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, June 30, 2004

Saudis Clean House... a little

Saudi Arabia is the fountain head of terror. Think of it as the South, but with oil. It is a largely segregated society, between men and women and between classes. There is a small "ruling class" and then everyone else. Everyone else are largely unemployed and uneducated, living off a "welfare state". Religious fundamentalism and xenophobia are the norm. Truly, it is very much like America's Southern states at the end of Slavery. And terrorists are the Klan. Much like the South, the authorities and the Klan are often in cahoots. So cleaning house is hard to do. Well, after being pushed and pushed by the feds (ours), they are finally doing it...

The man believed to be al Qaeda's top ideologue in Saudi Arabia was killed Wednesday in a shootout with Saudi police, Saudi security sources said.

Police, following a tip, surrounded a building about four miles from central Riyadh in the residential neighborhood of al Quds, the Saudi Press Agency said.

For those of us who continue to preach that violence solves nothing and that one cannot get tough on terrorism with out merely breading more violence...

On June 23, the Saudi government offered terrorists one month to surrender. The move came shortly after U.S. engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr. was kidnapped and beheaded

Crown Prince Abdullah, speaking on state television, promised that any militant who turned himself in would be safe. (Full story)

Othman Al-Omari, No. 19 on Saudi Arabia's list of 26 most-wanted militants, accepted the amnesty offer Monday. Shaban Al Shihri, an Al-Omari business partner, turned himself in Friday.

And Israel has had its longest single run with out a suicide bombing in these last few months since they began aggressively targeting Hamas, the homes of bombers, and begun building a wall between themselves and the Arabs of the West Bank.

As I once said to a nice young German boy who admonished my Yankee self that "violence never solves anything"... oh yeah? It solved you guys. Twice.

Sean: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 [+] |
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Saddam On Trial

The BBC reports that Saddam will face a judge on Wednesday for arraignments on charges of being "a very, very bad boy." Lawyers say that the court will just be a "settling of old scores". Fine, at least they recognize that there are scores to be settled.

Sean: Tuesday, June 29, 2004 [+] |
Monday, June 28, 2004
World's Greatest Architect

The Gordon House is the only example of a Frank Lloyd Wright building in my home state of Oregon.

It is not the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Our prof pointed out several oddities that the master would never have committed to paper... odd beam locations and an "uncozy" living room sitting area. The suggestion is that this design was probably penned by an overworked and undercredited apprentice... if only I could be so lucky.

Sean: Monday, June 28, 2004 [+] |
Friday, June 25, 2004
Kosher Bullets

Michele at A Small Victory reminds us to check our guns to make sure that the rounds inside were not "made in Israel". I mean, say you're a US soldier in Iraq... we don't want to offend the people we are shooting at, now do we?

Sean: Friday, June 25, 2004 [+] |
Thursday, June 24, 2004
The Case For Kerry?

Michael Totten thinks he found some reasons to vote for John Kerry after all...

Citing Anne Cunningham: Abu Ghraib looked really, really bad internationally. Kerry should win not to repudiate the WoT, but its particular implementation in Iraq. Meanwhile the positive outcome of actually prosecuting the WoT has already been won and Kerry cant likely undue it in one term.


Sitting Anne again: Only a lefty can get away with rallying the nation to war without coming across as a warmonger. John Ashcroft is a horrible Atty General who appears to many on the left to be waging a war on ourselves to complement the WoT. And Rummy's interrogation techniques remind people of Klaus Barbie. We should at least swap out the figure head leaders of this WoT for some lefties because it will look better.


The platform that Anne is running on is that the heavy lifting portion of the WoT has already been waged (and won) and now it is all about image and Kerry has a softer image and therefore will be highly efficacious in this "mop-up-stage" of the WoT.

Yeah, um, I don't think so.

The WoT is far from over, even if the Battle For Afghanistan and the Battle For Iraq have been largely won. In fact, Ossama is still out there, still working with terrorists states, and still plotting to create a "Mother Of All Terrorist Attacks".

So we still need a real warrior in the white house. At the very least we need someone with clear principles, including the will to oppose terrorism. Most importantly we need someone who does NOT have the image of being "soft" and "willing to negotiate".

If, for you, that isn't Bush Jr. then I would dearly love to hear who it is, because I don't want to vote for the man either.

Why not talk about all the other reasons not to vote for Bush. What about the economy? Do we all want to be working at McDonalds? What about civil liberties and tolerance? I cant believe that serious people have actually been asking the questions "Should gay people be allowed to marry?" and "Was Browne vs. Board Of Education a good idea?" What about the environment? Is ANWAR nothing more than a gas station waiting to happen? How about clean air and water protections? What about the old growth tree mining programs of this administration?

Until the Democrats learn that they were wrong about Afghanistan, wrong about Iraq, and wrong on the WoT and return to the key battleground issues that interest me - the economy, civil rights, and the environment - then Kerry is not very likely to get my vote.

