which had declared this small group to be terrorist."

Berlin, June 17 — About 50 Iranian exiles threw stones and fruit at the Iranian consulate in the northern German city of Hamburg, smashing several windows, police said. A group of 20 protesters managed to force their way into the building, vandalized the interior and then rioted outside. The demonstrators were detained by the police who said that the group was protesting against a crackdown on the Iranian opposition in France and the treatment of anti-regime demonstrators in Tehran.

I don't know what I think about this... exactly, yet.

I don’t like France cracking down on Iranian pro-democracy advocates. But the group was designated a terrorist org by the US in the 80’s. Also, German and US law enforcement participated in providing the French with intel on this group.

So, its not exactly as if the US was opposed to the raid. And the Iranian group does have a “checkered past”. But something remains uneasy within me when I think of the timing of these raids, right on the heels of student protests in Tehran.

Once again I find myself asking who the French want to win in this contest and once again the answer seems to be the dictatorship. The US certainly has some bones in its Cold War closet (Chile, for one), but more and more I am beginning to think that our hands are more clean that Europe’s.

And as Michael Totten commented "Orwell said the three great evils of the 20th Century were fascism, communism, and imperialism. The US declined to participate in any of them, and chose to fight all of them instead."

Sean: Wednesday, June 18, 2003 [+] |
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Lefty Bias And Israel

Michael Totten explains the basis for his own Liberal bias on Israel... and what happened to it over time...

Most people on the left, whether they are mainstream or radical, reflexively side with the underdog; labor unions, mom-and-pop businesses, poor people, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, social minorities (like gays), and citizens of the Third World.

[And]... it was... easy to sympathize with the Palestinians. Here’s a group of people who kinda sorta live within Israel, yet are not Israeli citizens and are not granted the right to self-government. They want their own state, and it’s a grievance that someday must be redressed. It looks to the uninformed observer a bit like the apartheid regime in South Africa. It’s the civil rights revolution all over again. Or so it appears on the surface.

[However] I kept reading, and I kept learning. I discovered that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not fighting for a state in the West Bank and Gaza. They are fighting for a Taliban regime “from the river to the sea,” including all of Israel. They say negotiation is treason, and that means war. I learned about Arafat’s education system, which glorifies suicide murder.

In a nutshell, the more I learned, the more I leaned toward Israel.

Then came the moment of moral clarity.

In one week of March last year, Israelis suffered a suicide-bombing per day. Every time I clicked on the news, there were more.

I caved the day after the Passover Massacre.

To his great credit I will say that I used to needle Mike about his penchant for siding with the underdog reflexively and here he says this about himself. So, he is being very self-perceptive and honest and this is not the trait of an idealogue, but rather a quality inherent in anti-idiotarians.

Sean: Tuesday, June 17, 2003 [+] |
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Peace Needs Defeat

The Dove of Peace is dead. The Israelis let it out of its cage. Then Hamas blew it up, again.

It is high time that we take the multicultural kid gloves off and begin to call these shots as they are. There is no "cycle of violence", nor is the situation one big blameless "quagmire". The Jews offer the Arabs peace and the Arabs kill more Jews.

This has been the way it is in the Middle East since the end of the Age of Empire when the French and the British began carving the region into bite sized morsels. The US cannot continue to try to clean up their mess and then take the blame for it all. It is time for the US to bow out of the peace process, give silent approval to the Israelis to defend themselves, and wait for the Arabs to tire of the killing. When the Arabs want a treaty we should let the EU negotiate it.

We appear to be kidding ourselves when we pretend that terrorists "have a point" or that they even have demands that can be met. When Osama said he would stop killing Americans when there is “peace in Palestine" this was not a request for a concession on our part, it was a vow of unending enmity. Osama knew that peace is not up to the Israelis, or to the US, it is up to Arabs to accept a treaty and to abide by it. And Osama knows that so long as one extremist group is allowed the freedom to kill then peace is a "non starter".

We cannot deal reasonably with a people born and raised on violence and hate... and I don’t mean the Jews. Another blogger put it well, sorry I can’t recall whom, when he said... "The Arabs would kill every Jew if they had the power to do so, while the Jews have the power but do not... why is it so hard to choose the right side here?"

I don’t advocate blinding ourselves to the plight of Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza who were born with no chance at a "normal life". I feel for them, even when they danced in the streets after 9-11, and that was hard for me to do. They are a broken people and as such often act outrageously. But while I would suggest that we remain understanding, we must not pretend that the Israelis are responsible for Arab society or that they can fix it. Peace is a gift that only the Arabs can give themselves. We don’t ask the bartender to cure the alcoholic, the alcky has to want to be cured and they have to do it essentially by themselves.

