Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:

 

Conservative:

Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.

 

Liberal:

Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.

 

Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.

 

Reactionary:

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

 

Radical:

Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.

 

The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.

 

The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.

 

Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income

 

Capitalism:

Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

 

Socialism:

Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

 

Communism:

Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.

 

Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.

 

Democracy:

Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.

 

Republic:

Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.

 

Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President

 

Fascism:

Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

 
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Saturday, May 31, 2003

Michael Totten's "Criticism and Responsibility "

Mike responds to a Winds of Change reader named Jonathan who complains...

Maybe I'm missing something, but if you're an American, it should be your responsibility to expose US crimes and conflicts of interest, not Russia's. Unlike the latter, you can, at least in theory, do something about the former.


Joe Katzman responded with...

This excuse is ages-old, for "excuse" is exactly what it is. It's an open declaration that one will only see evil in America, a twisted philosophy whose logical end point is James Hudnall's line that "No one seems to get outraged by mass murder unless Americans or Israelis are involved." This is, I submit, despicable.


And Mike notes that you can expose the error in this line by transposing one identity and rewinding to 1940:

...if you're an American, it should be your responsibility to expose US crimes and conflicts of interest, not Nazi Germany's. Unlike the latter, you can, at least in theory, do something about the former.


Mike concluded that an American should indeed be critical of the US, but not by accepting every crackpot conspiracy theory proposed by its enemies.

But, Philip Gourevitch writes another take altogether in this week's New Yorker:

The idea behind [the UN] system is that common humanity ought to be reason enough to take an interest in preventing such terrors as extermination campaigns [In Iraq, Congo, East Timor, etc.]


Philip, whether he realizes or not (he is writing about UN responsibility, after all), gives Americans everywhere full license, and indeed DUTY, to ignore Jonathan altogether. You see, the US DOES have the ability to "do something" about nearly every crime EVERYWHERE -this was the real lesson of the Afghan and Iraqi "adventures". In fact, UN action against genocide has only ever proven successful with US military might behind it. So, our common humanity alone "ought to be reason enough" to criticize and even to intervene.

And in fact, criticism of US policy and conflicts of interests , such as Jonathan calls for, should spotlight US administrations for ignoring totalitarian governments, and anarchy alike, for abuses against humanity from Asia to Africa. So you see, criticizing the US should lead right back to criticizing other nations as well. And at the end of the day Jonathan might keep in mind part of his own comment... "Unlike the latter, you can, at least in theory, do something about the former." No Jonathan, you can do both.

Sean: Saturday, May 31, 2003 [+] |
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Thursday, May 29, 2003

The Redcoats Are Coming!

This Memorial Day we went sailing with some friends into the San Juan Islands of Washington State. It was a wonderful trip. I would write more, but my hands still hurt from handling lines. Let me say, however, that Memorial Day still seems to mean something in Friday Harbor. The American Legion was out in force, there was a (bag)pipe and drum band, and they even shot a cannon at the end of the ceremony. I noticed that the parade included some of the dreaded reds of yore, not Commies, English soldiers. And I might add that after calling out the several islanders, a few from each service, who served in Iraq this spring, they also recognized our faithful allies. In fact, the Brits got the biggest round of applause! This from a collection of islands once hotly contested between us. Up the Anglosphere!

Sean: Thursday, May 29, 2003 [+] |
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Saturday, May 24, 2003
Guest Financial Commentary From Jack Whitsel, a reformed banker and day trader

“For those of you who worship at the Church of Greenspan, I am sure that you were relieved by his optimistic attitude regarding a quick economic recovery. I’m sure you will be calling your broker, with a warm feeling in your tummy, ready to jump right back into the market. Well, before you cash advance your VISA cards and dive in, here is word of old fashioned trade advice.

Everyone has their own method of choosing stocks to add to their portfolio. Some traders use a combination of seasonal charts and local market reports to decide what should be bought or sold. Others go simply on name brands and gut feelings. While, there is no almighty secret that will guarantee gains all the time, every trader should have a non-emotional system for buying and selling individual stocks.

When you purchase a stock it is important to determine an entry and exit strategy. Look up the price history and other technical data. Pinpoint both the high and the low price at which you will exit the trade, no matter what, either if your position goes sour or if it takes off for the moon.

If you are going to trade often, you must accept the inevitability that sometimes you will pick bad trades. Pre-determining your exit strategy will cut your losses significantly and leave more capital to spend on potential winners. The same rule applies for exiting a trade that is very positive, take your gains and get out!

For example: I just bought 200 shares of XYZ Corporation for $20 per share and I set my exit point at either $18 or $28, either way I will sell, even if I think a big change is right around the corner.

The true potential for disaster lies in failing to enter and exit trades according to your system. If you simply sell on a feeling you will lose big, “I’ve got a winner” or “I bought a turkey” is all emotion. Never trade with emotion, both pride and fear can equal a net loss.

The key is to create a trade plan for each investment and have the discipline to stick to it. This may sound like common sense, and it is. But guess how many investors don’t use common sense? Hence, the “maxed out” VISA cards, refinanced mortgage notes, and pillaged college funds. Trust in Greenspan is fine, but first trust your own analysis and stick with it.”


Trust in Jack too, he has made quite a success trading stocks and options on his own and has shown me that you can make money on the market, up or down.



Sean: Saturday, May 24, 2003 [+] |
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Friday, May 23, 2003
Judicial Review Part 2

Dubya billed himself during the election as both a “uniter” and as a “compassionate” conservative. But to his home constituency he promised to get “good, conservative judges appointed to the bench”. By a “uniter” did he mean J. Len Holmes, a man who compared pro-choice states to Nazi Germany? By “compassionate” did he mean a man who argued to deny rape victims the option of abortion? Campaign rhetoric is never worth as much as back room deals, so it seems.

Sean: Friday, May 23, 2003 [+] |
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Thursday, May 22, 2003
Brilliant Satire From The Victor

VDH shows us a bit of alternative history worth learning from:

Ex-president Jimmy Carter summed up the risks: "We all better pause and realize what Thatcher has unleashed: Anglo versus Latino; Catholicism against Protestantism; British imperialism spreading colonialism; the First World attacks the Third. Put that together and you have a real hornet's nest. The British have no clue of what they are stirring up. My God, Thatcher can't even speak Spanish! If you want to incite the entire South American continent for a decade, then killing Argentinean freedom fighters on the Malvinas is a good way to start."


