Sean LaFreniere

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



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

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

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

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

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



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

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

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

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

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

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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


The Right:

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


The Left:

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


Capitol Goods:

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



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



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



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


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

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

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

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

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



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



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


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

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

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



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

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Friday, April 23, 2004

The Great Rail Debate

I just stumbled onto the article posted on the Cascade Policy website by Michael J. (Myles) Cunneen calling Tri-Met's claims to have reduced vehicle traffic on I-84 "baseless".

He sites statistics showing that the number of vehicles traveling on I-84 inside the Max corridor totaled over 270k in 1997 - a jump of 35% from pre-Max 1986 data.

But I just finished combing through the same ODOT data, for reasons of my own, and noticed that the number that Myles sites could only have come from the permanent traffic counter in Troutdale, 12 miles east of Portland. By all reasonable logic this counter is well beyond the Max service area and would include every semi on its way to Idaho and beyond.

The relevant numbers should have been from I-205 to the downtown bridges. And the numbers for this area show little growth during most of that period. For instance, the number of vehicles increased from 140k in 1993 to only around 160k in 2002, or about a 15% increase. During a similar period the Portland metropolitan area grew from from 1.5 million in 1990 to 1.9 million in 2000, an increase of 400,000 people or 27%.

Meanwhile the entire argument, from either side, misses the point. We should expect that a freeway will always carry as much traffic as its lanes can accommodate. Meanwhile Max should be judged on its own merits... do people use it, has it allowed us to skip widening the freeway, did it spur economic development along the line, and was it constructed and is it maintained at a rate commiserate with highways as compared to its use?

By these accounts Max appears to function quite well and few people living a block from a station (as Myles claims) would complain.

Light Rail Facts:

Eastside Max counted over 50k boardings in 2003, up from 20k in the 1980's.

In 1986 the 15 miles of Eastside Max cost $214 million - or $14.2 million per mile; while the addition of two lanes to the Banfield Freeway (I-84)for just five miles cost more than $107 million - or more than $20 million a mile.

The Eastside Max line has attracted more than $2 billion worth of investment and the Westside line has drawn more than a billion additional dollars over its 18 miles since the decision to build in 1998.

Analyzing 41 studies of 15 rail systems CalState researchers found that "light rail transit has enhanced residential property values 2-18% in Portland, Sacramento, San Diego and Santa Clara."

Q: Are the estimated costs and ridership projections accurate?

A: When planned and implemented correctly, projections and estimates are very accurate. When Portland's MAX system opened critics argued the ridership projections were overly optimistic. MAX surpassed it's 2005 projections by its second anniversary, carrying 71,000 riders per day.

Q: Aren't buses a lot less expensive than light rail?

A: FTA's 1999 National Transit Database shows an average operating cost per passenger mile on light rail of 45 cents, compared to 55 cents on buses. In Portland, operating costs per boarding are $1.40 on light rail and $1.67 on buses.

Q: Does Light Rail cost more than building freeways?

A: The reality is you can build a light rail system with the capacity of a six-lane freeway for 1/3 the cost and on 1/5 the footprint. In Portland, the Oregon State Department of Transportation estimated a six lane freeway alternative would have cost $1.74 billion more than the light rail project. ($1.5 billion for LRT, $3.24 billion for the freeway). That freeway would have been half the length of the rail line and offer half the capacity.

Q: Will light rail help or hurt property values?

A: A study by the University of North Texas on the effects of DART on development and business found that properties adjoining light rail stations grew 25% more in value than comparable properties away from the rail lines. Average occupancies for office buildings near the line increased from 80% before rail to 88.5% after. Average rents rose from $15.60 a square foot to $23. Strip mall owners near DART stations had a 49.5% increase in occupancy and a 64.8% increase in rental rates. San Diego's trolley has spurred 15 major joint development projects valued at over $540 million. Research in the Pleasant Hill area in San Francisco shows that people are willing to pay $16 more for every foot closer they can get to the BART station itself. Conversely, homeowners are willing to pay $8 more for every foot further from a freeway interchange in that same area.

Q: Transit is subsidized, but freeways are not. Why?

A: According to the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) the annual cost for automobile users ranges from $2.1 trillion to $2.9 trillion. User fees cover between $1.7 trillion and $1.9 trillion. To make a long story short, highways receive an annual subsidy of somewhere between $439 billion and $1trillion. According to the APTA 2000 Fact Book, 65.7% of the expense of public transit-operating and capital costs-came from the taxpayer. In dollars, the taxpayers annual contribution was $17 billion. According to the same OTA study, cars cover 66% to 80% of expenses. San Diego's trolley covers 70% of its expenses at the farebox. Our own Metrolink recovers 53% at the farebox. In addition, a recent book on public transit in America found that on a per capita basis, tax support for transit declined one-third from 1980 to 1992.

Sean: Friday, April 23, 2004 [+] |

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