From 1948 on Israelis have been trying to make peace with their neighbors and have been rejected again and again. The only peace they have ever won was at the point of a gun. We can pretend that Egypt and Jordan had moral motives, or even economic, for making peace. But, any treaty would have gone unsigned if the Israelis had not shown their military strength in '67. And when people talk today about how wrong it is/was for us to help Israel arm themselves they need to realize that any other course would have led to more war and more bloodshed and more dead Jews (like America and Europe need any more Jewish blood on our hands).

Israeli strength is the only thing that has ever backed the Arabs off from their own anti-Jewish Crusades. And when Jewish might appears to slip the Arabs only step up the violence. I told a friend that the Israeli pullout from the Lebanon security strip would not lead to peace, but to more bloodshed. I said that the Arabs would not see this as a moral decision, but as a sign of weakness of resolve and military strength, and they would press their perceived advantage. The second Intifada started a few months later.

As perverse as it sounds I think the only way to bring the Arabs back to the negotiating table is to let the Israelis have a free hand in defending themselves. We might even want to make more arms deals with the IDF to drive the point home. When Hammas is battered and bleeding, when Arab families in the West Bank and Gaza feel truly demoralized, only then will any Palestinian "Authority" have a chance to assert its control and then to make a real deal with Israel.

This reminds me of a quote from the IRA… “Why should we quit? No army, undefeated, has ever disarmed itself.” Indeed this was seconded by VDH when he wrote that the speed of US victories today is actually something of a liability… we defeat the command structures before the soldier in the trench feels personally beaten and this sets us up for a guerilla or terrorist war follow up. So, it is time for the Palestinians to lose their war against Israeli statehood that was begun for them by the Arab states 50 years ago.

I realize this is a depressing vision, but I cant shake it. Looks like others are having these nightmares too.

Sean: Saturday, June 14, 2003 [+] |
Thursday, June 12, 2003

I read a reader's responses a) and b) from my last few postings and thought that I better follow up…

My reference to Liberals and Conservatives in "Death of the Left" was constrained by the limits of the language. The term Conservative was never meant to describe an entire person, but rather a particular way of viewing the world. And as I noted in "Party Politics", since both terms are so narrow in definition, none of us fit them all the time on all the issues. If you read my side bar you will find the real definitions of the words Liberal and Conservative. I didn’t make them up; they can be found in most any dictionary or political science text. In fact, they come from their two greatest philosophers, John Locke and Edmund Burke.

For over 1000 years Europe was held together by what we would today call Conservative politics. Kings ruled because they were born to do so and you obeyed the Priest because he wore the robes and stood at the podium. Most people couldn’t read and had little time to debate politics and morality. And radical change meant chaos, anarchy, and bloodshed. Conservatives tried to hold everything together by relying on people’s natural inclination to mimic the behavior of others, to mirror the values of their community, and to listen to authority figures on matters of controversy. Today we might see this as repressive, but in many ways it very natural.

When John Locke began to espouse his new worldview of rational, Enlightened thought, in the 17th century it was truly “revolutionary”. It was very new, it sounded crazy, and it was considered quite dangerous by most European governments. Science was in its infancy and was often distrusted or ignored, and maybe for good reason because it was often wrong in its early attempts to explain the world. The idea of the uneducated populace evaluating their political, religious, and family values by rational thought was considered nonsense. The idea of the peasants judging the king’s rule and throwing him out if he failed to deliver on a “social contract” was equally laughable and not just a little bit frightening.

Another English Irish political philosopher led a reaction to Locke’s new radical ideas in the 18th century. Edmund Burke responded to the loss of the American colonies and the violent revolution in France by defending Conservative politics, traditional values, and holding out against rapid political upheaval. And his arguments against Locke’s Liberal politics were widely supported by the governments of Europe. The three major powers of the day Austria, Russia, and Germany formed an alliance, the Holy Alliance, to offer financial and military assistance to any European monarch threatened by a rabble aroused by Locke’s wild ideas.

In fact, there was little room on the Continent, or even at home in England, for politics based on the Enlightenment, John Locke, and Science. Instead these ideas were taken to the New World, to America. And our history is that of a 230-year experiment in Liberal, Enlightenment government. So, as a nation, and as a people, Americans are all very "Liberal" at heart. So much so, that few of us would see the definition of Liberal in my sidebar as at all derogatory, for it is our norm. Yet, many of us might see the definition of Conservative as slanderously mean spirited and “narrow-minded”. But don’t worry, as per those definitions and as compared to the rest of the world, all American Conservatives are actually 80% Liberal!

Does this make being Conservative “wrong”? I claim that the classic Conservative does not believe in using rational thought, logic, and science to determine their values, how can this be a good thing? Well, think about it this way… A Conservative takes the roles that his parents played, Dad worked and Mom stayed home, the moral support for this model that he hears from Preacher Bob every Sunday, and the normative support from the AMC movies his parents encourage him to watch, and grows up wanting the same model…. He doesn’t analyze data on economics, child rearing, and secular gender politics, he just feels that this is the right model for him. And that method of evaluating the values he grew up with is a Conservative way of viewing the world. A Liberal might come up with a different assesment, but not necessarily.