Those who cried out "Not In My Name" just received a failing grade, they need to retake the class.


Sean: Thursday, May 22, 2003 [+] |
...
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Dying Institutions, National Geographic

This has been a season for burying the dead carcasses of childhood intellectualism. The first to drop was the BBC, disemboweled by memri and camera a few years back, the entrails of the British Foreign Office wrapped around every slanted news story. Next was our own NPR, with its “theme music to a defeat" and ultra-biased war coverage, I began to see what those on the right were so upset about. The last to fall appears to be National Geographic.

I knew about past journalistic abuses and institutional silliness for quite some time. The official guiding principle of Nat’l Geo is: “Only what is of a kindly nature is printed ... everything unpleasant or unduly critical being avoided,” as of the Board of Trustees in 1915. With this as their prime directive how can they tell us the truth about the world?

Back in college, during my senior thesis class for history, I learned from a fellow student about cover articles on Germany and Japan just before the war. They praised the economic miracle of slave labor and fussed over the pretty streetscapes draped in nationalist flags. Every photo showed a smiling young fascist. It seems that Nat’l Geo had a large soft spot for authoritarian regimes.



But still, I fended off the attack upon my own assiduously collected photo mags and clung to my idealism, surely the Nat’l Geo had reformed since WWII? Then I opened this month’s issue to find a glossy mid-section devoted to the imperiled regime of Saddam Hussein.



The section was written and shot by a female journalist who gave not one pause at having to cover herself from head to toe (something Iraqi’s themselves don’t actually have to do under semi-secular Saddam).



She gathered photos of Iraqi poor playing in a dirty slum and described them as “carefree”. She shot pictures of dirty hands reaching for food handouts and noted that the Iraqis stoically continued to go about their “daily business”. Ah yes, no vacations for the poor, even in war time.



Then there was a section on wealthy Iraqis. Our guide tells us that the young woman in the photo is "charming and sophisticated", but worried for her future. Another woman packed away all her priceless objects d’art one day only to unpack them again because she was “lonely”. We learn that still, these members of Saddam’s happy henchmen elite manage to push on and engage in evening cocktail soirees and week end weddings. Such bravery!



A photo of foreign Arab soldiers portrayed them in uniforms and was shot so close up they could have been on the moon. There was no hint that local Iraqis feared these men and would later blame them for much of the destruction of the war. And those uniforms would soon prove to be a lie, tossed on the ground in a heap in exchange for women’s clothing.



The last photo was the most telling. Here sat a row of schoolboys dressed in Western style tuxes, holding gold lame stuffed kalishnikovs, the smiles of childhood ignorance gracing their faces. They had been mustered, with their odd uniforms and mock arms, to great a planeload of Western “human shields”. Ah yes, great the peaceniks with fake guns, how touching.

Again and again the article appears to laude the "comfort and stability" of the Saddam regime and sypathize with the members of the power structure who "fear the comming instability". So you see, Nat'l Geo STILL has a "soft spot" for authoritarian regimes. And thus, for me, the death toll of war now counts the foundations of Western intelligencia.


Sean: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 [+] |
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Sunday, May 18, 2003

Pictures of Home

Jamison Square

Pearl District

The City By Day

The City By Night


Sean: Sunday, May 18, 2003 [+] |
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Friday, May 16, 2003
Michael Totten Is Still Waiting For The Baghdad Airlifts


Mike warns us that Baghdad is not being treated like Berlin in the 40's, which he correctly noted, is what the Liberal Hawks were promised. Bush is making a terrible mistake if he follows his father out the revolving door of Iraq. Put it to you this way, if four years from now Bush is out and Saddam is back... history will be laughing.

We have got to ignore wing-nut paranoia about imperialism. Democrats need to snap out of their reflexive pacifism. Republicans need to grow up and get over their aversion to nation-building. We are not conquering and annexing Iraq, nor are we engaging in "international social work."

I threw my support behind a president whom I do not like and did not vote for, hoping that he would get this right. We were told the reconstruction of Iraq would resemble the projects in Germany and Japan. Was I wrong? Is the Administration going to give it up and let Iraq's wounds fester?

Warning to President Bush: You will disgrace yourself and endanger our country if Iraq burns while you fiddle in Washington. Tell Pat Buchanan and Noam Chomsky to go to hell. Do the right thing, or you're out in '04.


Vist Mike's site today and read the entire thing.

Sean: Friday, May 16, 2003 [+] |
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The Matrix Reloaded

Non Spoiler Review:

The Matrix sequel opens today. It starts out slow but builds to a pretty good finish. The effects are fine, you wont be disappointed, but you probably wont be blown away like the first one, because we are all so jaded. Trinity has a nice butt in leather, but she needs implants or maybe just a bra. Neo looks thin, and he wears a dress most of the movie. Morpheus is a stud, of course, but he needs more lines and some inflection. And Elrond amuses himself, and us. We don’t really get anything resolved in this one, we just get the door opened to the next movie, which you can catch in Nov. We can all judge the series alongside Elrond's Other Big Adventure. Till then...

Spoiler Review:

The Matrix Reloaded is a monumental failure, not because of what it is, so much as for what it isnt. Its own criticism is spoken by Lord Elrond/Agent Smith when he looks up from an ass whooping and tells the audience "More!". Its not that each scene sucked, they didn't, but at the end of the film you realize that you would have rather had less. Less would have been more, less would have been a great movie.

The theatres forces you to sit through at least 20 minutes of ads dressed like music videos passing as news items. After which you are subjected to far too many product placement ads in the film. People will probably be ferreting out the exact number and product list for years to come, but I noticed Cadillac, Volvo, and Ducatti in the motor vehicles category alone (then there are sunglasses and cell phones, but you knew that already).

Then the movie has too many fight scenes. They are also edited to come out of order, that is you see the most "amazing" fight first, then everything else is "what's the point" and "when does Nero fly in and finish this all?" It was like watching Lois Lane and Jimmy fighting a bug infestation while Clark searches for the bug spray, just use your x-ray and heat vision and finish it already!

