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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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Snow In Portland

From KATU's "Rhonda":

After one to two inches of snow at sea level and three to five inches in the hills.. only rain showers are left for most of us!

The front has passed and now residual showers will be with us for the rest of the day... along with slightly warmer temperatures.

The snow level moves up to 1000 feet by afternoon.

A winter storm warning is still up for the Columbia River Gorge.
Highs will reach up to near 39 degrees.

New Year's Eve night looks cold with a low near 33 tonight...but not many showers are expected.

Our next storm off the Pacific moves south into Brookings tomorrow-- however, we could see more snow down to the valley floor over the weekend!


Sean: Wednesday, December 31, 2003 [+] |
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Tuesday, December 30, 2003
In The Long Run We Are All Dead

Julian Sanchez, Reason's Assistant Editor, warns us about the obvious. The current state of our nation, with its mix of (relatively) low costs and (fairly) high benefits, is unsustainable. Once the Boomers stop working and begin to suckle at the government teat, we're screwed.

The CBO's projections indicate that our current spending policies will become unsustainable over the next half century. We face a choice between unprecedented rates of taxation, steep (and politically unpalatable) cuts in government benefits, or simply racking up debt until we've crippled the economy while nevertheless requiring some combination of tax hikes and benefit cuts.

The American population is aging (and longer lived), while technological developments drive up health costs even as they extend our lives. The pending mass retirement of the Baby Boom generation threatens to make entitlement spending explode like Tetsuo turning into the amoeba-monster.

A 1997 poll conducted by The Washington Post, Harvard University, and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, by large margins, citizens oppose cutting entitlements to balance the budget. ... the public [has a] seemingly unshakable popular faith in fiscal miracles.

Economist John Maynard Keynes once quipped, in response to critiques of the long-term effects of his policies, that "in the long run we are all dead." In the context of entitlement programs for the elderly, that puts a particularly sinister spin on the phenomenon Milton Friedman called " the tyranny of the status quo."

New benefits may be debated when first introduced, but for both psychological and political reasons, become near impossible to eliminate once in place. But the same is true, to a lesser extent, when taxes are at issue.

The question now is whether we've passed the point of no return: Whether the near-term pain required to fix things will continue to multiply with the long-term cost of inaction at a rate that keeps us locked on course.

Perhaps, sometime soon, citizens will be struck with the spirit of civic and intergenerational responsibility, bite the bullet and clean up the mess their predecessors made. Or perhaps, if we're lucky, the scam will last long enough for us to pass the bill on to our kids.


We like to say that "the children are our future". And most would agree that we have a responsibility to bequeath them a system that works, not just "get ours and get out". Well, it's high time we live up to our own rhetoric and pull the plug on fiscal and government irresponsibility.

When I was in high school we actually had to go door to door and beg the neighbors to pass our funding levy. And yet they never did, not once. If not for the Governor's "safety-net" the doors would have closed on our education and our futures.

The number one response from the grey haired ladies who came to the screen doors was: "But I don't have any kids in school, they're all grown." They had no understanding that their responsibility lasted longer then their benefits. Surely they also had no idea why we later stole their hub caps (of course, they didn't mind paying for new prisons).

These old people are never going to agree to give up their new prescription drug benefits, nor index their SSI to their personal wealth and other income. They are currently promised the moon and will probably get it. So there is no deal that we can work out, since compromise simply isn't in their best interests.

If we can't negotiate, then the government should simply declare bankruptcy and let us redraw the Social Contract. We need to re-assess what we want as a society, what we need, and what we can afford. And maybe such a vote should be restricted to ages 25 to 65. Impact on the system should be limited to those with a stake in it, now and in the future.

Oh, stop your frantic screaming Grandma. No 35-year-old would vote to screw over the elderly, because most of us plan on living to join their ranks. But people over 65 can, and often do, have a "deluge" attitude, because none of us are getting any younger.

In the long run we are all dead.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.


Sean: Tuesday, December 30, 2003 [+] |
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Thursday, December 25, 2003
Monkey Bells

A monkey named Arong wears a Santa Claus outfit while waving a bell in front of a donation box in Seoul December 9, 2003. Arong is one of two monkeys the Salvation Army is using to entice donations during a charity campaign to help orphans and other needy people. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon


Merry Christmas to all.

Sean: Thursday, December 25, 2003 [+] |
...
Monday, December 22, 2003
US Soldier's Are TIME Magazine's Man Of The Year

TIME magazine honors all US soldiers as "man of the year".

The troops were singled out as the top newsmakers of the year because "the very messy aftermath of the war made it clear that the mission had changed, that the mission had not been completed and that this would be a story that would be with us for months, if not years, to come," Time Managing Editor Jim Kelly said.


The selection echoes 1950, the year the Korean War began, when the magazine's editors picked the American GI for the cover, writing that "it was not a role the American had sought, either as an individual or as a nation. The U.S. fighting-man was not civilization's crusader, but destiny's draftee."