During the famous 1980’s "Porn Commission", Atty General Edwin Meese said that while he couldn’t define “porn”, he knew it when he saw it. You see it just felt wrong. While, a Liberal might come to the same conclusion, that porn is bad, they would justify it with reference to studies showing how women in the sex industry lead damaged lives or other studies showing that it leads to deranged male perverts. The conclusion might be the same, but those are two very different ways of coming to them. One is classic Liberal Enlightenment thought and the other is classic “family values” Conservative.

Is one way of thinking wrong or another one better? If we used our heads to sit and ponder all of our values and beliefs we would spend all our time doing just that (and some of us do). This isn’t very practical for an entire populace, and in this, the Conservatives of Burke’s day were actually probably correct. On the other hand, once the public becomes 90% literate, public schools are the norm, and people have enough leisure time to watch TV for 7 hours a day it becomes a lot more reasonable to ask them to put their political and religious values to the intellectual test. And some combination of Conservative thinking and Liberal discourse (probably leaning towards the Liberal) is probably what all Americans want and strive for, whether they know it or not.

When we say that a person is Liberal or Conservative what we are really saying is that… in general, this person takes a more rational path to determining their values or they stick to tradition and what feels right. In general this person believes in protecting individual liberties or they worry about the stability and health of society. In general they believe in rapid change, even revolutions, or they believe in gradual procedural change. Neither is really morally better, in my opinion. Rather both have their time and place from issue to issue, from time to time, and from place to place.

What has been interesting to me, and at times frustrates me dearly, is that lately Dubya has been advocating personal freedoms and individual liberties, secular governments and schools, and accountable civil government for Iraqis. While at home the Ashcroft train goes right on running over our civil liberties and then he shrugs. But then my Liberal comrades tell me not to ask too many questions, not to rock the boat, and that the war in Iraq was wrong because it felt wrong. Then they try to tell me that the government has no right to arrest “guest workers” from the Middle East on the suspicion of funding terrorism, and when it is revealed that some of them actually DID send money to terrorists, then they shrug.

It is as if someone threw all the thinking caps into the air and they came down screwy, and it drives me nuts. And if you are bothered by these definitions of Liberal and Conservative dont blame me for reminding you of the originals. Maybe you should consider why these old definitions bother you and then maybe decide which you really are. And if you cant pick one to pigeon hole yourself, don’t feel bad, neither can I. And to me this is what the term anti-idiotarian really means. So, welcome to the thinking man’s club (as if I might be qualified to extend the offer).

Sean: Thursday, June 12, 2003 [+] |
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Party Politics

There has been much debate of late by people in the blogosphere about their political leanings. Someone writes an article critical of the left and fellow lefties come out swinging calling the person a conservative even if they see themselves as Liberals. Other conservative bloggers write articles espousing liberal viewpoints. Republicans become Libertarians and so do Democrats. And then we all try to pigeonhole each other and defend ourselves. Political discourse in America appears to be a mess!

I have a side bar that gives some historical, etymological, and dictionary information on the terms that we all toss around a bit too freely. I encourage people to read and pay attention to them because the words that we use, and how we use them matter. Over the last couple centuries we have experienced linguistic creep in which the way we commonly misuse a word begins to take over and replace its original meaning. This is not with out importance. As Orwell warned us in his work 1984 if we lose a word we lose the idea that the word described, thus losing track of the original meaning of words stunts our intellectual and political debate.

I have an old textbook from the 60’s that I like a lot: The Course of Civilization by Strayer, Gatzkem, and Harbison, published by Harcourt, Brace, and World. In it these Princeton and John Hopkins professors remind the “gentle reader” that the descriptions left and right describe the power positions of parties (in and out) and not an ideology. They remind us that Liberals often become Conservatives once they win their revolutions and many Conservatives would find themselves extremely Liberal if displaced from the Enlightened West and dumped into a third world country.

People tend to respond to politics like they do to religion and to favorite and disliked foods. If you are born to Catholic parents you have a very good chance of being Catholic as an adult, if you are born to Labor Union Democratss you will probably vote Democratic as an adult, and if your mother hated peas… Yes, there are those who rebel, the smokers kids who never take a puff, the children of alcoholics who remain teetotalers, and there are no doubt sons of Socialists who grow up to vote for the GOP. But you get my point, sometimes politics is an unconcious thing.