Now, as a symbolic protest vote, registering my displeasure with both parties, Nader is still looking like a winner to me. And I actually believe in multi-party democracy, by which I do note mean TWO. At least this way I am actually voting for something instead of just against someone.

Sean: Thursday, June 24, 2004 [+] |
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Good News From Iraq, Part 4

Arthur Chrenkoff gives us a summary of how the liberation of Iraq is going thus far. Thus far, so good...


"They are willing to risk anything to bring a democratic process to their country," says Carlos Valenzuela, an advisory member of Iraq's commission, about the Iraqi electoral officials.


"With the completion of new transmission projects and the rehabilitation of a turbine unit at Haditha Dam in Haditha, Iraq last week, for the first time since 1990 all six turbines were in full operation and the clean hydropower plant operated at full capacity, generating 660 megawatts."


"The Baghdad Stock Exchange [is] going to be [re]opened this month... they practiced a test exchange last Saturday. Laws [were] changed, a new place, a new techniques of exchange, and of course many more job opportunities for the market staff and for brokers companies and for the investors."

Public Relations

After helping to rebuild the city's sewer pipes, a first lieutenant from New Jersey engineering battalion says: "The people were very friendly. They'd invite me for lunch, offer me tea. They were always courteous. They wanted to hear a lot of things that were going on in the outside world."


Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan.

Sean: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 [+] |
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Apres Le Moderne

This is the definition of Modernism on Wikipedia...

Modernism: The deliberate departure from tradition and the use of innovative forms of expression that distinguish many styles in the arts and literature of the 20th century.

Our grandparents were really self-centered. Think about it, they named the time period that encapsulates their lives "modern". Everything else is by their definition either primitive or "post-modern". Thanks a lot, now everything in my life is relative to theirs.

(The image above is by Brian Miller, check out the photos of his art "painted" with cars on concrete barriers).

Sean: Tuesday, June 22, 2004 [+] |
Monday, June 21, 2004
Faith In Democracy

Many Liberals and Leftists alike are suffering from a crisis of faith. They no longer believe in democracy as the most moral and universal political solution. They have scourged themselves so many times with the whip of cultural relativism and anti-imperialism that they have strengthened their desire to do good but have lost faith in the tools with which to do it. Whereas President Wilson promised to make the world safe for democracy, the Democrats now wish to elect a candidate who would forswear foisting "our" political system on others.

The argument was explained to me this weekend by my favorite "unreformed-Lefty"... democracy requires a post-Enlightenment, educated populace of preferably secular or at least non-fundamentalist citizens. Iraq and the rest of the Middle East is not englightened and is run by religious fanatics. Therefore we were wrong to have removed their dictator - who, furthermore, had been moving them in the right direction (as a socialist and a modernizer). And, as world resources continue to be overconsumed by a burgeoning population (and our own capitalist predation), social conditions will spiral ever downward, necessitating even more third world strongmen to keep order.

The ways in which this narrative and prescription are wrong and antithetical to traditional Liberalism, or even the rhetoric of the Left, are legion. First off... the history of democracy disproves any notion that it requires an educated or even secular citizenry. From the Hmong Njua of SE China, the Aquinyi tribe in Nigeria, the ancient Greeks, the medieval Swiss, Valencia in Renaissance Spain, or Mayflower pilgrims in New England... we have repeated examples of very poor, rural, illiterate, and deeply religious societies that nonetheless pioneered democracy and made it work for centuries.

No less significant, the general idea that self-rule and democracy are not appropriate for some people is deeply conservative, not to mention racist. Liberalism, as advanced by Locke, Rousseau, and Kant, holds that men are created equal and that all men are perfectible through self-government, education, and freedom. Everywhere Liberals in history have advocated the overthrow of tyranny and chosen democracy, of one form or another, as its replacement. And as Francis Fukuyama shows in his much maligned book The End Of History more nations advance to democracy every year... from just one in 1776 (not exactly accurate, but poignant) to hundreds in the 21st century, and this pattern has never gone in reverse... democracy has history on its side.

The last argument... that for an ignorant and poor people it is better to have a brutal dictator keeping "law and order" than to have self-rule and rampant crime... is the weakest. There simply is no morality in the premise... and no functional truth. It is far more efficacious to have a deep matrix of organizations, institutions, and traditions supporting your way of life than the will of one mortal who can be killed and replaced with a Hitler, Stalin, or Saddam. And anyone who ever lived behind the "iron curtain" or spent time in the Gulag Archipelago can explain why it is spiritually crushing to have the worst criminal elements of your society not outlaws, but the police, the courts, and the assembly. The rest of us, spoiled by living in sunny southern California or the cosmopolitan island of Manhattan, where speaking out against your own government is de rigeur, will simply have to take their word for it.