The villains are also confusing. For the first time we are told that the machines are NOT in control, that there are renegades programs out there. Who, btw, are vampires, werewolves, and Frenchmen (what's the difference you might ask). Then we learn that Agent Smith is back, he is somewhat of a rouge program himself, and he is nearly as powerful as Nero. But the machines seem uninterested in either Nero or Smith, they just want the renegade programs (everyone hates the French, even in the Matrix).

Add to this that the Brothers W appear to have confused themselves as to the rules of the Matrix. In one scene Nero bleeds. I mean WTF? Either he knows it is all bs and can intuitively manipulate the construct environment, in which case he cannot bleed any more than he can catch a cold, or not. Trinity and Morpheus suffer a similar ailment, sometimes they kick ass, and other times they become punching bags.

Worse, the movie has a really cool premise, that the Matrix is itself a Matrix, but it blows the revelation of this predicament to the audience. We get too many hints too early and they are conflicting. Then Nero's is simply TOLD the truth. But later he discovers it for the first time. Huh?

If these guys has simply pre-screened this film to a pack of high school seniors, then reshot or edited it, they might actually have pulled it off.

Sean: Friday, May 16, 2003 [+] |
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Thursday, May 15, 2003
Liberalism And Common Sense

The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected, and in the event of which, their affections are interested. The laying a country desolate with fire and sword, declaring war against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the defenders thereof from the face of the earth, is the concern of every man to whom nature hath given the power of feeling; of which class, regardless of party censure, is the author. [my bolding]

-Thomas Paine, Philadelphia, Feb 14th, 1776.


Back in February, in Temple Bar in Dublin, I engaged in a political debate with a professor and his female companion (she was visiting home while studying for her PHD in England). When the subject of Iraq came up and I offered that it was a Yankee dury to overthrow despots she replied incredulously: "My god, you Americans really do believe that your Freedom is our Freedom?!" I managed to avoid mentioning American financial and martial aide for the Irish uprisings. Instead I merely equivocated and mangled the quote that "no man was free so long as one man remained enslaved".

But the real answer is: Yes.

The core of Liberal thought is the idea of “natural rights”, or the “rights of man”, and the development of the Social Contract. Perhaps the Founders did not state it correctly when they spoke of “inalienable rights”, for they certainly can, and have been, denied to millions over the eons. Put more accurately, a Liberal believes that Man has certain rights, or needs, which should not be denied.

And the Social Contract is a pragmatic attempt to protect as many of these rights as possible. But it is not an invention of the Founders, or even of Locke; rather they simply stated fact. People everywhere exist either "in a state of nature," where the strong prevail and the week submit, or they live in a society with a "social contract". And, in a way, even the state of nature is a social contract.

Whether the people of China, Iraq, or the former Soviet Union know it, they retain the essential Liberal right of self-determination and voluntary government. Unfortunately their Social Contract gives up too many of their rights for too few freedoms. Standing in the face of the power of their state oppressed people feel that their rights have been denied. Some people are driven to revolt, others rescued by their neighbors, but the moral truth of their rights endure.

The difference between a Liberal government and an illiberal one is the balance between the rights of the individual and the security of the state. The US (or insert whatever Liberal Democracy you wish) gives the State only as much authority as it needs to protect the Liberties of the People. Singapore (or insert whatever authoritarian regime you wish) protects the power of the State first and gives the People as many Rights as are left over.

People in America might see themselves as trapped by a job, by debt, or by their family. They might even blame the State, the economy, or society as a whole for their situation. But this is an illusion based on self-pity and blindness to their potential. At any moment they may declare bankruptcy, divorce, and move to the boonies. If they find a law, policy, or program of the State that hinders their escape they can vote against it. If all else fails they can write a letter to the editor or carry a placard around their neck in complaint.

People in Singapore might think of themselves as free while they get themselves to work in the morning and hit the grocery on the way home. But it is an illusion based on pride and ignorance (their government’s keep them ignorant of the outside world and play up nationalism in order to distract the people from government failings). When it comes to challenging the system, working within it, or fleeing it they will find that they traded their rights for the security of the State. Complain too loudly and they will end up in jail.

Some Libertarians are no doubt intrigued by Locke’s argument about individual Liberty and wish to consider how this relates to the idea of Private Property. And no doubt, a few unreformed Socialists have a similar thought with a different answer. Conservatives will wonder why, in a supposedly Free Nation, they do not have the right to educate their children into intolerant religious Zealots. And 2nd Amendment activists will wonder how an American government can dare to limit their right to shoot off a few celebratory rounds, a la Afghanistan, after a Longhorn's football victory.

The security of the rights of the individual is the primary goal of Locke’s Liberal ideals. The Social Contract is the pragmatic path to this goal. Worrying about property rights, the right to educate your children, and the right to carry a gun are perfectly acceptable concerns. But don’t fool yourself that the State has no right to intervene.

You belong to a larger society with the rights of many citizens to worry about, not just your own. The Social Contract requires you to give up some freedoms in order to retain certain rights. But the primary freedom of the American, British, or Irish citizen is the right to participate in writing and rewriting that contract. So far, so good, if you don’t agree… write a post to the contrary and don’t worry about being arrested.

The realization that you live in a country that has been pretty successful in defending your rights should be clear. The reason these rights are important is, as Paine put it, Common Sense. And the rest of the World might as well realize that we aim to spread these Liberal ideals everywhere. Someday our freedom will be your freedom.

Sean: Thursday, May 15, 2003 [+] |
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Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Man Shoots Burglar, In The UK The Man Goes To Jail, Obviously

Sometimes we Yanks are pretty good at waxing poetic about the failings of our nation. I mean, we have 50 state Legislatures and 300 million people, we should be able to come up with news items illustrative of our failings ad infinitum, and we do.

But occasionally news items from other countries can put us back in our place, as one of the most sane and free nations on earth. Don’t believe me? Check our Ravenwood's commentrary on a UK manslaughter case. Its a hoot.

***

Apparently a man encountered an armed robber in his house, he shot the intruder, and the burglar died. The authorities tried to convict the man of murder, but it got bumped to manslaughter, still the man did 10 years. And at his parole hearing the board asked the man to prove that he would not be a danger to future crooks, unsatisfied they denied his parole. WTF?