And yet, beyond the labels and the gravitic pull of our family there are the individual views of us individual people on individual issues and a lot of us come to the conclusion that our party’s position is bunk. When it comes to issues like abortion, public schools, the military, and Iraq many of us depart from the platform and go our own ways. And I tend to think that when we follow our own reasoning or emotional response we may be far more honest and effective than when we simply vote on the party line.

So when Steven Den Beste comes up with whole new axis, Michael Totten pulls out his Liberal stumps to show an irate reader, and Matt Howell says he doesnt care what you think... I think they might be on to something, and missing something. No one really exists in a box labeled Liberal, or Conservative, or Left or Right, or Democrat or Republican. We all (should) have a wide range of views on the issues of the day and we might well find our allies on one issue are our opponents on another.

And what this all highlights is how narrow and choking our current political scene in America really is. It is time for a vast shake up of party politics and a wholesale revamping of the language. We need to clean up the vocabulary and relearn our terms of discourse and restyle ourselves as political individuals. We need new parties and a more fluid membership system.

I would like to see at least 5 parties represented in Washington D.C. and to have people belong to more than one. Most of all I want people from a party to stop insisting that they OWN fellow members votes. If I register Liberal and Republican in New York State (which you can do, btw) I don’t want someone telling me that I HAVE to vote for Hillary or Rudy. I will promote the politicians, the law, and the viewpoint on an issue that I support, issue by issue and candidate by candidate, and I don’t want to hear anyone trying to tell me what party I “really am” or who I am “supposed to vote for”.

Roger Simon has another suggestion, dropping the words altogether, even if only for a momment, perhaps in the voting booth or in a heated political discussion with one's family. I dont know what Orwell would say about that, exactly... but I know that I am ready for a Brave New World (random Huxley reference).

Sean: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 [+] |
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
The Death Of The Left

A political conversation with Boomer lefties these days is like a conversation with (a tomb)stone. They never give my comments serious consideration. They simply repeat a few of the latest chestnuts (the Jessica Lynch story was overblown, where are the WMD, its all about oil, and ipso facto the war was wrong) and walk away. The conversation is dead.

When I bring up contrary evidence (actually the best way for Texas oil companies to have acquired access to Iraqi oil was for Bush to have declared Saddam in compliance with the UN and dropped the sanctions) or arguments from another direction (what about the mass graves, the torture, and the past wars led by Saddam, isn’t ending his regime a good cause) I am told flatly that my evidence is untrustworthy and my arguments “irrelevant”.

One of my handicaps is that many of my family and friends are 60-year-old professors. Professors don’t argue, they lecture. They are not interested in evidence that challenges the bedrock that their personal theories, built over the decades, are based on. And they are simply unimpressed by the opinions of a mere “child” of 30 years.

But what I am most confused by is that I can’t distinguish the Conservatives from the Liberals around me. When I bring up well-documented facts from the pre-Iraq-war era and recent revelations from the “occupation” I get blank stares and outright disbelief from Lefties. When I attempt to present new evidence I am told that I cant be trusted.

They don’t know about the Iraqi children’s prison, they don’t know about the torture chamber for athletes, they may not even believe the photos of mass graves. They don’t want to know. To accept, or even consider, this new information is to challenge their emotional feeling that “war is always wrong” and that anything the Right wants is bad.

When I point out that even greedy businessmen can lead a war effort that serves the freedom and justice of others I am laughed out of the room and warned that I am disrespecting my “liberal heroes”.

I am solemnly lectured that all politicians are corrupt and that society is deranged and broken by consumerism. Thus, we cannot possibly hope for a positive outcome to any government action at home or abroad.

Finally, I am reminded that what I must avoid at all costs is supporting the violent overthrow of an admittedly corrupt and self-serving government. And with this last thought my head spins…

Liberals are supposed to use reason to evaluate current evidence to justify or critique their own beliefs and values, all the time. Liberals are supposed to ignore authority figures (St. Augustine, the Pope, or your professor) and rhetoric (political stump lines like Bush is an Oil Baron and Clinton is a Pervert) to come to one’s own conclusions, on everything. Liberals are supposed to believe that government is a temporary social contract and that bad governments should be fought and overthrown, everywhere. Liberals are supposed to have radical ideas about the perfectibility of man and are supposed to strive to make this possibility a reality. Liberals breed revolution.

Conservatives are the ones whose values are based upon tradition and emotion (traditional family values, fundamentalist religions, voodoo economic theories, etc.). Conservatives believe that the violent overthrow of a government, however corrupt, is wrong. Conservatives believe that man is essentially "bad" and that government's job is, not to strive towards something better, but rather to hold on to and defend what we have. Conservatives are supposed to resist change and brook no argument.