It is long past time for Democrats everywhere to reaffirm their faith in democracy and in the Liberal traditions that make their own society (imperfect though it may be) the best example or moral governance that history has yet witnessed. Democracy is not a culturally relative idiosyncrasy and it is certainly not an institution of empire, Democracy is a universal human right. As third world societies advance up the ladder, and second world nations join us in summits at Davos, we have a unique opportunity and a heavy responsibility to push and pull them into the Democratic club. We simply cannot wallow in self-doubt and guilt any longer. Watergate and Abu Ghraib are both examples of exceptions to the American tradition, exceptions that were both publicly investigated and thoroughly excised, and Vietnam is a thing of the past. Rather the Liberation of Paris and Baghdad are much truer examples of our character. And once again we must be willing and able to fight to make the world safe for democracy.

Sean: Monday, June 21, 2004 [+] |
Friday, June 18, 2004
9/11 Panel Finds No Connection To Reality

The NY Times reports that the 9/11 Commission found "no Iraq-Al Qaeda connection".

The staff of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks sharply contradicted one of President Bush's central justifications for the Iraq war, reporting on Wednesday that there did not appear to have been a "collaborative relationship" between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

However, the administration's actual claims were quite modest and remain unchallenged by the Commission...

Secretary of State Colin Powell explained the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection to the UN back in Feb of 2003.

After al Qaeda and the Taliban were ousted from Afghanistan Al Qaeda operative Abu Mussab Zarqawi established a camp in northeastern Iraq to train terrorists in using explosives and poisons.

Zarqawi traveled to Baghdad for medical treatment and set up a base of operations in the capital to move people, money, and supplies throughout the country.

Bin Laden met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Sudan in 1996, and later that year had a meeting with the director of Iraq's intelligence service.

A senior al Qaeda operative admitted that a terrorist operative was sent to Iraq several times between 1997 and 2000 for help in acquiring poisons and chemical weapons.

[And] Iraqi agents were sent to Afghanistan in the mid-1990s to train al Qaeda members in document forgery.

Of course, then there is the Cheney defense:

"The press, with all due respect, (is) often times lazy, often times simply reports what somebody else in the press said without doing their homework."

I'll say! Take the NY Times (no, really)...

Originally the NY Times reported that Mohammed Atta, the 9/11 ringleader, met with Iraqi spies in Prague shortly before the attacks on NY. Then they corrected themselves, saying the Czech Republic and the Iraqis denied the report.

Then they corrected themselves again saying Czech officials at the highest levels of Parliament and their security services stood by the story. Apparently the NY Times doesn't have any journalistic evidence of their own the stand behind.

And today James Risen writes an entire article showing that he only did half his homework.

Risen claims that the Commission said it found that the meeting never took place. He explains that the Commission cites the same FBI information that the NY Times leaned on in one of their many corrections... that Atta withdrew money from a Virginia ATM days before he was supposed to be in Praque and that his cell phone was being used in Florida during the following week.

In its report on the Sept. 11 plot, the commission staff disclosed for the first time F.B.I. evidence that strongly suggested that Mr. Atta was in the United States at the time of the supposed Prague meeting.

Never before disclosed? Epstein had this info when he wrote for the Free Republic back in April of 2004 and something very close to it when he wrote for Slate in May.

Edward Jay Epstein, a journalist and writer with a PHD in government from Harvard and a penchant for investigating conspiracy theories, patiently explains that the FBI info in no way contradicts the reports of Atta being in Prague on the 11th.

In 2000 Atta applied for a VISA to visit the Czech Republic, on the application he identified himself as a Hamburg (Germany) student. He visited Prague several times.

Iraqi operative Al-Ani scheduled a meeting on April 8,2001 with a "Hamburg student" according to an appointment calendar subsequently turned up by Czech intelligence in a surreptitious search of the Iraq Embassy (presumably after the defeat of Iraq in April 2003).

On April 4, 2001, Atta checked out of the Diplomat Inn in Virginia Beach and cashed a check for $8,000 from a SunTrust account, according to the FBI. Atta was not seen again in America by any witness before April 11, 2001.

Al-Ani was observed meeting a young Arab-speaking man on the outskirts of Prague on April 8th by a watcher for Czech counterintelligence.

After seeing Atta's picture on September 11th, the watcher identified the Arab-speaking man as Mohammed Atta.

Al-Ani was expelled from Prague less than 2 weeks after that meeting.

After 9/11, Al-Ani denied that he met Atta, as did the Baghdad government. Al-Ani repeated that denial after he was detained by U.S. forces in July 2003.

Nevermind how simple and logical it would be for Atta to have given his cell phone to a colleague to use while he was on a cloak-and-dagger mission (in how many movies have we learned that the CIA tracks you by your cell phone?).

Presumably Risen and the 9/11 Commission use the post Guantanamo denials of Al-Ani as "proof" that the meeting never took place. Uh-huh, riiiiggghhht. I mean, there isn't one guilty man in any prison anywhere, is there?