The 2003 Person of the Year package, on newsstands Monday, features an artillery survey unit from the 1st Armored Division to tell the story of the American soldier.

The magazine glorifies the soldiers but not the Bush administration for putting them in Iraq, calling troops "the bright sharp instrument of a blunt policy," and leaving it to scholars to debate "whether the Bush doctrine is the most muscular expression of national interest in a half-century."

The 2003 Person of the Year package, on newsstands Monday, features an artillery survey unit from the 1st Armored Division to tell the story of the American soldier.


So, um, now this "honor" has been revamped as "Person Of The Year".

Go get em... er, people.

Sean: Monday, December 22, 2003 [+] |
...
Got Their Backs

SomethingAwful.com are real troopers, er they are helping real troopers, um... as they say "We've got your back, brother".

Bloggers Rich Kyanka and Zack Parsons heard from a reader, who is a member of the Army's 25th Infantry Division, that his platoon didnt rate body armor when they deploy to Iraq next month. So they started a donation drive to purchase and send the needed armor plate inserts directly to the platoon leader, a loyal SomethingAwful reader.

LawerenceJournal.com reports that the Army says "no thanks guys, we will get around to giving the boys even better suits someday real soon, really".

In the meantime Rich and Zach say they will still be sending the platoon leader his "care package".

If you want to help, you can make a paypal donation here.

Sean: Monday, December 22, 2003 [+] |
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Best blog quote of late:

"Andrew Carnegie and I have something in common. He believed in dying broke. I'm living broke. Another major technicality. Our lives are inversely proportional, so far." -Dianna @ Letter From Gotham


Sean: Monday, December 22, 2003 [+] |
...
Friday, December 19, 2003
The Freedom Tower unveiled

NY City tries to heal its skyline and its spirit with a pale, hollow (literally) imitation of the former WTC.

Say what you will about the lousy aesthetics and urban planning of the original towers... but the WTC had a certain mechanical power and grace.

Two perfect rectangular boxes of steal and glass rising to twice the height of the city skyline. THAT was a statement. THAT is why they were targeted.



The new project looks like it's trying to duck.

Sad.

Sean: Friday, December 19, 2003 [+] |
...
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Bored Of The Rings?

The last of the Lord Of The Rings movies is finally here. Are you going to get off your duff and see it, or are you bored of the rings?

Non-spoiler review:

This is the final 3 hours of a 9 hour film, you probably saw the first 6 hours, so why not the last 3? With this logic the film is bound to gross nearly a billion dollars, just like its three earlier siblings. So as a commercial success the enterprise is nearly guaranteed.

As a film we know that Peter Jackson and crew have a vast budget, quite a lot of technical and artistic skill, and a commitment to the spirit of Tolkein. And in this light the third film is bound to conjure Middle Earth as no one else. Watching this movie(s) is living the book(s).

The cast is great. Gandolf (Ian McKellen); Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, (John Noble); and the head Ork are fabulously realized characters. The sets are spectacular, the White City is awesome, and the volcano is superb. And talk about battles, one after another simply rock!

So, go see it.

Spoiler review:

This movie IS great, but it needed to end about 15 minutes earlier than it did. Also, (no offense to gay people the world over, but...) this movie is 'gay'. But at the end of it all, it is still the conclusion to the War of the Rings and the best film series of my generation.

Ok, so the 'gay' issue... well, there are far too many 'touching scenes' of love between men in this movie. There are too many hobbits in nightgowns romping on the bed. Too many soft light shots of Aragorn, Legolas, and even Ganldalf!?

Mainly this 'gaiety' is so noticeable because women get far too little play. Seriously, Arwin (Liv Tyler) is almost absent and Eowyn (Miranda Otto) dresses as a man in most of the film. There are so many near-kiss scenes between the male characters that the first real kiss, at the very end, between 'you know who', is kinda disconcerting.

Although billed as (Aragorn's) Viggo's film, its called Return of the King, afterall, his movie was really The Two Towers - or The Battle For Helm's Deep. In this one he looks really purty, with berets in his hair and everything, but it isn't really his showcase. He is just 'Lord of the Dance' in this film.

Ok, ok, despite all this apparent negativity, I really did enjoy the film. It was certainly a visual spectacle; the battles were fantastic, the Oliphants amazing, and there is nothing quite like a cavalry charge. And I must say that the acting was solid throughout, with occasionally superb performances, Denithor comes to mind. This movie also kept the humor running as with the first two flicks. And there were no botched (and I mean botched, yes there were changes, but none ruined it for me) book-to-movie scenes (although there were some noticable omissions).

But when you leave the theatre and creep back into the light you will realize that there really is nothing like having your childhood dreams filmed in technicolor!

UPDATE: For those of you with lingering questions... "Why did Frodo go to the Undying Lands with Gandlaf at the end?" Find your answers from Tolkein himself.

Sean: Thursday, December 18, 2003 [+] |
...
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Day of Retreat?

On Nov 24th I wrote that we were losing the war in Iraq.

I was referring, largely, to what I wrote on Nov 19th.