At the heart of the matter is this one premise; Liberals and Lefties invite debate, argument, and dissent. It is supposed to be the Conservative pundit who tells you that they “know better” and don’t want to discuss the matter. But ever since I admitted to voting for Nader I have faced nothing but knee-jerk reactionary responses from my Liberal lefty comrades (how dare you not vote for YOUR PARTY’s chosen horse?). When I note with some pride that my own writing, my blog, has shared link space with the likes of Christopher Hitchens, the Anglosphere's most eloquent essayist, I hear a scornful reply noting that The Hitch has been turned out of the fold for not towing the party line.

If dissent is now taboo in the halls of the Academic Left, then the Left is dead. Why should you care, as either a Lefty or a Righty? As Socrates would have admonished us all, dissent is a vital part of our democracy, or any healthy society. We need people to question authority and to pose alternative answers to our social problems. A vital Left is as necessary as a strong Right, the one exercises and invigorates the other. So I want to see the Left resurrected in a clean and healthy body, because what we have now is ossified and useless to society.

Sean: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 [+] |
Monday, June 09, 2003
Causus Belli

A family barbeque this weekend was set ablaze by the flames of the Iraqi War.

The position of those on the Left was that the war was wrong, period, no matter what... as the French would say "finit".

No arguments against this judgment were permitted and all questions were suspect.

But I, being me, raised questions anyway...

"What about the hundreds of Iraqi children freed from a Baghdad prison by the Marines? Should we put them back, or tell them that their rescue was wrong?

"What children, what prison?"

I explained that in an article attributed to Agence France-Press we learned that:

Around 150 children spilled out of the jail after the gates were opened as a US military Humvee vehicle approached, Lieutenant Colonel Fred Padilla told an AFP correspondent traveling with the Marines 5th Regiment.

"Hundreds of kids were swarming us and kissing us," Padilla said.

"There were parents running up, so happy to have their kids back."

"The children had been imprisoned because they had not joined the youth branch of the Baath party," he alleged. "Some of these kids had been in there for five years."

The children, who were wearing threadbare clothes and looked under-nourished, walked on the streets crossing their hands as if to mimic handcuffs, before giving the thumbs up sign and shouting their thanks.

This story is old news... Scott Ritter, a former UN inspector and now, oddly, a recent apologist for Saddam, toured the facility in 1998 and knew all about it, so did the UN... it was all reported on in Time magazine, LAST YEAR!

Ritter: "The prison in question is at the General Security Services headquarters, which was inspected by my team in Jan. 1998. It appeared to be a prison for children — toddlers up to pre-adolescents — whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually I'm not going to describe what I saw there because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace."

We freed these kids, was that wrong?

I was informed that the premise of the question was unfair.

I suggested that I had not yet raised a point or stood upon a premise. I just wanted to know if it was "wrong" for us to have intervened in the internal affairs and civil justice system of Iraq. We released children imprisoned by Saddam's government, was this wrong, yes or no?

As the question wasn’t going to get an answer I pressed further....

What about the private prison that Udday Hussein ran at the Iraqi Olympic offices...

This too was old news, even ESPN carried a serries on the torture of Iraqi athletes. The Australian paper The Age noted the scandal and the Liberal UK paper The Guardian covered it too. Heck, it wasprofiled in detail a YEAR AGO in The Australian...

The IOC ethics commission have received a report [from Indict, a London-based human rights group led by the Welsh MP Ann Clwyd] detailing the systematic punishment of athletes, sometimes in the opulent headquarters of the Iraq National Olympic Committee, an organization Uday has overseen since 1984. The building contains a dark secret, like Room 101 out of George Orwell's 1984 , where your worst nightmares come true. It is... where as many as 50 sportsmen and women may have been murdered and many hundreds tortured, beaten and left to rot.

... was it wrong to put that out of commission?

What about the thousands of other prisoners, conscript soldiers, and compromised officials reunited with their families this summer, was this wrong?

And the hundreds of thousands of civilians who now know the fate of missing loved ones, or have even seen their beloved's remains, wrong?

What about the millions who now no longer fear a knock on the door in the middle of the night, wrong?

How about the entire nation of Iraq, now freed from crushing UN sanctions with out the previously inevitable consequence of handing Saddam back the keys to his nuclear weapons program (and all the rest), wrong?

Was I being unfair?

My verbal sparing partner did not want to address concrete examples of the good that came from the war... he was focused on the theoretical principles of my "premise"... that a war could be fought and not be a bad thing, even if the US fought it, even if a Republican led it, and especially if there was one red cent to be made for the oil companies that are trashing our environment. Examples of real people affected by this war were inadmissible, unless they were the thousands of civilian "collateral damage" victims, or the "millions of dead babies" from the UN sanctions.

Who was being unfair to whom?