Then CNN reports that US officials claimed they never considered hijacked planes as weapons before 9/11.

Gen. Richard Myers told the Commission that no one had used an aircraft as a guided missile since the Japanese kamikaze attacks of World War II and the military had not drilled for the unprecedented multiple domestic hijackings.

Vice President Dick Cheney relayed orders from President Bush authorizing the Air Force to shoot down hijacked jetliners that morning, but those orders appear to have been too late and were never relayed to fighter pilots.

Government protocols "did not contemplate an intercept" and presumed a hijacking "would take a traditional form, not a suicide hijacking designed to convert the aircraft into a guided missile,"

But CNN reported that NORAD conducted exactly such exercises back in the 90's:

Sometime between 1991 and 2001, a regional sector of the North American Aerospace Defense Command simulated a foreign hijacked airliner crashing into a building in the United States as part of training exercise scenario, a NORAD spokesman said Monday.

With such news swirling around the press drain this week the entire 9/11 Commission appears to be a major waste of time and the NY Times is less and less a "newspaper of record" and more and more a "rag".

"If you cant trust the governments of the world (or the press), then who can you trust?"

Bloggers... keep'n it real since 2001.

Sean: Friday, June 18, 2004 [+] |
Thursday, June 17, 2004
Pay Back

Michael Phillip at the Wall Street Journal tells us about an Iraqi boy who turned his father into US forces.

One day in December, a smooth-chinned 14-year-old approached American soldiers at a checkpoint here and asked surreptitiously to be arrested. He told the soldiers that his father, an Iraqi Army officer under Saddam Hussein, led a 40-man cell of insurgents, and he agreed to show the troops where to find the men and their weapons....

But the teenager's decision to turn on his father, who he says beat him, has cost him his family and his freedom. Since he began cooperating with the Americans, he has lived among U.S. troops, knowing that losing their protection would mean almost certain death at the hands of those he betrayed.

The soldiers aren't sure how they can legally take the boy -- who isn't an orphan -- out of the country.

What responsibility does the US have for this teen?

Hat tip Andrew Sullivan.

Sean: Thursday, June 17, 2004 [+] |
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Peace Process, or Bombs?

CNN reports that the three Irishmen held in Columbia on charges of training FARC terrorists have just been aquitted.

The three men were arrested in August 2001 at Bogota's airport after returning from a region controlled by the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Their arrests on accusations they had trained FARC rebels in bomb-making set off shock waves 8,000 miles (13,000 km) away in Northern Ireland, where a decade-old peace process was built partly on hopes that the outlawed IRA would renounce violence.

After a lengthy trial, Judge Jaime Acosta found the trio innocent in April of the bomb-training charges but guilty of traveling on false passports. He sentenced them to time served and fined them $6,500 apiece.

The trio said they had come to Colombia to study the peace process between the FARC and the government, which collapsed in February 2002, and that they had used false passports fearing they would have difficulty traveling under their real names because of their IRA links.

That's quite a large difference for so circumstantial a case... training bomb makers or learning a peace process. News of these arrests caused considerable damage to the N. Ireland peace process. The Columbia authorities might just want to reconsider their actions.

Sean: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 [+] |
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Talking Bout A Revolution

Well... the neocons staked their political livelihood on success in Iraq. Success was not forthcomming. Iraqis are tired of us, we are tired of them, etc. And the elections in Europe have been a preview of what's to come in Washington in 2004. The mood appears to be "throw the bums out" all over again. "Bring em on!"

Sean: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 [+] |
Monday, June 14, 2004
Forbidden Fruit

Cubans have been tuning into American television this week due to periodic atmospheric conditions. They enjoy sports, news, and especially our advertisements. Fidel is reportedly furious.

"They're coming in a lot," Luis Batista said of the American signals picked up by his television set in the Alamar neighborhood east of Havana. "The clarity is magnificent, the transmission constant."

Now if only we could have freak atmospheric conditions cause is Americans to lose our signals.

Sean: Monday, June 14, 2004 [+] |
Friday, June 11, 2004
World Terror Baloney

Last month I wrote about the World Terror Report and that terror attacks were actually down world-wide. I know, it was counter intuitive. That's why I wrote about it. Unfortunately it was also malarkey. I stand duped.

Reuters is reporting that the US government claims to have made a mistake... turns out instead of a record low in terror attacks last year there was a record high. Ooops. It was a simple mistake, could happen to anyone...

The State Department's "Patterns of Global Terrorism Report" released on April 29 said "terrorist" attacks fell to 190 last year, their lowest since 1969, from 198 in 2002.

It also said those killed dropped to 307, including 35 U.S. citizens, from 725 in 2002, including 27 Americans.