It seems that there is a radio dial for a nation. Either you are more scared of your neighbors or of the police. In the US our dial is firmly in the left bandwidth, we generally fear our neighbors more than the cops. China is more to the right, you fear the government more than your neighbors. And, of course, in some places, like Algeria, it is all screwed up and you get to fear both.

You know, there is a larger political element here as well. Europe wants to believe that the world can get by unarmed (which is easy for them to believe since the US has been protecting them from afar for 50 years now). But the US lives in a world where armed thugs are still plentiful, therefore it still carries a gun (the US military). I think it is no coincidence that the US leaves guns in the hands of its citizens and the UK does not.

The UK has moved too far to the right. This man broke no moral law, like stealing. What he broke was a political command by the State to the People that they act subdued and leave their own protection to "the authorities". I would consider him a political prisoner.

***

The background on this story should be the recent efforts in Canada, Australia, and the UK to ban gun ownership by its citizens. The plan was based on the theory that “people don’t kill people, guns do”. Great, so what was the result?

All three nations reported a slow, but steady rise in "home invasion" robberies. That's right, once the part of society that doesn’t worry about following laws, learned that the part that does had disarmed, they began a feeding frenzy. It must be something like the looting in Iraq, only the "Ali Babbas" didn’t need to wait for the government to fall to march into homes and take what they liked.

***

I will admit to you that I have been on the fence on this issue for years.

On the one hand, the Second Amendment clearly states "a well regulated militia" as the justification for guns. Since we have a professional military now it seems that militias should be a thing of the past. Besides, find me an example of a gun owner being called up to serve in such a militia in a time of war in the last century. You cant? Right then.

On the other, I see little evidence that crooks care about laws. I see little evidence that making guns illegal, or pot, or stolen cars causes any drop in the availability of such for crooks. But I do see evidence that taking guns from the people leads to fascist government takeovers, as in Chile in the 70's, and leads to more danger for law abiding citizens, as in 90% of the Anglosphere since they began this experiment with disarmament.

***

So, a few years ago I did some rather exhaustive research to determine what effect gun ownership had on crime. I wanted to know if having a gun in your home would be more or less dangerous and I wanted to know if banning guns would improve things, or make them worse. At the time I found the googlesphere just chalk full of info.

The majority of studies showed that violent crime was unaffected by the criminalizing of weapons. In fact, crime was largely unaffected by ANY legal deterrence, whether longer sentences or fewer paroles. I also found articles complaining that the types of arms being carried by cons was becoming more deadly that those carried by police.

What most affects crime is the state of the economy and the weather. Violence goes up every summer -which would be January for Australia and South America. More unemployment translates into more crimes almost immediately, while an improvement in the economy slowly lowers crime states. Another factor that seemed to make life easier for the citizens was more cops and faster response times.

I did find the statistic that "you are more likely to find your gun turned on you than find yourself pointing it at a crook" was somewhat justified. But when you investigate non-drug and organized-crime related homicide you find that most are "crimes of passion" committed by a close friend or family member in the victim's own home.

This being the case, you get to choose: knife wound; blunt instrument; poisoning; being run over by the family station wagon; or a gun shot wound. And of course, if it is your wife coming after you things get messy right away. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people -with a gun, or whatever else is handy.

The fact of the matter is also that less than 10% of the public will ever face an intruder in their home. The question isn’t how likely the possession of a gun will prove to help you out, but rather, if you ever do face an invader, how do you want to face him, naked or armed to the teeth?

***

Those were my findings then. Today the google search is almost fruitless for any decent info one-way or the other. I notice that Australia had such a bad time with the increase of home invasion robberies after it confiscated a million guns from the people that they changed the name of home invasion and passed new laws, which, coincidently, make the prosecution of such crimes a bit more difficult to follow.... they now call it "serious criminal trespass".... and yes, there is regular criminal trespass, minor criminal trespass, and simply criminal trespass… and no, they don’t keep the stats for these separate anymore.

Canada issued a flurry of reports to alter the public's perception of home invasions and guns. They now claim that most home invasions are done by Asian gangs and they use their "hands and feet" in the crimes. However, if you check all of Canada you find home invasions and other violent crimes are up the most in the Northern Territory which has few Asian immigrants and a horrible economy. Also they recently renamed it “Bob” or something, so again, good luck with the google search. Most of the news items from Alberta and BC appear to star elderly white women and the assailants are not usually caught because their 911 service (000) ignores most of them!?

And I have an echo of that story. I recently overheard a violent exchange outside my house in a quiet upstanding, low crime neighborhood. It was soon followed by the sound of a clip being unloaded by a handgun. So, I called the cops. But they came by an hour after everything was quiet. In the morning I found a 9 mm shell casing and called the police again. They left me a voice mail but we never spoke. At the end of the day nothing appeared in the news, no police officer took it seriously, and I was left thinking that if I had a gun of my own I would feel somewhat better.

But a repeat search today finds only a long list of pro-gun advocacy sites and government press releases trying to cover their butts. If anyone can find some good stats today, please forward me a link.

Sean: Wednesday, May 14, 2003 [+] |
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Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Ill liberal

Liberalism in America is in serious trouble. Most people don’t even know what it really is. Groups on both sides of the aisle attempt to redefine it in their terms whenever it comes up. In this context America stands little chance of advancing Liberal values at home or abroad. So, what is Liberalism and how does it apply today?

The word Liberal is derived from the Latin word for “free”. Liberalism as an ideology arose in Europe in the 17th century. It was based upon the writings of the English philosopher John Locke who posited the idea of “natural laws” and “moral rights” at work in society. He stressed reliance upon reason and logic to determine values, self-determination by the individual and society, and the social contract of a voluntary deal by the individual with his government.

Liberal ideas crept into European society through the Protestant Reformation of the Catholic Church. Luther and other leaders stressed the individual’s relationship to God over the group relationship with a priest. And individuals were encouraged to make a rational evaluation of Church doctrine for themselves.