This war was fought by a super power, the US, that far out gunned its opponent. The chosen target, Iraq, had not even landed one uniformed soldier on the super power's soil. And to this date no credible proof can show that the target was ever a truly serious threat to the super power, or anyone outside its borders (except Israelis, Iranians, and Kuwaitis). Besides, who ever heard of a preemptive war, or rather a "just" preemptive war? Wasn’t the war, ipso facto, wrong?

Preemptive wars are not a rare breed at all, there is always a side that shoots first, and isn’t that "preemptive"? Ok, what about a "just" preemptive action?

Well, when the English sent troops against Napoleon in the early 19th century France had yet to invade England. Yet few lament that action. When the US entered the war against Germany in WWI an argument could be made that the US did not have a "causu belli" at all, because the Lusitania WAS carrying arms to England. But no one thinks the Keizer should have won. When Israel invaded Egypt in 1967 the Arab tanks gassed and primed at the border had yet to cross it, but few wish to contemplate the outcome had Israel not acted first. The only reason for Clinton to bomb the Serbs was in defense of non-US citizens, the Kosovar Albanians, and there wasn’t even a drop of oil to be gained. And when the French invaded Sierra Leon this year they had only the flimsy excuse that they had once been its colonial masters and that there were still a few French citizens around the capitol.

BTW, when Wellington joined up with the Prussians it could easily be argued that they "outgunned" Napoleon. When the US took on Spain, to support the revolt of her American colonies, Spain was assumed to be the favorite, but was quickly dispatched. And when the US took on Saddam in the first Gulf War his army was the fourth largest in the world. And need it be noted that the US won every major "battle" of Viet Nam, but lost the war? The size and strength of the enemy is besides the point.

Preemptive wars do happen, and sometimes they are still "just", but more to the point, they are often efficacious. These days it is rhetorically impossible to argue that a nation's action that is in their self-interest is "just". From "white man's burden" to general "anti-Americanism" someone always argues that no Western nation even has the "right" to defend itself, let alone benefit from any action of diplomacy, economics, or warfare. But the history of a nation is ALWAYS a list of self-serving actions... if not, then the history of that nation will end up a very short read. The real question to be asked of any war is not "who started it" or whether it is "fair", but rather "is the outcome beneficial" - to how many and at what cost.

Well, Iraqi civilians who are not responsible for their leadership died in this war, doesn’t that erase any claim of "justice" for acting on their behalf, to "free" them? At the close of the war the civilians now live with anarchy and terror from their neighbors. And Iran may help install a new theocratic regime that may be worse than the last one. Doesn’t this wipe out any suggestion that the war had a humanitarian outcome, if not intent?

Indeed, innocent civilians die in all wars, it is one of the strongest reasons against armed conflict. But is it any better to ignore wanton rape, torture, and murder out of fear of causing more trauma if we intervene? Well, this argument didn’t save the job of a Florida family services worker who left children in an abusive family out of fear of causing them more trauma.

If 10,000 civilians died in the war this will top the highest estimates of the Red Cross. But it would still pale when compared to ONE DAY in Halabja, one year of political murders, or the ten years of the war with Iran. It is beyond argument that the number one killer of Iraqi's has been its own despot, Saddam Hussein. Leaving this despot in power is the truly immoral choice.

As Rory Lieshman commented from Canada:

What, though, has been the actual number of civilian deaths in the war? While no one yet knows for sure, Iraqi government officials told Abu Dhabi TV on Tuesday, the day before the Saddam regime collapsed, that the total civilian death toll up to that point could be "as high as 1,200."

Consider what the death toll would have been if Saddam had been left in power. Over the last 24 years, his ruthless security forces have murdered at least 200,000 Iraqi civilians. On one infamous day alone -- March 16, 1988 -- Saddam's troops killed 5,000 civilians and injured 10,000 in a gas attack on the village of Halabja in northern Iraq.

Well, we armed Saddam in the first place, we put him in power, what right to we have now to remove him?

This argument is specious, which is a fancy word for "having deceptive attraction or allure", or being b.s.. Saddam's soldiers didn’t fight Iran or the Coalition with M-16's, M-1 Abrams, or F-16 Tomcatts. They drove Soviet T-74 tanks, fired French Exocet anti-air missiles, and gassed Iran -according to both the Iranian secret service and UN medical forensics teams- with German made chemical weapons such as Mustard Gas.

And Saddam took power on his own initiative, with the help of Baath Party (socialist "greater Arabia" imperialists) muscle. The best/worse that can be said about US support for Saddam is that we loaned him the use of an AWACS plane to identify some land and air targets, some SEAL teams to take out Iranian Navy boats, and that we gave him some cash (the number is debatable). And our support for Saddam was not out of admiration or moral affinity, but merely because we considered his enemy, Iran's Ayatollah, to be worse (and he may well have been).

Regardless, the argument, that because we once 'supported him' means that we now cannot remove him from power, is like arguing that the you should leave a 12ft alligator in your son's room because you bought the gator as a pet when he was 12 inches long. It was wrong to buy the alligator in the first place, but it is ludicrous to keep him.