But now we bagged the Big Bad Butcher Of Baghdad (tm). So, will I retreat from my doom and gloom position and declare victory? Nope. At least, not yet.

Sadly, I heard Fox media last night report that the Iraqi governing council says they will wait until the US "occupation ends June next year" to try Saddam. The news anchor echoed this phrase by referring to "when the occupation ends next June". They sound pretty certain they know the time table of our retreat, I mean, er, our withdrawal.

And, as I wrote last month, one of CNN's pet generals warned that "If we set an exit strategy that got us out in a year and announced the timetable to the world, [thereby emboldening the enemy and leaving us trying to spin how an organized pullout was not a retreat], THEN it would be like Vietnam."

Regardless of the capture of Saddam, as I said back in November, the new Iraqi regime will face the same extremist attacks that our occupation is facing, and they will have even less resources with which to fight them off. And, as noted by the general, the pace of such attacks is only likely to increase as the exit date approaches.

So the only possibly result of our pull out will be the fall of the successor regime in Baghdad and the establishment of a fundamentalist government. In fact, math argues that here is no chance of this NOT happening, given enough time.

The only silver lining is that all humans are wired the same (base) way, if we ply the Iraqis will money and give them a path to enlarged ego and self worth (by putting them in charge of OPEC?) then we might have the barest of chances.

As one Iraqi put it, as retold in the NY Times: "We need salaries, tell the Americans that," Amar Jabbar, an 18-year-old, said during the pause in the [Saddam's Capture Day] celebrations. "If there are no jobs soon, we will hate them just as much as we love them today."

Let me remind us all that we still have enormous troop levels in Germany (75,000), Italy (15,000), Japan (40,000), and Korea (35,000) to this day, some 40-60 years later.

I should also remind us that the Marshall Plan to reconstruct Europe after WWII was $13 billion, or $89 billion in today's dollars - and that did not include paying for military operations as with our last $80 billion special funding measure for Iraq.

So, we have to accept that we have a huge commitment ahead of us in Iraq. We will need to spend a lot of money and retain a lot of troops for a very long time if we are to have any chance of victory.

We MUST stay the course in Iraq - election in November or not.

Sean: Tuesday, December 16, 2003 [+] |
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Monday, December 15, 2003
Boxing Above Their Weight

Harold Meyerson, editor of the liberal journal the American Prospect, explains that the Democrats have been slow to realize that they lost more than just a Presidency in 2000, they lost control of the national government as well. For the last 3 years they have been boxing above their weight in Washington. And despite Harold's rather positive spin, they been getting repeatedly KO'd.

From the Dec 12th Washington Post and the American Prospect:


Bush and the Republican Congress govern in the most relentlessly partisan fashion, the president has made unmistakably clear that the concerns of Democrats are of no interest to him. [And] the Republican leadership relies solely on Republican votes to get its measures passed, going so far as to exclude mainstream Democrats from conference committees. When America's new laws are to be negotiated, Republicans talk only to themselves.

Disastrously, it's been the Democrats in Congress who've been the slowest to pick up on their new marginality. Some of the Democrats who voted to authorize the Iraq War in October 2002 did so -- or say they did so -- in hopes of prodding Bush to embrace a more multilateral approach toward Iraq.

Call this the Tony Blair Fallacy -- both the prime minister and our own legislators failed to realize that Bush wanted only their permission, not their advice. Ted Kennedy [assumed] that the Medicare bill would grow more palatable the longer it was deliberated. [But] no Democrats [were] allowed into the deliberations [on] that matter.

[In contrast to] her predecessor, Dick Gephardt, today the Democrats finally have a legislative leader [in] Nancy Pelosi, who understands that dealmaking with the likes of Tom DeLay is a chimera, and that the business of the Democrats is [simply] to oppose. The overwhelming vote of House Democrats against the Medicare bill is testimony to her success (however ineffective, ed.).

(snip)

Can a band of outsiders beat George W. Bush? Clearly, the congressional wing of the Democrats can only benefit from embracing its outsider status, but is the same true for the aspiring presidential wing? There are limits to the Meetup approach to building a presidential majority, but no one's ever tried it before, and we don't know what those limits are.


Dream on Harold. In a recent informal poll (during a roadtrip in my car) a handful of Democrats and Greens made the uncomfortable admission that they were probably going to vote for Bush. I have a hard time imagining a carload of Republican's saying the same about Dean.

There is something very wring with the Democratic Party today. And all the political magic tricks of partisan negotiation cant cover for it. The party lost its real leftwing last election, and they voted for Nader. And this election it will lose its right, when they vote for Bush.

So, who's left? Bitter, homespun-wearing, middle-aged women who don't shave their legs and resent the hell out of the Greens? Angry old men who still call eachother "Comrade" and think Bush equals Hitler?

This group isn't gunna ever get out of the wilderness... they are going to die (politically) out there. Meanwhile, its time for the next two generations, mine and those right behind me (Gen X and the Millennials) to either retake the party or make a new one... course we tried that last election. Sigh.