[However] the U.S. State Department said on Thursday its report that the number of international "terrorist" attacks fell last year was wrong and in fact had risen. The number of resulting deaths was expected to be higher for 2003 than the 307 initially reported, but officials said it may not exceed 2002's 725 fatalities.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said both totals were understated because of errors in compiling the data by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center. The interagency group was set up last year to address the failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Interestingly, despite the excited headline and news lead-in... at the end of the article it says that the government does not "admit having lied" and may not even be wrong.

The fact of the matter was that the new agency did not track attacks after November of 2003... and the government official himself assumed that the number of attacks had would show a sharp rise... then he said

"I don't know. We'll have to wait and see the numbers," he later said. "As far as comparison with previous years, we'll have to wait and see what the final numbers are."

But if you want to scream "They Lied!" You go right ahead Reuters. I know how much you want it.

Sean: Friday, June 11, 2004 [+] |
Thursday, June 10, 2004
Linux Inventor Moves To Portland

Willamette Week reports that the Linux founder, Linus Torvald, is enrolled his kids in area schools and in is moving to Portland.

Linus Torvalds, the tech-world idol who launched the open-source operating system Linux from his bedroom in Finland more than a decade ago, is moving to Portland. Torvalds, who works with Beaverton's Open Source Development Lab, has purchased a Portland-area home and enrolled his kids in school. Many Portland programmers work on Linux, a populist public-domain phenomenon (see "The Rebel Alliance," Jan. 28, 2004).

May the force be with you Linus.

Sean: Thursday, June 10, 2004 [+] |
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Saudi schism

The Belmont Club tells us that Saudi Arabia is headed for civil war. Well... it's about time. I hate waiting for the apocalypse... all the ads and previews of comming attractions... start the show!

Back in the 1980's a Saudi defector told us about his teaching career in the kingdom. He warned us that the royal family directed the harshest form of Islamic teaching in school... and that these teachings cast the royal family, with their fast cars and girls, as social undesirables. Meanwhile we were busy arming the kingdom with F-16's and other goodies. The ex-teacher wanted to know it we were nuts.

Well, we were. And now we get a front row seat and the kingdom's biggest barbecue. Yeeeha!

Sean: Wednesday, June 09, 2004 [+] |
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Louis XVII Laid To Rest

At the close of the 18th century the French mob, led by cafe culture intellectuals and disgruntled nobles, revolted against a king and queen that was bankrupting the nation in war from their palace in Versailles.

When Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette finally met their ends at the guillotine in Paris their son instantly became Louis the XVII.

To prevent any attempted restoration of the monarchy the boy was forcibly separated from his mother and held like a caged animal in the infamous Temple prison.

Young Louis died of tuberculosis on June 8, 1795 at the age of ten. During the autopsy the doctor removed his heart and sent it to the care of loyalists.

Reuters reports that today France's royal descendants and their supporters finally buried the boy king, or at least his heart, at the royal tomb at St. Denis outside Paris.

As I listened to this report on NPR and heard the cries of "Vive Le France, Vive Le Roi!" I was struck by the obvious dissimilarities between America and all of Europe.

All Europeans have monarchy at the core of their nation's history... they may have moved past this, by blood or slow social change, but this root remains.

No American would ever associate a president with the nation as a whole they way some Europeans still do. Can anyone imagine President Reagan's library or home looking like this...

Of course Europeans view our presidents as "tyrants", our military actions as "adventures", and our nation building as "empire"... because they have a very different model.

Sean: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 [+] |
Monday, June 07, 2004
American Empire - X

Everyone is writing about the so-called American Empire...

Niall Ferguson is the son of British imperial agents retired to Alberta, Canada. When he got to Oxford in the 70's he met a bunch of self-loathing, anti-imperialist Brits who rocked his world. He got back at them, and set himself on a new equilibrium, by writing the critically acclaimed, and imperium-apologist, Empire in 2002. In this work he argued that the British Empire was actually very good for its subjects and for the world. And now he brings out Colossus in which he goads the Americans to take up the imperial reins while at the same time teasing us that we simply don't have the mettle.

Ted Widmer at Salon reviewed Colossus with appropriate skepticism. Frank Burres gives Ferguson an equanimical interview for The Atlantic Monthly. Paul "Overstretch" Kennedy in the NY Review of Books heaps praise and gives his own echo to the sentiment that Americans are not tough enough for an empire. And now Michael Totten blogs the lot over the week end.

The term "empire" refers to any collection of distinct nations (groups of people with a common language, religion, and culture) ruled by a single sovereign... that is, when people from many nations are ruled by the polity of one. The British have long played this role, as well as the French, the Spanish, the Germans, et al. Defined thusly, empire, is a morally neutral word. But as practiced by the Europeans it has come to connote exploitation and annihilation of the natives... or as Ferguson would have it, their "uplifting".

Its not that the US hasn't had plenty of opportunities to follow the Roman or British imperial model... our troops have occupied Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Japan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, North Africa, Italy, Greece, Kosovo, France, and Germany. And it isn't that the idea wasn't considered... many in the US Congress actively campaigned to annex both Mexico and Saudi Arabia. And it isn't as if the US is innocent of "uplifting" the natives at home.