True, this summer has not been "band camp" for Iraqis. Baghdad is a mess and other cities are little better off. Bands of looters take what they please, water and electricity are erratic at best, and religious fanatics are now able to openly rally their followers after Friday prayers. It could all go to heck in a hand basket at any moment.

But it is STILL better than life under Saddam. The Iraqi people have now traded certain repression for only possible abuse, suppression of religion and politics for possible mass hysteria, and certain doom for probable doom.

But it is at least largely in their own hands. If the US pulled out tomorrow I would be disgusted with the White House, but it would STILL be the responsibility of the Iraqis how their future turns out.

Salam Pax, aka the Baghdad Blogger, seems to get this…

Besides asking for outrageous fares, Taxi Drivers start grumbling and mumbling and at a point they would say something like “well it wasn’t like the mess it is now when we had Saddam”.

This is usually my cue for going into rage-mode. We Iraqis seem to have very short memories, or we simply block the bad times out.

I ask them how long it took for us to get the electricity back again after he last war? 2 years until things got to what they are now, after 2 months of war. I ask them how was the water? Bad. Gas for car? None existent. Work? Lots of sitting in street tea shops.

And how did everything get back? Hussain Kamel used to literally beat and whip people to do the impossible task of rebuilding.

Then the question that would shut them up: So, dear Mr. Taxi driver would you like to have your Saddam back?

Aren’t we just really glad that we can now at least have hope for a new Iraq? Or are we Iraqis just a bunch of impatient fools who do nothing better than grumble and whine? Patience, you have waited for 35 years for days like these so get to working instead of whining. End of conversation.

The truth is, if it weren’t for intervention this would never have happened. When we were watching the Saddam statue being pulled down, one of my aunts was saying that she never thought she would see this day during her lifetime.

In a very real sense, even the chaos of the post war period is a "Liberal gift", self-determination. And that is more precious than any number of lives or any years of deprivation. Or, at least, that is the bedrock principle that the US itself was founded on (give me freedom or give me death).

You can disagree with this argument, but at least, finally, the US appears to be acting in accordance with our principles instead of in spite of them. And if Muslim fanatics retaliate with terrorist attacks upon the US it will be hard to argue that they are not attacking us for our principles and values.

Rich and powerful men in a rich and powerful country might make money off the war? This makes it wrong, right?

Someone always profits from a war, this is history, human nature, and politics. The demand of soldiers for bullets, bread, and uniforms can be nearly infinite. The job of sending our troops abroad and of cleaning up the messes they leave behind can be quite lucrative for related industries. And no doubt someone from one of those industries will have some insider relation to the White House.

So what? In the end I would return to my query... Is it wrong to free the oppressed and hand them their future? In the end this is the only question that matters, not whether you like the man in the White House.

Which do you value more, the dollars that Haliburton might make from oil sales, or the simple act of casting a free vote in your own country (you can insist that American politics is so corrupt that this vote is meaningless, but I bet you wouldnt agree to give it up anytime soon). I don’t know about you, but I find freedom and self-determination to be more valuable than any quartly profits. So, in the end the people of Iraq will have profited more than anyone else, and this is the only answer that matters.

What if we had known about Hitler's death camps in 1940? Would we have been right to have waited for Pearl Harbor to join the war? Margaret Wente reported in the Boston Globe a few months ago that Easan Jordan and CNN, Scott Ritter and the UN, had known about Saddam's holocausts for a decade (or more) and allowed the world, and the US, to do nothing.

Were are the WMD? Who cares? Sometimes your only causus belli need be your own conscience and the desire not to merely witness, write about, or generally lament injustice, but to actually do something about it. I will support this even if it is Bush or Clinton or CNN that leads the way.

(my apologies to my family)

Sean: Monday, June 09, 2003 [+] |
Sunday, June 08, 2003
Un (Peacekeepers), Irreleveant

The Cracker Barrel Phillospher lamments "where are the French?"

In a virtual re-run of the battle for Bunia last month - when 700 UN peacekeepers stood by as hundreds of civilians were massacred, and 25,000 fled - the French troops remained at their airport barracks, without orders or capacity to intervene.

Note that the US did not try to hinder the French effort to use the UN for humanitarian military intervention in Africa in their "unilateralist" invasion of Sierra Leon a year ago or the UN sanctioned intervention in the Congo this month. Still, the French could at least fire a few rounds in defense, non? And if they will not what good are they, or the UN?

Sean: Sunday, June 08, 2003 [+] |
Friday, June 06, 2003
Mug Shot

Sultaana Freeman is a recent convert to Islam previously known as Sandra Kellar. She began wearing a veil in 1997. And wore her veil in the Florida driver's license she obtained after moving to the state in 2001.