Sean: Monday, December 15, 2003 [+] |
...
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Living In A Van Down By The River

Our Special Correspondent, Headly Lines, has this special report on "Crime And Punishment" in Iraq:

TIKRIT, Iraq, Dec. 14 -- Saddam Hussein, former dictator of Iraq, was arrested late last night at the house of a friend in the city of Tikrit in northern Iraq.

Saddam, The Tikriti, as he is known on the street, was found wearing plaid Joe-Boxer's and a pit stained t-shirt.

He was unarmed and looked very surprised. He offered no resistance except a mumbled "Wha-a?".

At the Baghdad news conference today announcing his arrest, American officials aired a video showing Mr. Hussein, with a scruffy white beard and wild, curly hair, being examined by a doctor. His face was puffy and wrinkled.

"The suspect has been talkative and is being cooperative," Officer Sanchez said.

American authorities arrested two other men in the raid and seized two AK-47 assault rifles, a pistol, cash, a "honey bear bong" and other paraphernalia.

Mr. Hussein was described as "tired" and "a man resigned."

Mr. Hussein's hideout was targeted after several neighbors complained about "suspiciouss activity" in a mud-walled backyard "kitchen" of a riverside property in Tikrit.

"Over the last 10 days or so we received about 5 to 10 complaints from members of these families," he said. "Finally we got the ultimate information from one of these individuals."

Mr Hussein is due to be arrainged in Guantanamo early next week.


As they say, film at eleven.

UPDATE: Commentary from Patrick Laswell at Meaningful Distinction.

UPDATE2: The Mesopotamian tells us how HE and some other Iraqis feel.

UPDATE3: No commentary from Michael Totten yet, except one of his excellent "photo round ups".

Sean: Sunday, December 14, 2003 [+] |
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Thursday, December 11, 2003
Doing The Right Thing

Recent news articles really got my blood boiling. I don't like to read about grown nations acting like greedy, bullying children. And I don't like Realpolitic and fear driving the foreign policy of the leader of the "Free World".

Which is why I was pretty upset to read in the Chicago Tribune that Bush "warned" Taiwan against talking about publicly coming out as an independent nation, which it is, and has been for 50 years - or "all its life".

Maybe Bush wants continued Chinese cooperation on North Korea (cause they've been so helpful in the past), maybe he wants a good seat at the next Olympics, or maybe he did this to keep trade with China humming along at -$120 billion a year?

I was just as angry when I read criticism in the NY Times that Bush's "bidders list" for Iraqi reconstruction was "inconvenient" to James Baker III's trip to Europe to beg for debt forgiveness for Iraq.

Not letting France, Russia, and China bid on a portion of $18 billion in US-taxpayer-funded (and Coalition secured) Iraqi reconstruction projects might be used as political cover for them to refuse to forgive the Iraqi people the bills their old dictator racked up oppressing them.

Why should the US risk life, treasure, and diplomacy to bring Liberty and Democracy to one country and then tell another to "pipe down"? Why should "doing the right thing" need to be convenient, money making, or "face-saving"?

Supporting Taiwan is not about military might or free trade, it is about Liberal human values. And forgiving Iraqi debt is not an economic or a diplomatic decision, it is a moral one.

The US should tell the Euros "tough luck" on the bidding issue. We should never reward our allies for ditching us and dissing democracy. And we should tell China to go climb a tree and open an (official) embassy in Taipei.

It's high time the US made the conscious political decision to bar Realpolitic from driving our foreign policy. We might not avoid every Bin Laden in the world. But at least we would be fighting for all the right reasons.

Sean: Thursday, December 11, 2003 [+] |
...
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Annex Europe

In the December issue of Policy Review Reginald Dale, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a Hoover Institution media fellow, tells us that we might not be looking at the new Europe in the right light.

Dale argues that Europe really is unifying, despite any recent set backs. And he advises us that Europe only seeks a fair share of world power once again. But he also suggests that Europe feels it must have a stake in US policy and politics as well...

Over the past half-century, "Les Anglo-Saxons", as the French like to call Britons and Americans, have repeatedly underestimated continental commitment to the European ideal and the determination of continental policymakers to press ahead with moves toward the “ever closer union” called for in the founding Treaty of Rome in 1957.

Europeans increasingly feel that they have a stake in the U.S. presidency and that it ought to be accountable to them as well as to American voters. Europeans recognize, consciously or unconsciously, that in a lone-superpower world they do not fully control their own destiny. [And] they believe that the [super power] that does should be more reflective of their views.

Resentful at feeling spurned, many Europeans are constantly on the lookout for reasons to take offense at U.S. “unilateralism,” in which European interests are allegedly overridden or ignored. They angrily cite examples such as U.S. opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, the land mine treaty, and the International Criminal Court.

While [some] values may increasingly differ, both [the US and the EU] need a stable, peaceful world in which trade, investment, and energy supplies can flow freely, reinforced by the wider spread of democracy and prosperity among less advanced nations. Both have much to fear from terrorism, international crime, and the spread of virulent new infectious diseases.