Liberal ideas of radical self-determination were given positive portrayal in French novels and German essays. Paintings by De Goya and others focused more and more on the peasant, a romanticized portrayal of our Classical ancestors called the Acadian, and the natives of the New World. And lawyers like Handel and peasants like Haydn began writing music for Sunday services.

Liberalism really caught on in the 18th century. Five hundred years of war between absolute monarchs bankrupted Europe and drained its peasants of taxable income. And squabbles between the Church and the King damaged the legitimacy of both. The people were ready to take government and religion into their own hands.

America, largely free of landed gentry and far removed from its ruling monarch, proved to be Liberalism’s first social test case. After the American Revolution came a French Revolution, and a German, and a Russian. Within a few hundred years all of the Western World had been Liberalized. And now we take Liberal principles for granted.

So, what are Liberal positions on current issues?

The Morality of War Today many people who claim to be Liberal are against war for any reason. They stand by our more mature and moral cousins in Europe, even Jacques Chirac. And they suggest that war “isn’t good for anything”.

This is not Liberal reasoning. A Liberal should abhor dictatorships, naturally. A Liberal should value the rights of the individual citizen over the ruler. As in the American colonies, in France, or even in Russia, Liberals do not shrink from revolution.

A Liberal should believe that it is more moral to overthrow the dictator, install a proto-democratic government, and help yourself to free oil for a decade than to make deals with the tyrant and purchase his oil and the expense of the people’s freedom for a hundred years.

What about Bush and his cronies taking advantage of this war for their own ends? Well, it is not Liberal to abide the rule of a tyrant abroad just to keep your political opponents at home in check.

International Organizations and Multilateral Treaties Liberalism is incompatible with any rigid set of immutable laws. Especially when they have the effect of protecting the “sovereignty” of nations ruled by dictators.

A Liberal should be for radical reform or the end of the UN. Allowing the appointed representatives of un-elected dictators to trump the elected representatives of Democracies is not Liberal.

A Liberal should realize that NATO was good for the Cold War but now stands in the way of the self-determination of the people of Eastern Europe and America and their right to defend themselves. A system of one-on-one treaties with allies who share our values is more honest, pragmatic, and wise.

Capitalism vs. Socialism This might come as a shock to some lefties, but Socialism is Illiberal. It is not about the rights of the individual, political justice, or personal freedom. It is about transferring the means of production from the hands of an elite economic class to the hands of an elite political group.

Socialism uses class warfare and social feuds to replace one economic and politcal order with another. Socialism isn’t about removing the yoke of the Working Class; rather it merely paints the yoke red.

On the other hand, Capitalism is Liberal. It allows people to get ahead by their own effort, connections, and luck. It is the epitome of self-determination and the power of the individual.

Multiple social classes and mobility between them is a more true expression of Liberalism than an artificial, rigid, and universal classlessness

Capitalism allows the use of reason and logic to define a pragmatic and fluid economic system instead of relying on an ideological playbook to redefine economics as part of the political system.

The Role of the Corporation in Society In 1789 Thomas Jefferson and James Madison proposed a Constitutional amendment which would have barred corporations from owning other corporations. It failed by a good margin while Jefferson was away in France.

However, for the first two centuries in America corporate charters limited a business to a set time period and a set profit motive. A corporation could exist to sell chocolate for 20 years and then it had to dissolve or reapply. New Jersey ended charter limitations in a move that prompted all other states to follow along in 1890; a move which has been described as a classic "race to the bottom".

And in a Supreme Court case in 1896, Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, Justice Morrison Remick Waite declared in the opening statement of the hearing that corporations were people under the Constitution. This was not a formal ruling and Justice Waite made this clear; it was just table dressing for the trial. But this case has had the effect putting business in the same moral class as human beings.

Thus we have confused the proper relationship between government, businesses, and the people. A Liberal view on the role of the corporation must be that our government was created for the protection of flesh and blood humans, people who can be physically and emotional hurt by misgovernance, and a corporation is not such a creature. Thus the interests of business must take a back seat to those of human society. This entire premise, you may note, is based on a reasoned understanding of the issues rather than on the pronouncements of any authority figure, including Justice Waite.

Religion and Politics Our war in Iraq was not “merely” to bring Democracy to the people or to secure Dubya’s oil. It was also one battle in the war against religious fundamentalism.

The dominance of personal religiosity by any hierarchy or organization is against all Liberal values. The dominance of religion by politics, or vise versa, is likewise against Liberal values. Liberalism proclaims the primacy of the individual and the moral power of the personal discovery of truths and values.

This applies equally to school vouchers that would divert American children into religious primary schools as much as it applies to the destruction of the Muslim madrassa in Iraq. This applies to keeping public charities seperate from any Christian church as much as to lessening the grip of Muslim “charities” in Palestine. This applies as much to maintaining the separation of Church and State in Alabama as in Afghanistan.

The Environment Liberalism should stand for the rights of the individual in the face of social pressures. But Liberalism does not argue that society has no place in restricting the rights of the individual. Remember the “social contract”? Man has to agree to let other men set limits to their actions when they threaten the health, prosperity, and freedom of all individuals in society. This means that government has a role in regulating the actions of individuals and corporations in the development of land and new technologies. Liberalism is not the same as anarchy. And this leads to the next principle.

Personal Rights and Freedoms Liberalism does argue for the most personal freedom possible and asserts the right of the individual to determine what is right and wrong for themselves. This would argue against Sodomy laws as well as laws restricting the business practices of an individual Wall St. financier. On the other hand, Locke did envision a voluntary hand-over of regulatory power to the government by the individual if there is a compelling interest, that of protecting everyone's liberties. This is the essence of the “social contract”.

This would allow the government to restrict personal freedoms in the interest of social order, group rights, and personal justice. Thus a state would have police powers and the ability to pass restrictive laws. However, the government should lean in the direction of the greatest personal freedom in determining its police role. And if the individual is unhappy with the power of the state, we must remember that Revolution is a Liberal moral right.


There are many other issues that need to be redefined by Liberals everywhere, and more and more will arise each day. A reliance solely on right-wing Liberalism or left-wing Liberalism will not move Liberalism forward at home or abroad.

We do overall American politics a disservice by allowing this word to be altered beyond its true meaning. Keep Orwell in mind; lose the word, lose the idea. Liberalism, which is at the heart of our American experience, is simply too valuable to lose.