The US simply isn't interested in running an empire. Yes, we have been expansionist in the past, pushing our borders "from sea to shining sea" at the expense of European empires (the British, the French, the Spanish, and the Russian) and American aborigines alike. But our goal was always to gain more room for our own people, not to rule over others. To this day we would rather that other nations learn to coexist, respect human rights, and make us cheaper computers, but the last thing that we want to do is actually mange their affairs.

It should also be noted that Victorianesque empires require a Victorianesque society... as Ferguson notes. That is, the imperial masters of the European ilk were racially homogeneous, dominated by one major religious sect, and socially hierarchical. The US is not... as Ferguson laments. We are already fractured by distinct racial and cultural heritages and we lack the Victorian sense of moral superioirty that drove them to push their culture upon others (and no Virginia, spreading Liberal Democracy is not the same as pushing one's culture; the concept of self-rule is not a culturaly relative idea, it is a an issue of universal human rights). We just don't have the "white stuff" required to run a Victorian empire.

In fact, of course, our nation is modeled after the Republic of Rome, not the palace of Versaille or the halls of Balmoral... we have always been antithetical to the European idea of "nation building". We really are interested in the liberation of other people from tyranny, as was Britain (if schizophrenically). Our two nations were the powers that caused the monarchs of Europe to form the Holy Alliance to fight off the spread of liberal democracy. The US can stomach a war against tranny if we believe that we will be enabling a Revolution for the people, but we do not annex without consent and we do not fight for wine or oil.

Comparisons of the US to Britain and Rome are as inevitable as they are legion... usually it is meant as a warning or an insult, since both faded away into history. For those who fear that Pax American is doomed... here is the best comparison to date - (according to this Roman timeline, the US imperium will last well into Star Trek TNG). For those of you who don't think that America has what it takes for empire, go read Ferguson and enjoy. But keep in mind that these comparisons are largely worthless, as Victor Davis Hansen explains. The US is an empire-buster - as the Spanish, the Germans, or the Russians can attest- not another pretender to the throne.

Sean: Monday, June 07, 2004 [+] |
Sunday, June 06, 2004
60 Years Since D-Day

CNN reminds us that on June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 American, British, Canadian, French and other Allied troops arriving in 5,000 ships and 11,000 planes to storm Normandy's beaches. The Allies suffered nearly 10,000 casualties by the end of the day. But they created a permanent presence on the continent that would lead directly to the occupation of Berlin and the defeat of Hitler.

It should also be kept in mind that in 1939, the United States had the 17th largest army in the world, behind even Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

Also, in 1939 the US had a population of 130 million and less than 500,000 men at arms, less than 150,000 of whom were deployed overseas.

During the height of WWII, in 1944 and 1945, the US had 6-7 million men deployed overseas out of a total armed forces of more than 10 million.

And American production workers -- including women in great numbers for the first time -- turned out 296,429 warplanes, 102,351 tanks, 372,431 artillery pieces, 2,455,964 trucks, 87,620 warships, 5,425 cargo ships, 5,822,000 tons of bombs, more than 20 million small arms and around 44 billion rounds of ammunition.

The buildup in England included:
3,000,000 men in 52 divisions
80,000 trucks; 10,000 tanks
60,000,000 C and K rations
5200 bombers, 5500 fighters
2400 transport planes from 163 airfields
1200 naval ships: 2 battleships, 23 cruisers, 105 destroyers
2500 landing craft
May 30 - troops began to load in England
Force A - 60,000 U.S. troops with 6800 vehicles
Force B - 25,600 U.S. reinforcements with 4400 vehicles
British forces - 75,000 with 12,000 vehicles

The initial invasion force was the largest armada yet assembled: there were more than

1,000 warships,
4,000 landing craft,
12,000 planes,
175,000 troops,
1,500 tanks,
5,000 Jeeps and trucks.

The invasion of Iraq took:

82,000 - 130,000 troops
1200 tanks
145 attack helicopters
1000 planes
2,100 cruise missiles
6 carrier battlegroups of around 60 warships

Although times change, military equipment gets upgraded, and the fighting force is now all volunteer (on our side), the mission of the US and the UK remains the same... to make the world safe for democracy... or in the case of Iraq simply possible. As with France, there will be no US troops occupying Iraq in 20 years (DeGaulle kicked NATO out of France in the 60's). As with France, someday the people in Iraq will forget how horrible the reign of Saddam was and why it was necessary to tolerate an invasion and liberation force from the United States. What probably will never change is the need for the world's most successful democracies to risk their blood and treasure to make democracy possible for others. Liberation never comes free, but it often comes from above.