Most EU countries [excepting France and Germany] want to be partners with the United States, not "counterweights", and are keen to explore new ways of strengthening such a partnership.


If Europe wants to raise its international stature, wishes to unify into a larger body inclusive of all of Western Civilization, and wishes to have a stake in the US presidency... then why don’t they apply for admission to our own Union?

If American and European societies are as intertwined as Dale suggests: "In many respects the Atlantic is shrinking and European and American societies are not drifting apart but colliding. The Atlantic is becoming more and more of a common social and political space. [And] more Europeans than ever before speak English, including in France" then we shold be able to work out a better "partnership".

Why not "tie the knot" and be done with all this pre-marital bickering? At the very least the US and the EU should try working towards "an ever closer union" of their own - for all our sakes.

For more on all things European check out the following:

Power And Weakness
By Robert Kagan

Note: I believe that Kagan's piece is the single best explication of the root causes of the "Atlantic Divide" ever written.

Sovereignty and Democracy
By Marc F. Plattner

Anti-Semitism and Ethnicity in Europe
By John Rosenthal

The Cosmopolitan Illusion
By Lee Harris

European Union, Properly Construed
By Reginald Dale

UPDATE: Blog Karma Points to whomever can send me a link or flesh out the following story...

An American journalist is given audience with Winston Churchill. Winston hears the man's name and mistakes him for a famous American political scientist. Winston asks the man for his opionion on the state of American politics; flattered, the journalist obliges. When the upcomming US Presidential election comes into the converstation the journalist misunderstands and thinks that Winston is referring to local elections in Britain, so he demures, noting that the votes in England have yet to be counted. Winston thinks for a momment and then comments something to the effect of "What a wonderfully progressive nation, that America lets foreigners vote for her President, what a universalist, inclusive self-image". And the American journalist goes away with out getting up the nerve to correct him.

Does anyone else recall this anecdote? I think it was retold in the New Yorker. Any leads would be greatly appreciated.

Sean: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 [+] |
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Tuesday, December 09, 2003
This Iraqi Gets It Too

Zenit carries this interview with the Chaldean Bishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako


Q: How is life today in Iraq?

Bishop Sako: Saddam had transformed Iraq into an enormous military barracks. Two wars and 12 years of embargo resulted in a mass exodus of Iraqis abroad and a million deaths. Today the people are happy about the change, the renewed possibility of freedom. In a few months, 80 new parties were formed, five of which are Christian. Freedom of press made possible the opening of dozens of new newspapers. Of these, six are Christian. There are also some Christian TV broadcasts originating in Mosul. All this was not possible under Saddam!

Q: But the price of all this was a war.

Bishop Sako: Yes, but the target was not the civilians.

Q: You defend what the Americans did.

Bishop Sako: I am not trying to say that they are angels! They have their interests; they came to Iraq for that reason, not to free the Iraqis. But the fruit is, in fact, liberation.

Q: Iraq is moving slowly toward democracy. Are you satisfied with the "experiments" under way, for example, in Mosul and Kirkuk?

Bishop Sako: Yes. The people appreciate freedom. At times they criticize the choices of the Americans, but the process under way is efficient. The population personally elected me as vice president of the interim Council of Mosul. I refused the post, but am still part of the council.

Q: Should we hope for a domino effect, i.e. that a democratic solution in Iraq will bring positive consequences to the entire region?

Bishop Sako: I don't know. The Iraqi population is among the most educated of the area. The embargo also largely affected education, but the Iraqi cultural and academic tradition is at a good level, even the Americans recognized this. There is not the same level of education everywhere. What is certain is that your help is needed: Europe must pressure Iraq's bordering nations. While we need to learn, American democracy is not the only model -- Europe has a precious patrimony. The point today is to create an Iraqi-style democracy.

Q: What do you expect of the international community and churches abroad?

Bishop Sako: To not forget us! There are 700,000 Christians in Iraq. When in a year Iraq is out of the limelight, who will remember us? It already occurred with the Gulf War and embargo. I launch an appeal to all the religious congregations: Come to Iraq to lend a hand, especially for formation and not only of Christians. We need to rebuild the actual Iraqi man, and we are not able to do it alone. Iraq has enormous economic potential, but spiritual resources are also needed.

Q: What future do you see for Iraq? What role do you see for the U.N.?

Bishop Sako: Europe must have a crucial role. There was extensive support before the war, while today we do not have any political support. A mistake: Europe must not leave the U.S. alone in the reconstruction of the nation.


The money shot? "Dont forget us Europe!"

Amen.

Sean: Tuesday, December 09, 2003 [+] |
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Monday, December 08, 2003
Unrepresented

This Week's New Yorker has an article by Jeffrey Toobin in which he details the way gerrymandering is wrecking our democracy.

Federal law mandates that with every census the voting districts of a state must be redrawn so as to maintain equal numbers of voters in each district.