Sean: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 [+] |
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Monday, May 12, 2003
Michael Totten Critiques The Left From The Left, in the WSJ's Opinion Journal

After September 11, I discovered an intellectual weakness on the left that I never noticed before. For some reason, perhaps for several reasons, liberals and leftists are bored by the outside world.


Michael has a good point here. The premise is interesting, and may even be accurate, despite obvious holes in the argument. If you are concerned that a Liberal is making a criticism of the Left, don’t be, one has to police one’s own. Meanwhile the criticism bears consideration.

I would remind Mike that there is more to a Liberal than “building”, what about the “deconstruction” of the 60’s? And a Conservative can go on an offensive terror at any moment, check out the McCarthy era. And, of course, the pigeonholes of Liberal and Conservative can be hogwash through and through…

Any American “Conservative” starts life several pegs to the Left of nearly any Conservative elsewhere in the world. We have a tradition of nearly 300 years of exceptional Liberal politics in America. A Conservative here is quite likely to quote Thomas Jefferson, who was considered quite the radical in the Paris of the 18th century.

And Princeton historians Joseph Strayer and E. Harris Harbison note in their history text, The Course of Civilization, that any Liberal may find himself a Conservative once the revolution has been won, because you have to defend your gains.

My own father, Gilbert LaFreniere, is a Liberal professor with a PHD in French Intellectual History and he has traveled widely, from South America to Europe. So the American Left isn’t completely devoid of interest in other countries.

However, his specialty is Rousseau and the Idea of Progress and the Enlightenment has touched all the nations on his travel list. So I would agree that Western Civilization itself is the fascination, and as an American this might indeed be a bit of “navel gazing”.

Which is Mike’s point. He isn’t saying that the Left has absolutely no interest in foreign places, but rather that the left is more interested in critiquing its own than in criticizing “the other”. And sometimes this criticism is very, very vital.

When enemies arise with little regard for Western multiculturalism except as a weapon to use against the West, more than an interest in Gothic architecture, French wine, and Voltaire is required. Can the Left meet this challenge? Or will it continue to abdicate foreign affairs and the use of the military to the Right?


Sean: Monday, May 12, 2003 [+] |
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Bjorn Again

Bjorn Staerk has a excellent blog this day. He puts his local Norwegian media through a well deserved wringer and makes some good observations about the failings of his press.


1. Almost every single prediction turned out to be false. To be wrong so consistently requires more than bad luck. You need to live in a parallel universe - and what a funny coincidence it is that almost all our journalists happened to live in the same parallel universe.

2. Failure to investigate American motives. The Norwegian media, and Dagbladet in particular, did an excellent job of covering the anti-war and anti-US movements, allowing them to explain what they believed in and why. This was important. But why wesn't a similar effort made to cover the pro-war and pro-US side of the story? Wouldn't it have been relevant to our understanding of the war to learn how American hawks justified their support of it? Was it lack of curiosity, ideological dogmatism, or just journalistic incompetence? The fact remains that the most powerful military force in the world went to war, and the Norwegian media couldn't figure out why.

3. Failure to follow up the local angle. A major issue before the war was the possible connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Last fall, that possible connection, going by the name of Mullah Krekar, happened to land in Oslo. If that wasn't a golden opportunity to do some good investigative reporting, I don't know what is. [But instead the media was caught up in Krekar's "mountain rebel mystique" and missed his terrorism connections]. Brought up on stories of the Nazi occupation, when actually put to the test themselves they failed to see through the polite facade of evil.


On the other hand, further down the page he carries this welcome observation.

"Things are happening on the Norwgian blogging front. Possibly inspired by the media attention on warblogs during the Iraq war, Dagbladet has started a weblog of its own - and claims to be the first newspaper in Scandinavia to do so. It's written by seven of their journalists. Rune Røsten writes:

Will [weblogs] change the web? I believe so, among other things because they're part of a radical democratization of the internet. Anyone who is able to write can through the weblog meet a global audience, cheaply and simply. Through good publication tools and efficient distribution systems in the blogosphere [!] a decent writer can compete on the same level as the big media organizations. In the home country of the internet, there have already been examples of weblogs being ahead of the established news media.



One of the items that I found most interesting was his side bar showing the relative political power of Norwegian politics...


New poll: Labor 24.5% (+3)
Progress Party 21% (-1.5)
Socialist Left 18.5% (-3)
Conservatives 17% (+2) [*]
Christian People's Party 7.5% (-1) [*]
Centre Party 5%
Liberals 3% [*]
[*] Government coalition


This, my American friends, is what Democracy looks like. Four parties with roughly comparable 20% market shares.




Sean: Monday, May 12, 2003 [+] |
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Saturday, May 10, 2003
The Fourth Anamatrix Film, Second Renaissance 2, Is Ready For Download

The new movie is comming soon, release date of May 15th. For those of you who cant wait, the animated shorts are a good chew toy. Enjoy.


Sean: Saturday, May 10, 2003 [+] |
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Friday, May 09, 2003
Basra Daily News, Now With 100% More Boobies!

Another NY Times piece, (last of the day I swear!), reports that the British have started distributing an Arabic daily newspaper written by ex-pats back in London. It has the British line on many of the kooky conspiracy rumors that are so popular in nations with out reliable news. Ok, cool. The article also mentions that a half naked Pamela Anderson appears on page four. Nice cultural sensitivity boys, way to make us look good to the god-fearing locals. Course not all the blame is UK bound, the paper is printed in neighboring Muslim Bahrain. Nice, way to... oh, never mind!

Sean: Friday, May 09, 2003 [+] |
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Bedding Down In Baghdad

A NY Times story about real estate and lawlessness in Baghdad briefly touches on a much more important point that the article largely misses. We hear about a married couple that are setting up house in a wing of a gutted government ministry. Ok. Fine. But we also hear that no civil judge was available to wed them, as is customary, so they went to a Muslim cleric. Now THIS bothers me. The more times that Muslim agents, mosques, and clerics service the CIVIL needs of the community, the more radically Islamic those people usually become, check the West Bank for a measure. So, THIS is a serious issue. The article did state that TWO courts were scheduled to reopen today, but in a city of 5 million I am guessing that 2 is hardly enough.