Sean: Sunday, June 06, 2004 [+] |
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Former President Ronald Reagan Dead At 93

Ronald Reagan died of pneumonia and complications from Alzheimer's. Reagan was a former television actor, public speaker, governor of California, and President of the United States. He is remembered for bringing the Republicans back to power in Washington after the embarrassments of the Nixon era.

As a seminal figure in American conservativism, Reagan was widely reviled by the Left. He was often ridiculed as being an "airhead" and a corporate "pet". However, Reagan was first a Democrat, a labor activist, and an acclaimed public speaker who wrote his own speeches until running for governor.

He experienced a change of heart after WWII, when he began to fear the global spread of Communism. He also worked for General Electric as a spokesman and traveled the country on morale boosting trips to factories. There he saw the decline of American industry first hand and soon came to believe that businesses were hamstrung by taxes and big government.

Accordingly, his political career came to be dominated by de-regulation and an arms race with the Soviet Union. The effects of his de-regulation campaign were the destruction of the environment and a critical imbalance of corporate power. Meanwhile the effect of the arms race was the destruction of the Soviet Union.

President Reagan passed away in his Bel Air mansion on Saturday. He is survived by his wife and three children. He will be buried at his Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Say what you like (and there is much dirt to dish), but... Andrew Sullivan brings us this "Quote of the Day":
"In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth - a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us." - Natan Sharansky, in the Jersualem Post.
Sometimes... from the mouths of the senescent...

Sean: Saturday, June 05, 2004 [+] |
Friday, June 04, 2004
Fifteen Years Ago Today China Ran Over Itself

hurry Up Harry has a timely reminder...

ABC reports that China continues to defy history and the world fifteen years later.

Sean: Friday, June 04, 2004 [+] |
Another Blow To Gay Apartheid

CNN reports today that the Anglican Church of Canada has just endorsed same sex marriages... well, sorta.

The Anglican Church of Canada approved a measure Thursday to "affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same sex relationships."

The move stops short of authorizing dioceses to hold same-sex blessing ceremonies but is still likely to complicate efforts aimed at unifying the 77 million-member Anglican Communion. The worldwide Anglican body is deeply divided over homosexuality.

Delegates to a national church meeting handed the victory to supporters of gays and lesbians as a consolation prize the morning after they voted to delay any national go-ahead on church blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples till 2007 and possibly 2010.

I love the way these things are reported. The same thing was said about the 2000 US elections... but the nation was not "deeply" divided, it was evenly divided. Few Americans were going to take to the streets of Peoria and brawl with their opposite numbers in the other party. The truth was that a large portion of voters could have gone either way on Bush-Gore, in the end it just happened to come down to 50-50.

Similarly... the Anglican Church in Canada, the US, and the UK has proven to be roughly evenly divided on the issue of homosexuality. Surely some people indeed have deep convictions on this issue... but many others do not load the issue with much emotion.

And as many studies have been showing since the 1950's the number of people who are deeply against homosexuality and gay marriage has been shrinking decade by decade. Right now it is roughly even... and in 40 years those who oppose equal rights for gay people will be dinosaurs slowly going extinct.

The Globe and the Mail reportedly earlier this month that the Anglicans elected an extremely liberal leader...

Voting yourself out of existence sure beats a meteor.

More interesting info at this Pew Report...

Turns out that a bare majority still look unfavorably upon homosexuality, but most people condemn mistreating them.

Meanwhile the evangelical sects have ramped up their coverage of homosexuality and their vitriol against it. And yet only slightly more "very religious" people have taken this message to heart.

So the upshot is that America is becoming more tolerant and more principled with its political principles... allowing themselves to put even their "deep" personal prejudices, I mean convictions, aside.

To me, this is even more laudable than the Euros, who simply have let all their principles slip lately.

Sean: Friday, June 04, 2004 [+] |
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Rescue On Rainier

CNN reports that an Oregon Air National Guard helicopter is sent to Mt. Rainier in Washington state to rescue two climbers stranded on Liberty Ridge.

Ah, the irony.

This is dangerous spot...

On May 15, climber Peter Cooley tumbled down a steep, icy slope, on Liberty Ridge and hit his head on a rock spur. His climbing partner, Scott Richards, maneuvered the two of them to a tiny flat spot, but for two days, the men were stranded as temperatures dipped below zero in whiteout conditions.

The Seattle Post Intel reminds us that while Mt. Rainier is not a technicaly difficult climb, it is climbed often and the weather can change quickly, so it does claim a lot of lives each year.

Jesse Edkins was lucky that he didn't die on Mount Rainier. He was aslo lucky that his introduction to mountaineering rules was delivered by Glenn Kessler, who has seen enough deaths lately.

Given Rainier's murderous track record this year and Edkins' happy-go-lucky approach to assaulting the 14,411-foot peak solo -- lacking required permits and proper equipment or experience -- the ranger might have dispensed at least a scalding lecture and a heavy fine.