Gerrymandering is the process of dividing these districts to give one's own political party an electoral majority in a large number of districts while concentrating the voting strength of the opposition in as few districts as possible.

The term dates from 1812, when Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry formed an election district that reminded people of a salamander with its curled tail and stubby legs.

This process has been used to disempower black voters in the south and either Democrat or Republican voters whenever the other party holds sway in the statehouse.

By common agreement this process has been limited to once a decade, winner takes all. But lately, begining with the GOP takeover back in the 90's, the process has crept out of its confines to be used whenever the balance of power within a state tilts akimbo.

Some examples of Gerry's magic include altering the Texas representation in Washington from 17-15 delegates in favor of the Democrats to 22-10 in favor of the GOP in 2003. In Michigan the balance went from 9-7 Democrat to 9-6 GOP in 2002. On the other hand California Democrats magically increased their representation from 22-21 to 27-18 and in Maryland they turned a split into a 6-2 lead.

This "magic" makes a mockery of representative government. Michigan is a solidly Democratic state, with Democratic canidates winning by more than 35,000 votes in 2002. But the Democrats ended up losing three seats and the balance of the representation; not due to a "sea change" of the voters, but simply due to redrawing the maps.

In a similar fashion many experts are now calling the Republican "miracle" of the mid nineties nothing more than a case of successfull gerrymandering; a manipulative body block in keeping with the "full contact" nature of American politics.

Today experts also agree that gerrymandering has cooled the heart of democracy in about 400 out of 435 seats in the US House of Representatives. These seats are considered "safe", going with out a serious challenge to the incumbent within their carefully drawn districts. Of the remaining 35 the elections are largely settled in the primaries.

Here is how the experts explain primary voting patterns: the total potential votership usually breaks down to 1/3 Democrat, 1/3 Republican, and 1/3 "other". So, if each of the major parties have a primary that means that .5 pf 1/3 in each party is going to pick the candidate, that is 1/6 of the voters. But in reality, only about .25 will actually bother to vote at all. So .25 of 1/6 is 1/24; a tiny sliver of all potential voters picks the candidate.

And statistically this 1/24 are the most committed and invested emotionally and ideologically; the "wing-nuts". This "base" is substantially far to the right or the left of the general public; yet this is who controls the seats in each party. And this is why the rest of us feel so unrepresentated in Washington, we are unrepresented. And this keeps most of us at home on election day.

So, what’s the solution?

Proportional representation... the chosen form of democracy of the majority of democracies and once the norm among the early States and still practiced in Nebraska. At one point the Unionist Congress considered making it a condition of readmitting the Confederate states.

It might well turn out to be the condition by which the majority of American voters are readmitted as well.

Sean: Monday, December 08, 2003 [+] |
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Friday, December 05, 2003
EU: Racism vs. Xenophbia

The Telegraph reports that the EU government requested a report on the rise of anti-semiticism in their fantasyland of a post-modern country. But when the report came back with the conclusion that most Jew-hating comes from Muslim immigrants the EU squashed the report. Now I dont know which is worse, the racism or the political-correctness that hides it...

The Anti-Semitism Research Institute of Berlin's Technical University was asked last year by the EU's anti-racism body to examine the increase in attacks against Jews across Europe.

Researchers who found that young Muslims were to blame for many attacks on Jews were told several times by the European Union to change their conclusions, they said yesterday.

The report's authors responded yesterday by saying their findings had been shelved because criticism of Muslims did not fit in with the centre's agenda.

They had found that young Muslims, particularly immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, were responsible for much of the rise in anti-Semitism. The far-Right and some Left-wing anti-globalisation activists were also partly to blame, they said.

As well as physical assaults, they had considered verbal abuse, newsletters, survey findings, newspaper articles and other information, mostly from the centre's databases.

But the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia has now refused to publish it...

Prof Werner Bergmann said the centre repeatedly asked for the draft report to be changed to soften its conclusions about young Muslims. Alterations were also sought when it linked anti-Semitism to both anti-Zionism and criticism of Israeli politics.

His co-researcher, Dr Juliane Wetzel, said: "The EUMC didn't want to publish the report because it's not politically correct. The results give the EUMC problems because it wants to protect exactly these groups."



Hat Tip to Vigilance Matters.

Sean: Friday, December 05, 2003 [+] |
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Thursday, December 04, 2003
Paris 1933

Alyssa A. Lappen gives us a run through of the latest ritual murders of Jews in France, via Frontpage Magazine.

Sebastian Sellam, 23, was a popular disc jockey at a hot Parisian night club called Queen. At about 11:45 p.m. on Wednesday November 19, the young man known as DJ Lam C (a reverse play on his surname) left the apartment he shared with his parents in a modest building in of Paris’ 10th arrondissement near la Place Colonel Fabien, heading to work as usual. In the underground parking lot, a Muslim neighbor slit Sellam’s throat twice, according to the Rosenpress interview. His face was completely mutilated with a fork. Even his eyes were gouged out.