But nine months later, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, she received a letter from the state warning that it would revoke her license unless she returned for a photo with her face uncovered.

Freeman claims her religious beliefs require her to keep her head and face covered out of modesty and that her faith prohibits her face from being photographed.

Her lawyers argued that instead of a driver's license photo, she could use other documents such as a birth certificate or Social Security card to prove her identity if necessary.

But a state attorney countered that Islamic law has exceptions that allow women to lift their veil and expose their face if the action serves a public good.

And Assistant Attorney General Jason Vail said arrangements can be made to have Freeman photographed only with women present to allay her concerns about modesty.

I dont have a lot of sympathy for this woman, honestly.

First, driving is a privilege, not a right. This is not a freedom of religion issue. In Saudi Arabia, where women take the religious part of this seriously, they dont have this issue, women arent allowed to drive at all.

Second, a tiny 1 inch pic on a license that she keeps in a slot in her wallet, that she keeps in her purse hung over her arm, is not "public".

Third, this isnt an issue of cultural sensitivity. She is an American named Sandra Keller from Illinois and she grew up knowing that drivers licenses have (bad) photos on them.

Fourth, she is a violent criminal who has used this veil thingy to hide evidence of her abusing small children, which makes the judge's point for them.

During the hearing, Freeman conceded that she has had her face photographed without a veil since she started wearing one in 1997.

She had a mug shot (photo left) taken after her arrest in 1998 on a domestic battery charge involving one of twin 3-year-old sisters who were in her foster care.

The children were removed from her home, according to records from the Decatur (Ill.) Police Services.

Child welfare workers told investigators in Decatur that Freeman and her husband had used their concerns about religious modesty to hinder them from looking for bruises on the girls, according to the Decatur Police records.

And fifth, she's in Florida, complainig about unfair treatment by the authorities, in Florida, who's she kidding? Get in line.

Wanna completely undermine her argument? Put this image on a mug at those mall kiosk machine thingies and take it to work with you.

Sean: Friday, June 06, 2003 [+] |
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Salam Pax, aka "the Baghdad Blogger", is real...

Peter Maass tell us:
His latest post mentioned an afternoon he spent at the Hamra Hotel pool, reading a borrowed copy of The New Yorker. I laughed out loud. He then mentioned an escapade in which he helped deliver 24 pizzas to American soldiers. I howled. Salam Pax, the most famous and most mysterious blogger in the world, was my interpreter. The New Yorker he had been reading—mine. Poolside at the Hamra—with me. The 24 pizzas—we had taken them to a unit of 82nd Airborne soldiers I was writing about.

Many bloggers asked over and over, is Salam Pax for real?

Well, he is.

And now he has a regular desk job... at the Guardian Uk.

Sean: Tuesday, June 03, 2003 [+] |
Monday, June 02, 2003
The Beeb Dissects The Summit

Dubya tries to sell Schroeder a used El Camino.

The Puppet Master tries to ensnare Dubya...

Look this way Bush...

Now come over here...

And wave your hands around... wee, I've got him!

Chirac's remote control on Putin appears to go haywire, is Putin doing a jig or curtseying?

Sean: Monday, June 02, 2003 [+] |
Religion And Terror:

Andrew Sullivan coins a new term... Christianists.

...the politicized zeal of "the saved" is... deeply dangerous - and not just when it is expressed non-violently and seeks merely to marginalize and disenfranchise those who do not share certain tenets of the faith. Eric Rudolph was... a warped Christian fundamentalist who murdered for his cause. He bombed symbols of individual freedom, constitutional rights and minority intransigence. He is our Osama. In his refuge [North Carolina mountain country], he had, like other terrorists, the implicit support of a population who shared his beliefs, if not the extremism that sanctioned his killings []. If we are to call John Muhammed a religiously inspired terrorist (and I think we should) then we have to call Rudolph a Christian terrorist. I propose a new term for those on the fringes of the religious right who have used the Gospels to perpetuate their own aspirations for power, control and oppression: Christianists. They are as anathema to true Christians as the Islamists are to true Islam. And they have to be fought just as vigilantly.

Sean: Monday, June 02, 2003 [+] |
"image lost to photorott"
Signs Of Hope And Progress?

Sabato 31 Maggio 2003, 3:23 - A Palestinian boy gives a thumbs up sign to an Israeli soldier as he rides in a taxi during curfew in the West bank town of Hebron Sunday May 25, 2003. As Palestinians and Israelis embark on a new, U.S.-backed peace plan, there are signs of a willingness to break the cycle of violence and deny radicals the effective veto they have long been able to wield. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

We should probably ask Abbas, or maybe Arafat, or... a blind sheik.. or...

Sean: Monday, June 02, 2003 [+] |

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