Sean: Friday, May 09, 2003 [+] |
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Dr. Mengela, Your School Is Ready

The NY Times tells us that some American children are being sent to the dark regions of the Earth to have their mind and bodies broken by medieval jailers.

The "students" are literally snatched from their cozy, but dysfunctional, suburban homes by burly men in black. They are handcuffed, thrown in the back of a van, and driven to Mexico. They are then stripped, their heads shaved, and thrown into a dark cement cell for a few days of "cooling off".

Things don’t get much better from there. Students are encouraged to work up a "ladder" who's rewards include allowing them to discipline other students. We've all read about teen hazing incidents, so we can pretty much guess what this involves.

Some kids have ended up hospitalized. Some report rape and sexual abuse. Most kids don’t actually “graduate”. Some do, and even credit the schools with “straightening them out”. But most kids are simply “broken,” like a horse.

It costs about $60k a year to have your child treated like an animal. Most parents don’t really know what they are getting into. Innocent looking websites draw them in like flies.

Most of these parents are going through nasty divorces. Their kids often turn to drugs and general disobedience to try to draw their parents’ attention back from the courtroom. Everyone is getting more than they bargained for!

Sean: Friday, May 09, 2003 [+] |
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Slavery, Religion, and Compromise

Georgia has been going through about ten years of controversy attempting to finish the Civil War from more than a hundred years ago (give them a break, things move slower in the Southern heat and humidity).

The last battle fought was over the new state flag. Their old one was the battle flag of the long defeated slave keeping states. Some descendants of slaves found that a bit hard to live with.

Today they have a simpler banner, roughly mimicking both the US national flag and the territorial flag of Puerto Rico (does that mean anything?). Check out the story here.

Why is it that adding the words "In God We Trust" is considered to be "throwing a bone" to the racist portion of Georgia?

Sean: Friday, May 09, 2003 [+] |
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Thursday, May 08, 2003
VDH Says It Blog Style

In his latest column at the National Review, Victor Davis Hansen appears to move into blogmode. I was especially pleased by a handful of comments that appear to echo just about everything that I have thought on the same subjects:

On military reform
Perhaps it is time to create a permanent division-strength body of peacekeepers, police, and civilian reconstructionists... a civilian cultural advisory board... and large bases such as those in Germany, Turkey, and South Korea should be broken up, relocated, removed, or scattered into smaller, less intrusive arms caches and depots with less-noticeable footprints.


On the (Stockholm) Media
Nothing in the recent war was more appalling or unethical than the censored reporting that emanated from the Palestine Hotel. Only after Baghdad fell did millions of listeners and readers discover that their purveyors of information had been semi-hostages, controlled by "minders" — and willing to pay daily bribe money for the privilege of divulging half-truths and releasing misleading accounts.


On the (il-leberal-ity of the) UN
As long as U.N. action is predicated on the majority votes of illiberal regimes, or the single veto of undemocratic states like China, or the obstructions of envious, fourth-rate powers like France, it will remain either a debating society or a manipulative mechanism to thwart anything the United States does...


On the Anglosphere
Eventually, some astute diplomat is going to make the obvious observations that English-speaking nations like the United States, Australia, Britain, (Western) Canada, and India have defied popular wisdom and retained common cultural and historical affinities that only become more apparent in times of conflict — and could form the basis for a more permanent and formal alliance.


On American Cultures (yes, plural)
[At the] end of my year-long tenure as Shifrin professor of military history at the U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis... as an outsider, the most notable impressions I have had since arriving are the surprising degree of self-criticism of the U.S. military and its willingness to welcome both internal and outside audit — and thus its abject contrast with two equally formidable institutions, the media and the universities....


Ah yes, America in a nutshell. Course, the real nutshell is that VDH can write this, then move home to his vinyard, and not expect arrest or lynching. Ah, America.

Sean: Thursday, May 08, 2003 [+] |
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Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Salam Pax, aka "the Baghdad Blogger", is back...

[The Taxi Drivers are the worst at some 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.


and...

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.


But Salam also has plenty of "real world horror stories" about life in a war zone..

A couple of days ago I was walking down al-rasheed Street when the Americans seemed to be interested in an “Ali Baba” situation, a bit too interested. Two small armored vehicles were coming down the street with a couple of soldiers running after the vehicles with their guns pointed to the front. The gods, enjoying another one of their sick jokes, put me right in front of the door of the building they were checking at the exact moment they decide to go in. the two cars come in real fast, one in front one behind me, the soldiers start running faster. I almost pee in my pants with my hands up saying “don’t shoot don’t shoot”. They didn’t. The next day I walk by the same building the entrance looks burned. Almost a statistic.


Go, read, now!

Sean: Wednesday, May 07, 2003 [+] |
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Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Fundamentally Wrong

We find a report that Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, President Bush's nomination to fill a vacancy on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is making the same comments as Pennsylvania homophobe Rick Santorum (third in command of the GOP):

If [gay] sex [is] protected by constitutional privacy, then privacy also "must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia."


Eliot Mincberg, vice president and legal director of the People for the American Way, argued that Pryor could have made his legal point without comparing gays to criminals.

But Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, tried to hustle a quick defense, noting "Santorum's comments were really out of context."

I agree that we have a problem with context. The issue here is not “constitutional privacy” but simply Civil Rights and the role of the State.

The US Constitution, in Amendments 1, 3, 4, 5, and 9, grants its citizens wide personal freedoms, including, but not limited to, Life, Liberty, and Property. These rights create a "zone of privacy" for the individual, not the other way around.

Meanwhile the 14th Amendment forbids the states passing laws to abridge these rights. And it is this boundary that is the issue.

Prior wrote: "Absent a mandate in the Constitution, it is not for the federal courts to decide what is right and wrong for all 50 states, The people, not the courts, should decide such fundamental issues for themselves."


Pryor is incorrect. Article III, the Judicial Act of 1789, and the 14th Amendment explicitly direct the federal courts to overturn any law passed by a state in violation of the Constitution.

Since Board of Education v. Barnette, the courts have held that the only time the government has a right to limit the actions of its citizens is when those actions would violate the Civil Rights of others.