Chantal Piekolek, 53, was working in her Avenue de Clichy shoe store when Mohamed Ghrib, 37, stabbed her 27 times in the neck and chest. Piekolek’s 10-year-old daughter hid in the storeroom behind the shop with a girlfriend and heard the entire crime. There was no evidence of sexual assault, according to Rosenpress. Paris reporters believe the cash remained in the shop’s register, but this detail remained unconfirmed at press time.

Two Muslim students at Paris’ well-regarded Lycée Montaigne recently beat an 11-year-old Jewish classmate while reportedly yelling at him, “We’ll finish Hitler’s job.” Headmaster Jean-Marie Renault sued the accused aggressors and plans “a debate on the dangers of xenophobia” next term.

A rabbi in was kidnapped and held hostage in a car for two hours. Another religious Jew was kidnapped in similar fashion. A Jewish woman and her husband, whom she had just picked up at a local hospital, were abused and threatened with murder for several hours by their Muslim taxi driver.

In January, Paris Rabbi Gabriel Farhi was attacked several times. In April 2002 alone, the French Interior Ministry recorded nearly 360 anti-Semitic crimes against Jews and Jewish institutions, according to Washington Times reporter Al Webb.

In Sura 8, verse 12, the Qu’ran instructs Muslims, “Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): ‘I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them’.”

Evidently, some Muslims take this literally. The theme repeats in Sura 47, verse 4: “Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks.” Citing this verse, Shafi’i jurist al-Mawardi (d. 1058) prescribes exactly such behavior.


Laplan notes that "Anti-Semitic crimes frequently go unreported in the major press, she said, suppressed by French authorities, victims fearing retribution—and news agencies. Jewish community members thus usually learn of attacks as they did during previous centuries in North African and Eastern European ghettoes—by word of mouth.

She also quotes: “In Paris, a lot of Jews already had to leave countries in North Africa,” Poller said. “Now, they are told not to talk about anti-Semitism. And they are going to have to flee again.”

Is it 1933 all over again?

Sean: Thursday, December 04, 2003 [+] |
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Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Judeophobia at the Guardian

Meanwhile anti-semitism is one thing that Julie Burchill hopes to leave behind when she jumps the ultra-leftwing Guardian for the Times.

Not only do I admire the Guardian, I also find it fun to read, which in a way is more of a compliment. But if there is one issue that has made me feel less loyal to my newspaper over the past year, it has been what I, as a non-Jew, perceive to be a quite striking bias against the state of Israel. Which, for all its faults, is the only country in that barren region that you or I, or any feminist, atheist, homosexual or trade unionist, could bear to live under.

[That is why] I don't swallow the modern liberal line that anti-Zionism is entirely different from anti-semitism; the first good, the other bad. Judeophobia - as the brilliant collection of essays A New Antisemitism? Debating Judeophobia In 21st-Century Britain (axt.org.uk), published this year, points out - is a shape-shifting virus, as opposed to the straightforward stereotypical prejudice applied to other groups.

Jews historically have been blamed for everything we might disapprove of: from rabid revolutionaries to the the greediest of fat cats. [Worse,] they are insular, cliquey and clannish. [And] yet they worm their way into the highest positions of power in their adopted countries, changing their names and marrying Gentile women.

If you take into account the theory that Jews are responsible for everything nasty in the history of the world, and also the recent EU survey that found 60% of Europeans believe Israel is the biggest threat to peace in the world today, it's a short jump to reckoning that it was obviously a bloody good thing that the Nazis got rid of six million of the buggers.


If Julie is describing her future-ex-workplace correctly, I'd have to jump ship too. I wrote about this awhile back and took quite a bit of flack for it... but anti-semitism is now a major undercurrent in the Democratic Party here in the US and among Lefties in general. And I jumped ship.

Hat Tip to Andrew Sullivan.

Sean: Wednesday, December 03, 2003 [+] |
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Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Raggedy-Iran and Andy

Blog Iran brought me up to speed and now let me send a few your way...

NOBLE ASPIRATIONS by Koorosh Afshar
Most Westerners know very little, if anything, about the true psyche of the Iranian masses. Allow me to enlighten: For centuries, it has been dominated by fruitless anticipation and superstition. The people of my nation have been told to await a messiah who will finally deliver them; they faithfully cling to the idea that one great leader will relieve their suffering. Twenty-five years ago, the enemies of my nation took advantage of this embarrassing fantasy, setting the stage for the Islamic revolution. Since then, Iran has languished for more than two decades, and was doomed to fall for another mendacious and sinister mullah, Khatami, six years ago.
--Rest of Article


IRAN RUNAROUND by Peter Brookes
With $8 billion a year in trade and a deal pending to up that ante even more, the European Union is Iran's largest trading partner. And it appears that the E.U. - led by France, Germany and Britain - may now value those trade privileges over the principle of opposing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
--Rest of Article:


THE REAL AXIS OF EVIL by Ardavan Bahrami (The Iranian)
Glenn Reynolds pointed out this piece over at The Iranian called Real Axis of Evil, by Ardavan Bahrami, which takes the EU to task for it's support of those regimes in the Middle-East that continue to brutally repress their populations. His points are valid and certainly they deserve to be raised, I just wish the major media outlets would get off their duffs and start acting like real journalists instead of the intellectually lazy toads they've become.
--Rest of Article:

And now Iran appears next on Uncle Dick's "Wheel of Regime Change" (TM).

