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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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Truth About Torture

Michael Totten is appalled that, as of his posting, 46% of respondents to a CNN poll reply that "some torture" could be justified in extreme cases. Instead Michael has often mentioned how torture "doesn't work" and has repeatedly called for the much more humane use of the "so-called Truth Serum". Is it that easy to simply step out of the moral shadow of torture with the use of a "humane drug" or other means?

Some research into Truth Serums such as Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, and Pentothal... genericaly known as amobarbitals reveals that they simply do not work and they can also be dangerous. Sodium Pentathal, the most common "truth serum" is most often used as a preparatory anesthetic to "knock out" a patient more easily. But it also lowers respiration, blood pressure and heart rate and could possibly kill a patient.

Other drugs, alcohol, and sleep interruption techniques can induce the same effects as Truth Serum drugs. These tactics do cause suspects to talk more, but none of them can ensure cooperation. Studies have shown that suspects can still withhold the truth and even lie directly to interrogators because the basic willpower of the suspect remains intact.

Militaries and police forces have long developed and employed methods of "breaking" a person and defeating their will power. Suspects might be deprived of food or sleep or threatened with longer imprisonment. But all such tactics require the "abuse" of the suspect via either physical or mental leverage.

Global Security and the San Francisco Chronicle report that the US military has long found that the "softest" interrogation techniques give them the most accurate intel.

On the U.S. side, interrogators are trained at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. [Common techniques include] flattery, helping the prisoner rationalize his guilt, feigning experiences sympathetic to the prisoner's and offering incentives ranging from cigarettes to political asylum.

That sounds rather gentle and benign... can it really work?

But the most effective method interrogators use is often the simplest, said David A. Robinson, a former instructor at Fort Huachuca: direct questioning.

The technique works especially well on prisoners taken captive at gunpoint and given shouted orders, often in a language they cannot understand, to submit to searching and confinement by an enemy they have been taught to fear, he said.

In that confusing reality, Robinson said, many captives are relieved to sit down away from the gunfire with a polite person who speaks their language -- even if that person is there to interrogate them.

"You'd be amazed at how well that works," Robinson said. "Any human anywhere, after going through a stressful situation . . . they want to talk about it, and then they're sat down in front of somebody who wants to talk about it."

But what do you do with a really determined suspect?

Nevertheless, torture is[was] still practiced by many interrogators -- including those in [Saddam's] Iraq, according to the State Department and human rights groups. Seventeen Americans held captive by Iraq during the [First] Gulf War say in a federal court lawsuit filed against Iraq that they were subjected to beatings, starvation, freezing, electric shock, cigarette burns, mock executions and threatened with castration while being interrogated.

Even Iraqis can be subtle...

[I]nnocuous information such as POWs' family names, home towns or hobbies, or images of sobbing relatives that could be edited by Iraqi captors -- [were] techniques reportedly used against U.S. prisoners in the 1991 Gulf War.

Martin Lee reports on Alternet that sometimes even our guys think that torture is still the most effective means to the truth.

On Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," for instance, retired Marine Lt. Col. Bill Cowan said he doubted "truth serum" would work but hoped Webster's suggestion would lead the Bush administration to try torture.

"Maybe it'll be an entre to take us to the next step," Cowan said. "I [would] kid around with people about plugging them up to a 110-volt outlet and flipping the switch if they don't want to talk."

Cowan disputed the view that torture is ineffective. "I'll be honest by saying that I served a lot of time in Vietnam, and in some cases where I worked on prisoner operations, we did go a little bit beyond what normal interrogation techniques would give you, and we got phenomenal information," he said. [Fox News, April 26, 2002]

But we cant actually beat up a suspect - can we? USA Today tells us we dont have to.

U.S. authorities involved in terrorism cases increasingly found themselves drawn into a legal and ethical gray area as they rely on information developed by foreign police whose tactics would be unacceptable or even illegal here.

"Egyptian jails," former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro said, are "full of guys who are missing toenails and fingernails."

U.S. officials got help from the Jordanian police investigating Ahmed Ressam, who was convicted of plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport during the 1999-2000 celebrations of the new millennium. A Ressam associate who later was tried in Jordan claimed he was beaten by police there.

The rule in such cases, Cannistraro and other CIA veterans said, is a variant on "don't ask, don't tell": U.S. investigators will accept information from anyone, but they cannot encourage torture.

In the end, all interrogation of "hostile witnesses" involves manipulating, lying, and threatening a person as a means of "breaking their will" and getting them to do what they would not normally do... tell us what we want to know. While such coerced evidence cant be used in court, it can save lives. So it seems that CNN is right to at least ask the question: is either freedom and/or security (for us) worth a little lying, drugging, or arm-twisting (of them)?

Come on now, no recourse to mythic "truth serums", just answer the question...

UPDATE: University of Michigan prison experiment still powerfull after all these years...

Sean: Wednesday, May 05, 2004 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


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