Actions such as child abuse, rape, and murder clearly violate the victim's rights. Thus, even in the privacy of one's own home, even if we honor the privacy granted by the Bill of Rights, they would remain illegal.

Pryor and Santorum are arguing the wrong angle because the case that they must make is nearly impossible. Gay sex between consenting adults in their own home is not a threat to the civil rights of their neighbors.

Nearly everyone in American has overcome their fear of homosexuals and Pryor inadvertently admits that the he and Santorum are on the wrong side of history:

"The recent movement toward decriminalizing homosexual sodomy ... shows that the legislative system is quite able to respond to popular will without judicial prodding," Pryor wrote.


Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were very concerned that “mob rule” in a democracy would allow a bigoted majority to run rough shod over the rights of a minority group.

They purposely crafted a Constitution that limited the law making abilities of Congress, gave another branch the duty of enforcing the law, and set a third branch to judge those laws.

It amazes me that people who can’t grasp the fundamentals of he Constitution can become lawyers and high government officials.

I wrote more on this here.

Sean: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 [+] |
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Monday, May 05, 2003
Un-friendly and Immoral

China has been holding Tawain's efforts to combat SARS hostage to poliics. And guess what? The Internationalists at the UN and the WHO LET THEM?!!

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and the Beijing government claims the self-ruling island as its own territory. Protocol prohibited WHO teams from heading to Taiwan to see how SARS is spreading because the United Nations does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country.

Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian canceled a trip to Central America and the Caribbean because of SARS and authorities launched a major cleanup campaign in the capital, Taipei.


Who are they kidding? Tawain has NEVER been part of Communist China and likely NEVER WILL. But no one wants to upset the red elephant in the corner. Come on, this is disgusting to read about. It is high time the US recognized Tawain as the independant nation that it is. If China wants to bicker about it, how 'bout we quarentine their butts?

Sean: Monday, May 05, 2003 [+] |
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Friday, May 02, 2003
Chinese Capitalist Running Dogs

Today on NPR an interview with a Chinese banker spoke of "Capitol outlays in rebuilding the oil infrastructure of Iraq". Huh, was that a Chinese banker talking about capitalism and oil?

Last year Business Week’s March Clifford wrote about a new book by Kenichi Ohmae The United States of China in which they detail all the economic similarities as China moves closer to the shape and form of the West.

They have several stock exchanges. They have private utilities, industrial conglomerates, and small businesses. They have air-conditioned malls with escalators full of shoppers. They have streets crowded with new automobiles. They have satellite TV, pirated Hollywood movies, and the Internet. They have cell phones, pagers, and palm pilots. And their single Party is actually made up of myriad special interest groups, from the military union to the teacher’s union, all vying to put their man in a power seat in the annual Congress gatherings. And now they are worried about where their next gallon of oil is coming from since they have few internal sources of fuel.

Here we have government run utilities, our military leases equipment from industrial conglomerates, and our media follows only the exploits of two national political parties. Meanwhile, those parties have been knocking heads as they feed at the same corporate trough and attempt to attract votes from the same “center” when it bothers to pay them any attention. Here most people can vote, but don’t bother. Our television, Internet, and cell phone communication is all monitored and often “massaged for message”. And we have begun to jail foreign interlocutors and deny them a meeting with a lawyer or even a call home. And we pressure our ally’s and foes alike with military saber rattling.

Maybe a year ago comparing how China was coming to look more like the US was cutting edge, but today it seems rather passé. More interesting and pressing might be a revue of the way the US is coming to look more like China.


Sean: Friday, May 02, 2003 [+] |
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Great Post On The Dangers Of Wasting Your Ammo

Michael Totten writes:

I read Mr. Wolin's paragraph four times in a row, and I just can’t see what his comparison with Nazism is supposed to mean. He’s throwing in “Nazi” just for the heck of it, like conservatives who shriek about liberals being Commies. He doesn’t make a case, because there is no case to be made.

You have to be careful with “Nazi.” Mr. Wolin has spent his ammunition. He’ll have nothing new to say if Nazism actually comes along. If Republicans are Nazis, what then is the Ba’ath Party? Mr. Wolin has run out of terms.

If a person doesn’t wish for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, there are no grounds whatever to call that person a Communist. If a “regime” doesn’t massacre dissidents, execute minorities, and conquer its neighborhoods to kill their minorities, too, calling them Nazis is every last bit as idiotic. This should be crashingly obvious to any serious person.


And that's why Christopher Hitchens left the Nation.


Sean: Friday, May 02, 2003 [+] |
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Thursday, May 01, 2003
Saddam Doubles Up With Laughter In London's West End


CNN reports that Saddam look alikes are storming the gates to get in on the laughs... why are dictators so funny?


Sean: Thursday, May 01, 2003 [+] |
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Loss Estimates Are Cut on Iraqi Artifacts, but Questions Remain

Irreplaceable antiquities were looted from the National Museum of Iraq last month, but the losses seem to be less severe than originally thought.

A few weeks ago we all saw the images of the looted Baghdad museum. We saw paper and shards of pottery on the floor. We saw empty glass cases, with the glass not broken. Mmm.....

Then we heard stories of missing keys, swiped ID cards, and safes in the basement standing open and empty. Mmmm...

The museum has a couple of staffers named Bob and Ian "somethingorother" who look and sound oddly like Yankee Imperialists and European Cafe Sippers. How could they have missed the clearly telegraphed memos of a war starting in February. At least they should have had a better war plan than paper doilies on the display cases.

Well, it turns out they did. The NY Times reports that A) this museum had no real record of contents apart from out of date brochures from the 80's (oh!), B) had largely been looted by Saddam long ago, (duh!), and C) many artifacts were making their tours in the US and Europe, (second duh!). Oh, and other pieces had been 1) locked in safes underground 2) moved to other government buildings or 3) taken home by staff (for safekeeping, of course).

Meanwhile it appears that a majority of what is now missing is being returned, and the items were from the museum gift shop.

Ok, SOME priceless artifacts were indeed stolen... as local witnesses put it by some "very European looking" gentlemen. Right, might they have been... French!?

Sean: Thursday, May 01, 2003 [+] |
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