Sean: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 [+] |
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Monday, December 01, 2003
Fear And Loathing In Iraq

CNN reports on the "bloodiest day since May 1" in Iraq.

Oddly this is the picture they chose to lead the article, with the caption "A bullet damaged this mirror in Samarra, Iraq".

I had to immediately ask aloud, boo hoo, who fricken cares? My gawd, so a mirror, evidently outside, got shot during a fire fight... why is this important?

So often the media seems to get lost in their own news, missing the significance for the signifier, the forest for the trees.

I guess this is why Mark Twain called anyone who got their knowledge of the world from newspapers more ignorant than someone who didn't read at all. Sigh.

CNN's money line:

Two convoys came under attack Sunday in Samarra, about 120 km (75 miles) north of Baghdad. The convoys were delivering new Iraqi dinars to two banks in the area under armed military escort.

Early reports had been that as many as 54 insurgents had been killed, a figure later revised by the military to "about 46."

U.S. officials have suggested that the old, easily counterfeited dinars and U.S. dollars have been used by insurgents to pay bounties for attacks on coalition troops.

Replacing the old dinars -- which feature images of toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein -- is crucial to establishing economic stability in Iraq, U.S. officials have said.


What they failed to seize on is the obvious fact, obvious from what they DID tell us here, that the move to replace the old currency might very well put these terrorists out of business as the funds that they have now would be worthless.

Then again, the NY Times took the same info and concluded : "the American display of force was among the most deadly for Iraqi fighters since the occupation began."

And follow this up with "an honest conversation" (TM).

Mr. Jasim: "Nonsense! Saddam's regime is not collapsing; Saddam is still there, he is still fighting, he will come back."

Mr. Alawi: "By the grace of Allah, peace be upon him, Saddam will kick the Americans out. . . . Saddam was brave; he was the emir of the Arabs, he was our leader, he was our king."

Mr. Jasim: "Well, O.K., we didn't love Saddam, we have to be honest about it. He was a man of war, and only war. And it is as a result of that men like me have seen their lives waste away."

Mr. Alawi: "You're quite right, Saddam really destroyed us... Right up to the end, it was war, then more war, then still more war."

Mr. Jasim: "O.K., let us be honest here. Whatever we may say to foreigners like you, the truth is that we were never really with Saddam; in our hearts, we were always against him. But he is gone; what we are against now is America. It is different. We want the Americans to go home."

Mr. Hussein: "That's right. We wanted America to get rid of Saddam, but we didn't want Americans to trespass in our land. We didn't want the soldiers to come into our villages and break down our doors and defile the honor of our women."

Mr. Jasim: "So tell the Americans that what we want is for them to bring a suitable man to power, an Iraqi the people can trust, a man who will govern us well. Only when they have done that should they leave, and they will do so with our blessing. We don't want them to leave now. It would be chaos."

Mr. Alawi: "Look, we really don't have anything against the Americans. We just don't want them in our homes, in our villages and towns and cities. Perhaps if they pulled back to their military bases, and just stayed to guarantee the peace, things would start to get better."

Mr. Hussein: "Yes! The truth is, Saddam gave us nothing but cruelty, he looked after nobody but his own family. He was a tyrant. He gave us nothing."

Mr. Farhan: "Saddam saturated us in blood, and with weapons. Why would we ever want him back?"

Mr. Jasim: "Tell the Americans everything depends on jobs. Look at us; not a single man among us has a job, not one of us can feed his family properly. . . . So tell the Americans to find us jobs, then everything will begin to improve."


So, in the end, its all about money.


Hat Tip to Andrew Sullivan.

Sean: Monday, December 01, 2003 [+] |
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Feeding Frenzy

CNN brings us a heart warming holiday tale.

Patricia VanLester had her eye on a $29 DVD player, but when the siren blared at 6 a.m. Friday announcing the start to the post-Thanksgiving sale, the 41-year-old was knocked to the ground by the frenzy of shoppers behind her.

She was flown to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, where doctors told the family VanLester had a seizure after she was knocked down and would likely remain hospitalized through the weekend.

"She got pushed down, and they walked over her like a herd of elephants," said VanLester's sister, Linda Ellzey. "I told them, 'Stop stepping on my sister! She's on the ground!"'

"All they cared about was a stupid DVD player," she said Saturday.

The money line:
"Ellzey said Wal-Mart officials called later Friday to ask about her sister, and the store apologized and offered to put a DVD player on hold for her. "

The put a DVD player on HOLD for her, they didnt even GIVE it to her, they just put it on HOLD!? Nice.

Sean: Monday, December 01, 2003 [+] |
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