[But] Kessler [just] wanted the novice to understand how he had risked his life and why climbing and camping rules exist for Mount Rainier's upper slopes: to protect human lives and a fragile ecology.

"I'm not going to write you a ticket," Kessler told Edkins. "But a lot of people have been killed on this route; a lot of people have been injured."

Come on, give the peak some respect folks.

Sean: Thursday, June 03, 2004 [+] |
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
China Rewrites History

The BBC reports that China has set up a censorship committee to monitor video games for content it doesn't like... such as accurate history of China before the Communists took over.

"Online games with content threatening state security, damaging the nation's glory, disturbing social order and infringing on other's legitimate rights will also be prohibited," said a Chinese Ministry of Culture statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency.

The committee banned a Swedish game called Hearts of Iron, which portrayed Manchuria, Tibet and Xinjiang as independent nations; and Taiwan as the Japanese-ruled province of Formosa - all historically accurate

A previous Norwegian game, Project IGI2: Covert Strike, incensed officials for its portrayal of the Chinese army... that is representing it as it did all other intelligence and military operations, as fallible and open to counter espionage.

Jason Della Rocca, program director for the International Game Developers Association, told the E-Commerce Times, "The game industry and the IGDA work hard to maintain creative freedom for game developers." Clearly, China's new policy has thrown a wrench into those plans, and the country's role as a future marketplace for online games appears cloudy.

The future of truth and the role of history in China is what appears cloudy.

Sean: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 [+] |
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Frech Prisons Are To Die For

Eric at No Pasaran reports on the sorry state of French prisons, as detailed in their own press:

At the end of April, as Le Monde writes in an article, members of an ecumenical organisation for helping foreigners in France judged cell conditions in France's administrative retention centers (where illegal foreigners are placed) "catastrophic", "wretched", and "disgraceful", because of their (or leading to) filth, promiscuity, and violence.

Alexander Dorozynski writes at the International Medical Students Journal:

The publication last month of the diary of a prison doctor has shocked the French public and prompted parliament to vote unanimously to create a commission to investigate "in depth" the living conditions of prisoners and working conditions of prison staff. The book, Médecin-chef à la Prison de la Santé, was written by Dr Véronique Vasseur, who has worked in the Santé prison for seven years, the last six as head physician.

The conditions...

She found the cells filthy and infested with rats and mice, mattresses so teeming with lice and other insects that inmates collected them in jars to protest. Food was often spoiled and gastroenteritis epidemics were frequent. Dr Vasseur even identified a disease known only in wartime - bread scabies, caused by mouldy bread. Dr Vasseur writes that at the Santé prison about a third of inmates are addicted to some drug, ranging from cocaine to concoctions of strange ingredients such as water in which batteries had been boiled. Guards are often involved in drug trafficking. Rape was frequent, as were self mutilations, suicides, and attempted suicides. She estimates that 5-10% of inmates are HIV positive.

In some ways, worse than these above conditions, was the unjustice of the entire system...

A high proportion of prisoners in French jails are "remand prisoners", who are awaiting trial but have not been convicted of any offence, some of whom are later found not guilty. Prisoners awaiting trials and those condemned to less than one year's imprisonment are kept in prisons called "maison d'arrêt," which are the most overcrowded - on average 20% above capacity.

Being trapped in hell has its logical effect on the human psyche...

Last year 118 prisoners committed suicide, more than 1000 attempted it, and there were 1362 self mutilations, including swallowing metallic objects - knives, forks, and even razor blades (usually taped or wrapped in cloth). There were 953 hunger strikes lasting at least seven days and 278 attacks by inmates on guards; mistreatment and beating of prisoners by guards also took place.

Gael Grilhot writes to International Federation For Human Rights calling for more accountability:

[While] situations, such as abuse, sexual violence, humiliations, etc., are still too often the subject of criticism by organisations, such as the French Human Rights League who frequently deplore these circumstances, their action remains most of the time without response.

At the Beauvais prison between 1995 and 1998 the Director and some wardens began a reign of terror and not only committed atrocities against detainees, but even against prison personnel. When these incidents were finally brought to light by the Prison Inspection Service, the Director was dismissed and six ‘matons’ were temporarily suspended from their duties. No judicial fact-finding procedure was opened and the matter was filed without any further action. In other words, impunity is still common in the French prison system.

In an ‘open letter to MPs’, these associations, including the OIP, the French Human Rights League (LDH - an affiliate of the FIDH) and even the magistrates’ union call for a regular and effective control of the prison administration by an independent body.

J. Haycock at the International Academy of Law and Mental Health meating in Montreal in 2001 sums things up by noting that suicide rates in prisons in the developed world average 3-15 times higher than the free population of that country. But in the US the figures come in at only 1.5, considered statisticaly the same as one for one. That is, prisoners in France choose to take their own lives ten times (or so) as often as in the US. Now who should be giving who lectures on prison conditions?

Sean: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 [+] |

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